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Sleepless in Cairo: Egyptians Reacquaint Themselves to Life In a Dictatorship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/01/2020 - 9:04am in

I left Egypt 40 years ago. They say you can take an Egyptian out of Egypt, but you can’t take Egypt out of an Egyptian. I still visit Egypt every now and then. I recently made my first visit since the January 25 Revolution of 2011.

It wasn’t easy after all these years. I was warned about the political climate in Egypt now under military rule. The martial law, the mistreatment of journalists and media. But I’ve missed lots of family funerals through the years, and my beloved brother just passed away. I needed to be there.

Egypt is a different place now. Security police are everywhere; so are checkpoints. People are living in a social bubble, protecting themselves from their harsh reality.

Cab drivers aren’t as cheerful and eager to share their stories. Egyptians, who are known for giving their unsolicited opinions, have become fearful. Once, when you asked an Egyptian for directions, you got an opinion. Now when you ask for directions, they give you directions, with grim faces and suspicious looks.

People in the street are lost in their smartphones, taking refuge in virtual realities. Egyptian street life and spontaneity are dead. People have lost their ability to trust one another. Everyone is suspect.

Noise, pollution, and trash are suffocating the old city, Cairo. Stray dogs and cats compete with people and cars for space. Shop owners sit depressed, not interested, without hope of any transaction. You can’t tell if they’re open or closed.

As if the polluted air wasn’t enough, it seems that everybody in Egypt smokes — shopkeepers, traffic police, schoolteachers, people on buses, waiters in restaurants, even doctors in hospitals, all smoke.

People take refuge at sidewalk cafes, watching football games or playing backgammon, avoiding casual conversations and ignoring street peddlers hawking their tomatoes, potatoes and watermelons.

The street peddlers, donkey carts loaded with watermelons, still go around chanting their jingles describing the beauty of their watermelons. “Hamar we Halawah” — red and sweet. Or “Ya Gammr, ya Gamer” — oh embers, like embers. And the confident watermelon peddler will chant “Ala Elskinah Ya Helwah,” challenging anyone to cut his watermelons and taste them.

Egyptian sidewalks have always been vibrant places that blend the old culture and commerce, a place where mummies and Coca-Cola are both sold. It was on the sidewalks where I found a remaining glimpse of hope, a whiff of humanity. People trying to escape the madness of the neglect of the old city and the government’s hostile policies. With no public services to speak of, people are left alone to fend for themselves and solve their own problems.

On one broken sidewalk where trash and cats comfortably rested undisturbed, I walked by Mahmoud the shoemaker, who for more than 60 years has worked in a dark, narrow shop, surrounded by old shoes and leather, carving out his own private space, a place he can call home. “Ministers and high government officials used to come to my shop,” he explained. “Now things are different, everything is going down,” he added.

A skinny stray dog walked with purpose to the street corner by the big electric box. Six or seven puppies suddenly emerged from nowhere and rushed to their mother, grabbing her nipples. She serenaded her puppies: time to eat.

On sidewalks, people quietly plant a tree; grow some flowers in front of their homes and shops; feed a stray dog or a cat out of the little they have left. I found myself walking in downtown Cairo, aimlessly trying to capture what has taken place here. I was alone, trying to shed the sorrows of the day. When you don’t care where you are going, you never get lost.

Cairo, a city that never sleeps, was quiet. After spending most of the night walking in the dark alleys, no particular place to go, nobody to speak with, I suddenly found myself passing by Tahrir Square. Only a few years ago, it had witnessed the most significant event in Egyptian history, when 18 glorious days of protest toppled a 30-year dictatorship, when millions of Egyptians went to the streets, took over Liberty Square and made it their own. The echo of their chanting still resonates in my head, filling the empty square.

The streetlights were tired and blurred, trash freely flying in the air, performing the last dance of the night, oblivious with no one to watch. The sidewalks finally rested after a long day of pedestrian abuse; stores finally locked their doors; cats and dogs ran back and forth across the streets.

Growing up in Egypt, walking aimlessly in the Cairo streets was therapeutic; it cleansed the soul. I crossed the empty square, reached the Nile, which runs through the heart of the city. The fresh air, the reflection of the stars on the river surface, tells a story of lost loves left behind on the riverbank.

A short distance away, in the dark, I spotted a street cart tucked away next to a damaged sidewalk, a pile of prickly pear cactus on top. Fresh, colorful and inviting, their piercing sharp needles seemed as if they were protecting themselves from late night intruders. The sleepy owner was not in a selling mood, lying down by the cart, next to him a sleepy dog, both oblivious to life around them.

I wasn’t sure if I should start a conversation. I slowly approached the cart and stood quietly looking at the prickly pears. Without uttering a word, the man got up and started peeling the fresh cactus with his bare hands, miraculously avoiding its sharp pricks. One by one, they started coming out of their shells, like naked newborns. He quietly handed them to me. Then the conversation, with a stranger.

I kept eating fresh cactus as his stories continued. Eventually, I realized that my stomach was full and this feast must end. I tried in vain, telling him “Kefayah,” enough, but there was always one last story to tell, and one more cactus to peel. We both wanted to keep the evening alive, but he ran out of stories and my stomach couldn’t take any more cactus.

He quietly counted the peels. I paid and walked away, leaving my new friend alone, wondering if I would ever see him again.

Feature photo | Boys play billiards as they rent a table for 4 Egyptian Pounds (U.S. $0.25), at Darb Shughlan, a popular district in Cairo, Egypt. Amr Nabil | AP

Ahmed Tharwat is host and producer of the Arab American TV show “BelAhdan with Ahmed.” He writes for local and international publications and blogs at Notes From America: www.Ahmediatv.com.

The post Sleepless in Cairo: Egyptians Reacquaint Themselves to Life In a Dictatorship appeared first on MintPress News.

Question Time Makes Tory Bias Official Policy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/01/2020 - 7:14am in

Yesterday, Tracy Keeling over at The Canary posted up a piece reporting that the Beeb had finally come out and made a public statement about the way they were selecting the audience for Question Time, as revealed on the show the night before. Apparently, they aren’t going to choose audiences to represent the broad views of society as a whole. No! They’ve decided that audiences members will be selected according to ‘the current political picture’ in the country in which it is held. This means that, following the Tory election victory, the audience in Liverpool Thursday night was mostly composed of Tories. Even though the city had returned only Labour MPs.

Fiona Bruce, the show’s nauseatingly biased presenter, tried to pass this off as normal, stating

As usual, our audience has been selected to reflect the current political picture, depending where we are. So here in England that means there are more Conservative than Labour supporters plus a smaller number from other parties.

Keeling points out that this is very definitely not ‘as usual’, as the Beeb’s own webpage on Frequently Asked Questions stated

Question Time selects local audiences which reflect a broad range of political views. … This is to ensure a range of views are represented in the audience. …

As with the make-up of the panels, Question Time is aiming to achieve due impartiality in the membership of the audience across the series as a whole, rather than being confined to an exact mathematical formula for each programme.

The article then goes on to discuss a number of instances where the audience seemed to be mostly Tory plants. One such case was a show in Scotland, where only 7 members of the audience out of 80 in shot raised their hands to show they were supporters of the SNP. At the time the SNP had 40 per cent support up there.

Then there was the Youth Question Time for the under-30s, which made the split between Remainers and Leavers 50-50. But 70 per cent of people under 30 voted Remain. Admittedly this was at the time of an election, so there were laws dictating their treatment of the issue. But even so, it delivered a Tory win. Femi Oluwole was so outraged that he complained about these instances social media, and told the Beeb it would be simpler if they just confessed to being a Tory propaganda machine. Rho, another poster, asked where all the Scousers were last Thursday’s edition, and wondered if they’d had to bus the Tories in from outside.

Keeling says in her article that the Tories have little regard for the Beeb, just as the Beeb has little regard for the Left and Labour, and it seems that the Corporation is running scared of them. This new policy on Question Time was announced after Johnson declared that his government would consider scrapping the license fee. She also pointed out that the programme had already been subject to complaints of pro-Tory bias. However, this policy on audience selection is new, whatever Bruce and the Corporation claim to the contrary.

The outrageous new audience selection policy BBC Question Time revealed last night

I put up a piece the other day from Lobster about the way the Tories had turned the corporation into a channel for the propaganda. The Corporation’s anti-Labour bias has been acutely obviously for years, particularly in its vilification of Jeremy Corbyn. Now it’s become overt and undenied, at least on Question Time, and at least as regards the audience. I’ve no doubt that the Corporation will continue to huff and puff about how its political broadcasting and reportage is impartial, and try to wave away allegations of bias as simple mistakes. But they aren’t mistakes, and the bias will become even more extreme and acute.

At the moment, only 44 per cent of people trust the Beeb’s news according to a recent poll. If the Beeb carries on like this, that’s going to be a lot less. And the left-wingers they used to rely on to defend them from privatisation will be well and truly alienated and sick of them by the end of it.

I’m heartily fed up with the Beeb’s newsroom. There’s hardly one of them now that I trust with truthfully reporting the news. There should be a mass sacking, beginning with Fiona Bruce.

How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 3:45am in

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.”

While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East. Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China.

While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role. 

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

 

Behind the curtain, a different narrative for Iraq-US Tensions

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi gave a series of remarks on January 5, during a parliamentary session that received surprisingly little media attention. During the session, which also saw Iraq’s Parliament approve the removal of all foreign (including American) troops from the country, Abdul-Mahdi made a series of claims about the lead-up to the recent situation that placed Iraq at the heart of spiking U.S.-Iran tensions. 

During that session, only part of Abdul-Mahdi’s statements were broadcast on television, after the Iraqi Speaker of the House — Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who has a close relationship with Washington — requested the video feed be cut. Al-Halbousi oddly attended the parliamentary session even though it was boycotted by his allied Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

Mike Pompeo Halbousi

Secretary of State Pompeo, left, walks alongside Al-Halbousi in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Reuters

After the feed was cut, MPs who were present wrote down Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks, which were then given to the Arabic news outlet Ida’at. Per that transcript, Abdul-Mahdi stated that:

The Americans are the ones who destroyed the country and wreaked havoc on it. They have refused to finish building the electrical system and infrastructure projects. They have bargained for the reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for Iraq giving up 50% of oil imports. So, I refused and decided to go to China and concluded an important and strategic agreement with it. Today, Trump is trying to cancel this important agreement.”

Abdul-Mahdi continued his remarks, noting that pressure from the Trump administration over his negotiations and subsequent dealings with China grew substantially over time, even resulting in death threats to himself and his defense minister:

After my return from China, Trump called me and asked me to cancel the agreement, so I also refused, and he threatened [that there would be] massive demonstrations to topple me. Indeed, the demonstrations started and then Trump called, threatening to escalate in the event of non-cooperation and responding to his wishes, whereby a third party [presumed to be mercenaries or U.S. soldiers] would target both the demonstrators and security forces and kill them from atop the highest buildings and the US embassy in an attempt to pressure me and submit to his wishes and cancel the China agreement.” 

“I did not respond and submitted my resignation and the Americans still insist to this day on canceling the China agreement. When the defense minister said that those killing the demonstrators was a third party, Trump called me immediately and physically threatened myself and the defense minister in the event that there was more talk about this third party.”

Very few English language outlets reported on Abdul-Mahdi’s comments. Tom Luongo, a Florida-based Independent Analyst and publisher of The Gold Goats ‘n Guns Newsletter, told MintPress that the likely reasons for the “surprising” media silence over Abdul-Mahdi’s claims were because “It never really made it out into official channels…” due to the cutting of the video feed during Iraq’s Parliamentary session and due to the fact that “it’s very inconvenient and the media — since Trump is doing what they want him to do, be belligerent with Iran, protected Israel’s interests there.” 

“They aren’t going to contradict him on that if he’s playing ball,” Luongo added, before continuing that the media would nonetheless “hold onto it for future reference….If this comes out for real, they’ll use it against him later if he tries to leave Iraq.” “Everything in Washington is used as leverage,” he added.

Given the lack of media coverage and the cutting of the video feed of Abdul-Mahdi’s full remarks, it is worth pointing out that the narrative he laid out in his censored speech not only fits with the timeline of recent events he discusses but also the tactics known to have been employed behind closed doors by the Trump administration, particularly after Mike Pompeo left the CIA to become Secretary of State.

For instance, Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation to China ended on September 24, with the protests against his government that Trump reportedly threatened to start on October 1. Reports of a “third side” firing on Iraqi protesters were picked up by major media outlets at the time, such as in this BBC report which stated:

Reports say the security forces opened fire, but another account says unknown gunmen were responsible….a source in Karbala told the BBC that one of the dead was a guard at a nearby Shia shrine who happened to be passing by. The source also said the origin of the gunfire was unknown and it had targeted both the protesters and security forces. (emphasis added)”

U.S.-backed protests in other countries, such as in Ukraine in 2014, also saw evidence of a “third side” shooting both protesters and security forces alike.

After six weeks of intense protests, Abdul-Mahdi submitted his resignation on November 29, just a few days after Iraq’s Foreign Minister praised the new deals, including the “oil for reconstruction” deal, that had been signed with China. Abdul-Mahdi has since stayed on as Prime Minister in a caretaker role until Parliament decides on his replacement.

Abdul-Mahdi’s claims of the covert pressure by the Trump administration are buttressed by the use of similar tactics against Ecuador, where, in July 2018, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations threatened the nation with punitive trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid if Ecuador moved forward with the introduction of  a UN resolution to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” 

The New York Times reported at the time that the U.S. delegation was seeking to promote the interests of infant formula manufacturers. If the U.S. delegation is willing to use such pressure on nations for promoting breastfeeding over infant formula, it goes without saying that such behind-closed-doors pressure would be significantly more intense if a much more lucrative resource, e.g. oil, were involved.

Regarding Abdul-Mahdi’s claims, Luongo told MintPress that it is also worth considering that it could have been anyone in the Trump administration making threats to Abdul-Mahdi, not necessarily Trump himself. “What I won’t say directly is that I don’t know it was Trump at the other end of the phone calls. Mahdi, it is to his best advantage politically to blame everything on Trump. It could have been Mike Pompeo or Gina Haspel talking to Abdul-Mahdi… It could have been anyone, it most likely would be someone with plausible deniability….This [Mahdi’s claims] sounds credible… I firmly believe Trump is capable of making these threats but I don’t think Trump would make those threats directly like that, but it would absolutely be consistent with U.S. policy.”

Luongo also argued that the current tensions between U.S. and Iraqi leadership preceded the oil deal between Iraq and China by several weeks, “All of this starts with Prime Minister Mahdi starting the process of opening up the Iraq-Syria border crossing and that was announced in August. Then, the Israeli air attacks happened in September to try and stop that from happening, attacks on PMU forces on the border crossing along with the ammo dump attacks near Baghdad… This drew the Iraqis’ ire… Mahdi then tried to close the air space over Iraq, but how much of that he can enforce is a big question.”

As to why it would be to Mahdi’s advantage to blame Trump, Luongo stated that Mahdi “can make edicts all day long, but, in reality, how much can he actually restrain the U.S. or the Israelis from doing anything? Except for shame, diplomatic shame… To me, it [Mahdi’s claims] seems perfectly credible because, during all of this, Trump is probably or someone else is shaking him [Mahdi] down for the reconstruction of the oil fields [in Iraq]…Trump has explicitly stated “we want the oil.”’

As Luongo noted, Trump’s interest in the U.S. obtaining a significant share of Iraqi oil revenue is hardly a secret. Just last March, Trump asked Abdul-Mahdi “How about the oil?” at the end of a meeting at the White House, prompting Abdul-Mahdi to ask “What do you mean?” To which Trump responded “Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil,” which was widely interpreted as Trump asking for part of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for the steep costs of the U.S.’ continuing its now unwelcome military presence in Iraq. 

With Abdul-Mahdi having rejected Trump’s “oil for reconstruction” proposal in favor of China’s, it seems likely that the Trump administration would default to so-called “gangster diplomacy” tactics to pressure Iraq’s government into accepting Trump’s deal, especially given the fact that China’s deal was a much better offer. While Trump demanded half of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for completing reconstruction projects (according to Abdul-Mahdi), the deal that was signed between Iraq and China would see around 20 percent of Iraq’s oil revenue go to China in exchange for reconstruction. Aside from the potential loss in Iraq’s oil revenue, there are many reasons for the Trump administration to feel threatened by China’s recent dealings in Iraq.

 

The Iraq-China oil deal – a prelude to something more?

When Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation traveled to Beijing last September, the “oil for reconstruction” deal was only one of eight total agreements that were established. These agreements cover a range of areas, including financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communication, culture, education and foreign affairs in addition to oil. Yet, the oil deal is by far the most significant.

Per the agreement, Chinese firms will work on various reconstruction projects in exchange for roughly 20 percent of Iraq’s oil exports, approximately 100,00 barrels per day, for a period of 20 years. According to Al-Monitor, Abdul-Mahdi had the following to say about the deal: “We agreed [with Beijing] to set up a joint investment fund, which the oil money will finance,” adding that the agreement prohibits China from monopolizing projects inside Iraq, forcing Bejing to work in cooperation with international firms. 

The agreement is similar to one negotiated between Iraq and China in 2015 when Abdul-Mahdi was serving as Iraq’s oil minister. That year, Iraq joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a deal that also involved exchanging oil for investment, development and construction projects and saw China awarded several projects as a result. In a notable similarity to recent events, that deal was put on hold due to “political and security tensions” caused by unrest and the surge of ISIS in Iraq, that is until Abdul-Mahdi saw Iraq rejoin the initiative again late last year through the agreements his government signed with China last September.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, center right, in Beijing, Sept. 23, 2019. Lintao Zhang | AP

Notably, after recent tensions between the U.S. and Iraq over the assassination of Soleimani and the U.S.’ subsequent refusal to remove its troops from Iraq despite parliament’s demands, Iraq quietly announced that it would dramatically increase its oil exports to China to triple the amount established in the deal signed in September. Given Abdul-Mahdi’s recent claims about the true forces behind Iraq’s recent protests and Trump’s threats against him being directly related to his dealings with China, the move appears to be a not-so-veiled signal from Abdul-Mahdi to Washington that he plans to deepen Iraq’s partnership with China, at least for as long as he remains in his caretaker role.

Iraq’s decision to dramatically increase its oil exports to China came just one day after the U.S. government threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to its central bank account, currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an account that currently holds $35 billion in Iraqi oil revenue. The account was set up after the U.S. invaded and began occupying Iraq in 2003 and Iraq currently removes between $1-2 billion per month to cover essential government expenses. Losing access to its oil revenue stored in that account would lead to the “collapse” of Iraq’s government, according to Iraqi government officials who spoke to AFP.

Though Trump publicly promised to rebuke Iraq for the expulsion of U.S. troops via sanctions, the threat to cut off Iraq’s access to its account at the NY Federal Reserve Bank was delivered privately and directly to the Prime Minister, adding further credibility to Abdul-Mahdi’s claims that Trump’s most aggressive attempts at pressuring Iraq’s government are made in private and directed towards the country’s Prime Minister.

Though Trump’s push this time was about preventing the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq, his reasons for doing so may also be related to concerns about China’s growing foothold in the region. Indeed, while Trump has now lost his desired share of Iraqi oil revenue (50 percent) to China’s counteroffer of 20 percent, the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq may see American troops replaced with their Chinese counterparts as well, according to Tom Luongo.

“All of this is about the U.S. maintaining the fiction that it needs to stay in Iraq…So, China moving in there is the moment where they get their toe hold for the Belt and Road [Initiative],” Luongo argued. “That helps to strengthen the economic relationship between Iraq, Iran and China and obviating the need for the Americans to stay there. At some point, China will have assets on the ground that they are going to want to defend militarily in the event of any major crisis. This brings us to the next thing we know, that Mahdi and the Chinese ambassador discussed that very thing in the wake of the Soleimani killing.” 

Indeed, according to news reports, Zhang Yao — China’s ambassador to Iraq — “conveyed Beijing’s readiness to provide military assistance” should Iraq’s government request it soon after Soleimani’s assassination. Yao made the offer a day after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American troops from the country. Though it is currently unknown how Abdul-Mahdi responded to the offer, the timing likely caused no shortage of concern among the Trump administration about its rapidly waning influence in Iraq. “You can see what’s coming here,” Luongo told MintPress of the recent Chinese offer to Iraq, “China, Russia and Iran are trying to cleave Iraq away from the United States and the U.S. is feeling very threatened by this.” 

Russia is also playing a role in the current scenario as Iraq initiated talks with Moscow regarding the possible purchase of one of its air defense systems last September, the same month that Iraq signed eight deals, including the oil deal with China. Then, in the wake of Soleimani’s death, Russia again offered the air defense systems to Iraq to allow them to better defend their air space. In the past, the U.S. has threatened allied countries with sanctions and other measures if they purchase Russian air defense systems as opposed to those manufactured by U.S. companies.

The U.S.’ efforts to curb China’s growing influence and presence in Iraq amid these new strategic partnerships and agreements are limited, however, as the U.S. is increasingly relying on China as part of its Iran policy, specifically in its goal of reducing Iranian oil export to zero. China remains Iran’s main crude oil and condensate importer, even after it reduced its imports of Iranian oil significantly following U.S. pressure last year. Yet, the U.S. is now attempting to pressure China to stop buying Iranian oil completely or face sanctions while also attempting to privately sabotage the China-Iraq oil deal. It is highly unlikely China will concede to the U.S. on both, if any, of those fronts, meaning the U.S. may be forced to choose which policy front (Iran “containment” vs. Iraq’s oil dealings with China) it values more in the coming weeks and months.

Furthermore, the recent signing of the “phase one” trade deal with China revealed another potential facet of the U.S.’ increasingly complicated relationship with Iraq’s oil sector given that the trade deal involves selling U.S. oil and gas to China at very low cost, suggesting that the Trump administration may also see the Iraq-China oil deal result in Iraq emerging as a potential competitor for the U.S. in selling cheap oil to China, the world’s top oil importer.

 

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that:

Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

US China Iraq oil

Chinese representatives speak to defense personnel during a weapons expo organized by the Iraqi defense ministry in Baghdad, March, 2017. Karim Kadim | AP

As Kei Pritsker and Cale Holmes noted in an article last year for MintPress

The takeaway from the petrodollar phenomenon is that as long as countries need oil, they will need the dollar. As long as countries demand dollars, the U.S. can continue to go into massive amounts of debt to fund its network of global military bases, Wall Street bailouts, nuclear missiles, and tax cuts for the rich.”

Thus, the use of the petrodollar has created a system whereby U.S. control of oil sales of the largest oil exporters is necessary, not just to buttress the dollar, but also to support its global military presence. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the issue of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and the issue of Iraq’s push for oil independence against U.S. wishes have become intertwined. Notably, one of the architects of the petrodollar system and the man who infamously described U.S. soldiers as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has been advising Trump and informing his China policy since 2016.

This take was also expressed by economist Michael Hudson, who recently noted that U.S. access to oil, dollarization and U.S. military strategy are intricately interwoven and that Trump’s recent Iraq policy is intended “to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves,” and, as Hudson says, “to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar.”

Hudson further asserts that it was Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to promote Iraq’s oil independence at the expense of U.S. imperial ambitions that served one of the key motives behind his assassination. 

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing. (emphasis added)”

Hudson adds that “…U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.”

While other factors — such as pressure from U.S. allies such as Israel — also played a factor in the decision to kill Soleimani, the decision to assassinate him on Iraqi soil just hours before he was set to meet with Abdul-Mahdi in a diplomatic role suggests that the underlying tensions caused by Iraq’s push for oil independence and its oil deal with China did play a factor in the timing of his assassination. It also served as a threat to Abdul-Mahdi, who has claimed that the U.S. threatened to kill both him and his defense minister just weeks prior over tensions directly related to the push for independence of Iraq’s oil sector from the U.S. 

It appears that the ever-present role of the petrodollar in guiding U.S. policy in the Middle East remains unchanged. The petrodollar has long been a driving factor behind the U.S.’ policy towards Iraq specifically, as one of the key triggers for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to sell Iraqi oil in Euros opposed to dollars beginning in the year 2000. Just weeks before the invasion began, Hussein boasted that Iraq’s Euro-based oil revenue account was earning a higher interest rate than it would have been if it had continued to sell its oil in dollars, an apparent signal to other oil exporters that the petrodollar system was only really benefiting the United States at their own expense.

Beyond current efforts to stave off Iraq’s oil independence and keep its oil trade aligned with the U.S., the fact that the U.S. is now seeking to limit China’s ever-growing role in Iraq’s oil sector is also directly related to China’s publicly known efforts to create its own direct competitor to the petrodollar, the petroyuan.

Since 2017, China has made its plans for the petroyuan — a direct competitor to the petrodollar — no secret, particularly after China eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil. As CNBC noted at the time:

The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency….The plan is to price oil in yuan using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, but the road will be long and arduous.”

If the U.S. continues on its current path and pushes Iraq further into the arms of China and other U.S. rival states, it goes without saying that Iraq — now a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — may soon favor a petroyuan system over a petrodollar system, particularly as the current U.S. administration threatens to hold Iraq’s central bank account hostage for pursuing policies Washington finds unfavorable.

It could also explain why President Trump is so concerned about China’s growing foothold in Iraq, since it risks causing not only the end of the U.S. military hegemony in the country but could also lead to major trouble for the petrodollar system and the U.S.’ position as a global financial power. Trump’s policy aimed at stopping China and Iraq’s growing ties is clearly having the opposite effect, showing that this administration’s “gangster diplomacy” only serves to make the alternatives offered by countries like China and Russia all the more attractive.

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera for MintPress News

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq appeared first on MintPress News.

Philosophy Professor Resigns Over University’s Investments in Fossil Fuels Companies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/01/2020 - 12:42am in

Gregory Mikkelson, a tenured associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Environment at McGill University, has resigned because of the university’s refusal to end its investments in fossil fuels companies.

Last September, Dr. Mikkelson, who works in philosophy of the environment and environmental ethics, had introduced a motion in the university senate asking McGill to divest from fossil fuels. “Because of the subject matter I research and teach, it became clear that this kind of action is imperative,” Mikkelson told the CBC. “Divestment works. It creates political pressure for governments to do the right thing.”

In December, the university announced it would not do so, making it the third time in 7 years the university has decided against divesting in fossil fuels. Dr. Mikkelson submitted his resignation a week later.

According to the CBC, “8.7 per cent of McGill’s current $1.7-billion investment pool is in the energy sector.” The Social Responsibility Committee of the university’s Board of Governors, tasked with considering the divestment proposal, said that “fully divesting from fossil fuels would pose a financial risk to the institution, and the university’s other investment options would be too limited. The committee also argued in its report that divestment is not the most effective way of making a positive impact on the environment.”

The CBC reports that Dr. Mikkelson aims to continue, in an unofficial capacity, to get McGill to stop investing in fossil fuels companies.

In an interview here, Dr. Mikkelson says he will be looking to work for an “institution that is more democratic and more sincerely committed to saving the planet.”

(via Aline Ramos)

The post Philosophy Professor Resigns Over University’s Investments in Fossil Fuels Companies appeared first on Daily Nous.

How an Israeli Spy-Linked Tech Firm Gained Access to the US Gov’t’s Most Classified Networks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 3:20am in

If the networks of the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community and a slew of other U.S. federal agencies were running the software of a company with deep ties, not only to foreign companies with a history of espionage against the U.S. but also foreign military intelligence, it would — at the very least — garner substantial media attention. Yet, no media reports to date have noted that such a scenario exists on a massive scale and that the company making such software recently simulated the cancellation of the 2020 election and the declaration of martial law in the United States.

Earlier this month, MintPress News reported on the simulations for the U.S. 2020 election organized by the company Cybereason, a firm led by former members of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200 and advised by former top and current officials in both Israeli military intelligence and the CIA. Those simulations, attended by federal officials from the FBI, DHS and the U.S. Secret Service, ended in disaster, with the elections ultimately canceled and martial law declared due to the chaos created by a group of hackers led by Cybereason employees.

The first installment of this three part series delved deeply into Cybereason’s ties to the intelligence community of Israel and also other agencies, including the CIA, as well as the fact that Cybereason stood to gain little financially from the simulations given that their software could not have prevented the attacks waged against the U.S.’ electoral infrastructure in the exercise. 

Also noted was the fact that Cybereason software could be potentially used as a backdoor by unauthorized actors, a possibility strengthened by the fact that the company’s co-founders all previously worked for firms that have a history of placing backdoors into U.S. telecommunications and electronic infrastructure as well as aggressive espionage targeting U.S. federal agencies.

The latter issue is crucial in the context of this installment of this exclusive MintPress series, as Cybereason’s main investors turned partners have integrated Cybereason’s software into their product offerings. This means that the clients of these Cybereason partner companies, the U.S. intelligence community and military among them, are now part of Cybereason’s network of more than 6 million endpoints that this private company constantly monitors using a combination of staff comprised largely of former intelligence operatives and an AI algorithm first developed by Israeli military intelligence.

Cybereason, thus far, has disclosed the following groups as lead investors in the company: Charles River Ventures (CRV), Spark Capital, Lockheed Martin and SoftBank. Charles River Ventures (CRV) was among the first to invest in Cybereason and has been frequently investing in other Israeli tech start-ups that were founded by former members of the elite Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 over the last few years. Spark Capital, based in California, appears to have followed CRV’s interest in Cybereason since the venture capitalist who co-founded Spark and led its investment in Cybereason is a former CRV partner who still has close ties to the firm.

While CRV and Spark Capital seem like just the type of investors a company like Cybereason would attract given their clear interest in similar tech start-ups coming out of Israel’s cyber sector, Cybereason’s other lead investors — Lockheed Martin and SoftBank — deserve much more attention and scrutiny.

 

Cybereason widely used by US Government, thanks to Lockheed

“A match made in heaven,” trumpeted Forbes at the news of the Lockheed Martin-Cybereason partnership, first forged in 2015. The partnership involved not only Lockheed Martin becoming a major investor in the cybersecurity company but also in Lockheed Martin becoming the largest conduit providing Cybereason’s software to U.S. federal and military agencies. 

Indeed, as Forbes noted at the time, not only did Lockheed invest in the company, it decided to integrate Cybereason’s software completely into its product portfolio, resulting in a “model of both using Cybereason internally, and selling it to both public and private customers.” 

Cybereason CEO and former offensive hacker for Israeli military intelligence — Lior Div — said the following of the partnership:

Lockheed Martin invested in Cybereason’s protection system after they compared our solution against a dozen others from the top industry players. The US firm was so impressed with the results they got from Cybereason that they began offering it to their own customers – among them most of the top Fortune 100 companies, and the US federal government. Cybereason is now the security system recommended by LM to its customers for protection from a wide (sic) malware and hack attacks.”

Rich Mahler, then-director of Commercial Cyber Services at Lockheed Martin, told Defense Daily that the company’s decision to invest in Cybereason, internally use its software, and include the technology as part of Lockheed Martin’s cyber solutions portfolio were all “independent business decisions but were all coordinated and timed with the transaction.” 

How independent each of those decisions actually was is unclear, especially given the timing of Lockheed Martin’s investment in Cybereason, whose close and troubling ties to Israeli intelligence as well as the CIA were noted in the previous installment of this investigative series. Indeed, about a year prior to their investment in the Israeli military intelligence-linked Cybereason, Lockheed Martin opened an office in Beersheba, Israel, where the IDF has its “cyberhub”. The office is focused not on the sales of armaments, but instead on technology. 

Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin’s CEO, said the following during her speech that inaugurated the company’s Beersheba office: 

The consolidation of IDF Technical Units to new bases in the Negev Desert region is an important transformation of Israel’s information technology capability…We understand the challenges of this move. Which is why we are investing in the facilities and people that will ensure we are prepared to support for these critical projects. By locating our new office in the capital of the Negev we are well positioned to work closely with our Israeli partners and stand ready to: accelerate project execution, reduce program risk and share our technical expertise by training and developing in-country talent.”

Beersheba not only houses the IDF’s technology campus, but also the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which reports directly to Israel’s Prime Minister, as well as a high-tech corporate park that mostly houses tech companies with ties to Israel’s military intelligence apparatus. The area has been cited in several media reports as a visible indicator of the public-private merger between Israeli technology companies, many of them started by Unit 8200 alumni, and the Israeli government and its intelligence services. Lockheed Martin quickly became a key fixture in the Beersheba-based cyberhub. 

Not long before Lockheed began exploring the possibility of opening an office in Beersheba, the company was hacked by individuals who used tokens tied to the company, RSA Security, whose founders have ties to Israel’s defense establishment and which is now owned by Dell, a company also deeply tied to the Israeli government and tech sector. The hack, perpetrated by still unknown actors, may have sparked Lockheed’s subsequent interest in Israel’s cybersecurity sector.

Soon after opening its Beersheba office, Lockheed Martin created its Israel subsidiary, Lockheed Martin Israel. Unlike many of the company’s other subsidiaries, this one is focused exclusively on “cybersecurity, enterprise information technology, data centers, mobile, analytics and cloud” as opposed to the manufacture and design of armaments. 

Lockheed Martin Israel

Marillyn Hewson, center, poses with Israeli gov. officials at the opening of Lockheed Martin’s facility in Beersheba. Photo | Diego Mittleberg

Haden Land, then-vice president of research and technology for Lockheed Martin, told the Wall Street Journal that the creation of the subsidiary was largely aimed at securing contracts with the IDF and that the company’s Israel subsidiary would soon be seeking partnership and investments in pursuit of that end. Land oversaw the local roll-out of the company’s Israel subsidiary while concurrently meeting with Israeli government officials. According to the Journal, Land “oversees all of Lockheed Martin’s information-systems businesses, including defense and civilian commercial units” for the United States and elsewhere.

Just a few months later, Lockheed Martin partnered and invested in Cybereason, suggesting that Lockheed’s decision to do so was aimed at securing closer ties with the IDF. This further suggests that Cybereason still maintains close ties to Israeli military intelligence, a point expounded upon in great detail in the previous installment of this series.

Thus, it appears that not only does Lockheed Martin use Cybereason’s software on its own devices and on those it manages for its private and public sector clients, but it also decided to use the company’s software in this way out of a desire to more closely collaborate with the Israeli military in matters related to technology and cybersecurity. 

The cozy ties between Lockheed Martin, one of the U.S. government’s largest private contractors, and the IDF set off alarm bells, then and now, for those concerned with U.S. national security. Such concern makes it important to look at the extent of Cybereason’s use by federal and military agencies in the United States through their contracting of Lockheed Martin’s Information Technology (IT) division. This is especially important considering Israeli military intelligence’s history of using espionage, blackmail and private tech companies against the U.S. government, as detailed here.

While the exact number of U.S. federal and military agencies using Cybereason’s software is unknown, it is widespread, with Lockheed Martin’s IT division as the conduit. Indeed, Lockheed Martin was the number one IT solutions provider to the U.S. federal government up until its IT division was spun off and merged with Leidos Holdings. As a consequence, Leidos is now the largest IT provider to the U.S. government and is also directly partnered with Cybereason in the same way Lockheed Martin was. Even after its IT division was spun off, Lockheed Martin continues to use Cybereason’s software in its cybersecurity work for the Pentagon and still maintains a stake in the company.

The Leidos-Lockheed Martin IT hybrid provides a litany of services to the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock noted for The Nation, the company does “everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa” and, following its merger with Lockheed and consequential partnership with Cybereason, became “the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.” Shorrock also notes that these private-sector contractors now dominate the mammoth U.S. surveillance apparatus, many of them working for Leidos and — by extension — using Cybereason’s software.

Leidos’ exclusive use of Cybereason software for cybersecurity is also relevant for the U.S. military since Leidos runs a number of sensitive systems for the Pentagon, including its recently inked contract to manage the entire military telecommunications infrastructure for Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). In addition to maintaining the military telecom network, Cybereason is also directly partnered with World Wide Technologies (WWT) as of this past October. WWT manages cybersecurity for the U.S. Army, maintains DISA’s firewalls and data storage as well as the U.S. Air Force’s biometric identification system. WWT also manages contracts for NASA, itself a frequent target of Israeli government espionage, and the U.S. Navy. WWT’s partnership is similar to the Lockheed/Leidos partnership in that Cybereason’s software is now completely integrated into its portfolio, giving the company full access to the devices on all of these highly classified networks.

Many of these new partnerships with Cybereason, including its partnership with WWT, followed claims made by members of Israel’s Unit 8200 in 2017 that the popular antivirus software of Kaspersky Labs contained a backdoor for Russian intelligence, thereby compromising U.S. systems. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the alleged backdoor but did not mention the involvement of Unit 8200 in identifying it, a fact revealed by the New York Times a week later.

Notably, none of the evidence Unit 8200 used to blame Kaspersky has been made public and Kaspersky noted that it was actually Israeli hackers that had been discovered planting backdoors into its platform prior to the accusation levied against Kaspersky by Unit 8200. As the New York Times noted:

Investigators later discovered that the Israeli hackers had implanted multiple back doors into Kaspersky’s systems, employing sophisticated tools to steal passwords, take screenshots, and vacuum up emails and documents.”

Unit 8200’s claims ultimately led the U.S. government to abandon Kaspersky’s products entirely in 2018, allowing companies like Cybereason (with its own close ties to Unit 8200) to fill the void. Indeed, the very agencies that banned Kaspersky now use cybersecurity software that employs Cybereason’s EDR system. No flags have been raised about Cybereason’s own collaboration with the very foreign intelligence service that first pointed the finger at Kaspersky and that previously sold software with backdoors to sensitive U.S. facilities.

 

SoftBank, Cybereason and the Vision Fund

While its entry into the U.S. market and U.S. government networks is substantial, Cybereason’s software is also run throughout the world on a massive scale through partnerships that have seen it enter into Latin American and European markets in major ways in just the last few months. It has also seen its software become prominent in Asia following a partnership with the company Trustwave. Much of this rapid expansion followed a major injection of cash courtesy of one of the company’s biggest clients and now its largest investor, Japan’s SoftBank. 

SoftBank first invested in Cybereason in 2015, the same year Lockheed Martin initially invested and partnered with the firm. It was also the year that SoftBank announced its intention to invest in Israeli tech start-ups. SoftBank first injected $50 million into Cybereason, followed by an additional $100 million in 2017 and $200 million last August. SoftBank’s investments account for most of the money raised by the company since it was founded in 2012 ($350 million out of $400 million total). 

SoftBank Cybereason

Cybereason CEO Lior Div speaks at a SoftBank event in Japan, July 21, 2017. Photo | Cybereason

Prior to investing, Softbank was a client of Cybereason, which Ken Miyauchi, president of SoftBank, noted when making the following statement after Softbank’s initial investment in Cybereason:

SoftBank works to obtain cutting edge technology and outstanding business models to lead the Information Revolution. Our deployment of the Cybereason platform internally gave us firsthand knowledge of the value it provides, and led to our decision to invest. I’m confident Cybereason and SoftBank’s new product offering will bring a new level of security to Japanese organizations.”

SoftBank — one of Japan’s largest telecommunications companies — not only began to deploy Cybereason internally but directly partnered with it after investing, much like Lockheed Martin had done around the same time. This partnership resulted in SoftBank and Cybereason creating a joint venture in Japan and Cybereason creating partnerships with other tech companies acquired by SoftBank, including the U.K.’s Arm, which specializes in making chips and management platforms for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

SoftBank’s interest in Cybereason is significant, particularly in light of Cybereason’s interest in the 2020 U.S. election, given that SoftBank has significant ties to key allies of President Trump and even the president himself.

Indeed, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son was among the first wave of international business leaders who sought to woo then-president-elect Trump soon after the 2016 election. Son first visited Trump Tower in December 2016 and announced, with Trump by his side in the building’s lobby, that SoftBank would invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs. Trump subsequently claimed on Twitter that Son had only decided to make this investment because Trump had won the election.

Son told reporters at the time that the investment would come from a $100 billion fund that would be created in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as well as other investors. “I just came to celebrate his new job. I said, ‘This is great. The US will become great again,'” Son said, according to reports. 

Then, in March of 2017, Son sent top SoftBank executives to meet with senior members of Trump’s economic team and, according to the New York Times, “the SoftBank executives said that because of a lack of advanced digital investments, the competitiveness of the United States economy was at risk. And the executives made the case, quite strongly, that Mr. Son was committed to playing a major role in addressing this issue through a spate of job-creating investments.” Many of SoftBank’s investments and acquisitions in the U.S. since then have focused mainly on artificial intelligence and technology with military applications, such as “killer robot” firm Boston Dynamics, suggesting Son’s interest lies more in dominating futuristic military-industrial technologies than creating jobs for the average American.

After their initial meeting, Trump and Son met again a year later in June 2018, with Trump stating that “His [Son’s] $50 billion turned out to be $72 billion so far, he’s not finished yet.” Several media reports have claimed that Son’s moves since Trump’s election have sought to “curry favor” with the President.

Through the creation of this fund alongside the Saudis, SoftBank has since become increasingly intertwined with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), a key ally of President Trump in the Middle East known for his authoritarian crackdowns on Saudi elites and dissidents alike. The ties between Saudi Arabia and SoftBank became ever tighter when MBS took the reins in the oil kingdom and after SoftBank announced the launch of the Vision Fund in 2016. SoftBank’s Vision Fund is a vehicle for investing in hi-tech companies and start-ups and its largest shareholder is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. Notably, Son decided to launch the Vision Fund in Riyadh during President Trump’s first official visit to the Gulf Kingdom.

Masayoshi Son Bin Salman

Masayoshi Son, left, signs a deal related to the Vision Fund with Bin Salman in March 2018. Photo | SPA

In addition, the Mubadala Investment Company, a government fund of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), gave $15 billion to the Vision Fund. UAE leadership also share close ties to the Trump administration and MBS in Saudi Arabia.

As a consequence, SoftBank’s Vision Fund is majority funded by two Middle Eastern authoritarian governments with close ties to the U.S. government, specifically the Trump administration. In addition, both countries have enjoyed the rapid growth and normalization of ties with the state of Israel in recent years, particularly following the rise of current Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Jared Kushner’s rise to prominence in his father-in-law’s administration. Other investments in the Vision Fund have come from Apple, Qualcomm and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, all tech companies with strong ties to Israel’s government.

The Saudi and Emirati governments’ links to the Vision Fund are so obvious that even mainstream outlets like the New York Times have described them as a “front for Saudi Arabia and perhaps other countries in the Middle East.”

SoftBank also enjoys close ties to Jared Kushner, with Fortress Investment Group lending $57 million to Kushner Companies in October 2017 while it was under contract to be acquired by SoftBank. As Barron’s noted at the time:

When SoftBank Group bought Fortress Investment Group last year, the Japanese company was buying access to a corps of seasoned investors. What SoftBank also got is a financial tie to the family of President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.”

According to The Real Deal, Kushner Companies obtained the financing from Fortress only after its attempts to obtain funding through the EB-5 visa program for a specific real estate venture were abandoned after the U.S. Attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission began to investigate how Kushner Companies used the EB-5 investor visa program. A key factor in the opening of that investigation was Kushner Companies’ representatives touting Jared Kushner’s position at the White House when talking to prospective investors and lenders.

SoftBank also recently came to the aid of a friend of Jared Kushner, former CEO of WeWork Adam Neumann. Neumann made shocking claims about his ties to both Kushner and Saudi Arabia’s MBS, even asserting that he had worked with both in creating Kushner’s long-awaited and controversial Middle East “peace plan” and claimed that he, Kushner and MBS would together “save the world.” Neumann previously called Kushner his “mentor.” MBS has also discussed on several occasions his close ties with Kushner and U.S. media reports have noted the frequent correspondence between the two “princelings.”

Notably, SoftBank invested in Neumann’s WeWork using money from the Saudi-dominated Vision Fund and later went on to essentially bail the company out after its IPO collapse and Neumann was pushed out. SoftBank’s founder, Masayoshi Son, had an odd yet very close relationship with Neumann, perhaps explaining why Neumann was allowed to walk with $1.7 billion after bringing WeWork to the brink of collapse. Notably, nearly half of SoftBank’s approximately $47 billion investments in the U.S. economy since Trump’s election, went to acquiring and then bailing out WeWork. It is unlikely that such a disastrous investment resulted in the level of job creation that Son had promised Trump in 2016.

Given that it is Cybereason’s top investor and shareholder by a large margin, SoftBank’s ties to the Trump administration and key allies of that administration are significant in light of Cybereason’s odd interest in 2020 U.S. election scenarios that end with the cancellation of this year’s upcoming presidential election. It goes without saying that the cancellation of the election would mean a continuation of the Trump administration until new elections would take place. 

Furthermore, with Cybereason’s close and enduring ties to Israeli military intelligence now well-documented, it is worth asking if Israeli military intelligence would consider intervening in 2020 if the still-to-be-decided Democratic contender was strongly opposed to Israeli government policy, particularly Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. This is especially worth considering given revelations that sexual blackmailer and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who targeted prominent U.S. politicians, mostly Democrats, was in the employ of Israeli military intelligence.

Notably, Cybereason’s doomsday election scenarios involved the weaponization of deep fakes, self-driving cars and the hacking Internet of Things devices, with all of those technologies being pioneered and perfected — not by Russia, China or Iran — but by companies directly tied to Israeli intelligence, much like Cybereason itself. These companies, their technology and Cybereason’s own work creating the narrative that U.S. rival states seek to undermine the U.S. election in this way, will all be discussed in the conclusion of MintPress’ series on Cybereason and its outsized interest in the U.S. democratic process.

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post How an Israeli Spy-Linked Tech Firm Gained Access to the US Gov’t’s Most Classified Networks appeared first on MintPress News.

Exclusive cover art aids fire fighters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 11:30am in

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The new Doctor Who: The Thirteeth Doctor comic has a new-look for a good cause. Brisbane Comic store Comics Etc have asked well-known local artist Stewart McKenny to put his spin on the issue – producing an exclusive variant cover for their store. Limited to 500 copies world-wide the comic will support the NSW RFS as they battle with battle the on-going bushfire crisis. It is the second time comic store owner James Jagic has arranged for McKenny to produce a variant cover. Last year McKenny supplied an alternate image for the landmark #1000 issue of Detective Comics – the … Continue reading

Bolivia’s New Right-Wing Government Intensifies Crackdown on Journalists, Doctors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 2:50am in

The U.S.-backed right-wing coup government of Jeanine Añez continues its moves against media and other dissenting voices. The latest victim of the crackdown was Marcelo Hurtado, president of the ATB media network. Hurtado was paraded before cameras; handcuffed and forced to wear a vest labeled “arrested.” He was flanked by two black clad, masked and armed members of the country’s infamous police, who led a successful coup against socialist president Evo Morales in November.

The Añez administration justified Hurtado’s public arrest on the grounds that he was linked to Morales and ex-Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, in what new Communications Minister Roxana Lizarraga has called the “dismantling of the propaganda apparatus of the dictatorial regime of Evo Morales.” Since November, the new government has begun systematically destroying all voices opposed to it. TeleSUR, Bolivia TV and RT en Español have already been taken off the air, journalists have been shot, detained and tortured. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera correspondent Teresa Bo was tear-gassed in the face live on air at point-blank range by riot police as she stood alone, talking to the camera.

The repression of journalists has brought back memories of previous eras when most of Latin America was ruled by fascist dictatorships. But unlike in Argentina or Chile, where the governments “disappeared” dissenting voices, refusing to confirm or deny their involvement, the Bolivian government is doing so openly; in fact, making pains to publicize their treatment of their opponents.

Another group the Añez administration is targeting is doctors. On Monday the same armed, masked police conducted a press conference displaying Mirtha Sanjinez, a hospital administrator who had disobeyed orders not to treat injured opponents of the government. “I am innocent. Gentlemen of the Civic Committee: stop persecuting innocent people, I am an honorable person, I have worked honorably,” said the elderly lady to the cameras of pro-Añez media attending, as she was taken away to an uncertain fate.

Cuban doctors provided the backbone of Bolivia’s universal healthcare service. However, upon gaining power, Añez immediately expelled the entire cadre, over 700 in total, closing down health facilities aimed at the country’s poor. In more than a decade of partnership with the previous socialist government, Cuban doctors had carried out over 72 million consultations across Bolivia. This week MintPress News’ Ollie Vargas visited a hospital in the city of Cochabamba where 143 Cuban staff provided free healthcare to those who needed it, finding it closed and abandoned. He also reported that Bolivian doctors who had previously collaborated with Cuban colleagues had been arrested.

In November, after military generals and police appeared on television demanding his resignation, President Morales fled to Mexico. In his place, the military picked Añez, a lesser-known senator. Añez’s right-wing Democrat Social Movement Party won just four percent of the vote in the October elections that sparked the unrest and, eventually, the coup. In contrast, Morales’ Movement to Socialism (MAS) party received 47 percent. Añez immediately exonerated the military of all previous and future crimes, giving them a carte blanche to kill anyone opposing the new military-approved government. Medea Benjamin was on the scene of the Senkata massacre for MintPress News, where she noted the morgues were overwhelmed so local church pews were filled with blood-soaked corpses.

Despite labeling itself an “interim government,” in classic “shock doctrine” style the new administration has also planned a mass privatization program and reoriented Bolivia’s foreign policy, pulling out of several regional organizations. New elections are scheduled for May. However, with Morales and others in the MAS banned and labeled “terrorists” by the current administration, it is difficult to see how they will be free and fair. Añez has already declared that Bolivia must prevent the “savages” (i.e. the indigenous majority) returning to power.

An eight-person team from the United States government agency USAID arrived in Bolivia Thursday purporting to be experts in electoral systems aiming to strengthen and support the May elections. The U.S. government immediately welcomed the November coup and has supported a number of previous attempts at dislodging Morales from power. The MAS has set a date of next weekend to choose their candidate. While the left is united around MAS and against the coup, the right has fractured into four roughly equal factions, opening up the possibility of a serious vote-splitting problem for the current administration. But regardless, without a free and independent press, the May elections will surely lack legitimacy.

Feature photo | A press conference announcing the arrest of Hospital Administrator, Mirtha Sanjinez, center, in La Paz, Bolivia. Screenshot | YouTube

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 Bolivia’s New Right-Wing Government Intensifies Crackdown on Journalists, Doctors appeared first on MintPress News.

In What May be the Largest Strike in World History, Millions in India Protest PM Modi’s Policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 6:52am in

An estimated quarter billion Indians – roughly three percent of the world’s entire population – went on strike today across the subcontinent, protesting the government of Narendra Modi’s racist and “anti-people,” “anti-worker” policies. The protests were called by the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and are thought to be perhaps the largest in world history.

The CITU has a 12-point charter of demands they have put to the government. The demands include:

  • Urgent measures to contain price rises through a universalized public distribution system and banning of speculative trading on the commodities market.
  • A job generation scheme to combat India’s unemployment problem.
  • Stricter enforcement of all basic labor laws.
  • Universal social security.
  • A minimum wage of at least 15,000 Rupees (≈ $210) per month.
  • A guaranteed pension for the entire working age population.
  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • The stoppage of pro-employer, anti-labor laws.
  • The end to foreign direct investment in key industries like rail, defense and finance.

Many on the streets are also continuing the protest against Modi’s privatization schemes and racist CAA and NRC acts. The CAA explicitly prevents Muslims (India’s largest religious minority numbering around 140 million people) from neighboring countries to acquire citizenship. The NRC (National Registration Council) overturns all previous citizenship laws, requiring all Indians to provide extensive documentation to prove their citizenship– something hundreds of millions will surely be unable to do. It, therefore, gives Modi and his ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the ability to remove citizenship– and therefore virtually all human rights– from any Indian it wishes. The government has already removed nearly two million people’s citizenship in the northeastern state of Assam– around half of them Muslims. It is also currently building a network of “detention centers” similar to those used by ICE in the U.S. to house the newly criminalized population of “illegal immigrants.” In many cases, it is employing those same people to build their own prisons.

The strike is supported by most major unions except for those affiliated with the ruling BJP. It also has the support of the Indian National Congress Party, which ruled the country for decades after its independence from the U.K. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the party until August last year, also estimated that 250 million would be on the streets, tweeting:

https://twitter.com/RahulGandhi/status/1214756142494048261

One industry expected to be hit particularly hard by the strike today is banking. Nearly a quarter of a trillion Rupees (≈ $3.1 billion) in bank transactions are set to be hit throughout the day, as ten unions from the finance and insurance sectors, representing around half a million workers, join the strike.

A common tactic of the strikers across the country is to occupy railway lines, shutting down India’s most important and iconic transport network, effectively paralyzing the country. Representatives of India’s coal unions also announced that its 600,000 members would join the strike, despite an order from the management of Coal India Ltd. not to do so. Many of the country’s enormous population of agricultural workers are expected to down their tools as well.

News of what is billed by supporters as the world’s largest strike has been hard to come by in Western sources. In fact, there has been an almost complete media blackout of the subject. A search for “India strike” into Google’s news search engine as of 23:00 India standard time (in other words after an entire day of unrest) produces just one result from a Western news organization; a short article from Reuters claiming that only “tens of thousands” are on strike. While numbers for simultaneous demonstrations happening across a subcontinent can never be gauged completely accurately, what is striking is the complete disinterest in such a large revolt from international media organizations.

Modi sees himself as part of the global wave of far-right leaders (such as Bolsonaro in Brazil and Orban in Hungary) who have come to power in the wake of the global economic downturn of 2008. In December, Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad described Modi’s ideology as a perfect blend of Indian fascism and hard neoliberal economics, combining Hindu nationalism with a package of privatization of state resources. In September, the prime minister came to the United States to attend a “Howdy Modi” summit in Houston, TX, where he embraced Donald Trump as a kindred spirit. And in April, he used the opportunity of International Peace Day to threaten to drop nuclear bombs on Pakistan. 

Despite the fact that today’s actions show that there is stiff and nationwide opposition to his Hindu chauvinism, he continues to retain high approval rates, while his ruling BJP party celebrated a resounding victory in the elections of April/May, winning 303 of the 545 seats in India’s lower house, a margin of victory rarely seen in a multi-party system.

Modi’s government warned that “any employee going on strike in any form would face the consequences,” while the Supreme Court claimed that protesting today amounts to “grave misconduct,” suggesting that the government sees the nationwide strike as a threat to its legitimacy. Strikers claim that it is just this authoritarian sentiment they are opposing.

Feature photo | Members of various trade unions shout slogans during a general strike called by various trade unions in Ahmadabad, India, Jan. 8, 2020. Ajit Solanki | 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 In What May be the Largest Strike in World History, Millions in India Protest PM Modi’s Policies appeared first on MintPress News.

Questions Surround Mysterious Plane Crash in Iran That Left 176 Dead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 4:17am in

A Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran, Iran, early Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers and nine crew members on board. The head of the Red Crescent told Iranian news agency ISNA that it was “obviously impossible” that any passengers on flight PS-752 survived. A witness to the incident claimed that the pilot of the doomed vehicle courageously steered it out of the way of a residential area and towards a soccer field, crashing onto it and subsequently into a canal. Ukraine International Airlines said that the aircraft disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after takeoff.  The winter’s light brought with it sobering images of the wreckage.

The crash comes at a point barely short of war between the United States and Iran, and brings back memories of the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by an American Cruiser, the USS Vincennes, in July 1988. All 290 people aboard (including 66 children) were killed as a result, as it flew through a well-established air corridor between Tehran and Dubai. Although the U.S. Navy officially claims it mistook the jet for an enemy Tomcat fighter, two of the Vincennes officers received Legion of Merit medals for “meritorious service” upon arriving back in America. The ship had, at the time of the attack, illegally entered Iranian waters to perform what Ronald Reagan described as “a proper defensive action.” George H.W. Bush, Vice-President at the time, went further: “I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologise-for-America kind of guy,” he bluntly stated on the incident.

The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, said, “We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer (Boeing) and the Americans. It’s not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation.”

https://twitter.com/Chewy9991/status/1214757331143155713

While the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran had earlier “ruled out” the incident being an act of terror, it later retracted the statement, fueling fears that the event represented an escalation of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran.

On January 3, the Trump administration carried out a successful drone assassination attempt of Lt. General Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was a charismatic and influential leader and statesman of the Islamic Republic, commonly considered one of the most powerful people after Ayatollah Khamenei.

A 2018 poll conducted by the University of Maryland found two-thirds of Iranians rated Soleimani “very favorably.” While the New York Times speculated that it was likely he “had come to Iraq in part to plot the next move against United States military personnel or civilians,” in reality, he had been invited to attend regional peace talks with Saudi Arabia by the Iraqi Prime Minister, who personally asked Trump for his blessing. Trump agreed, then used the opportunity to drone strike Soleimani on Iraqi soil.

Four hours before the airliner crashed, Iran fired 22 ballistic missiles at U.S.-occupied military bases in Iraq. A statement from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made it clear that this was in response to Soleimani’s assassination.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko announced that 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghanis, as well as three Germans and Britons were on board. The model of aircraft is a member of the same family as the currently downed 737 Max 8 model, which has recently seen two high-profile deadly incidents.

In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people. Just months later Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, killing 157. Like today’s Iran catastrophe, both the other Boeings crashed just minutes after takeoff, leading to the Seattle-based company grounding all 737 Max 8’s. After investigation, it transpired that both 737 Max 8’s lacked optional “extra” safety features that likely would have saved them from their fate. The reason? Because Boeing charges airlines extra for them.

The Financial Times argued that Boeing was right to mark up and charge extra for safety features it itself conceded are “critical”, claiming that wanting these extras is a “naïve and foolhardy” wish, despite the fact that all safety features combined increase the price of a new plane by less than 0.1 percent of the $121 million a new 737 Max 8 costs. In a less well-known March 2019 incident, a 737 Max 8 traveling in March from Florida to California was forced to make an emergency landing. The plane was being ferried to a storage facility in Victorville, CA after the model was officially grounded.

The aircraft that crashed in Iran today was a three-year-old 737-800. Already under the microscope for its terrible safety record, Boeing will now face intense scrutiny after this latest tragedy. In a statement, the aviation giant sent its “heartfelt thoughts” to the victims’ families and said it was “ready to assist in any way needed.” Seeing as it is a major military contractor and given Trump’s aggressive moves towards Iran, it may be helping shoot down many more planes over Iran very soon.

MintPress News is covering the Iran situation closely. For more content, click here.

Feature photo | Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Jan. 8, 2020. Ebrahim Noroozi | 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 Questions Surround Mysterious Plane Crash in Iran That Left 176 Dead appeared first on MintPress News.

Justice at Last? Panic in Israel as the ICC Takes Momentous Step in the Right Direction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 1:20am in

At long last, Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has uttered the long-anticipated conclusion that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome statute for the opening of an investigation (into alleged war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) have been met”.

Bensouda’s verdict has been in the making for a long time and should, frankly, have arrived much earlier. The ICC preliminary investigations into Israeli war crimes began back in 2015. Since then, many more such war crimes have been committed, while the international community persisted in its moral inertia.

The ICC statement, issued on December 20, asserted that the court saw “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice”. 

But can the “interest of justice” be served while the United States government continues to wield a massive stick, using its diplomatic, political and financial clout to ensure Israel emerges unscathed from its latest legal scuffle?

There is little doubt that Michael Lynk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, is absolutely right: A formal ICC criminal investigation into war crimes in Palestine is a “momentous step forward in the quest for accountability”.

He is also correct in his assessment, published in the United Nations Human Rights Officer of the High Commissioner website, that “accountability has, until now, been largely missing in action throughout the 52-year-old occupation.”

I would go even further and expand the timeline of the missing accountability to include the two decades prior to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Otherwise, how is one to account for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48, the numerous massacres and other wanton killings that accompanied and followed those defining years, or the fact that Israel was never held accountable for its violations of international and humanitarian laws between 1948 and 1967?

That issue notwithstanding, the Palestinian Authority and all political parties in Palestine should exploit this unprecedented opportunity of holding Israel accountable.

As soon as the ICC issued its statement, news reports surfaced conveying a sense of “panic” in Israel. The Times of Israel reported that an Israeli government meeting to discuss the ICC decision was held shortly after, with the aim of considering a proper response, including the possibility of preventing ICC investigators from reaching Israel. 

This is eerily familiar. Israel has denied entry to – or refused to cooperate with – international investigators and observers on many occasions in the past. 

Following a UN planned investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in 2002, the Israeli government quickly moved, and, sadly, succeeded in blocking the investigation altogether. 

It has done so time and again, often demonizing the very individuals entrusted with the mission of examining the illegality of Israel’s behavior in the context of international law. Well-respected judges and international law experts, such as Richard Goldstone, Richard Falk, and John Dugard, were vehemently attacked by Israeli officials and media and, by extension, by the US government and media as well.

Israel ICC Invesitgation

UN investigator Richard Goldstone visits a family home destroyed by Israeli artillery in Gaza, June 3, 2009. Ashraf Amra | AP

Israel has managed to survive dozens of United Nations Resolutions and countless legal reports and indictments by the UN and all UN-affiliated organizations, largely because of blind and unequivocal American support, which has shielded Israeli war criminals from ever answering to their horrific actions in Palestine.

“Remember, it was (then-Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton who took pride in the fact that she personally killed the Goldstone Report,” said US author, Norman Finkelstein, in a recent interview with the news website ‘Mondoweiss’. 

The Goldstone report was issued in the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza in 2009, dubbed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The campaign of intimidation and pressure on Goldstone, personally, forced the once-respected judge to retract his accusations of Israeli war crimes and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

While Clinton did her part in torpedoing the Goldstone Report, former US President, Barack Obama, according to Finkelstein, went to great lengths to “neutralize international law against settlements and other Israeli crimes in the occupied territories”.

Worse still, on September 14, 2016, Obama handed Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, himself accused of carrying out numerous war crimes against Palestinians, the largest US aid package to a foreign country in modern history, a whopping $38 billion over the course of ten years. 

This is not a new phenomenon, where the US enables Israeli crimes and simultaneously shields Tel Aviv from any accountability for these crimes before the international community. All US administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, have honored the same sinister maxim, thus ensuring Israel, literally, gets away with murder.

A particular case in point was in 2001, when 28 Palestinian and Lebanese survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre attempted to try, in a Belgian court, late Israeli leader and accused war criminal, Ariel Sharon. Intense American pressures and a brazen intimidation campaign, targeting the Belgian government and the judicial system, resulted in the dismissal of the case in 2003. To deny Israel’s victims the opportunity to seek justice everywhere in the country, Belgium revised its very law, to the satisfaction of Israel and the United States. 

The high level of the ICC investigations places the legal push against Israel at a whole new level. This is uncharted territory for Israel, the United States, Palestine, the ICC and the international community as a whole. There is little doubt that some joint Israeli-American effort is already underway to develop strategies aimed at countering, if not altogether dismissing, the ICC investigation.

It is clear that justice for Palestinians in the face of Israeli aggression, itself fueled by unconditional American support, is not at all possible if it is not accompanied by regional and international unity, and a clear and decisive decision by all parties concerned that Israel, once and for all, must pay for its military occupation, racist apartheid laws, protracted siege on Gaza, and the many massacres in between. 

Without this kind of international will, the ICC investigation could become another sad case of justice denied, a non-acceptable option for any justice-seeking individual, organization, and government anywhere in the world.

Feature photo | Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during a trial in The Hague, Netherlands, August 28, 2018. Bas Czerwinski | Pool via AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net 

The post Justice at Last? Panic in Israel as the ICC Takes Momentous Step in the Right Direction appeared first on MintPress News.

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