Iran

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The Hawks Who Want War With Iran Are Working Overtime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 2:01am in

WASHINGTON (Jacobin) Just as talks between the United States and Iran were taking place last week in Vienna, a cyberattack was carried out on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Reports are that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, was behind the attack that blacked out the facility just one day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, and as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel speaking about the United States’ “enduring and ironclad” commitment to the Jewish state.

This is the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on Iran designed to scuttle negotiations. Last summer, a number of explosions attributed to Israel broke out across Iran, including a fire at the Natanz site. These took place while US elections were in full swing and Biden was promising that if elected, he would return the United States to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) that Trump withdrew from in 2018. In November 2020, Israeli operatives assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist in the city of Absard outside Tehran. Had Iran responded, the United States might have been dragged into an all-out war.

Israeli officials have also directly lobbied the US Congress to quash the deal. In 2015, Netanyahu traveled to Washington, DC in 2015 to address a joint session of Congress in an attempt to uncut Obama’s original negotiations. This time, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will be traveling to Washington to meet with top White House and US intelligence officials, and he hopes with Biden directly, to convince the administration that Iran has been concealing details about its nuclear program and therefore can’t be trusted. This is indeed ironic coming from a country that, unlike Iran, actually has nuclear weapons and refuses to disclose any information about its program.

Like Israel, the powerful US lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is trying to convince Biden not to go back into the JCPOA. Last month, they organized bipartisan letters in the House and Senate, urging the Biden administration to insist on an expanded deal that included missiles, human rights, and Iran’s activities in the region. Since Tehran has been clear that an expanded or amended deal is a nonstarter, such “advice” was an attempt to quash talks.

The neoconservative think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which worked inside the Trump administration during and after Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, has been relentlessly pushing for war with Iran. After the United States recklessly assassinated Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz gloated, tweeting that the death of Soleimani was “more consequential than the killing of [Osama] #BinLaden”; and on April 11, the same day as the Natanz blackout, former CIA officer and FDD fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, speaking on CNN, voiced disappointment that Trump hadn’t taken the United States and Iran into an all-out war.

Another group against a deal with Iran is Christians United for Israel (CUFI), one of the most powerful pro-Israel voices in the United States. In March 2021, CUFI urged the Senate not to confirm Colin Kahl for a top policy position at the Pentagon, claiming, “Kahl is a serial Iran appeaser” who “helped advance the disastrous Iran nuclear accord.” In response to the blackout at Natanz, they cheered Netanyahu, tweeting “‘Battling Iran is a colossal mission,’ Netanyahu says following blackout at Iranian nuclear plant.”

The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which the United States had previously designated as a terrorist organization and is known for assassinations and bombings it has carried out, is virulently opposed to US-Iran diplomacy. In March 2021, a number of US Senators attended a virtual event organized by the MEK-aligned Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) calling for continued US sanctions and “bringing down the regime.” Senator Bob Menendez, the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was among several Democrats in attendance.

The opponents of the Iran deal are trying to keep in place the draconian wall of sanctions that the Trump administration imposed precisely to make it more difficult for a future US administration to rejoin the JCPOA. But these sanctions are causing immense suffering for ordinary Iranians, including runaway inflation and skyrocketing food and medicine prices. According to the UN, they contributed to the government’s “inadequate and opaque” response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit Iran particularly hard.

While “successful” in inflicting harm on the Iranian people, the sanctions have failed to broaden the terms of the talks, led the nation to increase its uranium enrichment, negatively impacted the human rights situation, and put the United States and Iran on the brink of an all-out war on multiple occasions.

That’s why so many people in Iran, and those who care about them, have been encouraged by this new round of diplomatic engagement. But Israel, AIPAC, CUFI, FDD, MEK, Menendez, and the like are probably instead hoping that Iran carries out the revenge that Iranian officials have called for in response to the Natanz blackout. But as the saboteurs of diplomacy hope for a violent escalation, let’s keep in mind — and hope Iran agrees — that the best revenge would be a revived JCPOA.

Feature photo | Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, April 7, 2021. Heidi Levine | Pool via AP

Ariel Gold is the national codirector and senior Middle East policy analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The post The Hawks Who Want War With Iran Are Working Overtime appeared first on MintPress News.

US Gins Up a “Credible” Iranian Nuclear Menace Befitting Its Own Stockpile

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 12:32am in

WASHINGTON — According to The Telegraph, “new revelations” from an unnamed senior Western intelligence source show “that Iran is trying to conceal vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world [and] has no intention of complying with its international obligations under the terms of the nuclear deal.”

Led by Israel and the United States, the narrative of a nuclear-armed Iran wreaking havoc on the Middle East and the world has been unrelenting and co-signed by the broader Western media establishment, which has been complicit in a long-running campaign that goes back to the early 2000s.

Relegated to a secondary news item since the Covid crisis took over, the story is now resurfacing as the Biden administration revisits the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the Iran Nuclear Deal, which was famously shelved by Donald Trump in 2018. Despite promises made during his campaign to restore the treaty, Biden has stopped short of doing so and has conditioned the re-implementation of the agreement on vague “changes from Tehran.”

Manufacturing a “credible” nuclear menace is vital to the interests of the most heavily nuclear-armed country in the world, after all, and the smoke and mirrors used to place Iran in that role serves to justify the Pentagon’s ballooning nuclear budget and projects like the $100 billion nuclear bomb currently in development.

In addition, the political circus surrounding Trump’s scrapping of the nuclear deal and its aftermath has helped to conceal an ongoing redeployment of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal stationed in Europe since the Cold War, as America and its NATO allies upgrade their nuclear warhead technology.

 

Moving pieces around

The Congressional Research Service, an independent policy advisory organization known as “Congress’ Think Tank,” recently issued a report in which it disclosed to lawmakers that a third of the United States’ nuclear warheads scattered throughout the old continent have been redeployed from their warehouses in Europe and Turkey.

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published in January, the redeployments were carried out because of a “reduction of operational storage capacity” at several bases. The Bulletin also reported that, per Sputnik, approximately 130 B61 thermonuclear bombs are now being “stored at bases in the U.S. and kept ready for operations in Asia or other locations outside Europe.”

Nuclear Weapons

The Los Alamos Study Group takes aim at plans to ramp up the nation’s nuclear arsenal near Bernalillo, N.M., Feb. 17, 2021. Susan Montoya Bryan | AP

Continued violations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by Atlanticist powers since its signing in 1968 have only garnered skepticism over the stated motives of the redeployment. Russian government officials believe the movement of the nuclear weapons probably has more to do with their modernization, as opposed to any efforts to actually reduce the number of atomic bombs in the region, a belief buttressed by the UK’s recent increase of its own nuclear stockpile.

The removal and redeployment is likely due to the development of smaller nuclear weapon technology — such as the B61-12, tested last year in the Nevada desert, which can carry in the bay of an F-35 jet a payload three times larger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, interviewed by local Russian media, does not believe a reduction in the American nuclear arsenal is actually taking place and, moreover, U.S. officials have not announced any changes to their nuclear arsenal in Europe.

 

Twisted logic

A topic that seemed to be lost in the dustbin of history is being revived by the last remaining members of the generation that grew up in the midst of Cold War hysteria and foisted upon a new generation, which is expected to adopt the same fears and suspicions that fueled the exponential growth of the military industrial complex and established America’s war economy as the world’s preeminent economic paradigm.

Vinton Cerf and Martin Hellman, two individuals who’ve had a role in keeping the specter of nuclear annihilation alive in the 21st century, recently published a dual opinion piece detailing the reasons they believe that the “risk of a nuclear war is unacceptably high” and why “risk reduction measures are urgently needed” from a qualitative and quantitative approach respectively.

Hellman, a cryptographer involved with nuclear deterrence in the waning years of the Cold War with the Reagan administration, and Cerf — one of the developers of a military communication protocol designed to withstand a nuclear attack, the precursor to the internet called ARPAnet — both harbor alarmist viewpoints that were so common during the post-war years.

Banal comparisons between marriage and nuclear war, such as Hellman employs as a thesis for his book “A New Map for Relationships,” are coupled with hyperbolic statements like “a child born today may well have less-than-even odds of living out his or her natural life without experiencing the destruction of civilization in a nuclear war,” to propagate the idea that the threat of a nuclear conflagration is as terrifying as it is a fact of life.

Cerf and Hellman are among several scientists and deterrence policy experts participating in a series of workshops organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), which began in February and is scheduled to have its fourth meeting in April. The ad hoc committee project, titled “Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism,” will issue a report at the project’s conclusion to deliver assessments informing the development of a new nuclear security strategy for the United States.

 

The real enemy

In Hellman’s mathematical calculations, the probability of nuclear war is extrapolated from what “we would expect on the order of ten major crises comparable to Cuba 1962; 100 lesser crises comparable to the 1995-1996 Taiwan Straits Crisis, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, or the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that started in 2014.” Cerf’s quantitative analysis likewise focuses on the Cuban missile crisis, but opts for the 1999 war in Kosovo and a false incoming ballistic missile alert in Hawaii three years ago as examples.

While taking different routes, both arrive at the same basic conclusion that the only way to avoid a nuclear holocaust is to raise the level of perceived risk so high that it, in turn, spurs a concerted effort to reduce said risks.

Given the languishing Cold War narratives decades after that war’s denouement, the creation of a new nuclear threat in Iran and North Korea becomes vital to the reestablishment of America’s teetering war economy, which has spent the last few decades since Gorbachev dissolved the Soviet Union looking for ways to quash its real enemy – peace.

Feature photo | Iranian troops participate in a military drill, the latest in a series of exercises amid escalating tensions over Washington’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran. Photo | Iranian Army via AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post US Gins Up a “Credible” Iranian Nuclear Menace Befitting Its Own Stockpile appeared first on MintPress News.

US Intel Thinks You’re Stupid: ODNI Report Blames Russia, Ignores Colombian Election Interference

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 7:18am in

Tags 

Colombia, Iran, Russia

WASHINGTON — Russiagate is back! That’s right. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) says Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei meddled in the 2020 U.S. election. But not only they: Lebanese Hezbollah, Cuba and Venezuela did it too.

I know what you’re thinking: Where is the evidence? Well, the ODNI report doesn’t show any. But phrases like “we judge,”“we assess,” “probably,” and “likely” are used dozens of times. Apparently for corporate media, that’s good enough.

Never mind that, way down on the last page, the report says “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

So it’s the opinion, the estimation of the intelligence agencies.

 

A 180-degree change of heart?

The very same intelligence agencies that somehow missed that a giant mob of Trump supporters were openly planning to storm the Capitol building on January 6th. Or that said there was going to be a QAnon attack on the Capitol on March 4th that never happened. Or that told us back in November that Russia didn’t influence the election – the polar opposite of what they’re telling us now.

“There was no fraud, there were no irregularities,” commented former CIA chief of staff and CNN analyst Jeremy Bash.

“Various agencies have come out to say there was no widespread fraud in this election,” remarked CNN White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

“This has been the safest, most secure election we have ever had. We also know that Russia largely did not play in this election,” declared former Obama aide Chris Lu.

“It was remarkable. We didn’t see the kind of disinformation or disruption that we were worried about from Russia, if not China,” assured former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem.

“2020 was a very secure election,” declared former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.

But that’s all been memory-holed because the intelligence community and news media think the public has the memory of a goldfish.

 

When Russian “propaganda” happens to be the plain truth

The report says that Russia’s primary effort was “alleging corrupt ties between President Joe Biden, his family and other U.S. officials in Ukraine.” Clearly, that’s a reference to Biden overseeing the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine and then putting his son Hunter on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where he collected an $80,000 paycheck every month despite having no background in energy.

That’s right, if you think that’s corruption, you’re getting played by Putin.

The report also claims that Russian online influence actors played a tricky double game. Not only did they “promote former President [Donald] Trump and his commentary… At the same time, Russian actors criticized former President Trump or his administration when they pursued foreign policies – such as the targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.”

So if you thought that it was maybe a bad idea to start a war with Iran, you’re under the influence of Russian propaganda.

And when Joe Biden said about the killing of Solemani, “The haphazard decision making process that led up it, the failure to consult with our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow was in my view dangerously incompetent,” he was actually promoting Russian propaganda.

So were Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg

 

US ally gets a pass

But maybe what’s most remarkable is not what’s in the ODNI report, but what isn’t.

By the standards of the U.S. government, multiple elected officials in the party of Colombian President Ivan Duque brazenly interfered in the election against Biden.

Senator Carlos Felipe Mejia tweeted this video of a Trump speech attacking Biden. Congressman Juan David Velez quote-tweeted Trump saying “We will make Colombia great again.”

Or Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal, who in one blog post heralded Trump as leader of the never-ending struggle against socialism and wrote that Biden is leading the way towards the radical wing of the Democratic Party’s socialist vision. On her Instagram, she posted a cartoon portraying Biden as a trojan horse for Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  – whom she considers socialists. Here she portrayed Trump as an anti-communist warrior against Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro.

The interference from Colombia’s far-right was happening so frequently that the U.S. Embassy in Colombia felt it necessary to warn them to not interfere in the election. And two Democratic members of Congress wrote an op-ed asking the Colombians to stop interfering.

On her blog, Maria Fernanda Cabal pointed out that the U.S. government didn’t take issue with former President Juan Manuel Santos saying he preferred Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Granted, that was a much more diplomatic approach than the rabid anti-communism of Maria Fernanda Cabal and was ostensibly based on Santos’s desire for the Colombian peace accord to succeed. But nonetheless, by the standards of the intelligence report, Santos’s endorsement of Clinton should be construed as interference.

 

“Election integrity” as a foil for geopolitical agenda

So why does the so-called intelligence community tell us that State Department-designated Official Enemy countries tried to interfere in the elections without providing a shred of evidence while ignoring the mounds of evidence that the U.S.’s closest ally in Latin America repeatedly interfered?

It’s because accusations of interference have nothing to do with protecting election integrity and everything to do with advancing a narrow, imperialist political agenda.

See, back in late January, Biden had signed an arms treaty with Russia – a necessary step to prevent a hot war, but bad for the image the spy agencies and Western media present of Russia as an evil empire. And the evidence-free media frenzies about Russia poisoning Alexei Navalny, hacking U.S. government agencies, and paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, which had been dominating the 24 hours news cycle, were getting stale.

So the ODNI report is a fresh injection of Russiagate bullshit into the bloodstream of American politics, one that prompted Biden to talk tough against Putin, even if George Stephanopolous has to demand it.

If it wasn’t clear before, Russiagate is a permanent feature of American politics. It’s too useful to the intelligence agencies and war industry, no matter how transparent the lies are.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

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Radio 4 Programme Next Week Asks If the Syrian White Helmets Were Really Heroes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 4:26am in

Here’s another programme on the radio asking a very interesting question. Radio 4’s Mayday programme next Friday, 26th March 2021, examines whether the White Helmets, the paramilitary force co-founded by James Le Mesurier in Syria, were the heroes they were made out to be. The blurb for the programme in the Radio Times runs

Omnibus edition of the BBC Sounds podcast released last year. It tells the story of the White Helmets Syrian civil defence force co-founder James Le Mesurier. When Le Mesurier fell to his death in Turkey in November 2019, he left behind a tangle of truths and lies. The documentary investigates claims that, far from being heroes, the White Helmets are part of a very elaborate hoax. Le Mesurier-his detractors say-was a British secret agent pulling the strings, so when his body was found there were a lot of questions to answer. Presented by Chloe Hadjimatheou.

I’ve come across a number of pieces from left-wing websites and news media suggesting that the White Helmets really weren’t the heroic figures they were presented as in the western media, fighting to defend people of all religions against government tyranny or sectarian paramilitaries in the Syrian civil war. These sites suggested that reports of some of the atrocities the Syrian government was supposed to have carried out on its own people were false. They had been deliberately staged to provoke western intervention and the government’s regime change. The American Neocons once again want the current dictator gone, because he’s an Alawi. This is a Shi’a sect somewhat similar to the Druze. They’re very unorthodox by the standards of Sunni Islam, but the regime is allied to that other Shi’a country, Iran. I think it might also be allied to Russia as well. In any case, it’s been on the list of countries whose governments the Neocons want overthrown since the 1990s. And I think oil also looms very large in this, as its connected to another oil pipeline running from Europe to the Middle East.

The programme’s on at 9.00 pm, if you want to listen to it.

Joe Biden Tells the World “America Is Back” — Not That It Ever Really Went Anywhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 4:04am in

WASHINGTON — “America is back,” President Joe Biden bellicosely proclaimed in his major foreign policy priorities speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 19. Repeating it for effect, Biden signaled the end of the Trump interregnum.

No more assuring words could have been uttered for George W. Bush’s former Defense Secretary Colin Powell and the 70-odd Republican national security officials who had written an open letter endorsing Biden out of fear that Donald Trump would upset the bipartisan foreign policy consensus of regime change, forever wars, and the NATO alliance. Republican neocons now shelter in the Democrats’ big tent, today’s party of war.

The major difference from his predecessor is that the new U.S. president promises a greater reliance on multilateral diplomacy and international cooperative agreements to achieve U.S. imperial goals. Biden pledged to remain in the World Health Organization and to return to the Paris Climate Agreement, although compliance with the latter is voluntary and Biden defends fracking. Where Trump withdrew the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council three years ago, the U.S. will now re-engage as an observer. And Trump’s “Muslim ban” was reversed on Biden’s first day in office.

Regardless of the changing of the guard in Washington, the imperial goal of “full spectrum dominance” endures from one administration to the next. The global network of up to a thousand foreign military bases will not be shuttered.

The fact that the U.S. can with impunity punish a third of humanity (39 nations) with illegal sanctions – what the UN calls unilateral coercive measures  – is a measure of its hegemonic standing. These sanctions are a form of “hybrid warfare,” which can be just as deadly as outright war. Although Biden is reviewing the sanctions policy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is expected to “keep using [the] U.S. sanctions weapon but with sharper aim,” as reported by Reuters.

The new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, asserted that his policies would follow his predecessor’s, but will “more effectively target” official enemies such as Venezuela, and will double down on Russia. Following Trump, Biden is appealing to the UK High Court to extradite Julian Assange.

 

“We’re at an inflection point”

Biden warned, in his foreign policy priorities speech, about “competition among countries that threaten to divide the world,” caused by “shifting global dynamics.” The threat to “divide the world” that concerns the U.S. president is precisely any deviation from U.S. domination. Biden was referring to the emergence of potential rival powers. His warning affirms and extends Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy doctrine of “great-power competition” and swings away from Barack Obama’s earlier and subsequently abandoned conception of “international interdependence.”

Biden’s “shifting global dynamics” are what Obama’s Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel referred to as “challenging the world order that American leadership helped build after World War II.” In other words, the world’s sole superpower is averse to an emerging multipolar world.

Biden’s speech concluded, “We’re at an inflection point” caused by “new crises.” While not identified by Biden, this is implicit recognition of the impending crisis of legitimacy of the neoliberal world order. The U.S. is the main beneficiary, proponent, and enforcer of a global political economy that increasingly is seen as failing to meet people’s needs. Class disparities are ever more evident in the U.S. and internationally during an economic recession. Here in the U.S., billionaires have added $4 trillion to their net worth since the onset of the pandemic.

 

Return to Atlanticism and NATO expansion

While still president, Trump spoke against the U.S. as the world’s gendarme: “The plan is to get out of endless wars to bring our soldiers back home, not be policing agents all over the world.” For a variety of reasons, Trump’s iconoclastic words never found their way into policy. And Biden’s speech writers certainly will never give him similar words to read.

Rather, Biden said in his foreign policy speech that the U.S. is “fully committed to our NATO Alliance” and “welcome[s] Europe’s growing investment in [its] military capabilities.” The U.S. mission in Iraq will be expanded and more U.S. troops will be sent to Germany.

Biden justifies the NATO military encirclement of Russia, with intimations that Ukraine and Georgia may eventually join, by “the threat from Russia.” However, Russian reactions to staging hostile war games and nuclear-capable facilities on its border are plausibly defensive. Meanwhile the U.S.-led military alliance has long since broken loose from its Atlantic-centric borders, with NATO Partners Across the Globe extending to Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

 

Africa and the Middle East

The new administration will expand U.S. military presence in Africa through its Africa Command (AFRICOM), which in 2019 deployed Special Forces in 22 countries and was in active combat in at least 13 of them. The largest ever U.S. military exercise in Africa, African Lions 21, is scheduled for June with “partner nations.”

Biden’s State Department approved a $200 million arms sale to Egypt, a country headed by the man Trump called his “favorite dictator.” The U.S. continues to be the world’s largest purveyor of military equipment, eclipsing the combined sales of the next four highest war profiteers.

Oil and gas are strategic resources, and their international flows are key factors for imperial control. Absent oil and gas sales, 60% of its GDP, Russia would be a minor economy.

Now that the U.S. is a net oil exporter, the oil-rich Gulf monarchies are both allies and potential competitors.

Trump extended the U.S.’s “special relationship” in the Middle East with Israel and Saudi Arabia; Biden continues this trajectory. Trump’s provocative move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will not be reversed by Biden, nor will Palestinian rights be recognized.

Ignoring nuclear-armed Israel, the Biden team continues the U.S.’s obsession with Iran’s nuclear program. Biden has committed to renegotiate “a better deal” regarding Iran after Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; the deal retains Trump’s demand to include Iran’s whole regional policy.

The new U.S. administration will be augmenting troops in Syria and expanding and building new military bases there. Damascus is in a weakened state, facing the pandemic, economic blockade, and continued military hostilities by the U.S. and its “partners.”

Biden announced that the U.S. will no longer support “offensive operations” in the Saudi-led war on Yemen that has precipitated a human rights catastrophe. It remains to be seen what continuing lethal “defensive” aid to the Saudis entails. The Saudis have the world’s fifth largest military, costing an astronomical 8% of their GDP. Some U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been temporarily suspended. In response, the CEO of military merchant Raytheon commented: “Peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon.” He should know, as Biden’s defense secretary formerly sat on his company’s board of directors.

 

“America’s backyard” – 21st century Monroe Doctrine

Treatment of Latin America and the Caribbean as the U.S.’s proprietary backyard, under the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, is being challenged by a rising “pink tide:” recent leftist electoral wins in Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia, and a possibility in Ecuador in April; popular uprisings in Argentina, Haiti, and elsewhere; and continued resistance by Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

Biden, the day he entered office, had the power of executive order to restore Obama’s openings to Cuba that had been reversed by Trump. Now, with over a month in office, Biden has not ended limits on remittances, restrictions on travel, or other illegal sanctions on Cuba. Biden continues the illegal policy of regime change for Cuba of the previous twelve U.S. presidents: covert and overt destabilization, blockade, and occupation of Guantánamo. It should be noted that Obama’s openings to Cuba were not a deviation from previous policy but an attempt to achieve regime change by different means.

Venezuela featured prominently in the presidential campaign speeches of Trump and Biden, with both promoting regime change. U.S.-anointed counterfeit president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has lost his credentials with the European Union. But the farce – initiated in 2019 by Trump – is nonetheless being continued by Biden, who backed down on his campaign pledge to possibly negotiate directly with the democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro.

Biden has already deported thousands of emigres back to Haiti and other countries. This represents “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies,”  according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

Pivot to Asia

U.S. foreign policy reflects the personal qualities of the person occupying the Oval Office, party affiliation, and the constellation of state and corporate powers behind the administration. But eclipsing these factors are larger geopolitical developments, especially now with the emergence of China as the world’s workshop.

China is an upcoming rival but falls short as a peer of the U.S. in terms of economic power. China’s remarkable economic growth has been predicated on its integration into, and indeed dependence on, the international capitalist market, which is dominated by the U.S. Although China is the world’s leading exporter, only a minuscule 4% of the international exchange of currencies is denominated in the Chinese yuan, compared to 88% in U.S. dollars. Tellingly, close to half the trade between China and Russia, two countries sanctioned by the U.S., is denominated in U.S. dollars.

Following Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2012, Biden’s policy portends a continuation of Trump’s hostility toward China, only with further intensification. The U.S. military buildup to confine China includes land, air, sea, and even space forces, with the South China Sea as a hotspot of contention.

Trump negotiated a peace agreement between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, now in its twentieth year of war. The Biden administration has indicated that it will not honor the agreement, which requires a U.S. troop drawdown instead of Biden’s announced buildup.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is entering its 71st year of official war with the U.S. with no end in sight. When Trump met with DRPK President Kim Jong-un in 2019, the Democrats screamed “treason.” To be sure, Biden will not make the patriotic mistake of trying to reduce tension between the two nuclear powers.

 

Nuclear policy – 100 seconds before midnight

The U.S. is ringing Russia and China with “missile defense systems,” which had been illegal until George W. Bush abrogated the U.S.-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002. A “missile defense system” is designed to shield against a retaliatory response after a first-strike nuclear attack. Congress recently authorized a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

China’s official policy is “not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.” Russian policy is to use nuclear weapons only “when the very existence of the state is threatened.” In contrast, the U.S. reserves the right to “first use” of nuclear weapons.

A trillion-dollar-plus nuclear weapons modernization, started by Obama and continued by Trump, lurches on under Biden, with the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal scheduled to be upgraded. The consequences are far greater risks of launching an accidental nuclear war and an accelerated arms race with Russia and China. Head of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, Admiral Charles A. Richard, warned just this month that in a conflict with Russia or China “nuclear employment is a very real possibility.”

Given such an international climate, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the 2021 doomsday clock to 100 seconds before midnight. Although the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons became international law on January 21, the U.S. has not ratified it. On the brighter side, Biden extended the New START nuclear arms treaty for four years.

 

Another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary

The story ends just 100 seconds before disaster, but that is only half the story. The other half is the resistance to U.S. imperialism. “American leadership” of the world, touted by both Republicans and Democrats, is not democratic. No one elected the U.S. to be the world’s nanny. International polls show the U.S. is rated among the most feared, hated, and dangerous countries in the world, and the greatest threat to world peace. The Vox Populi project reports majorities or pluralities of the U.S. people support reducing the military budget, achieving peace by avoiding foreign intervention, negotiating directly with adversaries to avoid military confrontation, decreasing U.S. troops overseas, and constraining the president’s ability to attack a foreign adversary.

Feature photo | Biden tours the African Americans in Service Corridor at the Pentagon, Feb. 10, 2021, Patrick Semansky | AP

Roger D. Harris is with the human rights organization Task Force on the Americas and on the executive committee of the U.S. Peace Council.

The post Joe Biden Tells the World “America Is Back” — Not That It Ever Really Went Anywhere appeared first on MintPress News.

US Bombs Syria And Ridiculously Claims Self Defense

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 2:33pm in

Tags 

Iraq, Syria, War, Iran, News

On orders of President Biden, the United States has launched an airstrike on a facility in Syria. As of this writing the exact number of killed and injured is unknown, with early reports claiming “a handful” of people were killed.

Rather than doing anything remotely resembling journalism, the western mass media have opted instead to uncritically repeat what they’ve been told about the airstrike by US officials, which is the same as just publishing Pentagon press releases.

Here’s this from The Washington Post:

The Biden administration conducted an airstrike against alleged Iranian-linked fighters in Syria on Thursday, signaling its intent to push back against violence believed to be sponsored by Tehran.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the attack, the first action ordered by the Biden administration to push back against alleged Iranian-linked violence in Iraq and Syria, on a border control point in eastern Syria was “authorized in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats.”

He said the facilities were used by Iranian-linked militias including Kaitib Hezbollah and Kaitib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

The operation follows the latest serious attack on U.S. locations in Iraq that American officials have attributed to Iranian-linked groups operating in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month, a rocket attack in northern Iraq killed a contractor working with the U.S. military and injured a U.S. service member there.

So we are being told that the United States launched an airstrike on Syria, a nation it invaded and is illegally occupying, because of attacks on “US locations” in Iraq, another nation the US invaded and is illegally occupying. This attack is justified on the basis that the Iraqi fighters were “Iranian-linked”, a claim that is both entirely without evidence and irrelevant to the justification of deadly military force. And this is somehow being framed in mainstream news publications as a defensive operation.

This is Defense Department stenography. The US military is an invading force in both Syria and Iraq; it is impossible for its actions in either of those countries to be defensive. It is always necessarily the aggressor. It’s the people trying to eject them who are acting defensively. The deaths of US troops and contractors in those countries can only be blamed on the powerful people who sent them there.

The US is just taking it as a given that it has de facto jurisdiction over the nations of Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and that any attempt to interfere in its authority in the region is an unprovoked attack which must be defended against. This is completely backwards and illegitimate. Only through the most perversely warped American supremacist reality tunnels can it look valid to dictate the affairs of sovereign nations on the other side of the planet and respond with violence if anyone in those nations tries to eject them.

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It’s illegitimate for the US to be in the Middle East at all. It’s illegitimate for the US to claim to be acting defensively in nations it invaded. It’s illegitimate for the US to act like Iranian-backed fighters aren’t allowed to be in Syria, where they are fighting alongside the Syrian government against ISIS and other extremist militias with the permission of Damascus. It is illegitimate for the US to claim the fighters attacking US personnel in Iraq are controlled by Iran when Iraqis have every reason to want the US out of their country themselves.

Even the official narrative reveals itself as illegitimate from within its own worldview. CNN reports that the site of the airstrike “was not specifically tied to the rocket attacks” in Iraq, and a Reuters/AP report says “Biden administration officials condemned the February 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out.”

This is all so very typical of the American supremacist worldview that is being aggressively shoved down our throats by all western mainstream news media. The US can bomb who it likes, whenever it likes, and when it does it is only ever doing so in self defense, because the entire planet is the property of Washington, DC. It can seize control of entire clusters of nations, and if any of those nations resist in any way they are invading America’s sovereignty.

It’s like if you broke into your neighbor’s house to rob him, killed him when he tried to stop you, and then claimed self defense because you consider his home your property. Only in the American exceptionalist alternate universe is this considered normal and acceptable.

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This sort of nonsense is why it’s so important to prioritize opposition to western imperialism. World warmongering and domination is the front upon which all the most egregious evils inflicted by the powerful take place, and it plays such a crucial role in upholding the power structures we are up against. Without endless war, the oligarchic empire which is the cause of so much of our suffering cannot function, and must give way to something else. If you’re looking to throw sand in the gears of the machine, anti-imperialism is your most efficacious path toward that end, and should therefore be your priority.

In America especially it is important to oppose war and imperialism, because an entire empire depends on keeping the locals too poor and propagandized to force their nation’s resources to go to their own wellbeing. As long as the United States functions as the hub of a globe-spanning power structure, all the progressive agendas that are being sought by what passes for the US left these days will be denied them. Opposing warmongering must come first.

Standing against imperialism and American supremacism cuts directly to the heart of our difficulties in this world, which is why so much energy goes into keeping us focused on identity politics and vapid energy sucks which inconvenience the powerful in no way whatsoever. If you want to out-wrestle a crocodile, you must bind shut its mouth. If you want to take down a globe-spanning empire, you must take out its weapons. Opposing warmongering and killing public trust in the propaganda used to justify it is the best way to do this.

_____________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Biden’s Iran Policy Is Just Trump’s Iran Policy With A Rainbow Flag Emoji

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/02/2021 - 11:57am in

Tags 

Iran, News, Politics

In a new interview with CBS Evening News, President Biden confirmed that his administration will not be lifting sanctions imposed upon Iran in order to bring Tehran to the negotiating table for the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

“Will the U.S. lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table?” Biden was asked by CBS’s Norah O’Donnell.

“No,” the president replied.

“They have to stop enriching uranium first,” asked O’Donnell.

Biden nodded in response.

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There are a few things that are ridiculous about this, the first being that the JCPOA does not require that Iran “stop enriching uranium” at all. As explained by Al-Monitor’s Arash Karami, the deal only calls for Iran to “keep its level of uranium enrichment at up to 3.67 %”, a level it only began exceeding when the Trump administration backed out of the deal and imposed sanctions. The administration later clarified that Biden meant Iran would have to return to its JCPOA levels before negotiations could begin, but the fact that neither the United States president nor the high-profile reporter interviewing him appear to have been clear on this says a lot about the vapid nature of America’s political/media class.

More importantly, this is confirmation from the horse’s mouth that Biden is in effect continuing Trump’s Iran policy. Trump began strangling Iran with crushing sanctions in an effort to force it to obey US dictates, and Biden is continuing that exact same strangulation while continuing to demand compliance with its dictates. The demands might be a little different, but the effect is identical since Tehran would never bow to either of them.

The Iranian government has repeatedly made it abundantly clear that it will not be rejoining the JCPOA until the United States comes back into compliance, since it was the US who first abandoned it. It claims, correctly, that it was in full compliance with the agreement when the Trump administration unilaterally backed out in May 2018. The argument that it is therefore Washington’s responsibility to come back into compliance first is indisputable. Why would it re-enter a deal with a government that is clearly acting in bad faith and could just back out and impose civilian-killing sanctions on the nation again?

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And that’s just getting back to the negotiating table for re-entering the deal as it is written. Gareth Porter reported last month that the Biden administration may plan on using the sanctions regime it inherited from the previous presidency as a “Trump card” to try and coerce Tehran into agreeing to a modified version of the deal.

Neither of these things are going to happen. Iran will not modify the deal, and it will not come back into compliance before the government which first abandoned the deal comes back into compliance. And the Biden administration appears to be perfectly fine with this, reportedly toying with the idea of waiting all the way until after Iran’s presidential elections in June to even begin approaching the deal.

The end result being that we still have a US presidency waging economic warfare upon Iran in exactly the same way it was before the 20th of January. Civilians are still having the life squeezed out of them by a far more powerful nation which does not view them as human beings, and it’s only a matter of time before this administration or a subsequent one causes another flare up which pushes things to the brink of hot war like we saw a year ago.

Biden’s Iran policy is in effect just a continuation of Trump’s Iran policy that liberals can feel good about. It’s Trump’s Iran policy with gender pronouns in its bio.

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Choosing to continue an immoral course of action is just as immoral as choosing to initiate an immoral course of action. If you’re beating someone up and you leave when I get there, and then I choose to continue assaulting that person, I am just as culpable in that assault as you are. Presidents who choose to perpetuate one another’s depraved policies are just as guilty of that depravity as their predecessors.

Starvation sanctions are the only type of warfare in which it is considered normal and acceptable to deliberately target a civilian population with deadly force. But it is not normal, and it is not acceptable. Biden and his team of ventriloquists fully own the effects of their warmongering. They don’t get to just scribble “TRUMP’S FAULT” across them in crayon and act like they’re innocent.

The mainstream media are fixated on the differences between the Biden administration and the Trump administration, just as they were fixated on the differences between the Trump administration and the Obama administration four years ago. If you can mentally mute that vapid soundtrack and look at the similarities between administrations instead, regardless of party affiliation and campaign platforms, you’ll learn a lot more about what’s really going on in the world.

_________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Robert Malley for Iran Envoy: A Test Case for Biden’s Commitment to Diplomacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 2:34am in

President Biden’s commitment to re-entering the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—is already facing backlash from a motley crew of warhawks both domestic and foreign. Right now, opponents of re-entering the deal are centering their vitriol on one of the nation’s foremost experts on both the Middle East and diplomacy: Robert Malley, who Biden might tap to be the next Iran envoy.

On January 21, conservative journalist Elli Lake penned an opinion piece in Bloomberg News arguing that President Biden should not appoint Malley because Malley ignores Iran’s human rights abuses and “regional terror.” Republican Senator Tom Cotton retweeted Lake’s piece with the heading: “Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel. The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.” Pro regime-change Iranians such as Mariam Memarsadeghi, conservative American journalists like Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, and the far-right Zionist Organization of America are opposing Malley. Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed opposition to Malley getting the appointment and Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a close advisor to the prime minister, said that if the U.S. reenters the JCPOA, Israel may take military action against Iran. A petition opposing Malley has even started on Change.org.

What makes Malley such a threat to these opponents of talks with Iran?

Malley is the polar opposite of Trump’s Special Representative to Iran Elliot Abrams, whose only interest was squeezing the economy and whipping up conflict in the hopes of regime change. Malley, on the other hand, has called U.S. Middle East policy “a litany of failed enterprises” requiring “self-reflection” and is a true believer in diplomacy.

Under the Clinton and Obama administrations, Malley helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit as Special Assistant to President Clinton; acted as Obama’s White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region; and was the lead negotiator on the White House staff for the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. When Obama left office, Malley became president of the International Crisis Group, a group formed in 1995 to prevent wars.

During the Trump years, Malley was a fierce critic of Trump’s Iran policy. In an Atlantic piece he coauthored, he denounced Trump’s plan to withdraw and refuted critiques about the sunset clauses in the deal not extending for more years. “The time-bound nature of some of the constraints [in the JCPOA] is not a flaw of the deal, it was a prerequisite for it,” he wrote. “The real choice in 2015 was between achieving a deal that constrained the size of Iran’s nuclear program for many years and ensured intrusive inspections forever, or not getting one.”

He condemned Trump’s maximum pressure campaign as a maximum failure, explaining that throughout Trump’s presidency, “Iran’s nuclear program grew, increasingly unconstrained by the JCPOA. Tehran has more accurate ballistic missiles than ever before and more of them. The regional picture grew more, not less, fraught.”

While Malley’s detractors accuse him of ignoring the regime’s grim human rights record,  national security and human rights organizations supporting Malley said in a joint letter that since Trump left the nuclear deal, “Iran’s civil society is weaker and more isolated, making it harder for them to advocate for change.”

Robert Malley Feature photo

Robert Malley (center) seated with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July. 2000. Sharon Farmer | White House

Hawks have another reason for opposing Malley: his refusal to show blind support for Israel. In 2001 Malley co-wrote an article for the New York Review arguing that the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Camp David negotiations had not been the sole fault of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat but included then-Israeli leader Ehud Barak. The U.S. pro-Israel establishment wasted no time accusing Malley of having an anti-Israel bias.

Malley has also been pilloried for meeting with members of the Palestinian political group Hamas, designated a terror organization by the U.S. In a letter to The New York Times, Malley explained that these encounters were part of his job when he was Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, and that he was regularly asked by both American and Israeli officials to brief them on these meetings.

With the Biden administration already facing opposition from Israel about its intent to return to the JCPOA, Malley’s expertise on Israel and his willingness to talk to all sides will be an asset.

Malley understands that re-entering the JCPOA must be undertaken swiftly and will not be easy. Iranian presidential elections are scheduled for June and predictions are that a hardline candidate will win, making negotiations with the U.S. harder. He is also keenly aware that re-entering the JCPOA is not enough to calm the regional conflicts, which is why he supports a European initiative to encourage de-escalation dialogues between Iran and neighboring Gulf states. As U.S. Special Envoy to Iran, Malley could put the weight of the U.S. behind such efforts.

Malley’s Middle East foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills make him the ideal candidate to reinvigorate the JCPOA and help calm regional tensions. Biden’s response to the far-right uproar against Malley will be a test of his fortitude in standing up to the hawks and charting a new course for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Peace-loving Americans should shore up Biden’s resolve by supporting Malley’s appointment.

Feature photo | Robert Malley | Public Domain

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ariel Gold is the national co-director and Senior Middle East Policy Analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

The post Robert Malley for Iran Envoy: A Test Case for Biden’s Commitment to Diplomacy appeared first on MintPress News.

Rumors Spread of a 2024 Presidential Run as Pompeo Paves Way for Future Wars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 5:21am in

Yesterday, at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo claimed that “al-Qaida has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Offering little evidence, he warned the journalists and other figures present that, “We ignore this Iran-al-Qaida nexus at our own peril…We must confront it. Indeed, we must defeat it.” “Iran is the new Afghanistan” he added, referencing the illegal U.S. invasion and 20-year occupation that began under the Bush administration. Far from pushing back on his assertions, those present applauded Pompeo as he finished his remarks, which came amid a flurry of increasingly outlandish and aggressive policy steps he has taken in the last days of the Trump administration.

There are a number of problems with his assertions, not least that Iran is a Shia theocracy led by Ayatollah Khamenei, while al-Qaeda is a Sunni supremacist organization that regards Shi’ism as entirely heretical. Furthermore, Iran has been battling al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has openly supported what it calls “moderate rebels” in the region, despite the fact, as the Washington Post admitted, those “moderates” are difficult to distinguish from and intermingled with Jihadist forces like al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing al-Nusra. That Tehran was secretly sheltering and promoting its sworn enemy would be surprising, to say the least. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately rejected the claims, stating that Pompeo was “pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies. No one is fooled.”

Pompeo made the announcement just hours after meeting with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen. Early this morning, Israeli jets using U.S. intelligence bombed targets in eastern Syria, killing 57 people. According to American officials, Pompeo gave his blessing to the attack, claiming that the warplanes were striking warehouses filled with Iranian weapons. 

Earlier in the week, the Secretary of State also designated Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government of Cuba as terrorists, moves that were immediately condemned by human rights groups. Refugees International wrote that, “it is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible decision,” as the announcement will stymie any moves toward peace. Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul made a similar statement, predicting that Pompeo’s actions “will only compound the crisis for millions of Yemenis fighting for their survival.” 

 

On Monday, without a shred of irony, Pompeo condemned Cuba for its supposed, “malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.” The United States has supported multiple coup attempts in the past two years against the Venezuelan government, as well as backing a (since defeated) far-right military putsch in Bolivia. Last week, Pompeo reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to the leader of those Venezuelan coups, Juan Guaidó, recognizing him as the legitimate “Interim President” of the country, despite minimal domestic support. Post-Brexit, the European Union took the opposite decision, dropping their support for him after President Maduro’s United Socialist coalition won 253 of the 277 seats in the country’s National Assembly last month. Thus, both Guaidó and the Trump administration are increasingly isolated. 

Last Tuesday, Pompeo also made a point of receiving representatives of The Epoch Times, a far-right fake news outlet associated with the Chinese Falun Gong cult. During their visit to the State Department, the 57-year-old Kansan encouraged and spread wild theories of his own. “The Chinese Communist Party is here in America,” he claimed, insisting that the U.S. must also “protect itself from this Communist threat in China.”

 

While Pompeo will (presumably) be leaving office very soon, there are more than a few rumors that he already has his eyes set on a presidential run in 2024. Vanity Fair suggests that his actions, such as travelling to Georgia to support Republican candidates up for election, “look like a 2024 dry run.” Unlike many in his party, he has stayed decidedly loyal to Trump until the end, which will likely earn him credit with the president’s massive base of supporters and allow him to position himself as the continuity Trump candidate if he is barred from standing himself. 

If Pompeo does decide to throw his hat into the ring, he would likely have support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he visited in November. Pompeo dined at an illegal West Bank settlement, and asserted that Israel has every right to the territory, a move that delighted many inside the country. 

As former head of the CIA, Pompeo is no stranger to exaggeration or spreading misinformation. “We lied, we cheated, we stole… we had entire training courses [on] it,” he infamously said at a talk at Texas Tech University in 2019. In his last days in office, he seems to have been putting his training to good use.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waits nearby before speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Jan. 12, 2021. Andrew Harnik | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Rumors Spread of a 2024 Presidential Run as Pompeo Paves Way for Future Wars appeared first on MintPress News.

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 5:26am in

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

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