Wednesday, 13 March 2019

United States wants global oil industry to support its foreign policy agenda

According to a Reuters news, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has urged the global oil industry to work with President Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe and to punish the “bad actors” on the world stage. He was addressing the participants of a conference in Houston, where U.S. oil and gas executives, energy luminaries and officials of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) gather annually to discuss global energy development.
Pompeo said, “Washington would use all its economic tools to help deal with the situation in Venezuela, which is mired in a years-long economic crisis and where socialist President Nicolas Maduro is maintaining power despite being disavowed by the US and about 50 other countries”.
The US has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran. Washington re-imposed oil sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities. “We’re committed to bringing Iranian crude oil exports to zero as quickly as market conditions will permit,” said Pompeo.
He went on to the extent of saying, “We need to roll up our sleeves and compete – by facilitating investment, encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing bad actors.” He also declared, “U.S. oil and gas export boom had given the country the ability to meet energy demand.”
Referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe, Pompeo warned, “We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the NordStream II project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies.”
Pompeo also met with top oil executives for about an hour to try to persuade energy companies to help the administration’s efforts to boost crude exports to Asia and to support its policy of isolating Iran. The US seems adamant at making significant progress on a Middle East security alliance over the next few months. The alliance is an attempt to form a US-backed bloc of Sunni Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait as a bulwark against Shi’ite Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Pompeo criticized China for “blocking energy development in the South China Sea through coercive means,” which he said prevents Southeast Asian countries from accessing more than US$2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves.
Pompeo also termed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

“UK should freeze arms sales to Israel”, demands Jeremy Corbyn

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn renewed his call for a British arms embargo against Israel after a United Nations Human Rights Council commission of inquiry said that IDF has likely committed war crimes on the Gaza border.
“The UK government must unequivocally condemn the killings and freeze arms sales to Israel,” Corbyn tweeted on Friday. Last year, the Labour Party approved a motion that called for an arms ban to Israel.
The 22-page report investigated the death of 189 Palestinians by the IDF during the Hamas-led weekly Great March of Return protests which have taken place along the Gaza border.

The UNHRC report was authored by a three-person commission of inquiry, which plans to submit a full report prior to a March 18 debate on the matter at the UNHRC’s 40th session in Geneva.

The report focused primarily on Israeli and not Hamas violence, and concluded that the protests were peaceful. It warned that the International Criminal Court could prosecute Israeli leaders and soldiers.

Last year, the UNHRC passed a resolution which called on all UN member states to halt the sale of any arms to Israel that could be used to violate international human rights law. United States special envoy Jason Greenblatt attacked the UNHRC report on Gaza in a series of tweets.

“This [commission of inquiry] report is another manifestation of the UNHRC’s clear bias against Israel, which remains the only country that the Council dedicates an entire standing agenda item to targeting. When will the HRC speak the truth?” he wrote.
Hamas behaved with reckless irresponsibility [and] disregard for human life when it incited violent (not ‘civilian’) protests, breaches [and] attacks at the Gaza fence-line,” Greenblatt wrote. “Hamas is directly responsible for the miserable situation of the people of Gaza.”

Israel has rejected the report and holds that the protests are violent riots led by Hamas members.

During those riots, Palestinians in Gaza have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers. The protesters have attempted to breach the border fence and have placed explosive devices by the fence. Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary devices into Israel, burning thousands of dunams of fields and forests.

Republican lawmakers in the US also spoke out against the report and in support of Israel’s right to self-defense.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, was among those who issued a statement on the matter.

“This one-sided, highly biased and woefully inaccurate report fails to take into account key facts; most evidently, Hamas’s provocation and orchestration of this violence, its purposeful destabilization of order along the border and its continued incursions into Israel’s sovereign soil, including the launching of over 10,000 rockets and mortars on Israeli towns and villages, and the dozens of tunnels, enabling their death squads, since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza,” Zeldin wrote.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

“Warsaw meeting a failure for Arabs”, says Nuri al-Maliki

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the Warsaw conference an “open failure” for Arabs, saying the meeting was primarily intended to deflect attention from the Israeli aggressions in the region to a focus on Iran, according to an ISNA report.
Speaking on Alahad TV, Maliki warned about the aims of the conference and its danger for the entire region.
The Warsaw meeting, co-hosted by the U.S. and Poland was intended to isolate Iran but it ended in failure as major European countries sent low level officials to the meeting and criticized the U.S. for trying to demonize Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who initially announced that the conference was intended to highlight what he called Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” in the region, was forced to change the agenda of the conference when he faced pressure from Europe and others.
Noting that such moves threaten Iraq and all other regional states, Maliki said the Warsaw conference revealed the “secret relationship” between certain Arab states with the Zionist regime which has been existing since some years ago.
The former prime minister praised the Iraqi government’s position on the conference and its refusal to participate in it.
Citing a story, Maliki said when he was prime minister a foreign minister from an Arab country proposed establishment of “the Middle East economic system” in which Israel would be a member.
 “I told the Arab minister that Iraq will not be party to any organization which Israel would be a member,” explained Maliki.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Hidden agenda of Warsaw Summit

The US decision to host a Middle East conference in Warsaw was a curious diplomatic occasion. A question came to mind, why is this gathering of mainly Western and Arab governments being held in the Polish capital? Poland, which co-hosted the conference, is not known for its involvement in the Middle East's myriad problems.
Some analysts believe that Poland is an active member of the Nato and its dark history at the hands of Russia gives good reasons to get closer to Washington. Indeed some Poles are eager to see a large fully-fledged US military base on their soil. But one is left with the nagging thought that this meeting was in Poland primarily for one reason - none of Washington's other close partners in Europe were eager to host it.
This gathering was arranged by the Americans to have an international meeting to increase the pressure on Tehran. But this idea was quickly revised since there was little enthusiasm among some of Washington's Western European allies. Indeed it became evident that putting the spotlight on Iran might simply highlight the divisions in the Western camp in the wake of the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the nuclear agreement - the JCPOA - with Tehran.
Therefore, the agenda was broadened to "Promoting a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East". Iran was not named on the agenda, but included broader issues like humanitarian and refugee challenges, missile proliferation and 21st Century threats like cyber and terrorism.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was also not on the agenda, because Palestinians were not attending since they are boycotting the Trump administration.
The US was likely represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but Vice-President Mike Pence and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, (architect of the administration's yet to be revealed Middle East peace plan) would also probably attend. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was also expected to be there - at least for the opening session. Other major European players were likely to be represented at a lower level.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was most likely to be there along with representatives of several Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, along with Egypt and Tunisia.
The summit was termed the first major diplomatic gathering where Israel and the moderate Arab States would discuss regional security since the Madrid talks during the early 1990s. Some aspects of the peace process will inevitably come up but Iran is still likely to be a major area of discussion.
There is a fundamental division amongest the participants here. The US, Israel and many of the moderate Arab States see Iran as a malevolent influence in the region, seeking to expand its role at every opportunity. They were skeptical about the 2015 nuclear deal that was intended to constrain Iran's nuclear activities.
Netanyahu is likely to argue that Iran should not be looked at through the prism of divisions between the US and Europe over the nuclear deal. Instead he will argue that it is European values that are at stake. Iran's behavior - its support for terrorism; its human rights abuses, the detention of foreign nationals - are all issues that should matter to European governments.
It is certainly true that foreign ministries in London, Paris and Germany are concerned about Iran's regional behavior and its developing missile programs. But there is uncertainty about quite what to do about them. For the Europeans, maintaining what they see as the nuclear deal's brakes on Iran's nuclear activities is the paramount concern. For Washington, Israel and the moderate Arabs this is insufficient.
But Europe is distracted by Brexit and a host of other issues. Persistent tensions with the Trump administration and the US president's erratic policy decisions - the move to pull US forces out of Syria and the threatened draw-down in Afghanistan for example - only make matters worse. The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is perceived unreliability of Washington in many European eyes. This gathering may tell us just as much about the divisions in the Western camp which seem to be getting worse rather than better.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

United States Godfathering Mutiny in Venezuela

According to a Reuters report, United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military, urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him.
The Trump administration expects further military defections from Maduro’s side, despite only a few senior officers having done so since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, earning the recognition of the United States and dozens of other countries.
One of the officials accepting US offer said, “We believe these to be those first couple pebbles before we start really seeing bigger rocks rolling down the hill. We’re still having conversations with members of the Maduro regime, with military members, although those conversations are very, very limited.”
The official declined to provide details on the discussions or the level at which they are being held, and it was unclear whether such contacts could create cracks in the Venezuelan socialist leader’s support from the military, which is pivotal to his grip on power.
With the Venezuelan military still apparently loyal to Maduro, a source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has laid enough groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks where many officers are suspected of benefiting from corruption and drug trafficking.
Members of the South American country’s security forces fear they or their families could be targeted by Maduro if they defect, so the U.S. would need to offer them something that could outweigh those concerns, said representative of an American think tank in Washington.
The U.S. government also sees European allies as likely to do more to prevent Maduro from transferring or hiding Venezuela government assets held outside the country.
Major European countries have joined the United States in backing Guaido but they have stopped short of the sweeping oil sanctions and financial measures that Washington has imposed.
At the same time, the Trump administration is readying further possible sanctions on Venezuela.
Previous rounds have targeted dozens of Venezuelan military and government officials, including Maduro himself, and last month finally hit the OPEC member’s vital oil sector. But the administration has stopped short of imposing so-called “secondary” sanctions, which would punish non-U.S. companies for doing business with the Venezuela government or the state oil monopoly PDVSA.
It is believed that Washington is using all available tools to apply pressure on Maduro and his associates to accept a legitimate democratic transition.
The U.S. government is also weighing possible sanctions on Cuban military and intelligence officials accused of helping Maduro remain in power.
Maduro’s government has accused Guaido of staging a U.S. directed coup.
Guaido has actively courted members of the military with promises of amnesty and preferential legal treatment if they disavow Maduro and disobey his orders, and Washington this week raised the prospect of dropping sanctions on senior Venezuelan officers if they recognize Guaido.
Maduro still has the support of the military high command, and now routinely appears in pre-recorded events at military bases where officers stand behind him and chant triumphal slogans such as “Loyal always, traitors never.”

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

US assault against Venezuela could initiate another proxy war

Reportedly, United States President Trump, Vice President Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton have escalated threats to launch a war against Venezuela, as large pro- and anti-government demonstrations filled Venezuela’s streets on Saturday.
In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that aired before the Super Bowl, Trump reiterated that military intervention “is an option.” Pence assured a crowd of far-right Venezuelan exiles in Miami that “this is no time for dialogue, it is the moment for action, and the time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all… Those looking on should know this: all options are on the table.”
Bolton, who helped author the playbook that was used to launch the 2003 invasion of Iraq, issued a blunt threat Friday that the US would kill or jail and torture Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro if he did not resign. Comparing Maduro to Nicolae Ceaușescu and Benito Mussolini—both of whom were killed—Bolton told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt: “The sooner he takes advantage of that [resignation], the sooner he’s likely to have a nice quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantanamo.”
Self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó, the US and their allies in South America and Europe are preparing a new provocation aimed at forcing the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro, with Guaidó announcing that the US will deliver aid at three locations along the Venezuelan border in the coming days.
While Maduro and the Venezuelan military leadership have said they will refuse the aid, the US hopes that images of crowds gathering to receive food and medication will either provoke the military to defect to the opposition and help distribute the aid or provide valuable propaganda footage justifying the need for a “humanitarian” intervention.
As the Council on Foreign Relations’ O’Neil said, “If it [sanctions] doesn’t work in dislodging this regime, then there’s not a lot left in the toolkit besides things like military intervention.”
A military intervention in Venezuela with a population 30 million could kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people and transform Latin America into an imperialist slaughterhouse.
The geopolitical intelligence think tank Stratfor recently noted, “A military intervention could quickly snowball into one of the largest worldwide military operations since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
Francisco Toro, a Washington Post columnist and anti-Maduro think tank analyst, told the Council on Foreign Relations gathering that a military intervention would lead to “a kind of Syrian civil war” and confrontation between nuclear-armed powers.
There is definite threat that if US military operation starts against Venezuela, other countries will also move. This may include Brazil moving into the southeast, Colombia into the southwest. Russia to defend its oil interests in Venezuela and Cuba has already intelligence penetration into the Venezuelan armed forces.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Making of Juan Guaidó in the regime change laboratory of United States

Before the fateful day of January 22, less than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution.
But after a single phone call from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.
Echoing the Washington consensus, the New York Times editorial board hailed Guaidó as a “credible rival” to Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though, he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrated his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.
“Juan Guaidó is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” says Marco Teruggi, an Argentinian sociologist and leading chronicler of Venezuelan politics. “It’s the logic of a laboratory – Guaidó is like a mixture of several elements that create a character that in all honesty, oscillates between laughable and worrying.”
Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan journalist and writer for the investigative outlet, Mision Verdad says, “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles,” Sequera remarked, “He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”
While Guaidó is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited inside Venezuela, and is held partly responsible for fragmenting a badly weakened opposition.
“‘These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s leading pollster. According to Leon, Guaidó’s party remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war. ‘What they want is a solution.’”
But this is precisely why Guaidó was selected by Washington; he is not expected to lead Venezuela towards to democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two-decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.
Since the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, the United States has fought to restore control over Venezuela and is vast oil reserves. Chavez’s socialist programs may have redistributed the country’s wealth and helped lift millions out of poverty, but they also earned him a target on his back. In 2002, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition briefly ousted him with US support and recognition before the military restored his presidency following a mass popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chavez survived numerous assassination plots before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life.
The Trump administration has elevated Venezuela to the top of Washington’s regime change target list, branding it the leader of a “troika of tyranny.”Last year, Trump’s national security team attempted to recruit members of the military brass to mount a military junta, but that effort failed. Reportedly, the US was also involved in a plot codenamed Operation Constitution to capture Maduro at the Miraflores presidential palace, and another called Operation Armageddon to assassinate him at a military parade in July 2017. Just over a year later, exiled opposition leaders tried and failed to kill Maduro with drone bombs during a military parade in Caracas.
The “real work” began two years later, in 2007, when Guaidó graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund who spent more than a decade working in Venezuelan energy sector under the oligarchic old regime that was ousted by Chavez.
The following year, Goicochea was rewarded for his efforts with the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, along with a $500,000 prize, which he promptly invested into building his own Liberty First (Primero Justicia) political network.
Friedman, of course, was the godfather of the notorious neoliberal Chicago Boys who were imported into Chile by dictatorial junta leader Augusto Pinochet to implement policies of radical “shock doctrine”-style fiscal austerity. And the Cato Institute is the libertarian Washington DC-based think tank founded by the Koch Brothers, two top Republican Party donors who have become aggressive supporters of the right-wing across Latin America.
The alleged Fiesta Mexicana plot flowed into another destabilization plan revealed in a series of documents produced by the Venezuelan government. In May 2014, Caracas released documents detailing an assassination plot against President Nicolás Maduro. The leaks identified the Miami-based Maria Corina Machado as a leader of the scheme. A hardliner with a penchant for extreme rhetoric, Machado has functioned as an international liaison for the opposition, visiting President George W. Bush in 2005.
The collapse of Popular Will under the weight of the violent campaign of destabilization it ran alienated large sectors of the public and wound much of its leadership up in exile or in custody. Guaidó had remained a relatively minor figure, having spent most of his nine-year career in the National Assembly as an alternate deputy. Hailing from one of Venezuela’s least populous states, Guaidó came in second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning just 26% of votes cast in order to secure his place in the National Assembly. Indeed, his bottom may have been better known than his face.
Guaidó is known as the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, but he was never elected to the position. The four opposition parties that comprised the Assembly’s Democratic Unity Table had decided to establish a rotating presidency. Popular Will’s turn was on the way, but its founder, Lopez, was under house arrest. Meanwhile, his second-in-charge, Guevara, had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy. A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.   
“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people. Also, he had not been overexposed in the media, so he could be built up into pretty much anything.”
In December 2018, Guaidó sneaked across the border and junketed to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during the inauguration of President Maduro. The night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony, both Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called Guaidó to affirm their support.
A week later, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart – all lawmakers from the Florida base of the right-wing Cuban exile lobby – joined President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House. At their request, Trump agreed that if Guaidó declared himself president, he would back him. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met personally with Guaidó on January 10, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Guaidó might have been an obscure figure, but his combination of radicalism and opportunism satisfied Washington’s needs. “That internal piece was missing,” a Trump administration said of Guaidó. “He was the piece we needed for our strategy to be coherent and complete.”
“For the first time,” Brownfield, the former American ambassador to Venezuela, gushed to the New York Times, “you have an opposition leader who is clearly signaling to the armed forces and to law enforcement that he wants to keep them on the side of the angels and with the good guys.”
But Guaidó’s Popular Will party formed the shock troops of the guarimbas that caused the deaths of police officers and common citizens alike. He had even boasted of his own participation in street riots. And now, to win the hearts and minds of the military and police, Guaido had to erase this blood-soaked history.
On January 21, a day before the coup began in earnest, Guaidó’s wife delivered a video address calling on the military to rise up against Maduro.
At a press conference before supporters four days later, Guaidó announced his solution to the crisis: “Authorize a humanitarian intervention!”