oil

Private Eye Attacks Hypocrisy of Non-Dom Tax Dodging Press Barons

Five years ago in 2015 the then leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, outraged the press barons in Fleet Street by suggesting the abolition of non-dom tax status for people actually living in the UK. This frightened them, as many of them, such as Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of the I and Evening Standard, David and Frederick Barclay, the weirdo owners of the Torygraph, and Heil owner Viscount Rothermere, also avoid paying British tax through non-dom status. There was therefore a flurry of articles in their papers scorning Miliband’s suggestion and declaring that if it came in, it would bankrupt Britain by forcing all the millionaires in London and elsewhere to flee the country. And the papers certainly did not tell their readers that there was more than a bit of self-interest behind their attacks on Miliband.

Private Eye, which, according to editor Ian Hislop, skewers humbug, therefore published an article in their ‘In the Back’ section, ‘Street of Sham’ in the issue for 17th to 30th April 2015 attacking this fine display of gross hypocrisy. The piece ran

So consuming was the Tory press’s rage at Ed Milibands’s plan to make Russian oligarchs and gulf petro-billionaires in London liable for the same taxes as British citizens, its hacks forgot to declare their interest.

“London backlash over Ed’s non-dom attack,” boomed the front-page of the London Evening Standard, as if a mob had descended on Labour HQ to defend London’s much-loved oligarchs and hedge-fund managers. “Attacking non-doms could backfire on us,” continued an editorial inside. Sarah Sands, the Standard’s Uriah Heepish editor, did not risk her career by saying who the “us” included – namely her boss, Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian who last year dodged the Eye’s repeated questions over his own domicile.

Silence infected the Telegraph too, where not one of the reporters who warned that Labour’s “cataclysmic” decision would drive away “tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders” mentioned that their owners, the weirdo Barclay twins, reside in Monaco and the Channel Islands to avoid British tax.

Instead they quoted James Hender, head of private wealth at Saffery Champness accountants, who warned that the rich may leave. The Telegraph didn’t tell its readers that Hender boasts of his long experience ensuring that “the most tax efficient strategies are adopted for non-UK situs assets” for his non-dom clients.

It was the same at the Mail, which failed to declare that its owner, 4th Viscount Rothermere, is treated by the tax authorities as a non-dom. And at Sky, political editor Faisal Islam reported that “Baltic Exchange boss Jeremy Penn slams Labour non-dom plans” without declaring that his owner, Rupert Murdoch, does not pay UK tax and that Penn acts for super-rich shipping owners.

Jolyon Maugham QC, who has advised Labour and the Tories on tax reform, tells the Eye that any reader silly enough to believe the Tory press and tax avoidance industry should look at what they said in 2008, when Labour introduced the first levies on non-doms.

Back then the Mail then said the central London property market would crash as non-doms sold up and moved to Switzerland. In fact, between Labour introducing the levy and 2014, prime central London property prices rose 41 percent. At the end of 2014, Knightsbridge estate agent W.A. Ellis said 54 percent of sales were to overseas buyers.

The Mail was equally certain the City would suffer. On 8 February 2008 it cried that the levy “risks the City’s future”. The British Banking Association warned of “a devastating blow”. The Telegraph of 12 February 2008 said that “the country’s wealthiest individuals are being bombarded with leaflets and letters explaining how easy it would be to relocate to Switzerland, Monaco and a host of other countries”. Not to be outdone, Mike Warburton, senior tax partner at accountants Grant Thornton, said the levy was the “final straw”.

If a word of this had been true, there would be no non-doms left for Milband to tax. As it is, there are 115,000 because, as Maugham says, London remains a “very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy. And that won’t change.” Or as the Financial Times put it: “The many advantages of London as a financial centre do not dissolve simply because of a change in a hitherto generous tax treatment of resident non-domiciles.”

The pink ‘un has only recently realised the iniquity of the non-dom rule, with an editorial last month calling for its abolition. Editor Lionel Barber modestly claims some credit for Miliband’s stance. But as editor for almost a decade, why was he so late to the party? Surely not because, until 2013, FT owner Pearson was run by US-born Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would certainly have qualified for non-dom status and whose London flat, the Eye revealed, was owned via an offshore company?

The Daily Mail’s owner, Lord Rothermere, is a particularly flagrant tax dodger in this regarded. The current Rothermere inherited the status from his father, who really was not resident in the UK. He lived in Paris. But Rothermere junior appears very much to have made Britain his permanent or at least primary residence. He has a parking space in London, and the Eye reported a few years ago he was extensively renovating his stately home in the West Country.

The non-dom tax status, offshore banking and other ways used by the corporate and super rich to avoid tax are part of the reason for the increasing impoverishment of everyone else. They aren’t paying their fair share of the tax burden, but receiving massive tax handouts instead. Thus the NHS and other important services are deprived of money. The tax burden is then passed onto ordinary, working people. This reduction in taxes for the rich used to be justified under Thatcher with the argument that the money the rich saved would somehow trickle down to the rest of us. This hasn’t worked. It doesn’t encourage the rich to open any more businesses or employ more people. The money just sits in their accounts earning more interest.

It also doesn’t the rich closing businesses and laying people off either. This was shown a year or so ago in America, when one of the corporate recipients of the Republicans’ tax cuts closed a branch or a factory, laying hundreds of workers off.

And the purchase of London property by foreigners is also a further cause of poverty. Ordinary people in the Smoke can’t afford to buy homes as rich foreigners – not asylum seekers or migrants – push property prices up far out of their reach. Some of these homes are simply left empty as an investment in what is known as ‘land banking’. This has a knock-on effect for the rest of the UK. Here in Bristol property prices have also risen to extremely highly levels through Londoners forced out of the capital relocating to the city. And in turn, some Bristolians are looking for cheaper homes elsewhere in places like Wales.

London still is a ‘very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy’, but the tax cuts which make Britain so comfortable for the global rich are causing poverty, misery and homelessness for everyone else.

And this is applauded and cheered by hypocritical press magnates and editors.

Tories Promised Fat Profits to Fracking Companies While Others Starved

Donald Trump made his contempt for environmentalists and public concerns about climate change and global warming very clear this week at Davos. He called them ‘prophets of doom’ and frankly denied the existence of global warming. As I pointed out in a previous post, this is not only in line with what the Republican base believes, but also the propaganda of Trump’s corporate sponsors in the fossil fuel industries. Trump has passed legislation to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and prevent it from publishing anything supporting climate change or global warming. The fossil fuel industry, particularly the billionaire Koch brothers, have also set up a network of lobbying and astroturf fake grassroots pressure groups to try and discredit global warming and the other environmental damage by the oil, gas and coal industries. Those same billionaires also use these networks to close down mainstream academic environmental research, and replace them with laboratories funded by themselves, which publish their approved material denying the reality of global warming.

Mike put up a post this week reporting Trump’s anti-environmentalist stance, and saying that this would be a problem for Britain if Boris Johnson is successful and makes a Brexit deal with America.

But the Tories have already shown their contempt for Green politics. Although Dave Cameron promised that his would be the ‘Greenest government ever’ and put a windmill on the roof of his house, that lasted only as long as he could get his foot in Number 10. The moment he won the election, those promises were dropped and the windmill came off his roof. And that wasn’t all. Cameron, like Trump, strongly favoured the petrochemical industries. While his government cut the welfare budget to leave the poor desperate and starving, he cut the tax for the fracking industry so that they could make even bigger projects. Vickie Cooper and David Whyte discuss this in the introduction to their The Violence of Austerity. They write

Indeed, some sectors have been seen as a vehicle for economic recovery and therefore singled out for special treatment. This partly explains the lack of any meaningful regulatory change in the financial sector but also why some high revenue sectors, such as unconventional oil and gas – or ‘fracking’, are being singled out for special treatment… In July 2013 the government announced that the fracking industry would receive a major reduction in its tax burden. Shale gas producers were told that they would be asked to pay just 30 per cent tax on profits compared to 62 per cent normally paid by the oil and gas industry. In response, Andrew Pendleton of UK Friends of the Earth observed:

Promising tax hand-outs to polluting energy firms that threaten our communities and environment, when everyone else is being told to tighten their belts, is a disgrace. (p. 19).

Fracking is particularly contentious, as not only does it pollute the water table but it also causes minor earthquakes. There have been major protests against it throughout the country, particularly against its operations in Lancashire. The Tories just before the election promised a moratorium on it, but did not refuse to stop it completely.

The Tories’ welfare cuts have led to people starving to death, as Mike’s report this morning about the death of Errol Graham. Mr Graham had problems with anxiety, and could not cope with unexpected changes and social situations. He was afraid to go out and could not meet or interact with strangers. Despite this the DWP stopped his ESA, which meant that he lost his housing benefit. He slowly starved to death. When the bailiffs broke down his door to evict him, he weighed only 4 1/2 stone.

Why are we learning about disabled Errol Graham TWO YEARS after the DWP stopped his benefits and he starved to death?

Obscene! Absolutely obscene!

And he isn’t the only one. 130,000 people have died due to austerity. But while the government is content to let people starve to death, it’s prepared to give vast profits to friends in polluting industries. Reading this, I think there’s little doubt that Boris will resume fracking the moment he’s given the opportunity. And that if and when he makes his wretched deal with Trump, it will signal real danger for our precious ‘green and pleasant land’.

This shows the foul pair’s priorities: the world burns, the poor literally starve to death, but they’re fine so long as polluting industries can foul the planet for profit.

 

Trump’s Climate Denial Is a Danger to Post-Brexit Britain

Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on Trump’s denunciation of Green activists at the Davos summit. He called them ‘prophets of doom’, who were trying to dominate, control and transform the lives of everyone in the world, and announced that he would not change his country’s high carbon economy. He would, though, sign up for planting, restoring and conserving a trillion trees.

This didn’t impress Greta Thunberg, who was also there. Mike quotes her as saying

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” she said.

“You say: ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”

And she asked: “What will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing… climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?”

Beeb wildlife presenter Chris Packham also made a speech about the climate emergency at the BAFTA’s, warning that unless we act to solve the environmental crisis, future generations may look on Trump, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Vladimir Putin and Australia’s Scott Morrison in the same way as mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, because of the millions killed through climate change.

Mike also makes the point that while the world’s leaders are doing nothing about climate change, Boris is moving closer to a trade deal with Trump, one that will also make him deny the danger. Mike states that our clown of a prime minister has missed opportunities to make a difference, and asks if he will sell us down the river again for the sake of a few American dollars.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/22/trumps-prophets-of-doom-speech-suggests-the-uk-should-not-enter-trade-deal-with-him/

The answer is yes, yes, he will. And it’s for the same reasons Trump and the rest of the Republican party are denying climate change: powerful corporate interests. The Republicans received very generous campaign funding from big industrialists like the Koch brothers and the other heads of the fossil fuel industry. These big businessmen also sponsor fake grassroots organisations and biased scientific think thanks in order to lobby against and discredit climate research and laws to protect the environment. The results have been disastrous. Since he took power, Trump has gutted the environmental protection agency and forbidden it from publishing anything supporting climate change or environmental decline in America. Koch money has seen universities close down proper climate and environmental research and their replacement with laboratories and organisations funded by the brothers and others in the fossil future industry. These present as fact the false information they want the public to hear: that climate change isn’t occurring, and the coal and oil industries ain’t wrecking the landscape. But these industries are. There are a whole sections of the Louisiana swamps that is heavily polluted by oil. The oil pipeline through indigenous people’s land in Idaho that made the news a few years ago was opposed because the indigenous people of the area feared that there would be spillages that would pollute the water they use for drinking and which nourishes their wildlife. They were right to do so. There have been a large number of similar spillages, which have not garnered so much media attention, which have similarly contaminated vast acreages of land. And then there’s the whole fracking industry, and the damage that has also caused the water table in areas where it has been allowed.

These are the industries funding Trump’s campaign. They’re part of the reason why there were right-wing jokers all over the internet yesterday sniggering at Trump’s put down of Thunberg. Trump and his supporters really do believe that environmentalists are some kind of crazy apocalyptic cult with totalitarian aims. There’s a section of the American right that really does believe Green activists are real, literal Nazis, because the Nazis were also environmentally concerned. And the corporate interests sponsoring Trump are the same industries that want to get a piece of our economy and industries.

The Tories have already shown that they are little concerned about the environment. They have strongly promoted fracking in this country, and the book The Violence of Austerity contains a chapter detailing the Tories’ attacks on the environment and Green protest groups. David Cameron’s boast that his would be the greenest government ever vanished the moment his put his foot across the threshold of Number 10.

If Boris makes a Brexit trade deal with Trump, it will mean that our precious ‘green and pleasant land’ is under threat from highly polluting, environmentally destructive industries. It will mean further reductions in funding for renewable energy in favour of oil, gas and coal, attempts in this country to discredit and silence respectable, mainstream climate research and scientists in favour of corporate-sponsored pseudoscience. And there will be further laws and state violence against environmental protesters.

Trump’s climate denial is a threat to the British environment, industry, the health of its people, democracy and science. But Boris depends on him for any kind of successful trade deal.

He will sell out and wreck this country and its people for those dollars offered by Trump and his corporate backers.

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.

Lobster on How the Beeb Became Tory Propaganda Outlet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 1:47am in

Robin Ramsay has begun putting up articles on the latest issue of Lobster, no. 79, for summer 2020. In his ‘View from the Bridge’ section he has posted this piece, which was written  posted on Facebook by the former Beeb journalist, Marcus Moore, on how the Tories turned the Beeb into their own pet propaganda mouthpiece.

‘A number of changes made during the last seven years or so, spearheaded by David Cameron, have led to the corporation’s news and politics departments becoming little more than ventriloquists’ dummies. Of particular note are the following:

a) important posts at the BBC being filled by pro-government figures from the private sector (Rona Fairhead, David Clementi, James Harding,Robbie Gibb etc)

b) direct links with the manipulative tabloid press being strengthened by Downing Street giving important positions to dubious characters like Andy Coulson and Craig Oliver

c) the subsequent recruitment of people like Alison Fuller Pedley (of Mentorn Media), who is responsible for choosing who gets to be in the Question Time audience, and Sarah Sands (formerly of the Telegraph, Mail and Evening Standard) who now edits Radio 4’s Today programme

d) all of the above follows Cameron’s appointment, in June 2010, of John Browne (Baron Browne of Madingley) to the post of ‘Lead NonExecutive Director’ for Downing Street, his role being that of ‘recruiting business leaders to reformed departmental boards’ – Browne’s questionable history at BP notwithstanding (remember Deep Horizon!)

e) how all of this quiet, underhand activity has been largely unreported,but has given the current Conservative government immense power within fashionable and influential circles.’

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

All of which means that the Beeb isn’t remotely an impartial broadcaster, as it purports to be and should be by law. I’ve said that the Beeb makes some excellent programmes. It does, and this season’s Dr. Who has been a case in point. But its news reporting is irredeemable.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone in it should be sacked, and especially Laura Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson.

Book on Austerity as State Violence

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!

Bolivia’s New US-Backed Interim Gov’t Wastes No Time Privatizing Economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 5:30am in

It has been barely one month since the administration of Jeanine Añez seized power in a military coup in Bolivia, but it has wasted no time in attempting to transform the economy and society. Its latest move is aimed at privatizing the country’s economy. A government spokesperson confirmed the fears of many, claiming that “I believe the government should reduce its own size” and a protagonistic role should be given to private enterprises. In case that was not clear enough, he emphasized, “Yes, I’m talking about privatization.” Bolivia’s economy is dependent on its nationalized oil and gas industries.

After military generals appeared on television demanding his resignation, longtime president Evo Morales stepped down, citing the growing, targeted paramilitary violence against his MAS (Movement towards Socialism Party) colleagues. Morales, and his Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera, fled to Mexico for safety. The military chose Senator Jeanine Añez as his successor. 

Añez is a strongly conservative Christian who has described Bolivia’s indigenous majority as “satanic” and vowed to bring the Bible back into politics. She has also provided the military carte blanche to use unlimited force in suppressing all resistance to her rule, even creating a squad of masked, heavily armed death squads aimed at uprooting leftist and foreign “terrorists.” Despite this, large areas of the country are in open rebellion and completely uncontrolled by the new government.

For a supposed “transitional” government, a caretaker regime holding the reins until imminent elections are organized, the Añez administration has certainly made some bold moves. It has already pulled Bolivia out of multiple international and intercontinental political and economic organizations, such as ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations), both of which had a more left-of-center outlook.

Meanwhile, it has expelled large numbers of foreign nationals, including around 700 Cuban doctors that made up the backbone of the country’s new free healthcare system. It has also recognized U.S.-backed anti-president Juan Guaidó as the rightful ruler of Venezuela. With U.S. support, Guaidó attempted another Bolivia-style coup last month. Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has accused the Venezuelan government of being at the head of a vast narcotics conspiracy, ignoring his own boss’s ties to drug-runners (Añez’s nephew was caught with more than half a ton of cocaine in Brazil).

Murillo has formally requested the Israeli military come to train Bolivia’s armed forces and has eliminated entry visas for Americans and Israelis. Considering the IDF’s expertise in suppressing an indigenous population, Murillo’s intentions are worrying an increasing number of his countrymen. The government has also participated in a crackdown on dissenting journalism, closing down many TV networks including Bolivia TV, RT and TeleSUR. Even foreign journalists have been assaulted, detained and killed.

This latest move at privatizing the economy is part of an effort to “dismantle the apparatus of the dictatorial regime of Evo Morales,” as the Minister of Communication, Roxana Lizarraga, put it. On the orders of the International Monetary Fund, criticized by many as simply an extension of the U.S. government, the country’s oil and gas industries were privatized in 1996. International corporations like Enron, Shell and Repsol YPF were not even required to pay for their shares, making the move tantamount to the biggest giveaway in modern Bolivian history. Furthermore, royalties paid to the government were slashed to just 18 percent.

Water was also privatized. Bechtel, an American corporation, increased the prices to levels almost no Bolivian could afford to the point where water and sewage cost over half of an average Bolivian’s yearly wage. Bechtel also persuaded the government to privatize the sky, making it illegal to gather rainwater. The result was mass thirst that led to nationwide protests that became known as the Water War.

Within months of gaining office, Morales made good on his promise to nationalize key sectors of the economy. The move generated an extra $31.5 billion in government revenue over the next decade. He used the money to fund ambitious social programs. For example, over 11 percent of the revenues went to fund public universities, indigenous associations and a basic income grant to all low-income Bolivians over 60 years old.

Under Morales’ guidance, poverty halved and extreme poverty fell even further as citizens felt the benefits of the country’s natural resources. This, the Center for Economic Policy Research stresses, could not have been possible without nationalizing the hydrocarbons industry. Perhaps more important than all this, however, was the newfound dignity Bolivia’s indigenous majority felt at seeing the first indigenous president in the country’s history. The community is often treated with contempt bordering on revulsion by the light-skinned elite, but Morales has been part of a movement that inspired them to organize and take a protagonistic role in their country’s politics and society.

With the U.S. and the local elite back in charge of Bolivia and promising to re-privatize the economy, both their newly won social status and their improved economic circumstances are at imminent risk. A reversal of this policy will take coordinated resistance on the scale of the 2000 Water War.

Feature photo | Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez gives a press conference at the presidential palace announcing the elimination of entry visas for citizens of the United States and Israel. La Paz, Bolivia, Dec. 11, 2019. Juan Karita | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress Staff Writer as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Bolivia’s New US-Backed Interim Gov’t Wastes No Time Privatizing Economy appeared first on MintPress News.

Classical Music Against Boris Johnson

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 9:11pm in

This is another musical video attacking our murderous clown Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. I’ve put up a number of videos from JOE and Cassetteboy attacking Johnson through parodies of various pop hits. Now it’s the time for classical music to make its bow. I found this piece on Ben Comeau’s YouTube page. It’s an important work entitled ‘Boris Johnson Is a Lying Shit’. It appears to be a piece by F.M.L. Bach with this explicit lyric commenting on Johnson’s colossal mendacity fitted to it. Okay, swearing isn’t big and isn’t clever. But putting it to classical music performed properly is.

In the short description about the piece on its YouTube page, Comeau says

He’d have you believe he can be trusted with the NHS… …trusted to deliver Brexit… …trusted to safeguard a livable climate!… (remember when he conspired to get a journalist beaten up?)

This was when Boris was caught talking to fellow old Etonian Darius Guppy, who wanted to know where a particular journo lived so he could get someone to go and beat the man up.

Comeau also asks people to vote, and lists organisations which make a positive contribution to society and the planet. He writes

and you can also support UK organisations who advocate for a more humane society and habitable planet, the opposite of Johnson and his ilk, e.g.: Reclaim the Power (a direct action network fighting for social, environmental and economic justice, with particular recent focus on anti-fracking) https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/ Disabled People Against the Cuts https://dpac.uk.net/ Keep Our NHS Public https://keepournhspublic.com/

Here’s the video:

 

The Israel Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the Theft of Iraqi and Syrian Oil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 4:55am in

KIRKUK, IRAQ — “We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil,” President Trump stated on November 3, before adding, “I like oil. We’re keeping the oil.” 

Though he had promised a withdrawal of U.S. troops from their illegal occupation of Syria, Trump shocked many with his blunt admission that troops were being left behind to prevent Syrian oil resources from being developed by the Syrian government and, instead, kept in the hands of whomever the U.S. deemed fit to control them, in this case, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-majority militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Though Trump himself received all of the credit — and the scorn — for this controversial new policy, what has been left out of the media coverage is the fact that key players in the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby played a major role in its creation with the purpose of selling Syrian oil to the state of Israel. While recent developments in the Syrian conflict may have hindered such a plan from becoming reality, it nonetheless offers a telling example of the covert role often played by the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby in shaping key elements of U.S. foreign policy and closed-door deals with major regional implications.

Indeed, the Israel lobby-led effort to have the U.S. facilitate the sale of Syrian oil to Israel is not an isolated incident given that, just a few years ago, other individuals connected to the same pro-Israel lobby groups and Zionist neoconservatives manipulated both U.S. policy and Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in order to allow Iraqi oil to be sold to Israel without the approval of the Iraqi government. These designs, not unlike those that continue to unfold in Syria, were in service to longstanding neoconservative and Zionist efforts to balkanize Iraq by strengthening the KRG and weakening Baghdad.

After the occupation of Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate by ISIS (June 2014-October 2015), the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) took advantage of the Iraqi military’s retreat and, amidst the chaos, illegally seized Kirkuk on June 12. Their claim to the city was supported by both the U.S. and Israel and, later, the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIS. This gave the KRG control, not only of Iraq’s export pipeline to Turkey’s Ceyhan port, but also to Iraq’s largest oil fields.

Israel imported massive amounts of oil from the Kurds during this period, all without the consent of Baghdad. Israel was also the largest customer of oil sold by ISIS, who used Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk to sell oil in areas of Iraq and Syria under its control. To do this in ISIS-controlled territories of Iraq, the oil was sent first to the Kurdish city of Zakho near the Turkey border and then into Turkey, deceptively labeled as oil that originated from Iraqi Kurdistan. ISIS did nothing to impede the KRG’s own oil exports even though they easily could have given that the Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline passed through areas that ISIS had occupied for years.

In retrospect, and following revelations from Wikileaks and new information regarding the background of relevant actors, it has been revealed that much of the covert maneuvering behind the scenes that enabled this scenario intimately involved the United States’ powerful pro-Israel lobby. Now, with a similar scenario unfolding in Syria, efforts by the U.S.’ Israel lobby to manipulate U.S. foreign policy in order to shift the flow of hydrocarbons for Israel’s benefit can instead be seen as a pattern of behavior, not an isolated incident.

 

“Keep the oil” for Israel

After recent shifts in the Trump administration in its Syria policy, U.S. troops have controversially been kept in Syria to “keep the oil,” with U.S. military officials subsequently claiming that doing so was “a subset of the counter-ISIS mission.” However, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later claimed that another factor behind U.S. insistence on guarding Syrian oil fields was to prevent the extraction and subsequent sale of Syrian oil by either the Syrian government or Russia. 

One key, yet often overlooked, player behind the push to prevent a full U.S. troop withdrawal in Syria in order to “keep the oil” was current U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield. Satterfield was previously the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, where he yielded great influence over U.S. policy in both Iraq and Syria and worked closely with Brett McGurk, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and later special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition. 

Over the course of his long diplomatic career, Satterfield has been known to the U.S. government as an Israeli intelligence asset embedded in the U.S. State Department. Indeed, Satterfield was named as a major player in what is now known as the AIPAC espionage scandal, also known as the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal, although he was oddly never charged for his role after the intervention of his superiors at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration.

David Satterfield

David Satterfield, left, arrives in Baghdad with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Joey Hood, May 7, 2019. Mandel Ngan | AP

In 2005, federal prosecutors cited a U.S. government official as having illegally passed classified information to Steve Rosen, then working for AIPAC, who then passed that information to the Israeli government. That classified information included intelligence on Iran and the nature of U.S.-Israeli intelligence sharing. Subsequent media reports from the New York Times and other outlets revealed that this government official was none other than David Satterfield, who was then serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs.

Charges against Rosen, as well as his co-conspirator and fellow AIPAC employee Keith Weissman, were dropped in 2009 and no charges were levied against Satterfield after State Department officials shockingly claimed that Satterfield had “acted within his authority” in leaking classified information to an individual working to advance the interests of a foreign government. Richard Armitage, a neoconservative ally with a long history of ties to CIA covert operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, has since claimed that he was one of Satterfield’s main defenders in conversations with the FBI during this time when he was serving as Deputy Secretary of State. 

The other government official named in the indictment, former Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin, was not so lucky and was charged under the Espionage Act in 2006. Satterfield, instead of being censured for his role in leaking sensitive information to a foreign government, was subsequently promoted in 2006 to serve as the Coordinator for Iraq and Senior Adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In addition to his history of leaking classified information to AIPAC, Satterfield also has a longstanding relationship with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a controversial spin-off of AIPAC also known by its acronym WINEP. WINEP’s website has long listed Satterfield as one of its experts and Satterfield has spoken at several WINEP events and policy forums, including several after his involvement with the AIPAC espionage scandal became public knowledge. However, despite his longstanding and controversial ties to the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, Satterfield’s current relationship with some elements of that lobby, such as the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), is complicated at best.

While Satterfield’s role in yet another reversal of a promised withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria has largely escaped media scrutiny, another individual with deep ties to the Israel lobby and Syrian “rebel” groups has also been ignored by the media, despite his outsized role in taking advantage of this new U.S. policy for Israel’s benefit.

 

US Israel Lobby secures deal with Kurds

Earlier this year, well before Trump’s new Syria policy of “keeping the oil” had officially taken shape, another individual with deep ties to the U.S. Israel lobby secured a lucrative agreement with U.S.-backed Kurdish groups in Syria. An official document issued earlier this year by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the Kurdish majority and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a New Jersey-based company, founded and run by U.S.-Israeli dual citizen Mordechai “Motti” Kahana, was given control of the oil in territory held by the SDC. 

Per the document, the SDC formally accepted the offer from Kahana’s company — Global Development Corporation (GDC) — to represent SDC in all matters pertaining to the sale of oil extracted in territory it controls and also grants GDC “the right to explore and develop oil that is located in areas we govern.” 

Global Development Corporation Kurdish Oil

The SDC’s formal acceptance of Global Development Corporation’s offer to develop Syrian oil fields. Source | Al-Akhbar

The document also states that the amount of oil then being produced in SDC-controlled areas was 125,000 barrels per day and that they anticipated that this would increase to 400,000 barrels per day and that this oil is considered a foreign asset under the control of the United States by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

After the document was made public by the Lebanese outlet Al-Akhbar, the SDC claimed that it was a forgery, even though Kahana had separately confirmed its contents and shared the letter itself to the Los Angeles Times as recently as a few weeks ago. Kahana previously attempted to distance himself from the effort and told the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom in July that he had made the offer to the SDC as means to prevent the “Assad regime” of Syria from obtaining revenue from the sale of Syrian oil. 

The Kurds currently hold 11 oil wells in an area controlled by the [Syrian] Democratic Forces. The overwhelming majority of Syrian oil is in that area. I don’t want this oil reaching Iran, or the Assad regime.”

At the time, Kahana also stated that “the moment the Trump administration gives its approval, we can begin to export this oil at fair prices.” 

Given that Kahana has openly confirmed that he is representing the SDC’s oil business shortly after Trump’s adoption of the controversial “keep the oil policy,” it seems plausible that Kahana has now received the approval needed for his company to export the oil on behalf of the SDC. Several media reports have speculated that, if Kahana’s efforts go forward unimpeded, the Syrian oil will be sold to Israel.

However, considering Turkey’s aversion to engaging in any activities that may benefit the PKK-SDF – there are considerable obstacles to Kahana’s plans. While the SDF — along with assistance from U.S. troops — still controls several oil fields in Syria, experts assert that they can only realistically sell the oil to the Syrian government. Not even the Iraqi Kurds are a candidate, considering Baghdad’s firm control over the Iraq-Syria border and the KRG’s weakened state after its failed independence bid in late 2017.

Regardless, Kahana’s involvement in this affair is significant for a few reasons. First, Kahana has been a key player in the promotion and funding of radical groups in Syria and has even been caught hiring so-called “rebels” to kidnap Syrian Jews and take them to Israel against their will. It was Kahana, for instance, who financed and orchestrated the now infamous trip of the late Senator John McCain to Syria, where he met with Syrian “rebels” including Khalid al-Hamad – a “moderate” rebel who gained notoriety after a video of him eating the heart of a Syrian Army soldier went viral online. McCain had also admitted meeting with ISIS members, though it is unclear if he did so on this trip or another trip to Syria.

In addition, Kahana was also the mastermind behind the “Caesar” controversy, whereby a Syrian using the pseudonym “Caesar” was brought to the U.S. by Kahana and went on to make claims regarding torture and other crimes allegedly committed by the Assad-led government Syria, claims which were later discredited by independent analysts. He was also very involved in Israel’s failed efforts to establish a “safe zone” in Southern Syria as a means of covertly expanding Israel’s territory from the occupied Golan Heights and into Quneitra.

Notably, Kahana has deep ties — not just to efforts to overthrow the Syrian government — but also to U.S. Israel lobby, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) where Satterfield is as an expert. For instance, Kahana was a key player in a 2013 symposium organized by WINEP along with Syrian opposition groups intimately involved in the arming of so-called “rebels.” One of the other participants in the symposium alongside Kahana was Mouaz Moustafa, director of the “Syrian Emergency Task Force” who assisted Kahana in bringing McCain to Syria in 2013. Moustafa was listed as a WINEP expert on the organization’s website but was later mysteriously deleted.

Kahana is also intimately involved with the Israeli American Council (IAC), a pro-Israel lobby organization, as a team member of its national conference. IAC was co-founded and is chaired by Adam Milstein, a multimillionaire and convicted felon who is also on the boards of AIPAC, StandWithUs, Birthright and other prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations. One of IAC’s top donors is Sheldon Adelson, who is also the top donor to President Trump as well as the entire Republican Party. 

Though the machinations of both Kahana and Satterfield to guide U.S. policy in order to manipulate the flow of Syria’s hydrocarbons for Israel’s benefit may seem shocking to some, this same tactic of pro-Israel lobbyists using the Kurds to illegally sell a country’s oil to Israel was developed a few years prior, not in Syria, but Iraq. Notably, the individuals responsible for that policy in Iraq shared connections to several of the same pro-Israel lobby organizations as both Satterfield and Kahana, suggesting that their recent efforts in Syria are not an isolated event, but a pattern.

 

War against ISIS is a war for oil 

In an email dated June 15, 2014, James Franklin Jeffrey (former Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey and current U.S. Special Representative for Syria) revealed to Stephen Hadley, a former George Bush administration advisor then working at the government-funded United States Institute of Peace, his intent to advise the KRG in order to sustain Kirkuk’s oil production. The plan, as Jeffery described it, was to supply both the Kurdistan province with oil and allow the export of oil via Kirkuk-Ceyhan to Israel, robbing Iraq of its oil and strengthening the country’s Kurdish region along with its regional government’s bid for autonomy.

Jeffrey, whose hawkish views on Iran and Syria are well-known, mentioned that Brett McGurk, the U.S.’ main negotiator between Baghdad and the KRG, was acting as his liaison with the KRG. McGurk, who had served in various capacities in Iraq under both Bush and Obama, was then also serving Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. A year later, he would be made the special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition and, as previously mentioned, worked closely with David Satterfield.


James Jeffrey, left, meets with Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, April 8, 2011, at an airport in Irbil, Iraq. Chip Somodevilla | AP

Jeffrey was then a private citizen not currently employed by the government and was used as a non-governmental channel in the pursuit of the plans described in the leaked emails published by WikiLeaks. Jeffrey’s behind-the-scenes activities with regards to the KRG’s oil exports were done clandestinely, largely because he was then employed by a prominent arm of the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby.

At the time of the email, Jeffrey was serving as a distinguished fellow (2013-2018) at WINEP. As previously mentioned, WINEP is a pro-Israel foreign policy think-tank that espouses neoconservative views and was created in 1985 by researchers that had hastily left AIPAC to escape investigations against the organization that were related to some of its members conducting espionage on behalf of Israel. AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, is the largest registered Israel lobbyist organization in the US (albeit registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act would be more suitable), and, in addition to the 1985 incident that led to WINEP’s creation, has had members indicted for espionage against the U.S. on Israel’s behalf. 

WINEP’s launch was funded by former President of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles,  Barbara Weinberg, who is its founding president and constant Chairman Emerita. Nicknamed ‘Barbi’, she is the wife of the late Lawrence Weinberg who was President of AIPAC from 1976-81 and who JJ Goldberg, author of the 1997 book Jewish Power, referred to as one of a select few individuals who essentially dominated AIPAC regardless of its elected leadership. Co-founder alongside Weinberg was Martin Indyk. Indyk, U.S. Ambassador to Israel (1995-97) and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1997-99), led the AIPAC research time that formed WINEP to escape the aforementioned investigations.

WINEP has historically received funding from donors who donate to causes of special interest for Zionism and Israel. Among its trustees are extremely prominent names in political Zionism and funders of other Israel Lobby organizations, such as Charles and Edgar Bronfman and the Chernicks. Its membership remains dominated by individuals who have spent their careers promoting Israeli interests in the U.S.

WINEP has become more well-known, and arguably more controversial, in recent years after its research director famously called for false-flag attacks to trigger a U.S. war with Iran in 2012, statements well-aligned with longstanding attempts by the Israel Lobby to bring about such a war.

 

A worthy partner in crime

Stephen Hadley, another private citizen who Jeffrey evidently considered as a partner in his covert dealings discussed in the emails, also has his own past of involvement with Israel-specific intrigues and meddling. 

During the G.W. Bush administration, Hadley tagged along with neoconservatives in their numerous creations of fake intelligence and efforts to incriminate Iraq for possessing chemical and nuclear weapons. Hadley was one of the promoters from within the U.S. government of the false claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague.

Hadley also worked with then-Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis Libby — a neoconservative and former lawyer for the Mossad-agent and billionaire Marc Rich — to discredit a CIA investigation into claims of Iraq purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger. That claim famously appeared in Bush’s State of the Union address in 2002.

What this particular claim had in common with the ‘Iraq meets Atta in Prague’ disinformation, and other famous lies against Iraq fabricated and circulated by the dense neocon network, was its source: Israel and pro-Israel partisans. 

The distribution network of these now long-debunked claims was none other than the neoconservatives who act a veritable Israeli fifth column that has long sought to promote Israeli foreign policy objectives as being in the interest of the United States. In this, Hadley played his part by helping to ensure that the United States was railroaded into a war that had long been promoted by both Israeli and American neoconservatives, particularly Richard Perle — an advisor to WINEP — who had been promoting regime change in Iraq for Israel’s explicit benefit for decades.

In short, for covert intrigues to serve Israel that would likely be met with protest if pitched to the government for implementation as policy, Hadley’s resume was impressive.

 

Israeli interests pursued through covert channels

Given his employment at WINEP during this time, Jeffrey’s intent to advise the KRG to sustain Kirkuk’s oil production despite the seizure of the Baiji oil refinery by ISIS is somewhat suspect, especially since it required that 100,000 barrels per day pass through ISIS-controlled territory unimpeded. 

Jeffrey’s email from June 14, therefore, demonstrated that he had foreknowledge that ISIS would not disturb the KRG as long as the Kurds redirected oil that was intended originally for Baiji to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline, facilitating its export and later sale to Israel. 

Notably, up until its liberation in mid-2015 by the Iraqi government and aligned Shia paramilitaries, ISIS kept the refinery running and, only upon their retreat, destroyed the facility.

In July 2014, the KRG began confidently supplying Kurdish areas with Kirkuk’s oil per the plan laid out by Jeffrey in the aforementioned email. Baghdad soon became aware of the arrangement and lashed out at Israel and Turkey, whose banks were used by the KRG to receive the oil revenue from Israel.

One would normally expect ISIS to be opposed to such collusion given that the KRG, while a beneficiary of the ISIS-Baghdad conflict, was not an ally of ISIS. Thus, a foreign power with strategic ties to ISIS used its close ties to the KRG and assurances that it was on-board for the oil trade, to deliver a credible guarantee that ISIS would ‘cooperate’ and that a boom in production and exports was in the cards.

This foreign power — acting as a guarantor for the ISIS-KRG understanding vis-a-vis the illegal oil economy, represented by Jeffrey and clearly not on good terms with Iraq’s government — was quite clearly Israel.

Israel established considerable financial support as well as the provision of armaments to other extremist terrorist groups active near the border between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Southern Syria when war first broke out in Syria in 2011. At least four of these extremist groups were led by individuals with direct ties to Israeli intelligence. These same groups, sometimes promoted as ‘moderates’ by some media, were actively fighting Syria’s government – an enemy of Israel and ally of Iran – before ISIS existed and eagerly partnered with ISIS when it expanded its campaign into Syria. 

Furthermore, Israeli officials have publicly admitted maintaining regular communication with ISIS cells in Southern Syria and have publicly expressed their desire that ISIS not be defeated in the country. In Libya, Israeli Mossad operatives have been found embedded within ISIS, suggesting that Israel has covert but definite ties with the group outside of Syria as well.

Israel has also long promoted the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, with Israel having provided Iraq’s Kurds with weapons, training and teams of Mossad advisers as far back as the 1960s. More recently, Israel was the only state to support the KRG independence referendum in September 2017 despite its futility, hinting at the regard Israel holds for the KRG. Iraq’s government subsequently militarily defeated the KRG’s push for statehood and reclaimed Kirkuk’s oil fields with assistance from the Shia paramilitaries which were responsible for defeating ISIS in the area.

Iraq ISIS control map

A 2014 map shows the areas under ISIS and Kurdish control at the time. Source | Telegraph

This arrangement orchestrated by Jeffrey, served the long-time neoconservative-Israeli agenda of empowering the Kurds, selling Iraqi oil to Israel and weakening Iraq’s Baghdad-based government. 

WINEP’s close association with AIPAC, which has spied on the U.S. on behalf of Israel several times in the past with no consequence, combined with Jeffrey’s long-time acquaintance with key U.S. figures in Iraq, such as McGurk, provided an ideal opening for Israel in Iraq. Following the implementation of Jeffrey’s plan, Israeli imports of KRG oil constituted 77 percent of Israel’s total oil imports during the KRG’s occupation of Kirkuk. 

The WINEP connection to the KRG-Israel oil deal demonstrates the key role played by the U.S. pro-Israel Lobby, not only in terms of sustaining U.S. financial aid to Israel and ratcheting up tensions with Israel’s adversaries but also in facilitating the more covert aspects of U.S.-Israeli cooperation and the implementation of policies that favor Israel.

Yet the role played by the U.S. Israel lobby in this capacity, particularly in terms of orchestrating oil sale agreements for Israel’s benefit, is hardly exclusive to Iraq and can accurately be described as a repeated pattern of behavior. 

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Agha Hussain is an independent researcher based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He specialized in Middle Eastern affairs and history and is an editorial contributor to Eurasia Future, Regional Rapport and other news outlets. Read more of his work on his personal blog.

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 The Israel Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the Theft of Iraqi and Syrian Oil appeared first on MintPress News.

Labour’s Green Transport Pledge – Electric Buses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/12/2019 - 9:57pm in

This is another story from Saturday’s I. The Labour party has also promised to introduce electric buses if they come to power. The article about this, written by Hugo Gye, ran

Labour has promised to replace every bus in England with an electric vehicle if the party wins the general election.

All of the country’s 35,000 buses would be powered by electricity rather than diesel or petrol by 2030 at a cost of £4bn, Jeremy Corbyn said. The pledge is the latest in a string of promises on public transport, partly funded by cutting the amount of money spent on road improvements.

Over the next 11 years, every bus in England that is not fully electric would be taken out of service and replaced by an electric vehicle to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the moment just 2 per cent of the country’s buses run on electricity. the switch would be paid for by a “green transformation fund”, part of Labour’s plans to ramp up infrastructure spending through borrowing.

Mr Corbyn said: “This policy will bring our bus services into the future and help revitalise our high streets and rebuild local communities.”

Conservative Transport Secretary Grant Shapps responded that Labour would pay for the plan by raiding budgets for vital road upgrades.

Labour said devolved administrations would receive money to enable them to carry out a similar policy.

The air quality in British towns is very poor. There have been a series of articles in the papers revealing that townspeople suffer poor health as a result of the air pollution around them, and some of this is obviously vehicle exhaust. Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin, wants to improve air quality by taxing the most polluting vehicles, including buses and taxis. However, so that this doesn’t affect ordinary people, he’s allowing older cars to go untaxed. This has proved highly controversial, as it means that public transport in this city will become more expensive. It seems far better to me for the government to replace existing fossil fuel buses with electric vehicles than to place extra taxes on them. Of course, this also calls into question the decision made after the War to scrap the trams across Britain, as these were also run on electricity. Continental cities didn’t, and as a result some of them – I’m thinking here of those in the Netherlands – may be greener.

But I’m convinced that this is no mere empty promise. Corbyn and his team are sincere about their policies they intend to implement. Unlike the Tories, who have consistently broken their manifesto promises and whose present promises to improve public services either have not been costed or would be inadequately funded. Which means the Tories really aren’t serious about honouring them.

And remember how David Cameron declared that his would be the greenest government ever. Which lasted right up to the moment he put his foot inside No. 10. Then all his election promises were forgotten, he took the little windmill from his house, and went ahead with allowing fracking and privatising Britain’s forests.

Unlike the Tories, Labour is serious about the environment and renewable energy. Vote for them.

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