1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites): Top stories – Google News: Five takeaways from Elizabeth Warren’s CNN town hall – CNN

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The Trump Investigations Report: “Abedin” – Google News: UBC Okanagan students host vigil for New Zealand massacre victims – Global News

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UBC Okanagan students host vigil for New Zealand massacre victims  Global News

Students from all backgrounds came together for a vigil at UBC Okanagan on Monday night to remember the victims of the New Zealand massacre.

“Abedin” – Google News

The Trump Investigations Report


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1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites): Eurasia Review: MiG-21: The Flying Coffin – OpEd

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“If intense warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its troops with only 10 days of ammunition, according to government estimates. And 68 per cent of the army’s equipment is so old, it is officially considered vintage”. This is what was stated in a recent report published in New York Times about India’s military equipment.

Mikoyan-Gurevich-21 or MiG 21 was India’s first supersonic jet fighter aircraft manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1955. It is considered a second-generation jet fighter, which was first inducted in the IAF in 1963. MiG 21 once thought to be the backbone of Indian Air Force, playing a stellar role in the 1971 war against Pakistan.

It was also used in the skirmishes which broke out between Pakistan and India in 1999 during the Kargil War, where one IAF MiG 21 was shot down by ground fire. The IAF was forced to continue using this outdated warhorse mainly because of the delays at the part of Indian Defence Ministry regarding which their own senior naval official has claimed is incapable for even asking for the batteries for their submarines and secondly because of the poor and defunct technology of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, eventually leading to numerous accidents.

Moreover, according to various reports and the answers given by various former defence ministers to the parliament MiG 21 were among the biggest casualties with more than 177 peace time air crashes so far. However, almost after every accident a committee was for formulated which stated these aircrafts to be outdated based on a design of 1950s.

Since its induction or more precisely since 1970s more than 200 pilots have been killed in MiG 21 accidents, which also resulted in the deaths of 40 civilians and also earning a name “Flying Coffin” or “Widow Maker”.

Whereas IAF officially claims that pilot error were the main cause behind accidents, internal reports conclude otherwise stating technical defects and engine flameouts to be the cause behind the crashes further strengthening the speculation that India’s MiG fleet may have certainly outlived its service life.

Notwithstanding, in summer of 2013 within two months, two incidents of MiG 21 jet crash took place and that too both the jets crashed whilst attempting to land at the Uttarlai Air Base at the Bamer district of Rajasthan, and the height of incongruity was that the crash had been attributed again to pilot error and later an inquiry was commissioned.

However, the thing to mention here is that soon after the incident, Wing Commander Sangeet Singh Kaila, a serving officer from the IAf, who himself was a MiG 21 crash survivor petitioned the High court for scrapping the entire fleet of the MiG 21 because of their being vintage and other technical defects. He was involved in a crash during flight exercise in 2005.

The court later gave the verdict in his favor where he has alleged in his petition that poor maintenance work executed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which manufactured all the domestically made MIG jets, had contributed to the failure of his aircraft.

The Indian Air Force has inducted more than 1,200 MIG variants in its fleet since 1963, when it was first used by the military. Currently, at least 252 MIG-21s are known to be operational in the air force, according to the Indian military enthusiast site Bharat Rakshak, including the latest upgraded version, the Bison, the same upgraded version was being knocked by the Pakistan in the very recent dogfight between Pakistan and India and the same has been crashed a couple of days ago in Rajasthan but this time it was not the poor pilot but the poor bird behind the crash.

Nevertheless, truth be told it had certainly to be taken off service long ago even IAF pilots often joke around that it is just a hollow tube with an engine which flies very fast however, they also forget to spice up the joke that this hollow tube also lands very fast like 330-334- km/h.

The aircraft has exceeded its stress limit and recommended life and flying hours.

Premier Modi and his party won the office on the back and support of hopes that they will put India on the course to becoming a superpower and had also promised a modernize military, now again he and his party is on board with same outdated mantra very much like their so called modernized technology. But this time results are very clear already.

*Ubaid Ahmed, Independent Researcher. He can be reached at Ubaidtalks@gmail.com

Eurasia Review

1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (87 sites)


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The Trump Investigations Report: “Russian Intelligence, organized crime and political interference” – Google News: Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon – MaltaToday

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Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon  MaltaToday

In its annual threat assessment published on March 12, Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence *Service* (Efis) warned that France, Germany, and Italy are Russia’s main …

“Russian Intelligence, organized crime and political interference” – Google News

The Trump Investigations Report


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The Trump Investigations Report: “putin won US 2016 election” – Google News: Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon – MaltaToday

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Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon  MaltaToday

In its annual threat assessment published on March 12, Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence *Service* (Efis) warned that France, Germany, and Italy are Russia’s main …

“putin won US 2016 election” – Google News

The Trump Investigations Report


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Cambridge Analytica from Michael_Novakhov (4 sites): “cambridge analytica” – Google News: Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon – MaltaToday

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Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon  MaltaToday

In its annual threat assessment published on March 12, Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence *Service* (Efis) warned that France, Germany, and Italy are Russia’s main …

“cambridge analytica” – Google News

Cambridge Analytica from Michael_Novakhov (4 sites)


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1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites): “Russian elites” – Google News: Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon – MaltaToday

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Russia’s meddling strategy in Europe | Michael Falzon  MaltaToday

In its annual threat assessment published on March 12, Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence *Service* (Efis) warned that France, Germany, and Italy are Russia’s main …

“Russian elites” – Google News

1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites)


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1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites): Настоящее Время: Умер режиссер Марлен Хуциев

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В Москве умер режиссер и сценарист, народный артист СССР Марлен Хуциев. Ему было 93 года.

Марлен Хуциев умер в Боткинской больнице, куда его доставили на прошлой неделе с внутренним кровотечением. В конце 2018 года Хуциев отказался ложиться в больницу без жены Ирины Соловьевой, их госпитализировали вдвоем и поместили в одну палату. 5 января стало известно о смерти Соловьевой.

Хуциев родился в 1925 году в Тбилиси. В 1952 году окончил режиссерский факультет ВГИКа, работал режиссером на Одесской киностудии и киностудии имени Горького, с 1965 года – на “Мосфильме”.

Среди его картин – “Весна на Заречной улице” (совместно с Феликсом Миронером), “Два Федора”, “Застава Ильича”, “Послесловие”, “Бесконечность”, “Июльский дождь”, “И все-таки я верю…” . 

Его последней работой стала драма “Невечерняя”. Картина должна выйти в 2019 году. Это фильм-диалог двух писателей – Чехова и Льва Толстого – по всем главным русским вопросам. Хуциев выступил режиссером и сценаристом фильма.

За фильм “Застава Ильича” получил призы Венецианского кинофестиваля и фестиваля европейского кино в Риме. В 1999 году ему вручили специальный приз “Кинотавра” за выдающийся вклад в развитие российского кино, а в 2002 году – “Лавровую ветвь” за вклад в кинолетопись.

Режиссер награжден орденом “За заслуги перед Отечеством” II степени, орденом Почета, орденом Дружбы, государственной премией России. Лауреат кинофестивалей в Венеции, Риме, Праге, Берлине, Сочи.

Настоящее Время

1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites)


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1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites): World – TIME: An Orangutan Mother Was Blinded After Being Shot 74 Times With an Air Gun in Indonesia

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(SIBOLANGIT, Indonesia) — An orangutan mother has been blinded after being shot with at least 74 air gun pellets on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where threats to the endangered species have increased as the palm oil and paper industries shrink its jungle habitat.

An X-ray showed at least 74 air gun pellets in her body, including four in her left eye and two in the right, said veterinarian Yenny Saraswati with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program.

The great ape, named “Hope” by her rescuers, also had several wounds believed to have been caused by sharp objects, she said Monday. Hope also was recovering from surgery to repair a broken collarbone.

Villagers spotted the severely wounded orangutan in a farm in Aceh province’s Subulussalam district last week with her month-old baby, which was critically malnourished, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, who heads the Aceh provincial conservation agency.

The baby died as rescuers rushed the pair to a clinic in neighboring North Sumatra province’s Sibolangit district.

“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” Saraswati said, adding that only removed seven of the pellets were removed because the veterinarians prioritized the broken collarbone and the risk of infection that it posed.

The orangutan conservation program said the use of readily available air guns to shoot and kill wildlife, including orangutans, is a major problem in Indonesia.

It said in the last 10 years, it has treated more than 15 orangutans with a total of nearly 500 air gun pellets in their bodies.

Last year, an orangutan in the Indonesian part of Borneo died after being shot at least 130 times with an air gun, the second known killing of an orangutan that year.

A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans estimates their numbers have plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase.

Only around 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

World – TIME

1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites)


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1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites): World – TIME: ‘You Won’t Hear Me Speak His Name.’ Jacinda Ardern Says She Won’t Provide a Platform for Christchurch Killer

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(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) — New Zealand’s prime minister declared Tuesday she would do everything in her power to deny the accused mosque gunman a platform for elevating his white supremacist views, after the man dismissed his lawyer and opted to represent himself at his trial in the killings of 50 people.

“I agree that it is absolutely something that we need to acknowledge, and do what we can to prevent the notoriety that this individual seeks,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters. “He obviously had a range of reasons for committing this atrocious terrorist attack. Lifting his profile was one of them. And that’s something that we can absolutely deny him.”

She demurred about whether she wanted the trial to occur behind closed doors, saying that was not her decision to make.

“One thing I can assure you — you won’t hear me speak his name,” she said.

Later, in a passionate speech to Parliament, she urged the public to follow her lead and to avoid giving the gunman the fame he so obviously craves.

“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them,” she said. “He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.”

The shooter’s desire for attention was made clear in a manifesto sent to Ardern’s office and others before Friday’s massacre and by his livestreamed footage of his attack on the Al Noor mosque.

The video prompted widespread revulsion and condemnation. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million versions of the video during the first 24 hours, but Ardern expressed frustration that the footage remained online, four days later.

“We have been in contact with Facebook; they have given us updates on their efforts to have it removed, but as I say, it’s our view that it cannot — should not — be distributed, available, able to be viewed,” she said. “It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”

Arden said she had received “some communication” from Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on the issue. The prime minister has also spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the importance of a global effort to clamp down on the distribution of such material.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also urged world leaders to crack down on social media companies that broadcast terrorist attacks. Morrison said he had written to G-20 chairman Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling for agreement on “clear consequences” for companies whose platforms are used to facilitate and normalize horrific acts.

Lawyer Richard Peters, who was assigned to represent Brenton Harrison Tarrant at his initial court appearance on Saturday, told the New Zealand Herald that Tarrant dismissed him that day.

A judge ordered Tarrant to return to New Zealand’s High Court on April 5 for his next hearing on one count of murder, though he is expected to face additional charges. The 28-year-old Australian is being held in isolation in a Christchurch jail.

“He seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior,” Peters told the newspaper. “He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views.”

Peters did not return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Peters told the paper that Tarrant didn’t tell him why he wanted to represent himself. He said a judge could order a lawyer to assist Tarrant at a trial, but that Tarrant would likely be unsuccessful in trying to use it as a platform to put forward any extremist views.

Under New Zealand law, a trial is “to determine innocence or guilt,” Peters said. “The court is not going to be very sympathetic to him if he wants to use the trial to express his own views.”

Ardern previously has said her Cabinet had agreed in principle on tightening gun restrictions in New Zealand and those reforms would be announced next week. She also had announced an inquiry into the intelligence and security services’ failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans. There have been concerns intelligence agencies were overly focused on the Muslim community in detecting and preventing security risks.

New Zealand’s international spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, confirmed it had not received any relevant information or intelligence ahead of the shootings.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Ardern said there are justified questions and anger about how the attack could have happened in a place that prides itself on being open, peaceful and diverse.

“There are many questions that need to be answered and the assurance that I give you is that they will be,” she said. “We will examine what we did know, could have known or should have known. We cannot allow this to happen again.”

Meanwhile, Christchurch was beginning to return to a semblance of normalcy Tuesday. Streets near the hospital that had been closed for four days reopened to traffic as relatives and friends of the victims continued to stream in from around the world.

Thirty people were still being treated at the Christchurch hospital, nine of them in critical condition, said David Meates, CEO of the Canterbury District Health Board. A 4-year-old girl was transferred to a hospital in Auckland and is in critical condition. Her father is at the same hospital in stable condition.

Relatives of the dead are still anxiously awaiting word on when they can bury their loved ones. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible. Ardern has said authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday and police said authorities are working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they can.

Sheik Taj El-Din Hilaly, of Sydney, traveled to Sydney to attend and lead some of the funerals. Through a translator, he said he felt compelled to travel to Christchurch to support the grieving. A nationwide lockdown on mosques was imposed until Monday, which Hilaly said had upset Muslims whom he had visited in Auckland. Police continue to guard mosques across the country.

Grieving residents of this close-knit city have created makeshift memorials near the mosques the killer targeted and at the botanical gardens, where a mountain of flowers has grown by the day.

Janna Ezat, whose son, Hussein Al-Umari, was killed in the Al Noor mosque, visited the memorial at the gardens and became overwhelmed by the outpouring of love.

She knelt amid the flowers and wept, grabbing at daisies and lilies as though she might find her boy in them.

Ezat is comforted by reports that Hussein confronted the killer, charging at him after surviving the first spray of bullets.

“I’m very happy. I’m wearing white. We normally wear black,” she said. “But he is a hero and I am proud of him.”

World – TIME

1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites)


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1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites): FOX News: George Conway was turned down from job, jealous of wife, Trump campaign manager says

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President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale took a swipe at George Conway on Twitter Monday night, accusing the Republican lawyer and frequent Trump critic of being “jealous” of his wife’s success.

FOX News

1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites)


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1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites): Voice of America: In Thai Election, New ‘War Room’ Polices Social Media

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In Thailand’s election “war room,” authorities scroll through thousands of social media posts, looking for violations of laws restricting political parties’ campaigning on social media that activists say are among the most prohibitive in the world.

The monitors are on the look-out for posts that “spread lies, slander candidates, or use rude language,” all violations of the new electoral law, said Sawang Boonmee, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission, who gave a Reuters team an exclusive tour of the facility.

When they find an offending post, on, for example, Facebook, they print it out, date-stamp it, and file it in a clear plastic folder, to be handed over to the Election Commission and submitted to Facebook for removal.

“When we order content to be removed, we’ll reach out to the platforms, and they are happy to cooperate with us and make these orders efficient,” Sawang said.

Sawang said the tough electoral laws governing social media for the March 24 election, the first since a 2014 military coup, are a necessary innovation aimed at preventing manipulation that has plagued other countries’ elections in recent years.

“Other countries don’t do this. Thailand is ahead of the curve with regulating social media to ensure orderly campaigning and to protect candidates,” he said.

A Facebook representative said it reviewed requests from governments on a case-by-case basis.

“We have a government request process, which is no different in Thailand than the rest of the world,” the representative said.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Democracy advocates, worry the social media restrictions laid out by the military government may be impeding parties from freely campaigning.

The rules require that candidates and parties register social media handles and submit a post to the commission, stating what platform it will appear on and for how long.

Parties and candidates are only allowed to discuss policies, and posts that are judged to be misleading voters or that portray others negatively could see the party disqualified, or a candidate jailed for up to 10 years and banned from politics for 20.

Pongsak Chan-on, coordinator of the Bangkok-based Asia Network for Free and Fair Election (ANFREL), said the rules go far beyond combating “fake news” and raise questions about how free and fair the election will be.

“The rules are stricter than in any recent elections anywhere. They’re so detailed and strict that parties are obstructed,” he told Reuters.

‘Doesn’t Bode Well for Democracy’

The monitoring center, with a signboard reading “E-War Room,” has three rows of computers and stacks of printouts, with half a dozen workers spending eight hours a day searching for violations of the law.

Sawang said another intelligence center scanned for violations 24 hours a day but it was “off-limits” to media.

The election is broadly seen as a race between the military-backed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, and parties that want the military out of politics.

But the stringent rules have left anti-junta parties fretting about how to campaign online, nervous that they could inadvertently break a rule that triggers disqualification.

Up to now, the new rules have not been used to disqualify any candidates though the very threat has had a dampening effect and encouraged self-censorship.

“They create complications for parties,” said Pannika Wanich, spokeswoman for the new Future Forward Party, which has attracted support among young urban folk who have come of age on social media.

She said her party had to consult a legal team before making posts.

Some candidates have deactivated their Facebook pages while others have removed posts that might cause trouble.

Last month, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit faced disqualification over an allegation that he misled voters in his biography on the party’s website. The commission dismissed the case last week.

In another petition, the commission was asked to ban the party’s secretary-general for slandering the junta in a Facebook post.

“It’s very restrictive and doesn’t bode well for democracy,” said Tom Villarin, a Philippine congressman and member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). “Putting more restrictions on social media during a campaign season defeats the purpose of holding elections in the first place.”

Fighting Fake News

About 74 percent of Thailand’s population of 69 million are active social media users, putting Thais among the world’s top 10 users, according to a 2018 survey by Hootsuite and We Are Social.

Thailand is Facebook’s eighth biggest market with 51 million users, the survey showed.

Facebook said it has teams with Thai-language speakers to monitor posts and restricts electoral advertisements from outside the country.

“Combating false news is crucial to the integrity and safety of the Thailand elections,” said Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Global Politics and Government director, during a Bangkok visit in January.

Sawang said the election commission has also gained cooperation from Twitter and Japanese messaging app Line, used by 45 million Thais.

Line Thailand told Reuters it did not monitor chats for the election commission but helped limit fake news by showing only articles from “trusted publishers” on its news feature.

Voice of America

1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites)


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Global Security News from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: ‘Charshanbe Soori’: Iran’s Fire Festival – OpEd

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Iranians hold and celebrate many different events and festivals all year round.

“Charshanbe Soori,” is an ancient Persian “Festival of Fire” and one of the most beloved celebrations among the Iranian people. This festival has historic and ceremonial roots.

Iranians will hold the fire festival on March 19, 2019. It always begins at the sunset of the last Wednesday of the Persian year, which will happen this year, too.

In this ancient custom, they sing: “Sorkhie to az man, zardie man az to,” which means: “I give my ill to the fire and receive the redness and warmth from the fire.”

In this fire festival, ordinary Iranians pile tinder from bushes and pieces of wood in public places such as streets, alleys, and squares, and then set them alight. People gather around the bonfires and jump over them, with shouting. The intention is to hope for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year.

But it’s not only that.

The other reason is problematic for Iran’s detested rulers, because, with the help of fire, the people also recall tribulations. These include the long battle against dictatorship and the ignorance of reactionary forces throughout their history.

For Iranians today, this especially includes the 39-year dark era of the ruling mullahs in Iran, from 1979 until now. By the light of the fire, Iranians think about the true facts of their situation, and for many, the need to end this regime.

The fire is conducive to meditative thinking. So with the fire festival, it is not uncommon for Iranians to think of ending the repression, torture, executions and human rights abuses that have taken over their country, and contemplate how the arrival of spring, as the New Year begins, (on the 20th of March 2019) brings hopes for ending this regime forever.

The fire festival also has other customs. Spring housecleaning is carried out to welcome the new year. This year, many people hope the whole country will wipe out the regime for complete cleaning.

So with the fire festival, it is not uncommon for Iranians to think of ending the repression, torture, executions, and human rights abuses that have taken over their country and contemplate how the arrival of spring, as the New Year begins (on March 20, 2019) and brings hope for ending this regime forever.

In response to the festival this year, the mullahs and their security forces have put bans in place on fireworks, letting businesses know they can lose their licenses to do business.

These economic threats are meant to discourage people from buying fireworks to celebrate the festival. Additionally, checkpoints are being put in place, and the security forces are making it uncomfortable for individuals to gather to celebrate.

The MEK (the Farsi initials for the democracy-promoting People’s Mojahedin of Iran) inside Iran have called for mobilization by the Iranian people together with the “resistance units” during the celebration, marking the festival as an annual anti-regime event. They have made this fire festivity a platform for the uprising and to welcome the new year.

Statements issued by the prosecutors general and revolutionary prosecutors of various provinces and cities throughout Iran indicate that they are preparing for an influx of arrests. It’s so extreme that in many instances, they have declared the creation of a separate branch to deal with violations and possible crimes related to the fire festival.

I am not projecting as I describe the Iranian festival this way: during the past decades, the fire festival in cities across Iran became the scene of protests and expressions of outrage against the regime. Last year, the sound of exploding grenades and firecrackers was heard constantly in many cities, following the explosion of firecrackers by angry young Iranians. In this case, the regime’s agents blacked out a whole town where it happened, and the attack of security forces on people turned to confrontation. Then clashes broke out between the youths and regime’s mercenaries, who tried to disperse them.

But this year, the fire festival will be very different from that of last year, especially after protests that rocked Iran during the past 16 months. The regime is even more fearful of the fire festival this year and has issued harassing directives in the public media to deter the people from holding the customary annual celebration.

The mullahs not only fear more of the ongoing protests by Iranians throughout the country but fear new calls for a nationwide uprising to mark this particular celebration by the resistance units. Senior Iranian officials have also acknowledged the resistance units as the organizer of the recent flare-up of protests across the country. The upcoming fire festival and the calls for protest make the situation more crucial for the regime and its suppression forces.

With the coming heated fire festival, the people in Iran have this message to the regime now: “Fire is the symbol of our long battle against dictatorship, we are all altogether, and repression will not affect us.”

Any wonder the mullahs are afraid?

*Hassan Mahmoudi is a  human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.

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Global Security News from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: The Protests In Algeria – Analysis

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In the past few weeks, Algeria has been shaken by large-scale protests against the decision by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a fifth term. But apart from the immediate political reasons, the manifestations look like the symptom of deeper social strain caused by the country’s economic problems. Considering the challenges that Algeria is already facing in the form of terrorism and illicit traffic and that neighbouring Libya is still in chaos, a destabilization of Algeria would seriously impact the region and Europe alike.

The protests

The recent wave of popular unrest has started in late February, when incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would seek re-election for the fifth time. He has been uninterruptedly in power since 1999, when he managed to put an end to the bloody civil war that had ravaged Algeria during the so-called “Black Decade” of the 90s. Bouteflika systematically won all the subsequent elections, including the last one held in 2014; even though he did not campaign personally since he had suffered a stroke one year before.

As a matter of fact, he has rarely appeared in public since then. Now aged 82, Bouteflika remains officially in power and has decided to run again for the Presidency. Of course, many are sceptic about his ability to continue leading the country; and some suspect that he is actually just a façade President that the de facto rulers of Algeria exploit to dominate the country.

In this sense, the dynamic of the recent electoral bid is notable. Bouteflika did not submit is candidature in person, since he is currently in Switzerland for medical treatment; and following the protests he explained in a letter read on the national TV that he is going to run again, but just to preside an “inclusive national conference” before calling for anticipated elections to choose a new President. So, Bouteflika never appeared personally during the whole issue, letting his spokesmen to act on his behalf and raising doubts about who actually took these decisions.

Several important figures of the opposition did not submit their bid and various key political forces announced that they will boycott the election. In this context, Bouteflika was expected to win another term, and many are protesting against what they consider an unfair and not transparent election. In the wake of popular unrest, he decided to step down and withdrew his candidature. Yet, protests have continued going on. The fact is that the issueis more complex than it might seem at first sight, and go beyond purely political issues. The wave on social unrest looks like the result of the strained conditions of Algeria’s economy, itself a direct result of Bouteflika’s policies over the years.

Algeria’s social contract

When Bouteflika took power in 1999, Algeria was just coming out of years of civil war that had caused more than 100,000 casualties and had left the country socially divided. It was therefore imperative to bring better economic conditions to the Algerian people in order to restore social cohesion.

To achieve this goal, Bouteflika exploited the country’s main resources: oil and gas. Under this particular kind of “social contract”, he collected the revenues from the state-owned energy firm and redistributed them to the population in the form of generous subsidies. From a social point of view, this policy was successful in improving the people’s life conditions and in tackling the economic problems that had fomented the civil war; but from an economic perspective it has resulted into a typical state-dominated, hydrocarbon-centred and export-dependent economy marked by inefficiency, lack of competitiveness, corruption, inequality and high-public expenditures to sustain the subsidy system.

But like in similar cases like Venezuela this socio-economic model is very vulnerable to the fluctuations of oil & gas prices and is not sustainable in the long term. As of today, hydrocarbons continue to play a fundamental role in Algeria’s economy. At the end of 2010, the country hosted 12.2 thousand million barrels of oil, meaning the 16th largest proven reserves in the world.

But Algeria’s real strength is gas. In the same year, its stock amounted to 159.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which translates in the world’s 10th largest. Most notably, Algeria ranks third in the globe in terms of shale gas reserves; which is significant considering how US shale gas have deeply changed the global energy market – even though the American shale miracle is unlikely to repeat elsewhere due to various factors. Looking at Algeria’s macroeconomic outlook, hydrocarbons revenues account for more than 90% of exports, 30% of the GDP and 60% of the government’s budget.

This economic model functioned as long as the price of oil and gas was high: the state could collect revenues from energy exports and redistribute them to the population in the form of subsidies on basic goods and services. But following the fall of global hydrocarbon prices in 2014, Algeria was put under significant stress.

Once positive, its trade balance turned to a 9.5 billion dollars deficit in 2017. Algeria’s GDP grew of 3.7% in 2015, but two years later the figure shrunk to 1.4%. Public debt increased from 20.4% of the economy’s size in 2016 to 27.5% one year later, and external debt rose as well. But the most notable figure is probably the one about the government’s budget, whose deficit amounted to almost 10% of the GDP in 2017. These figures reflect the executive’s reaction to the declining hydrocarbon prices.

Since the income was no longer sufficient to cover the country’s high public expenditures, the government was forced to take emergency measures. In the immediate, it countered the problem by borrowing money and by using the considerable foreign currency reserves accumulated when the price of oil and gas was high.

However, this approach can only work in the short term, as the foreign currency stock will erode with time and debt will risk becoming too high; and the country’s economic fundamentals – especially in this difficult moment of low energy prices – do not allow to easily repay debts.

As such, the Algerian authorities have also recurred to other measures to stabilize the public finances, notably by gradually increasing taxes to bring more money in the state’s coffers and compensate the losses deriving from declining hydrocarbon revenues. However, this move was obviously unpopular, even more because it breaks Algeria’s longstanding social contract. Before, it was the state who paid for the subsidies; now, it is the citizens who pay for them. But this means that what Algerians receive from the state is largely given back to the government, thus diminishing the people’s purchasing power in real terms.

The other possible solution, namely reducing the subsidies, would also have negative effects on the standard of living of Algerians and would be even more unpopular since it is immediately felt in everyday life; so, the government has unsurprisingly refrained from lowering them.

The recent social unrest in Algeria is to be interpreted in the context of these complicated economic conditions, which include an unemployment rate of almost 12% in 2017. The people’s anger is not only driven by merely political reasons linked with Bouteflika’s bid for re-election and to the opposition to the de facto leaders of the country, but is also the result of economic problems.

Solving them demands careful yet resolute reforms to diversify the economy, attract investments and develop the private sector; but all this takes time, notably in a country like Algeria where decisions are slowly taken by consensus between the various stakeholders like the Presidency, the Armed Forces, the public energy company and the local oligarchs. This raises the risk of political instability in the country in the immediate future, which would have consequences for the whole region and for neighbouring Europe.

Conclusion: Algeria and stability

In geopolitical terms, Algeria is a vast country with a population of 42 million people that connects the Sahara-Sahel region with the Mediterranean. This has important implications. If social unrest became common and especially if the situation degenerated into another civil war, then a new hotbed of instability would appear in North Africa just next to Libya. Apart from the possible flow of refugees from its crowded coastal cities where most of the population is concentrated, having two intertwined conflict zones would be the ideal terrain for illicit activities.

It should not be forgotten that North African states like Algeria and especially war-torn Libya are the crossroad for the illegal flow of goods to Europe as well as for the migration routes originating from Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, several terrorist groups operate in the Sahara-Sahel region and in Algeria, but the country is also an important partner for Americans and Europeans in fighting Islamist groups. As such, stability in the country is essential to avoid it becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations.

For all these reasons, the evolution of the situation in Algeria is to be monitored in the coming weeks but also in the longer-term future. Even if the current wave of protests produces no negative effect, the economic problems at their base will not be solved anytime soon, meaning that the potential for instability will persist in the country for the years to come.

This article was originally used as a script for a video published by the YouTube channel KJ Vids.

*Alessandro Gagaridis is an independent International Relations analyst and owner of the website www.strategikos.it

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Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit commands a youthful urban following that lends his party credibility in a long-awaited election this month.

World

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Global Security News from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): 1. Podcasts from Michael_Novakhov (19 sites): NPR News Now: NPR News: 03-19-2019 1AM ET

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NPR News: 03-19-2019 1AM ET

Download audio: https://play.podtrac.com/npr-500005/npr-news.streaming.adswizz.com/2019/03/19/newscast010802.mp3?awCollectionId=500005&awEpisodeId=704683846&orgId=1&d=300&p=500005&story=704683846&t=podcast&e=704683846&ft=pod&f=500005

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Global Security News from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Pastukhov Floats Idea Of Joint Ukrainian-Russian Administration Of Crimea – OpEd

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Vladimir Pastukhov, one of the most insightful analysts of Russian affairs, says that neither Russia nor Ukraine can retreat from their current positions about Crimea. No conceivable Russian government will ever give Crimea back to Ukraine, and no Ukrainian government will ever drop its insistence that Crimea belongs to Kyiv.

Because that is so, the London-based Russian analyst says, it is time to think outside the box and consider the possibility of a joint Ukrainian-Russian administration of Crimea, an arrangement that would allow each side to claim that it was not backing down and prevent the Crimean situation from further poisoning life in Russia, Ukraine and the West.

In an essay on the Republic portal today, Portnikov says that “the most important thing that we have lost in this war and that makes peace today impossible is the ability to like those with whom one does not agree” and thus be in a position to examine problems on which there are deep divisions in an open and potentially fruitful way (republic.ru/posts/93300).

“The problem,” he continues, is not that with regard to Crimea it is impossible to agree because of diametrically opposed approaches to the problem. The problem is that not one of the proposed approaches for various reasons is acceptable.” Both sides have a basis for claims to the peninsula, and neither is prepared to recognize any merit in the claims of the other side.

However much one objects to what has happened, it is not possible to simply go back to the status quo ante; but it is also not likely that the world will tolerate an eternal war given that as long as the Crimean problem is not resolved in some way, the war, “at least a cold one,” will continue.

According to Pastukhov, “there are no simple solutions. And those who say ‘Crimea is ours’ are lying. And those who say that it is possible to go back to the past are foolish. And those who hope that all will wind down and be forgotten are deceiving themselves. This is an unusual situation.” Everywhere “there is a dead end.”

Consequently, the Russian analyst argues, “it requires unusual moves at that moment when conditions for its resolution arise.”

The pro-war party in Moscow has made two serious miscalculations. On the one hand, it assumed that after the annexation of Crimea, the rest of Ukraine would quickly disintegrate and fall into Moscow’s hands either fully or partially. And on the other, it believed that the West would complain for awhile but gradually come to terms with the new de facto situation.

But Ukraine has succeeded in surviving – that is its greatest achievement, Pastukhov says – and the West, fearful that changing the border in the case of Crimea could spark a series of similar changes and completely undermine the existing international order, has proven unexpectedly steadfast to principle.

As a result, “’the price of Crimea’ has turned out to be much higher” that many in Moscow thought five years ago, Pastukhov suggests.  It has turned out to be “one of the most significant geopolitical catastrophes in the history of Russia since the time of the formation of the Empire.” 

It has involved Russia in a war with the West that will go on forever and a war that because of its smaller resources, it cannot possibly win and may lose in ways that will cost it the territorial integrity of Russia itself.  “This is,” the analyst says, “worse than Afghanistan, albeit still less obvious and therefore still more dangerous.”

Nonetheless, neither Putin nor any future Russian government, except one installed by those who might defeat it militarily, will agree to give Crimea back to Ukraine; and Ukraine will not have the military strength to take it back from Russia. That means if disaster is to be avoided, some kind of compromise is necessary.

One possibility would be to transform Crimea into “an independent subject of international law operating under a mutual protectorate of Russia and Ukraine and with guarantees from the EU and the US.” That would save the face of both Moscow and Kyiv and avoid a humanitarian disaster in Crimea.

Arranging this would be difficult but perhaps not impossible. There would need to be an agreement on Crimea’s demilitarization and on Crimea’s functioning as a free zone, under joint administration. Of course, there would be enormous problems in getting to this point and sustaining it; but the possibility it could prevent a bigger disaster means it should be explored.

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Vladimir Pastukhov, one of the most insightful analysts of Russian affairs, says that neither Russia nor Ukraine can retreat from their current positions about Crimea. No conceivable Russian government will ever give Crimea back to Ukraine, and no Ukrainian government will ever drop its insistence that Crimea belongs to Kyiv.

Because that is so, the London-based Russian analyst says, it is time to think outside the box and consider the possibility of a joint Ukrainian-Russian administration of Crimea, an arrangement that would allow each side to claim that it was not backing down and prevent the Crimean situation from further poisoning life in Russia, Ukraine and the West.

In an essay on the Republic portal today, Portnikov says that “the most important thing that we have lost in this war and that makes peace today impossible is the ability to like those with whom one does not agree” and thus be in a position to examine problems on which there are deep divisions in an open and potentially fruitful way (republic.ru/posts/93300).

“The problem,” he continues, is not that with regard to Crimea it is impossible to agree because of diametrically opposed approaches to the problem. The problem is that not one of the proposed approaches for various reasons is acceptable.” Both sides have a basis for claims to the peninsula, and neither is prepared to recognize any merit in the claims of the other side.

However much one objects to what has happened, it is not possible to simply go back to the status quo ante; but it is also not likely that the world will tolerate an eternal war given that as long as the Crimean problem is not resolved in some way, the war, “at least a cold one,” will continue.

According to Pastukhov, “there are no simple solutions. And those who say ‘Crimea is ours’ are lying. And those who say that it is possible to go back to the past are foolish. And those who hope that all will wind down and be forgotten are deceiving themselves. This is an unusual situation.” Everywhere “there is a dead end.”

Consequently, the Russian analyst argues, “it requires unusual moves at that moment when conditions for its resolution arise.”

The pro-war party in Moscow has made two serious miscalculations. On the one hand, it assumed that after the annexation of Crimea, the rest of Ukraine would quickly disintegrate and fall into Moscow’s hands either fully or partially. And on the other, it believed that the West would complain for awhile but gradually come to terms with the new de facto situation.

But Ukraine has succeeded in surviving – that is its greatest achievement, Pastukhov says – and the West, fearful that changing the border in the case of Crimea could spark a series of similar changes and completely undermine the existing international order, has proven unexpectedly steadfast to principle.

As a result, “’the price of Crimea’ has turned out to be much higher” that many in Moscow thought five years ago, Pastukhov suggests.  It has turned out to be “one of the most significant geopolitical catastrophes in the history of Russia since the time of the formation of the Empire.” 

It has involved Russia in a war with the West that will go on forever and a war that because of its smaller resources, it cannot possibly win and may lose in ways that will cost it the territorial integrity of Russia itself.  “This is,” the analyst says, “worse than Afghanistan, albeit still less obvious and therefore still more dangerous.”

Nonetheless, neither Putin nor any future Russian government, except one installed by those who might defeat it militarily, will agree to give Crimea back to Ukraine; and Ukraine will not have the military strength to take it back from Russia. That means if disaster is to be avoided, some kind of compromise is necessary.

One possibility would be to transform Crimea into “an independent subject of international law operating under a mutual protectorate of Russia and Ukraine and with guarantees from the EU and the US.” That would save the face of both Moscow and Kyiv and avoid a humanitarian disaster in Crimea.

Arranging this would be difficult but perhaps not impossible. There would need to be an agreement on Crimea’s demilitarization and on Crimea’s functioning as a free zone, under joint administration. Of course, there would be enormous problems in getting to this point and sustaining it; but the possibility it could prevent a bigger disaster means it should be explored.

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Vladimir Pastukhov, one of the most insightful analysts of Russian affairs, says that neither Russia nor Ukraine can retreat from their current positions about Crimea. No conceivable Russian government will ever give Crimea back to Ukraine, and no Ukrainian government will ever drop its insistence that Crimea belongs to Kyiv.

Because that is so, the London-based Russian analyst says, it is time to think outside the box and consider the possibility of a joint Ukrainian-Russian administration of Crimea, an arrangement that would allow each side to claim that it was not backing down and prevent the Crimean situation from further poisoning life in Russia, Ukraine and the West.

In an essay on the Republic portal today, Portnikov says that “the most important thing that we have lost in this war and that makes peace today impossible is the ability to like those with whom one does not agree” and thus be in a position to examine problems on which there are deep divisions in an open and potentially fruitful way (republic.ru/posts/93300).

“The problem,” he continues, is not that with regard to Crimea it is impossible to agree because of diametrically opposed approaches to the problem. The problem is that not one of the proposed approaches for various reasons is acceptable.” Both sides have a basis for claims to the peninsula, and neither is prepared to recognize any merit in the claims of the other side.

However much one objects to what has happened, it is not possible to simply go back to the status quo ante; but it is also not likely that the world will tolerate an eternal war given that as long as the Crimean problem is not resolved in some way, the war, “at least a cold one,” will continue.

According to Pastukhov, “there are no simple solutions. And those who say ‘Crimea is ours’ are lying. And those who say that it is possible to go back to the past are foolish. And those who hope that all will wind down and be forgotten are deceiving themselves. This is an unusual situation.” Everywhere “there is a dead end.”

Consequently, the Russian analyst argues, “it requires unusual moves at that moment when conditions for its resolution arise.”

The pro-war party in Moscow has made two serious miscalculations. On the one hand, it assumed that after the annexation of Crimea, the rest of Ukraine would quickly disintegrate and fall into Moscow’s hands either fully or partially. And on the other, it believed that the West would complain for awhile but gradually come to terms with the new de facto situation.

But Ukraine has succeeded in surviving – that is its greatest achievement, Pastukhov says – and the West, fearful that changing the border in the case of Crimea could spark a series of similar changes and completely undermine the existing international order, has proven unexpectedly steadfast to principle.

As a result, “’the price of Crimea’ has turned out to be much higher” that many in Moscow thought five years ago, Pastukhov suggests.  It has turned out to be “one of the most significant geopolitical catastrophes in the history of Russia since the time of the formation of the Empire.” 

It has involved Russia in a war with the West that will go on forever and a war that because of its smaller resources, it cannot possibly win and may lose in ways that will cost it the territorial integrity of Russia itself.  “This is,” the analyst says, “worse than Afghanistan, albeit still less obvious and therefore still more dangerous.”

Nonetheless, neither Putin nor any future Russian government, except one installed by those who might defeat it militarily, will agree to give Crimea back to Ukraine; and Ukraine will not have the military strength to take it back from Russia. That means if disaster is to be avoided, some kind of compromise is necessary.

One possibility would be to transform Crimea into “an independent subject of international law operating under a mutual protectorate of Russia and Ukraine and with guarantees from the EU and the US.” That would save the face of both Moscow and Kyiv and avoid a humanitarian disaster in Crimea.

Arranging this would be difficult but perhaps not impossible. There would need to be an agreement on Crimea’s demilitarization and on Crimea’s functioning as a free zone, under joint administration. Of course, there would be enormous problems in getting to this point and sustaining it; but the possibility it could prevent a bigger disaster means it should be explored.

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Global Security News from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Ron Paul: Is Trump Really About To Attack Venezuela? – OpEd

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Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the last of the US
diplomats out of Venezuela, saying their presence was a “constraint” on
US policy toward the country. The wording seemed intended to convey the
idea that the US is about to launch military action to place a
Washington-backed, self-appointed politician to the presidency. Was it
just bluster, designed to intimidate? Or is the Trump Administration
really about to invade another country that has neither attacked nor
threatened the United States?

While US Administrations engaged
in “regime change” have generally tried to mask their real intentions,
this US-backed coup is remarkable for how honest its backers are being.
Not long ago the National Security Advisor to the president, John
Bolton, openly admitted that getting US companies in control of
Venezuelan oil was the Administration’s intent. Trump Administration
officials have gone so far as mocking the suffering of Venezuelans when a
suspiciously-timed nationwide power failure heightened citizens’
misery.

According to media reports, Vice President Mike Pence
is angry with the Venezuela coup leader, Juan Guaido, because he
promised the whole operation would be a cake walk – just like the
neocons promised us about Iraq. Guaido said hundreds of thousands of
protesters would follow him to the Colombian border to “liberate” US aid
trucks just over the border, but no one showed up. So Pompeo and the
neocons made up a lie that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s thugs
burned the aid trucks to prevent the people from getting relief from
their suffering. Even the pro-war New York Times finally admitted that
the Administration was lying: it was opposition protesters who burned
the trucks.

Was the US behind the take-down of Venezuela’s
power grid? It would not be the first time the CIA pulled such a move,
and US officials are open about the US goal of making life as miserable
as possible for average Venezuelans in hopes that they overthrow their
government.

Congress has to this point been strongly in favor
of President Trump’s “regime change” policy for Venezuela. Sadly, even
though our neocon foreign policy of interventionism has proven
disastrous – from Iraq to Libya to Syria and elsewhere – both parties in
Congress continue to act as if somehow this time they will get it
right. I have news for them, they won’t.

Even weak
Congressional efforts to remind the president that Congress must approve
military action overseas sound like war cries. In Rep. David N.
Cicilline’s (D-RI) statement introducing his “Prohibiting Unauthorized
Military Action in Venezuela Act” last week, he sounded more hawkish
than John Bolton or Elliott Abrams! The statement makes all the
arguments in favor of a US military attack on Venezuela and then – wink
wink – reminds the president he needs authorization beforehand. As if
that’s going to be a hard sell!

So is President Trump about to
attack Venezuela? At a recent US House hearing, one of the expert
witnesses testified that such an invasion would require between 100,000
and 150,000 US troops, going up against maybe three times that number of
Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq. With a lot of
jungle. All for a “prize” that has nothing to do with US security. If
the president makes such a foolish move he might find the current war
cheerleaders in the Democrat Party changing their tune rather quickly.
Let’s hope Trump changes his tune and returns to his promises of no more
regime change wars.


This article was published by RonPaul Institute.

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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Ron Paul: Is Trump Really About To Attack Venezuela? – OpEd

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Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the last of the US
diplomats out of Venezuela, saying their presence was a “constraint” on
US policy toward the country. The wording seemed intended to convey the
idea that the US is about to launch military action to place a
Washington-backed, self-appointed politician to the presidency. Was it
just bluster, designed to intimidate? Or is the Trump Administration
really about to invade another country that has neither attacked nor
threatened the United States?

While US Administrations engaged
in “regime change” have generally tried to mask their real intentions,
this US-backed coup is remarkable for how honest its backers are being.
Not long ago the National Security Advisor to the president, John
Bolton, openly admitted that getting US companies in control of
Venezuelan oil was the Administration’s intent. Trump Administration
officials have gone so far as mocking the suffering of Venezuelans when a
suspiciously-timed nationwide power failure heightened citizens’
misery.

According to media reports, Vice President Mike Pence
is angry with the Venezuela coup leader, Juan Guaido, because he
promised the whole operation would be a cake walk – just like the
neocons promised us about Iraq. Guaido said hundreds of thousands of
protesters would follow him to the Colombian border to “liberate” US aid
trucks just over the border, but no one showed up. So Pompeo and the
neocons made up a lie that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s thugs
burned the aid trucks to prevent the people from getting relief from
their suffering. Even the pro-war New York Times finally admitted that
the Administration was lying: it was opposition protesters who burned
the trucks.

Was the US behind the take-down of Venezuela’s
power grid? It would not be the first time the CIA pulled such a move,
and US officials are open about the US goal of making life as miserable
as possible for average Venezuelans in hopes that they overthrow their
government.

Congress has to this point been strongly in favor
of President Trump’s “regime change” policy for Venezuela. Sadly, even
though our neocon foreign policy of interventionism has proven
disastrous – from Iraq to Libya to Syria and elsewhere – both parties in
Congress continue to act as if somehow this time they will get it
right. I have news for them, they won’t.

Even weak
Congressional efforts to remind the president that Congress must approve
military action overseas sound like war cries. In Rep. David N.
Cicilline’s (D-RI) statement introducing his “Prohibiting Unauthorized
Military Action in Venezuela Act” last week, he sounded more hawkish
than John Bolton or Elliott Abrams! The statement makes all the
arguments in favor of a US military attack on Venezuela and then – wink
wink – reminds the president he needs authorization beforehand. As if
that’s going to be a hard sell!

So is President Trump about to
attack Venezuela? At a recent US House hearing, one of the expert
witnesses testified that such an invasion would require between 100,000
and 150,000 US troops, going up against maybe three times that number of
Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq. With a lot of
jungle. All for a “prize” that has nothing to do with US security. If
the president makes such a foolish move he might find the current war
cheerleaders in the Democrat Party changing their tune rather quickly.
Let’s hope Trump changes his tune and returns to his promises of no more
regime change wars.


This article was published by RonPaul Institute.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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