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Vienna talks reveal Biden team’s attachment to sanctions that would torpedo Iran deal

BY GARETH PORTER · THE GRAYZONE · APRIL 18, 2021

Biden’s foreign policy team refuses to relieve Iran from sanctions illegally imposed by the Trump administration, setting the stage for the collapse of negotiations and a major crisis.

The Biden administration signaled once again at the April 9 Vienna meeting on the Iran nuclear deal that it intends to maintain Trump-era Iran sanctions in an effort to win political and military concessions going well beyond the original deal itself. Team Biden continued to insist during the conference that Iran return to full compliance with the nuclear agreement without any reciprocal US commitment to remove the sanctions President Donald Trump imposed after abandoning the agreement in 2018.

The Biden administration’s stance on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has already provoked a forceful response from Iran. Rather than enriching uranium at the 20 percent level that was used before Washington began making its new demands, Tehran has begun enriching to 60 percent purity.

In a video press conference with journalists after the first round of the “Joint Commission” of the JCPOA in Vienna, an unnamed “senior official” implied that the Biden administration intends to maintain sanctions on Iran, framing them as necessary political leverage. The unnamed US official also griped about “repeated statements by Iranians that all sanctions imposed since 2017 have to be lifted.”

Asserting the Biden administration’s position on the JCPOA, the official stated: “[U]nder the deal the US retains the right to impose sanctions for non-nuclear reasons, whether it’s terrorism or human rights violations or interference with our elections, et cetera.”

The official added, “[A]ll sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA and inconsistent with the benefits that Iran expects from the JCPOA, we are prepared to lift. That does not mean all of them, because there are some that are legitimate.”

However, the official refused to clarify just how the Biden administration distinguishes between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” sanctions. The Biden administration’s deliberate ambiguity on that central point strongly suggests a determination to force Iran into making concessions on issues which happen to be Israeli priorities: lengthening the sunset dates of Iran’s key JCPOA obligations as well as imposing limits on its ballistic missile program and regional alliances.

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, has made it clear that Iran will not bend to the Biden administration’s diplomatic coercion. Just before the Vienna meeting, he said, “The US should remove … all sanctions that were reimposed after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA or newly imposed or relabeled … and then we [will] verify and return to our commitments.”

Further evidence of the obdurate US strategy came in the form of comments made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a March 3 interview with PBS Newshour. While crediting the JCPOA with having “put Iran’s nuclear program in a box,” Blinken ignored the fact that the agreement had resulted from Tehran’s acceptance of limits on its nuclear program for several years in return for the removal of US and UN sanctions.

Blinken even framed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as though it were a consensus US policy rather than an extremist policy that Biden himself had attacked.

“When we pulled out of the nuclear agreement,” he said, “Iran then started to break out from that box. And it is now in a position where it is closer to having the ability to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short order, in a matter of months.”

Blinken emphasized that the Biden administration has “a real interest in trying to put Iran back into that box.” Yet he downplayed the role of sanctions relief in returning to the original JCPOA. “We have been very clear that Iran has to come back into compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement,” he stated. “And if it does, we will do the same thing… that would involve, if they do it, some sanctions relief.”

The Biden strategy of coercion as outlined by both the anonymous senior US official and Blinken is entirely consistent with multiple indications of the Biden team’s intentions signaled well before Biden’s electoral victory.

The Biden administration saw an opportunity to exploit diplomatic coercion on Iran because Trump, responding to pressures from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and major pro-Israel Trump donors, had abandoned the nuclear agreement and embarked on what his administration called a “maximum pressure” campaign. Trump announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, then declared the reinstatement of all US sanctions on Iran that had been removed under the 2015 deal.

In making that decision public, the Trump administration highlighted the secondary sanctions against countries that had imported Iranian oil — but also gave waivers for six months to eight countries it said had already reduced their imports from Iran significantly.

The Trump administration was merely continuing a technique for attacking the Iranian economy that had been pioneered by Obama-era Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey. The key to his strategy, Levey explained in Congressional testimony in 2010, was to focus on “illicit conduct” by Iran, such as Iran’s missile program or its alleged support for terrorism, in order to “maximize the chances of achieving a truly multinational coalition” for breaking or avoiding economic ties with Iran.

Levey identified UN Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted in 2010, which calls a wide range of actions by member states against Iran over nuclear and missile activity, as crucial to his approach.  He sought to exploit the fear of foreign companies that their investment in Iran could be linked to any Iranian activities labeled as “illicit.”

“The operating presumption,” Levey suggested, “should be that virtually all transactions or financial services involving Iran could contribute to its nuclear or missile programs.” Levey saw the establishment of that “presumption” as the key to frightening potential investors away from Iran.

 

Even though the Treasury sanctions legally apply only to assets and transactions under US jurisdiction, Levey observed, “[W]e have found over the years that many banks and businesses around the world cut off dealings with designated targets…”

By enriching uranium at the 60 percent level of purity, Iran is applying its own strategy of diplomatic leverage, hoping to force an end to economic sanctions ravaging its economy. Tehran employed the same tactic in 2012, pressuring the Obama administration to drop its insistence that Iran essentially give up its enrichment program entirely.

The Obama administration believed it was well positioned to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. To whittle away at US diplomatic pressure, Iran doubled its total number of centrifuges onsite between May and August 2012, but it never actually used the bulk of that capability to enrich uranium. None of the newly installed centrifuges were even connected with pipes; and only one third of those that were connected were actually enriching. In September 2012, Iran offered to end its policy of 20 percent enrichment in return for the lifting of sanctions. An Obama administration official acknowledged that Iran had gained “leverage” by creating a high degree of capacity, but not using it.

The result was the compromise at the heart of the JCPOA: Iran agreed to give up its ability to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon and the US removed its economic sanctions that had blocked Iran from achieving its development goals.

Now, the Biden administration is planning to exploit the crushing sanctions regime it inherited from Trump to extract further concessions from Iran. Those sanctions have brought what the IMF has called “extreme distress” to Iranian economy and society, increasing inflation and unemployment, and sharply reducing popular access to food, healthcare and medicine.

But any notion that US sanctions would result in popular pressure for government concessions on the nuclear deal was contradicted by a survey of Iranian public opinion by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy in late 2019 which found that a solid majority of Iranians now questioned whether Iran should have signed the JCPOA in the first place.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and other top officials in the administration are acutely attuned to Israeli strategic thinking. They appear convinced that their ability to pressure Iran through sanctions has been strengthened –– especially after the April 11 Israeli sabotage attack on the Natanz enrichment facility, which will set back Iranian enrichment plans at the facility for at least nine months.

But the Biden team’s hopes that Iran could be coerced to return to the nuclear deal while the US attempts to economically strangle Iran until it accedes to its demands demonstrates a breathtaking lack of perspective. If this delusional mindset prevails, it is likely to lead to a much more serious crisis in the coming months.

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Israel prevents non-vaccinated Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem with worshippers who want to attend the first Friday prayer of Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on 16 April 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem, worshippers want to attend first Friday prayer of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Al-Aqsa Mosque, 16 April 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
MEMO | April 17, 2021

Israeli occupation authorities have prevented thousands of Palestinian worshippers from the occupied West Bank from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Arab48 reported.

According to the news website, the Israeli authorities set a condition for the worshippers from the occupied territories to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to obtain access to the Muslim holy site.

Meanwhile, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have sufficient quantities of vaccines, and therefore thousands were deprived of performing the first Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli military checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel have experienced severe congestion, Anadolu Agency reported, noting that disputes occurred between Palestinians and the Israeli occupation forces at Qalandia Checkpoint.

“We were prevented from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque under the pretext of not being vaccinated,” Samia Abdul-Aziz told Anadolu Agency. “However,” she argued, “they aim to reduce the number of Muslim worshippers inside the sanctity yards.”

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Associated Press misreports news about Gaza rocket into Israel

By Alison Weir | Israel-Palestine News | April 16, 2021

A recent news report by the Associated Press (AP) published by thousands of newspapers around the U.S. contains inaccurate information.

The report, entitled “Israeli army: Rocket from Gaza hits south Israel,” states in its lead sentence that the rocket broke weeks of “cross border calm.”

In reality, Israeli forces have attacked Gaza numerous times in the past several weeks:

Gazan rockets & Israeli airstrikes

Rockets from Gaza have killed 30 Israelis during the approximately 20 years they’ve been used, while Israeli air strikes have killed over 4,000 Gazans during the same time period.

Palestinian resistance groups began launching their mostly home made rockets in April 2001, after Israeli forces had invaded Gaza numerous times and killed over 570 Palestinians in the previous six months.

A detailed study by three American professors found that it was “overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine,” that initiated violence after a period of calm.

Statistical studies of the Associated Press reporting conducted in 2006 and 2018 found that AP covered Israeli deaths at rates far greater than they covered Palestinian deaths.

The AP bureau is located in Israel and many of its editors are Israeli and/or married to Israelis.

The U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Bipartisan Murder

By Richard Medhurst | April 11, 2021

Syria is the key to the Middle East. Bordering Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and with access to the Mediterranean Sea, for millennia Syria has held unique geopolitical and strategic importance in the region. The war taking place there since 2011 has been sold by virtually every news outlet in the West as being strictly a civil war, part of the popular uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’. The reality couldn’t be more different.

As General Wesley Clarke points out in 2007 there had been an agenda to take out “seven countries in five years” among them Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran; to replace their governments with ones favorable to Washington DC.

Five years already before the “Arab Spring”, a 2006 cable from the United States embassy in Damascus published by WikiLeaks shows how the US was looking at various threats, both real and exaggerated, that it could exploit in order to destabilize the Syrian government.

The US and its allies Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar began funding and arming various militias inside Syria, funneling weapons and supplies to them in order to overthrow the Syrian government. Efraim Halevy, former head of israel’s intelligence service the Mossad, even admitted in an interview that Israel had provided aid to Al Qaeda fighters just because it was advantageous for Israel to see the Syrian government fall.

PBS recently did an interview with Abu Mohammad al Jolani, a terrorist leader in Syria’s north-western Idlib during which he expressed no intent to fight with the US, despite having a $10 million bounty on his head. The article goes on to mention how former Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US’ former Special Envoy to Syria, confirms that al Jolani’s organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a rebrand of Al Qaeda, was a “an asset” to America’s strategy in Idlib.

To cover up the undeniable role played by foreign governments, to this day the mainstream media portrays the war on Syria as a grassroots uprising by “moderate rebels”— the overwhelming majority of whom just so happen to be rebrands or affiliated with Al Qaeda and other jihadist elements.

Despite the efforts of the entire Western propaganda machine and a dozen nations ganging up against Syria, their gamble for regime change has failed thus far: Syria has taken back most of its territory from ISIS and other foreign-backed terrorists, and now boasts even stronger ties with its allies than before. Take for example Russia’s naval port in Tartus, established in Syria in 1971 as part of an accord with the Syrian government, providing it access to the Mediterranean Sea. A decade ago, at the start of the war, the port was practically crumbling, Ten years later in 2021, it’s been completely renovated, upgraded and fitted with state of the art ships.

While some argue the main goal behind the war in Syria was to build the Qatar-Turkey pipeline which would deliver gas through Syria to Europe, undercutting Russia’s market share, I think the larger objective for the United States has mostly been regime change and to remove the “thorn” in israel’s side. Syria refuses to recognize israel and has no official ties with the Zionist occupation. The two have been at odds with each other for the last 73 years; not just since the start of the occupation of Palestine in 1948, but also the capture of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and consequent illegal annexation. Syria is also allied with Russia, Iran and supports the various liberation movements of its neighbors including the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, collectively dubbed the “Axis of Resistance”– a twist on George Bush’s “Axis of Evil“.

Seeing how the regime change strategy through various terrorist and armed groups has failed in Syria, the United States is now occupying Syria’s vital breadbasket region, where most of its crops are grown, as well as the oil fields in Deir Ezzor and Hassakeh provinces in East and North-Eastern Syria.

After Trump openly admitted “we’re keeping the oil”, we also saw in August, 2020 then Secretary of State Pompeo admit to Senator Lindsay Graham during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that a US firm would be “modernizing Syria’s oil fields”, which is a nice way to say “plundering”.

Graham can be heard gloating about the brutal Caesar Act sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Indeed, in addition to stealing Syria’s resources, the United States is also starving the Syrian population with siege warfare. These Caesar sanctions announced by Trump and kept by Biden serve no purpose other than to tighten the noose on the Syria’s population. Syria’s economy has collapsed, its currency in free-fall and nearly 60 percent of the population is now food insecure in a country which used to be self-sufficient and a net exporter of wheat. The US shamelessly states that its goal is to deprive the Syrian government, and by extension the Syrian people, of one of their most valuable resources (oil accounts for around 25% of government revenue) desperately needed to fund public infrastructure and social programs, with 90% of Syrians now living in poverty. They pretend that sanctions only affect the politicians but it’s the civilians who are suffering.

The West doesn’t care if Syrians die. This scorched-earth policy is advantageous to US and Western interests because it keeps Syria in a constant state of chaos and helps israel create a buffer beyond just the occupied Golan Heights, but also more generally as Syria is now unable to defend itself, defend its neighbors, and subject to regular airstrikes which the world lets israel carry out with impunity.

While Secretary of State Blinken uses his own kids in some deranged comparison to pretend he cares about Syrian children he and Biden are completely fine keeping Donald Trump’s “Maximum Pressure Campaign” of sanctions going. According to Syria’s oil minister around 90% of Syria’s crude is now under control of the US. Syrians wait in massive queues as they experience fuel shortages and are lining up for bread. Sanctions are a modern adaptation of siege warfare, just as ruthless and deadly.

Both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to imperialism and their fealty to corporations. There is no difference among them in that regard except in decorum. After Trump bombed Syria in April 2018, over an alleged chemical gas attack in Douma later revealed to have been staged, then Senator Kamala Harris questioned the “legal rationale” behind the strikes. Some Democrats criticized Trump saying it was a breach of constitutional powers– but none of them fundamentally questioned whether these alleged chemical attacks had even taken place to begin with. The team of scientists sent by the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons hadn’t even arrived in Syria yet to determine what had happened. Democrats only issued mild statements of rebuke while simultaneously cheering on Assad was being “punished”– which goes to show their objectives fundamentally remain the same, no matter who is in power.

Biden’s bombing of Syria

After Joe Biden became president his first military action was to bomb Syria. Naturally, bombings takes priority over campaign promises like the $15 minimum wage or $2,000 checks he lied about. Biden’s supposed “justification” for bombing Syria on February 25th, 2021 was that he was acting in self-defense to protect the United States. This is of course an absurdity; Syria is not a threat to the United States nor has it attacked the United States– if anything it’s the other way around. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter that Biden blatantly lies in his letter to Congress, everyone knows this is merely a cover story in order to comply with the War Powers Resolution (notifying Congress of military action and citing defensive measures if no prior Authorization for Use of Military Force exists).

When Biden bombed Syria he claimed to have targeted “Iranian backed militias”- the same excuse that Israel gives when illegally bombing Syria almost on a weekly basis. When I spoke to Professor Max Abrahms on my television The Communiqué he said the bombing was likely more about sending a message to Israel rather than Iran; a show of support from Biden that the Zionist occupation could still count on the new administration’s support.

When corporate media and Western politicians say “Iranian backed militias” they’re referring to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF / PMU) or Hashed al Shaabi in Arabic. The PMU is made up mostly of various Iraqi brigades, consisting of different religious and ethnic groups, despite claims that they’re exclusively Shiah– although even then I struggle to understand how that would give the US or Israel the right to kill them. The popular forces are united under one banner to fight terrorism and occupation. Of course the United States can’t have you realizing they’re a resistance movement because then people would rightfully ask “resisting what?” and that’s of course the United States, illegally occupying Iraq since 2003. The PMU also celebrated major victories in defeated ISIS and Al Qaeda, taking back the major city of Mosul in 2016. Although the US and its illegal occupation like to take credit for that (so they can justify their presence) that victory is not theirs. As a matter of fact, the United States not only helped create Al Qaeda and ISIS but Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani and PMU commander Abu Mahdi was celebrated by the very terrorists who had come to fear them. While the US claims to fight terrorism it’s actively helping terrorists by killing their biggest enemies. And now of course Biden follows in Trump’s footsteps, proceeding to bomb the PMU. I wonder how many will break the situation down like that for you on the evening nows? Let’s be clear on something: I don’t care if the target was an empty barn in Syria – he has no right to bomb anything there nor in any other country.

Shortly after Biden’s bombing of Syria, Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation calling for the repeal of the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. Note that the 2001 AUMF is missing – unsurprising as it’s the template Congress has used for two decades to invade, bomb and ransack the planet in the name of “the War on Terror”. Of course they wouldn’t repeal that AUMF. Biden is now on track to violate the Afghanistan peace deal signed under Trump, after drawing down the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, with a complete withdrawal set for a deadline of May 1st. Right on cue, the US claims that the Taliban aren’t holding up their end of the deal- hence why the US can’t leave just yet, continuing to impose conditions on their departure as if Afghanistan belongs to them. Naturally, the media provides cover for the longest war in US history, repeating without question or scrutiny Biden’s claims that a withdrawal “can’t be rushed” after occupying Afghanistan for almost 20 years. CNN also made the case that this is now about women’s rights– as if the United States cared about women when it displaced millions of them in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria. We’re now made to believe that occupation is emancipation. The poor white man’s burden, freeing the world through bombs, sanctions and occupation.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats have largely chosen to side with him on the issue while others, including so called “progressives” like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez have remained completely silent despite criticizing Trump for bombing Syria in 2018, calling him a ‘mad king’. This really shows you where their allegiances lie and how far their “progressivism” extends. The so called “left-wing” of the Democratic Party is about as “progressive” as you can get when you stay silent about Biden bombing Syria, ballooning the war machine to an outrageous $753 billion, and violating the Afghan peace deal in order to maintain a 20-year occupation. War pigs. All of them.

A template for war

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 and 2002 passed by Congress formed the legal basis with which Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, the AUMF of 2001 broadly authorizes force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”. This ambiguous language essentially gives the president a blank check to conduct military strikes anywhere and has been distorted and manipulated by every president since in order to expand the “War on Terror” into 19 countries. Trump in his usual absurdity even cited the 2002 AUMF to try and justify his assassination of General Soleimani in January, 2020. Of course, Congress won’t ever go after him for that, despite all this talk of how Trump posed a unique danger to US democracy, let alone any other sitting or former president. Never forget, Nancy Pelosi refused to impeach George W. Bush and admits as late as 2019 that she knew George Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction and still chose to ignore calls to impeach him over a war that displaced and killed millions of Iraqis.

The constitution clearly says that the president is the commander-in-chief of the United States’ Armed Forces, however, that the power to declare war resides with Congress. Although the president can respond to imminent threats, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 stipulates that the president must notify Congress in absence of a declaration of war or prior statutory authorization. Consultation and follow ups with the Legislative branch are a must and the entire point of the resolution is to limit the Executive’s reach in matters of war.

If Congress has already issued an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), presidents will operate within that framework and cite it to justify any action they take. What presidents have often done is to abuse this and distort its legal interpretation e.g. Bush’s crimes in Iraq, Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani. On the other hand, if Congress hasn’t issued an AUMF, like in the case of Biden’s bombing of Syria, then the president will simply cite self-defense as the justification– which is exactly what Biden did– even if it isn’t true. In either case, whether an AUMF has been issued or not, it seems Congress allows presidents to proceed unchecked– because Congress agrees with their imperialist agenda.

One mustn’t forget that even in the case when Congress issues an AUMF and agrees with the president’s military action: US law does not supersede international law. For example, just because the US Congress voted to invade Iraq does not mean that this invasion was morally or legally justifiable.

While Biden cites Article 51 under the United Nations as the United States’ right to self-defense, one has to wonder how Article 51 would even begin to apply in this context. Syria has not attacked the United States, nor are the two nations (at least officially) at war. Moreover, if the targets were so called “Iranian-backed militias”, the same rationale still applies. These bombings also violate Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter which asserts Syria’s sovereignty and prohibits use of force against other member states. Some legal scholars might go on to argue that self-defense under Article 51 only applies against other states, not “militias”. Some might also question how the United States can argue self-defense when its very presence in Iraq is illegal to begin with; the result of an illegal invasion in 2003? At best Biden’s pretext for bombing Syria is dubious, and at worst downright illegal and outrageous. I think most rational people can clearly see it’s the latter.

Indeed, no matter who is in charge, the warmongering remains the same. Obama, Trump, Biden have all maintained George Bush’s neoconservative wars, his creation and expansion of the electronic surveillance start, his Department of Homeland Security and the post-9/11 world crafted by the Bush-Cheney regime. You won’t see many Democrats or Republicans voicing support to repeal the AUMF anytime soon. War is a racket, and the United States excels at it. It’s no accident you have a revolving door between Washington D.C. and the private sector, and that the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is a former board member of the weapons manufacturer Raytheon. At least there’s diversity right? Now that the Treasury and Office of Foreign Assets Control, whose sanctions kill millions, is being run by Janet Yellen, its first woman ever, everything is fine. That’s what counts, right? Or that Alejandro Mayaorkas, the first Latino man to head the Department of Homeland Security, continuing to separate children, placing them in the same camps and appalling conditions as Trump and maintaining construction on Trump’s racist border wall (which all of a sudden Democrats have no issue with). What a diverse brand of imperialism: Uncle Joe’s Rainbow Coalition Death Cult®.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Spain allows Israeli agent to interrogate Palestinian journalist in Madrid

MEMO | April 15, 2021

The Spanish security services have allowed an Israeli agent from the Mossad spy agency to interrogate a Palestinian journalist seeking asylum, Wafa news agency has reported. The incident at the Civil Guard building in the capital has been condemned by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate.

The syndicate called on the Spanish government to assume its responsibilities by ensuring the security of Muath Hamid and his family. It also called for the Spanish authorities to open an investigation into what happened during the interrogation.

Spain’s Civil Guard is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country and “military in nature”. The journalists’ union said that it is suspected of being “complicit” with Mossad in allowing the Israeli agent to interrogate Hamid in its building. “This was a gross violation of international law, a violation of Spanish sovereignty and a threat to the journalist’s security and safety,” the syndicate insisted.

It added that the case is being followed closely in conjunction with the Union of Spanish Journalists, the Palestinian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry, and the Spanish political and security authorities to ensure that Hamid is not subject to any harm or torture. The reporter for Al Araby TV and freelance contributor to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed is currently a refugee in Spain, where he lives with his wife and two children.

According to popular Spanish online newspaper Público last Friday, on 9 December Hamid received a telephone call from “Nicolás”, an officer on duty at the Civil Guard’s Spanish Information Services “Nicolás wanted to discuss Hamid’s work as a journalist, his past and his current life in Spain. This is a regular procedure for refugees and migrants.”

When the journalist went to meet “Nicolás” in Bilbao, he met another officer, Javier. “Hamid answered all the questions, explaining why he applied for asylum in Spain and describing his journey from Palestine to Europe through Turkey,” reported Público. “In early February, the young Palestinian journalist was summoned again by Nicolás… this time in the Spanish capital, Madrid.”

This time there was also another man in the room, allegedly named Omar, “who was introduced to him as a Palestinian. Hamid, however, immediately noticed his strong Israeli accent… and he decided to answer his questions in Hebrew.” Omar acknowledged that he was an Israeli, at which point Javier “left the room, leaving Muath in the hands of the supposed Mossad agent… who threatened the Palestinian journalist and his family, saying that they will never be allowed to go back to Palestine due to one of his journalistic investigations” related to the work of the Israeli spy agency.

Público sought comments and clarifications from the Israeli Embassy and the Civil Guard, as well as Spain’s Interior Ministry. It has received no replies.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘US, allies have turned OPCW into a tool to pursue anti-Syria objectives’

Press TV – April 16, 2021

Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad has categorically dismissed the new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), stating that the United States and its allies have turned the international watchdog into a tool to pursue their political goals against Damascus.

“Despite the difficult situation that Syria is going through, we have stood committed to our membership in the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted Mekdad as saying in a meeting with ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions in Damascus on Thursday evening.

He added, “Syria and many other countries have acknowledged that the states which supported and funded armed terrorist groups in Syria, particularly the United States, France, Germany and Britain, will use the Syrian chemical file and the OPCW to achieve their hostile goals against Syria.”

Mekdad noted that Syrian government forces continue to score remarkable victories in their battles against the Takfiri terrorist groups, emphasizing that the troops have never used chemical warfare even in toughest operations against the foreign-sponsored militants.

He went on to say that certain Western countries have established the OPCW’s so-called Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) in order to produce reports, which best suit their anti-Syria agenda.

“The French-Western draft resolution, which is to be presented at the 25th meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons later this year, is a new chapter in the series of conspiracies against Syria,” Mekdad pointed out.

The top Syrian diplomat finally called on the OPCW member states to support Damascus and counter the politicization of the organization’s activities by some Western countries.

A report by the OPCW’s so-called investigative arm claimed on Monday that Syria’s air force had dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighborhood in the terrorist-controlled Idlib region.

The report further asserted no one was killed when the cylinder of chlorine gas, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the al-Talil neighborhood in the city of Saraqib in February 2018.

The Syrian foreign ministry, in a statement published on Wednesday, said the OPCW’s “misleading report,” written by “an illegitimate and incredible team,” fabricates “facts” to incriminate the Damascus government.

“This report has included false and fabricated conclusion which represents another scandal for the OPCW and the inquiry teams that will be added to the scandal of the reports of Douma incident in 2018, and Ltamenah in 2017,” it said.

Moscow and Damascus have on many occasions said members of the so-called White Helmets civil defense group stage gas attacks in a bid to falsely incriminate Syrian government forces and fabricate pretexts for military strikes by the US-led military coalition.

The group claims to be a humanitarian NGO but has long been accused of collaborating with anti-Damascus militants.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, a charge the Syrian government rejected.

Western governments and their allies have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place.

This is while Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has consistently denied using chemical weapons.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Norwegian Journalists Admit to Receiving Death Threats After Epstein-Related Articles

By Igor Kuznetsov – Sputnik – 14.04.2021

The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv earlier revealed a close relationship between Terje Rød-Larsen and Jeffrey Epstein that included money loans, donations and debt, which ultimately led to Rød-Larsen’s resignation and cast a shadow over the International Peace Institute (IPI) he had been chairing.

After a number of publications about the relationship between disgraced financier and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Norwegian politician and former UN Under-Secretary-General Terje Rød-Larsen, Dagens Næringsliv journalists have received death threats.

Journalists Gard Oterholm and Tore Gjerstad said in a internal report they had received several threats by phone and email.

In one of the telephone conversation, the voice allegedly said: “You are a f*****g c**t, you have people coming after you”. One of the e-mails said: “Be prepared, I would be scared if I were you.” Another one asked the reporter to “send regards” to a family member.

“There were many phone calls with harassing content. And then this email. And when a threatening person also involves family members, it makes the case extremely serious,” Dagens Næringsliv news editor Janne Johannessen told the news portal Media24.

The editor emphasised the seriousness of these threats.

“We believe that threats like these are completely unacceptable, and something we take very seriously. Working with sharp issues and covering conflict-filled issues is demanding in itself. No one should have to endure harassment and threats in connection with the journalistic work,” Johannessen said.

“Threats against journalists are ugly attempts to stop our critical journalism, and then it is all the more important that we continue to cover the events the way we would do otherwise. The revelations in this complex case and the consequences they have had are something we are very proud of,” she said.

The newspaper’s string of revelations about the close relationship between Rød-Larsen and Epstein have had repercussions both in Norway and internationally. Dagens Næringsliv earlier established that Rød-Larsen had borrowed money from the financier in 2013, and that the New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI), which he had chaired between 2004 and 2020, received donations from foundations affiliated with Epstein. Furthermore, Rød-Larsen personally owed Epstein $130,000, which he himself called a “serious misjudgement”. Following the revelations, Rød-Larsen resigned as president of IPI, and the Office of the Auditor General has opened a full investigation into the Foreign Ministry’s relationship with IPI.

Rød-Larsen is most known for his role in the negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, which were the first-ever agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In 1993, Rød-Larsen was appointed Ambassador and Special Adviser for the Middle East Peace process to the Norwegian Foreign Minister, and the following year became the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories.

This is not the first financial scandal involving Rød-Larsen. In 1996, Rød-Larsen resigned as Deputy Prime Minister in the Jagland cabinet following revelations about his stock trading, as he failed to claim a profit of NOK 600,000 ($63,000) on his tax return and avoided paying any taxes on it.

However, following his resignation, he returned to the UN and again became Under-Secretary-General.

Convicted sex felon Jeffrey Epstein was charged with human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors, but died in a prison cell on 10 August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Dozens of women accused him of abusing them as minors. Epstein’s partner Ghislaine Maxwell currently stands accused of aiding and abetting the abuse.

April 14, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 1 Comment

The Magic of Israel

Now you see it, now you don’t

BY PHILIP GIRALDI • UNZ REVIEW • APRIL 13, 2021

The popular narrative of plucky little Israel prevailing over hordes of bloodthirsty Arabs has captured the Western imagination even though it is manifestly false in almost every detail. But Israel’s greatest accomplishment might well be something else, it’s ability to make things disappear. It plausibly all began in June 1967 when Israel attacked the USS Liberty, a lightly armed but well identified US naval vessel cruising in international waters under a large American flag. Fighter bombers and torpedo boats sought to sink the ship, destroying the lifeboats so no one would escape. In the engagement, 34 American military personnel were killed and a further 171 wounded, before a heroic defense by the crew managed to save the vessel. President Lyndon Johnson, who said he would rather see the ship sink than embarrass his friend Israel, started a cover-up which has lasted to this day. There has been no legitimate court of inquiry into the attack and when the ship’s captain received a Medal of Honor for his heroism, it was awarded secretly in the Washington Navy Yard rather than openly at the White House. Israel and its legion of apologists certainly know how to make potential embarrassments disappear.

Last week on this site I posted an article that I thought would prove to be extremely interesting to those who have been expressing concern about foreign interference in our government. It included a link to a series of computer screen texts provided by a credible independent source demonstrating that an employee of the Israeli Consulate General was deeply involved in what appears to be extorting millions of dollars from the father of a congressman based on assisting that congressman through some legal difficulties. The scheme being concocted also included discussion of arrangements for a commando raid on Iran to free a prisoner. The information conveyed in the screenshots that were provided of the texts has not been disputed by anyone involved in the venture, but as I thought the accompanying article was timid in its willingness to draw any conclusions, I wrote my piece attempting to connect the dots.

The Congressman involved was, of course, Matt Gaetz of Florida, who is now facing the House Ethics Committee, surely an oxymoron if there ever was one, concerning his primarily sexual exploits. To my surprise, however, there has been hardly a word in the mainstream media about looking deeper into the possible Israeli connection. One would have thought the copied texts would be newsworthy due to the extortion angle but even more due to the fact that an armed attack on a nation with which the US is not at war was being funded and planned by a foreign government’s diplomatic mission in New York.

To be sure my article did very well both on Unz and even Facebook, though I had to cut and paste it in the latter site due to its blocking of Unz. I did a bit more checking and noted something that has been occurring for some time: the piece, like others relating to Israel, was not coming up on search engines like Google, which means it was not getting the exposure that it merited. I search daily by my name assuming that my pieces if replayed elsewhere will be displayed. In the past I would sometimes get scores of hits on a popular article, but during the past year hardly anything has been appearing. I have to assume that deliberate and widespread censorship of articles critical of Israel is taking place, which was no surprise as friends of Israel are not exactly rare in the social media. Facebook’s censorship board, for example, includes a former Israeli government minister.

It all comes down to the power of the Israeli/Jewish lobby and its ability to make things that it does not like go away. And sometimes it can make things happen that are manifestly not in the interest of the United States. Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy ever in the history of the United States, was recently allowed to return to Israel. In an interview on March 26th he said that any American Jews working for US intelligence agencies must do their duty and spy for Israel because one’s real loyalty is to the Jewish state and one’s co-religionists.

Clearly Pollard is not alone and it was shocking to learn that outgoing president Donald Trump pardoned the Israeli agent who recruited and presumably helped “run” Pollard when he was stealing US secrets. Aviem Sella received a full pardon from Trump as part of hundreds of last minute pardons, many of which had been arranged through two Orthodox Jewish agencies favored by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Sella was a retired Israeli air force officer doing graduate studies and living in the US when he enlisted Pollard to spy for Israel. He fled the country after Pollard was arrested in 1985 and was charged in absentia on three espionage counts but Israel refused to extradite him to the US to stand trial. A White House statement noted that Sella’s request for clemency received support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer, the American ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Miriam Adelson, the widow of the Republican Party’s top donor and Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson. Would anyone expect otherwise?

The Sella pardon should be seen for what it is. It was a gift to the corrupt Netanyahu, who was at the time facing another national election. It served no US national interest at all and in fact sent the message to those who might be tempted a la Pollard that spying for Israel might be regarded as consequence free, in fact desirable and the right thing to do. Of course, the special “exemption” when dealing with Israel should also be regarded as a tribute to Jewish power in the United States, which relies on the corruption of those in leadership positions, using financial inducements or even blackmail backed up by smears of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial for those who cannot be bought.

And the power to corrupt governments and media is not limited to the United States. Nearly everyone in public office or who relies on the media for an income understands one does not cross the Israel Lobby. In Britain, former Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan has written a memoir that accuses pro-Israel lobbyists of “the most disgusting interference” in British politics while also distorting the country’s foreign policy in the Middle East to favor the Jewish state.

Duncan also claimed that Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) went “ballistic” and blocked him from becoming the Middle East minister at the Foreign Office. Duncan has long been a major target for the Israel lobby. In 2017, an Al Jazeera documentary exposed the maneuvering of pro-Israel groups working together with the Israeli Embassy in London to “take down” Duncan and also Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Per Duncan, Conservative Friends of Israel, which openly promotes the interests of a foreign country, had successfully promoted a “Netanyahu-type view of Israeli politics into our foreign policy.” In one chapter Duncan criticized Conservative MPs’ fawning over Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Britain, a performance apparently similar to the time when Bibi addressed the US Congress and received 27 standing ovations.

The Duncan book appeared when another story broke about how a group called “UK Lawyers for Israel” acting on behalf of the Israeli government has been altering the material included in secondary school text books. Per a statement issued by Pearson, the largest publisher of school books in the UK, the company has suspended publication of two textbooks responding to “an eight-page report, by Middle East specialists Professors John Chalcraft and James Dickins, which found hundreds of changes to the textbooks overwhelmingly favoring an Israeli narrative and removing or replacing passages that support Palestinian narratives.”

Censorship of course materials as well as textbooks by Jewish groups to depict Israel in a certain way has certainly been going on in the United States for many years. And the corruption of our institutions to favor Israel and protect it from criticism is incessant. It will be interesting to see if the Gaetz story in all its aspects will ever be allowed to surface or whether the congressman will be offered some inducement to allow him to quietly resign. Somehow, it reminds one of the still unresolved Jeffrey Epstein case in which Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell obtained blackmail material relating to world leaders and celebrities having sex with young girls, somewhat similar to the claims regarding Gaetz.

Many including myself believe that Epstein was part of an Israeli intelligence operation, similar in scale to what was being run on 9/11, which sought to “influence” key figures on issues regarded as important by the Jewish state. Clearly, the game goes on with no one in Washington caring much about the damage being done. Do corrupted and intimidated Congressmen over their morning coffee ponder whether certain activities are “Good for Israel” and therefore not subject to further scrutiny? Judging from Epstein and Gaetz, one would have to believe that to be the case.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 3 Comments

US, Israel set to punish Palestinians for holding a democratic election, again

By Robert Inlakesh | Press TV | April 11, 2021

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.

Israeli and US officials are citing concerns over the potential outcome of the upcoming May 22 Palestinian legislative elections, and if their reactions mirror the past example, the conflict in the Palestinian Occupied Territories could severely escalate.

The people of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and Gaza are set to vote in their first set of elections in 15 years. Much to the dismay of Israel and the United States, who claim they will not interfere in Palestinian democratic processes, it looks like their most despised group Hamas is on the way to a potential landslide victory.

In 2006, Hamas historically won the legislative elections, seizing control of the Gaza Strip. Their Fatah Party rivals, the United States and Israel, however, did not accept the election results and decided to take action to punish the people of Palestine for having their own say at the ballot box.

What ensued was dubbed as the ‘Palestinian civil war,’ which officially ended in 2007, with Hamas having successfully stopped an attempted Fatah-led coup – backed by the United States and Israel. Israel, as a result of the removal of Fatah power from the Gaza Strip, saw the perfect opportunity to impose a full and tightened blockade over the territory – thus collectively punishing its civilian population for their choice in the elections. Upon the Hamas victory, the US and EU also imposed overwhelming sanctions on Gaza meant to undermine the elected Hamas government.

As a result of the rivalry between the Fatah Party, currently heading the Palestinian Authority (PA) – which maintains limited control over small portions of the West Bank – and Hamas, there have been no elections since. Time and time again Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term in office expired in 2009, has postponed the elections, until early this year, when Abbas announced that legislative and presidential elections were finally to take place.

For Palestinians, their elections are set up to fail from the get-go. Pretty much the only political party they have to choose from, without being punished by the West and Israel, is the Fatah Party. All other major political Parties are registered terrorist organizations by most Western countries and Israel itself. Due to Western political immaturity, no organization that refuses to sell out the Palestinian cause for national liberation is to be considered as a legitimate political force and so instead it must be punished, attacked, sanctioned and humiliated. Thus, any Palestinian voting for a change to the status quo, meaning voting outside of lists belonging to Fatah, are to be punished for their choice to change to political scene.

We know from statements published by Fatah and Hamas that both intend to set up a unity government, meaning that Hamas will be in on decisions to lead the Palestinians of the occupied Palestinian territories. Yet, if this occurs, Israel is very open about their rejection of any collaboration with a government formed of Hamas members. This means that all of the cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, such as “security cooperation,” would cease and the two would be at conflict.

Early this year, Israeli Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman had repeatedly warned President Mahmoud Abbas about the consequences of holding elections and made it clear that Hamas would not be tolerated. The Shin Bet chief also stressed that Abbas not go ahead with the elections.

Now it has been reported that, in a meeting between the two, both Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are “concerned” about a Hamas win and urge a postponement of the elections. The hilarious part of the meeting, reported by Israel’s Walla news outlet, was that both figures also stressed that they didn’t intend to interfere in Palestinian democratic processes. But if you are urging a postponement of elections, after 15 years of no elections and are set to reject the party most likely to win at this point, then what else other than interference is that?

Israel has already gone on a tirade of arresting Palestinian political activists and prominent members of Hamas, in the West Bank and threatens ending cooperation with the PA, which will result in an escalation of violence. The US also does not indicate it will accept a Hamas win and is already expressing concern. So, if Hamas were to win in the West Bank, then we can only assume that their sanctions against Gaza may be transferred somewhat onto the West Bank too. This is essentially the US and Israel offering the Palestinian people an ultimatum; choose the status quo and still have the limited money you have, or choose who you like and we will crush you.

Due to the internal divisions now seen in the Fatah Party – which seems most likely to pave the way for a Hamas win – there is no indication that this will be respected by the West and Israel.

So, what do Palestinians do, vote for the status quo and continue to suffer as usual, watching the settlements expand upon the rest of their lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (al-Quds), or vote for the alternative which will likely mean an all-out conflict with the West and Israel?

As much as the West and Israel attempt to publicly distance themselves from the Palestinian elections, they are as much a part of it as are all the Palestinian political parties themselves. This is just the reality of the ongoing illegal occupation, there is no official autonomous Palestinian State, only oppressed peoples fighting for that State. So, any attempt to act as if a fair election, without Israeli-US influence is possible, is a product of great imagination.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Iran reports ‘NUCLEAR terrorism’ attack at Natanz facility – day after uranium enrichment began

RT | April 11, 2021

Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was hit by a “terrorist” attack on Sunday, the country’s nuclear chief said, hours after reports of an electrical “accident” – and a day after new uranium enrichment centrifuges were started up.

Iran reserves the right to “take action” against those behind the incident at the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facility in Natanz, the head of the nation’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state TV on Sunday.

He called the incident at the plant an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

Iran “condemns this heinous act,” Salehi said, calling on the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in particular to “deal” with the act of “nuclear terrorism.”

The incident at the plant was earlier described as an “electricity problem” at a power grid in Natanz. “Fortunately, the incident did not cause any human injuries or pollution,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), said earlier on Sunday.

A member of the Iranian parliament’s Energy Commission, Malek Shariati Niasar, also described the incident as “very suspicious,” and said he had assumed it might potentially be “sabotage and infiltration,” since it took place around the National Day of Nuclear Technology.

The event reportedly caused a blackout in the electricity distribution network of the Shahid Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility in Natanz. Further details have not been made public and the causes of the incident are currently “under investigation.”

Natanz is key to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Tehran says is strictly peaceful. In early February, it said that hundreds of advanced centrifuges with a higher capacity for uranium enrichment were installed there.

The events also took place just a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran has begun using new advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium at the Natanz site.

Israeli media reported that the incident was likely caused by a cyberattack, while the Times of Israel has openly claimed, citing “Western intelligence sources,” that Mossad was “behind” the power cut in Natanz. There have been no official statements from Israeli officials so far, however.

Iran’s nuclear program was significantly limited under the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It included caps on uranium purity and the amount Iran is able to produce.

After then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal, despite the IAEA repeatedly confirming Iran’s compliance, Tehran said that it would no longer be meeting its obligations in full. Washington has since launched a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on Iran.

Earlier this week, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said the nation had already produced 55 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium this year, adding that it exceeded the enrichment capacity achieved before the JCPOA. All of Iran’s nuclear aspirations are “peaceful and civilian,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday.

Recent talks in Vienna on the nuclear deal, which saw Washington and Tehran negotiating indirectly, have not resulted in any major breakthrough.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Former minister blasts pro-Israel lobby over ‘disgusting interference’ in British politics

MEMO | April 9, 2021

Former Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan has accused pro-Israel lobbyists of “the most disgusting interference” in British politics, and of negatively influencing the country’s foreign policy in the Middle East. The veteran politician has also claimed that Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) went “ballistic” and blocked him from taking on a new post covering the region’s affairs.

Duncan, a former Conservative MP and government minister, makes the sensational claims in his newly published memoir, In The Thick of It: The private diaries of a minister (published by William Collins, 2021). Speaking to journalist Michael Crick about his book for the MailPlus website, the 64 year-old blasted CFI and its undue influence in British politics.

Conservative Friends of Israel, he said, had injected a “Netanyahu-type view of Israeli politics into our foreign policy,” referring to Israel’s right-wing prime minister. He claimed that it had applied pressure on Theresa May’s government to prevent him becoming Middle East minister at the Foreign Office.

In his book, Duncan claims that his new role was agreed until the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson alerted him to the fact that CFI “are going ballistic”. He insists that he was blocked from taking the post because he believes in the rights of the Palestinians.

In one diary entry Duncan is scathing about Conservative MPs’ fawning over Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Britain. He was “ashamed” of the British government, accusing officials of allowing Netanyahu to “peddle pro-settlement propaganda”.

Duncan described to Crick the culture of fear created by CFI. “A lot of things do not happen in foreign policy or in government for fear of offending them because that’s the way it’s put to them by the CFI.”

He warned: “It’s a sort of buried scandal that has to stop… they will interfere at a high level in British politics in the interests of Israel on the back of donor power in the UK.” Ultimately, he pointed out, the influence of the pro-Israel lobby group came at the expense of the Palestinians.

Duncan has been a major target for the pro-Israel lobby. In 2017, an Al Jazeera documentary sensationally exposed the operations of pro-Israel lobbyists working with the Israeli Embassy in London to “take down” a minister of the Crown. Duncan, fellow Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were marked out as targets. Writing for Al Jazeera at the time, Robert Grenier, a retired, 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, warned against what he called the “insidious threats” of the pro-Israel lobby.

Read also: Conservative Friends of Israel urge UK to oppose ICC’s war crimes investigation

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Iranian merchant vessel Saviz struck by blast in Red Sea, suffers minor damage: Official

Press TV – April 7, 2021

Iran says one of its merchant vessels has been targeted by an explosion of unknown origin in the strategic Red Sea, in the second such incident in less than a month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatizadeh told reporters that the Saviz ship was struck by the blast at around 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) on Tuesday, April 5, near the coast of Djibouti, and sustained minor damage.

“Fortunately, no fatalities were caused by the incident, and technical evaluations on how the incident occurred and its origins are underway,” he added.

The Iranian official said Tehran will take all the necessary measures regarding the case through international bodies.

Rejecting media claims, Khatibzadeh said the Saviz is a non-military vessel, whose specifications and mission have been formally registered with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

He said the ship acts as Iran’s logistic station in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, protects naval routes and provides security for merchant vessels and tankers against pirates.

A New York Times story published on Wednesday quoted an anonymous US official telling the newspaper that the Tel Aviv regime notified the United States that Israeli forces had attacked an Iranian ship in the Red Sea.

The unnamed US official said Israel called the strike a retaliation, and that the ship had been hit below the water line.

In a similar incident last month, an Iranian cargo ship was damaged after it was targeted by a terrorist attack en route to Europe in the Mediterranean Sea.

Tehran said back then that such acts of terror are a clear example of naval piracy and run counter to international law on the safety of commercial vessels.

On February 25, an explosion struck Israeli-owned and the Bahamas-flagged ship, the MV Helios Ray, in the Sea of Oman near the strategic mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastily accused Iran of attacking the ship. Iran categorically rejected the charge.

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi, in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 5, warned of consequences of any possible miscalculated measure by Israel over the explosion.

“The incident has all the characteristic of a complicated false flag operation carried out by actors in order to pursue their malign policies and to advance their illegitimate objectives,” Takht Ravanchi wrote.

April 7, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment