WORTHLESS ‘SHIT’ COUNTRIES & REGIMES OF US/UK/EU CONTINUE TO DEFY INTERN’AL LAW & WHO. IT IS THE EQUIVALENT OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.

Amid War Threats, Washington Blocks UN Resolution Demanding End to Sanctions

By Bill Van Auken
Source: World Socialist Web Site

AMID WAR THREATS, WASHINGTON BLOCKS UN RESOLUTION DEMANDING END TO SANCTIONS

Washington and its allies Thursday killed a United Nations resolution calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions that are severely impeding efforts to combat the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution was drafted by Russia and co-sponsored by 28 other member states. In addition to backing the call by the World Health Organization for an internationally coordinated campaign against the deadly virus, it appealed for all countries to “refrain from raising trade barriers, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing protectionist and discriminatory measures inconsistent with the WTO [World Trade Organization] rules as well as not to apply any unilateral coercive measures undertaken without the mandate of the Security Council.”

Under rules adopted by the UN with the General Assembly not in session, approval of resolutions requires unanimous consent. Joining the US in blocking the resolution were the European Union and the United Kingdom, along with the right-wing anti-Russian governments of Ukraine and Georgia.

Following the vote late Thursday, the Russian mission to the UN issued a statement declaring, “We regret that a small group of states championing sanctions-based policy appeared unready to respond to the call of the UN Secretary-General and refused to cast aside politicized approaches and interests.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres on Wednesday issued a report on the COVID-19 pandemic which, in part, stated that “Sanctions imposed on countries should be waived to ensure access to food, essential supplies and access to COVID-19 tests and medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”

In place of the Russian-drafted resolution, the General Assembly approved a version vetted by Washington which issued a toothless call for “solidarity,” while ignoring the issues of sanctions against oppressed countries and the trade war and protectionist measures that effectively preclude any genuine international approach to the pandemic.

The US delegation failed, however, in its attempt to get the UN to label the pandemic as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus, a theme pushed by the Trump administration to exploit the crisis to further US imperialism’s geo-strategic confrontation with Beijing and to divert attention from the abject failure of the US government to either prepare for or mount an adequate response to the increasingly uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus throughout the US population.

Despite worldwide calls for sanctions relief, Washington has only escalated the unilateral and illegal sanctions that it has imposed upon Iran and Venezuela, so-called “maximum pressure” regimes that are tantamount to a state of war. The US imposed new sanctions against both countries last month.

Iran, with an officially reported 53,183 COVID-19 cases and 3,294 deaths—both believed to be major underestimates of the real ravages of the disease—is suffering one of the highest fatality rates in the world. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Thursday.

Even before the pandemic, the country’s health care system was groaning under the impact of sweeping sanctions that have prevented the country from buying essential medicines and medical supplies on the world market, leading to the deaths of many suffering from cancer and other diseases. The Trump administration has repeatedly made the cynical claim that humanitarian supplies are exempted under its “maximum pressure” campaign, but the reality is that access has been effectively blocked with the blacklisting Iran’s central bank and the threat of third-party sanctions against anyone conducting financial transactions with the country.

Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences released a blistering statement directed to the UN Secretary General on Thursday declaring that the UN and the WHO, “which claim to defend the rights of humanity, have taken no effective measures to lift the cruel sanctions against our dear children, women, men and patients.”

Denouncing the US for its escalating sanctions, the statement continued: “It is certain that history will judge the ineffectiveness and silence of international organizations claiming protection of international law and human rights against such crimes. These institutions have become toothless, if not complicit, and we will undoubtedly see the unraveling of our world order because of this refusal to take action against crass violations of international and humanitarian law by the U.S. regime.”

On Wednesday, Trump issued an explicit threat of military aggression against Iran, claiming, without providing a shred of evidence, that Iran “or its proxies” in Iraq were plotting a “sneak attack” on “US troops and/or assets in Iraq,” and threatening that Iran would “pay a very heavy price.”

The Pentagon has deployed Patriot missile batteries to Iraq, over the protests of the Iraqi government, whose parliament voted in January, in the wake of the US drone assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran’s most senior leaders, at Baghdad international airport, for a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of US troops occupying the country. Baghdad has opposed the missile deployments, seeing them as potential preparation for an all-out war that could turn war-battered Iraq itself into a battlefield yet again.

Threats against Venezuela, the target of equally punishing sanctions have been even more explicit, with Trump announcing Wednesday that US Navy warships and other assets are being deployed to the Venezuelan coast on the pretext of combatting drug trafficking. The announcement followed a US Justice Department indictment of the Venezuelan president and other top officials on trumped-up drug-related charges, replete with the issuing of “Wanted” posters placing a $15 million bounty on Maduro’s head.

The threat of military violence follows the imposition of yet another round of sanctions against Venezuela last month.

Thus far, Venezuela has reported only 146 confirmed cases and five deaths, but the crisis of the country’s health care system under the impact of US sanctions threatens to turn the pandemic into a death sentence against countless numbers of workers and poor.

The flailing militarist threats of the White House, a desperate bid to divert growing anger over the catastrophic failure of the US government to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, have provoked signs of dissension within the Pentagon as the military brass faces the threat of the pandemic sweeping through military units operating in close quarters, including on ships and overseas deployments.

The magazine Foreign Policy posted an article on its website Friday reporting that “The U.S. Defense Department has pushed back sharply against President Donald Trump’s decision to send a phalanx of naval assets to interdict drug shipments in the Caribbean Sea.” It cited officials as saying that the deployment was “all politics” and came at a time in which the Pentagon was “pausing some deployments due to the impacts of COVID-19.”

It also follows the firestorm over the outbreak of coronavirus on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the sacking of its commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, for demanding that the Navy address the crisis by providing quarantine facilities for the more than 4,000 sailors aboard the ship who had been exposed to the deadly virus.

Crozier was sacked after his appeal to the Navy, which insisted, “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our sailors,” was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Justifying his decision to relieve Crozier of his command, acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly— installed after the former secretary, Richard Spencer, was fired in connection with Trump’s pardoning of the convicted war criminal Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher—said that his plea “created the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job and it’s just not true.”

The captain’s plea, issued in the face of the refusal of the Navy or the Trump administration to take any action, was indeed true in relation not only to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, but to the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as a whole.

The response of his own crew was made clear by videos posted on Facebook early Friday showing several hundred sailors massing in an airplane hangar and chanting his name as he walked down a gangplank from the vessel.

An online petition posted on change.org demanding Crozier’s reinstatement gathered 150,000 signatures within barely 24 hours. Among those signing were members of his crew, Navy veterans and relatives of active-duty sailors.

One sailor wrote, “He’s my CO and I want him to know he did right by us, even if it won’t bring him back.”

Another signer stated, “The Captain’s primary job is to protect the health and well-being of his crew. Captain Crozier did this. And he was punished. In contrast, soldiers convicted of war crimes are pardoned by Trump. That is appalling and wrong. The world is upside down.”

And a third wrote, “Just because his chain of command was prepared to let the ship become a floating morgue he was not.”

US backed the wrong guy -Juan Guaidó implicated in terrorist plot & aid funding theft.

Mike Pompeo’s ‘democratic plan’ for Venezuela and Juan Guaidó’s alleged involvement in terrorist regime change operations

After bizarrely placing Nicolás Maduro top of a wanted list on charges of drug trafficking, the Trump administration then unveiled a so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ that calls for the ouster of the Venezuelan President in exchange for a five-person “Council of State”.

Irrespective of the hardships already suffered by the people of Venezuela under the current sanctions programme, and heedless to a worsening situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the US is threatening “increased” sanctions if Venezuela does not comply.

Yesterday, Aaron Maté from The Grayzone spoke to Latin America policy analyst and campaigner with CodepinkLeonardo Flores, about the latest US effort to starve Venezuelans into submission in order to force a regime change.

Towards the end of the interview, Leonardo Flores describes the extraordinary revelations of Cliver Alcalá, who is one of those indicted by the US Department of Justice on accusations of narco-trafficking. Shortly after the DOJ press conference ended, Alcalá actually confessed on Twitter that he was involved in plots including terrorist attacks to overthrow Maduro.

Additionally, he said weapons confiscated by Colombian police were paid for with money provided by Juan Guaidó. However, Alcalá was not only implicating Washington’s choice for Venezuelan President, Juan Guaidó, scandalously seen photographed with members of the infamous Los Rastrojos drug cartel, but also an unspecified number of US advisors, who he claims met with him on no less than seven different occasions. Alcalá has now been turned over to US authorities.

The transcript of the interview below is mine [interview begins at 1:50 mins].

Aaron Maté: What is your reaction to this so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ from Pompeo?

Leonardo Flores: My reaction really is bewilderment. Because a few days ago, as you just said, the Department of Justice unveiled indictments against Maduro and 13 other former and current government officials and members of the military; immediately ramping up the pressure. And then this transition proposal seems to be kind of a step back.

First of all it’s a total non-starter. It’s not going to go anywhere. It wasn’t negotiated with anyone in Venezuela on the side of the government. It’s a plan that supposedly came from Juan Guaidó in part, but really it’s been designed in the State Department itself.

AM: The thinking here in the White House, what do you think it is? They’ve been trying now for more than a year to overthrow Maduro. They’ve tried to spark some military uprisings. It hasn’t worked. Now they’ve shifted to this bounty last week on Maduro’s head. Wat do you think is the strategy going on inside Washington? What are they hoping to achieve with these narco charges against Maduro, and now this new so-called plan?

LF: Well, in a sense they’re just trying to throw everything at the wall to just see what sticks. But, particularly with this plan, I think it’s to alleviate the pressure that’s coming on them due to the sanctions.

We’ve seen everyone from the UN to the EU to other multilateral organisations and NGOs call for a lifting of the sanctions. We’re seeing a letter being sent around the Senate that has at least 11 people who’ve signed on led by Senator Chris Murphy calling for humanitarian relief for Venezuela and Iran: lifting the sanctions during this pandemic. And so I think that’s maybe getting to the Trump administration and this is their way of sending some kind of olive branch to these more moderate factions in Washington. But, you know, it’s not a serious proposal.

Side note: “It hurts our nation’s security and our moral standing in the world when our sanctions policy results in innocent people dying. I am particularly concerned about the impact of sanctions on the COVID-19 response in Iran and Venezuela”

— Sen. Chris Murphy

AM: What I think has been overlooked in the discussion of all this is that in trying to install Guaidó, the Trump administration has portrayed this picture where it has been basically Maduro versus Guaidó, and there’s no-one in between. But meanwhile, there have been negotiations between Maduro and elements of the Venezuelan opposition, just not the one that includes Guaidó’s faction. Can you talk about this and how it’s been ignored.

LF: Sure. So, the last time Guaidó participated in negotiations seriously – his faction I mean – was in August 2019. And those talks were undermined when the Trump administration imposed what the Wall Street Journal called an economic embargo; they really ramped up the sanctions on August 5th.

After that, about a month later, Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan government began negotiating with more moderate sectors of the political opposition – sectors of that really want to engage in democracy and engage in politics and aren’t looking for regime change. And coincidentally, those months of 2019, I’m talking about September, October and November; they were the most stable months in a really crazy year for Venezuela, that started off with this attempted coup by the Trump administration and Juan Guaidó.

Now, those negotiations are still ongoing. There’s ongoing dialogue. They resulted with – in early January – with a new election for the President of the National Assembly. This new President of the National Assembly was from the same party as Juan Guaidó. I think he was expelled from that party – but I’d have to check up on that to be honest. And what we’re seeing is that Juan Guaidó got kind of pushed out and these extremist opposition sectors got pushed out a bit from these attempted negotiations. So this is their way back in, so to speak.

AM: So, if you could address someone who might look at this plan now from Pompeo and – the way Pompeo’s framing it is that, you know, the US has no preference for who leads Venezuela aside from Maduro. We want him gone. In fact, Pompeo said as much today. Let me play you a clip…

Mike Pompeo: We’ve made clear all along that Nicolás Maduro will never again govern Venezuela, and that hasn’t changed.

AM: That’s Mike Pompeo. Well first of all, let me just ask you to respond to Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of the United States, declaring that the leader of another country will never govern there again.

LF: I mean it’s completely ridiculous. Maduro has been governing since 2013 and he has been governing throughout this whole time when the State Department has been trying to portray Venezuelan government as nonexistent and they’re trying to force Juan Guaidó as the so-called “interim president”.

But what’s really curious to me is that there’s contradictions within the White House. So that’s a very interesting Pompeo quote, but earlier today, Elliot Abrams, who’s the Special Representative for Venezuela for the Trump administration; he told Reuters that “while Maduro would have to step aside” – and this is a direct quote [the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile ] – “the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile and he even suggested that he ‘could theoretically’ run in the election.

So Abrams is saying ‘hey maybe Maduro can run’, Pompeo’s saying ‘Maduro is never again going to be able to govern’. There’s clear disconnect. It’s kind of indicative of what we’ve seen in the White House since Trump to office, with lack of communication between different sectors of the executive branch.

AM: Let’s say that Abrams, what he suggests, is the proposal that the US is putting forward, then somebody might look at that and say, hey you know listen the US shouldn’t be involved in Venezuela, but it is, and the fact is that right now they’re putting forward this plan where they’re offering to relieve these crippling, murderous sanctions if Venezuela just agrees to this new transition and hold new elections. Why not just abide by that to help ease the suffering of Venezuela?

LF: Well, Venezuela has a constitution. I mean that’s the biggest thing we have to talk about. It is a sovereign country that has a constitution, and is guided by that constitution. And so the Trump administration used that constitution, and made these kind of quasi-legal arguments, to say that Juan Guaidó was actually the real President because Maduro was ‘not officially in power’. And now they’re turning around and saying well you know what, forget that constitution and let’s talk about this whole ‘democratic framework transition’ that has no constitutional basis in Venezuela at all.

But what I think we really need to emphasis is that if the Venezuelan government decided to hold new elections – new presidential elections – after coming to an agreement with the opposition, they’re well within their rights. But this plan is being imposed from abroad, it lacks any sort of popular support within Venezuela, and in that regard it’s a non-starter.

AM: Just to stress this point, I do think holding new elections – that has been under discussion in Maduro’s negotiations with the opposition, right?

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. I mean first of all there have to be new elections – I mean parliamentary elections because those are due this year. And after those parliamentary elections there is the possibility that you might have new presidential elections in Venezuela.

But there’s no way that those presidential elections can be carried out while Venezuela is under sanctions from the US and the EU; particularly by the US sanctions. This is reminiscent of Nicaragua in the ’90s when the Nicaraguan people had an election and the US government said that if the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front] then wins, then the sanctions will continue, but if the opposition wins then the sanctions will be lifted.

AM: Let me play for you a clip on that front. This is John Stockwell, he is a former CIA officer, and he was describing this tactic the US uses of basically making countries like Nicaragua submit to US demands or starve.

John Stockwell [speaking on December 27th 1989]: The point is to put pressure on the targeted government by ripping apart the social and economic fabric of the country. Now that’s words, you know, social and economic fabric: that means making the people suffer as much as you can until the country plunges into chaos, until at some point you can step in and impose your choice of governments on that country.

AM: So that’s a former CIA officer describing the US approach to countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela. Leo, what’s your sense of where the Venezuelan people are at? They’ve been suffering for a long time now under these sanctions. There was just a poll that was shared by the opposition economist Francisco Rodríguez pointing out that two-thirds of Venezuelans say that US sanctions are causing huge misery inside their country.

Francisco Rodríguez@frrodriguezc

Solo el 22.6% de los venezolanos piensa que las sanciones no son una causa de la crisis. Dos terceras partes piensan que sí han contribuido se alguna forma a la crisis. Lo mismo muestran estudios académicos que evidencian un efecto negativo y significativo sobre nuestra economía.

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What is your sense of where the electorate is at inside Venezuela? The people: are they at the point where they’re willing to give up [and] to submit to US demands, whatever they are, in return for some relief from this blockade?

LF: No, I wouldn’t say they are. I mean we have to be clear though, Venezuela is a very polarised country. So we have this sector that votes for the opposition – that a good percentage of it would likely welcome Pompeo’s plan. But then you have the Chavistas, which represent at least 40% of the electorate, and of all eligible voters, and they would absolutely reject this plan.

It’s absolutely true though that sanctions have completely destroyed the economic fabric of Venezuela. But one of the reasons that Venezuela has been able to overcome the pressure from the United States is due to the social fabric, and due to the organising at the community level, and due to the organising that the government enables from above.

AM: Okay, so you mentioned the Venezuelan electorate. Let me ask you quickly about this, because a huge talking point that the US administration uses and its parroted across the political establishment – even Democrats who oppose the sanctions parrot this talking point –which is that Maduro is not a legitimately elected leader, and they point to alleged fraud in the 2019 Venezuelan elections.

I know it’s complicated but can you give us the simplest case for why this talking point is false.

LF: Right. So, there’s actually no evidence that there was fraud, and really the argument that there was fraud only comes from the United States.

What happened in the 2018 elections is that sectors of the opposition just decided to boycott the election. And they boycotted at the direction, or under the instructions of the State Department.

In early 2018 there was dialogue between the government and the opposition. The two sides were very close to signing an agreement – they actually had an agreement written down. They were negotiating in the Dominican Republic, they went back to Venezuela for one week to consult with various parties involved; during that interim week, then-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, threatened an oil embargo, and he also suggested that if the military were to overthrow Maduro, that this move would be welcomed by the United States.

Also during that week, the State Department said that they would not recognise any elections in 2018: that Maduro had to go first before there were elections. That’s what leads to these kind of claims of fraud because of this opposition boycott. But really there was no fraud: the parties that did participate, participated fully; there were international observers; there was a vote that was audited; and Maduro won in a landslide election.

AM: Maduro received over six millions votes, and, if I have the history correct, the main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, who ran, he was even threatened with US sanctions if he kept participating in the elections.

LF: That’s right. And not only was Henri Falcón threatened with sanctions, but so was Allup who was leader of Acción Democrática – Democratic Action Party – this is one of the bigger opposition parties. It’s slightly more moderate than Juan Guaidó’s party. But he said, I think it was in March of 2019, excuse me 2018, he pondered ‘why would I run, if the US isn’t going to recognise my victory?’

And so the US made it clear that even if an opposition leader had won, that they were not going to recognise it because it wasn’t going to be the opposition leader that they wanted.

AM: So let me ask you about these narco-trafficking charges that have been unveiled against Maduro and other top officials. The allegation – and maybe you can explain it for us – because it’s pretty bewildering: is that Maduro and the other top Venezuelan officials have been engaged in a criminal conspiracy to flood the US with drugs, going back many years.

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. And so the DOJ talks about a plan to plot to flood the US with cocaine since 1999. Maduro wasn’t even in power in 1999. In 1999, he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly and he was helping to draft Venezuela’s constitution.

So one of the interpretations of these accusations in Venezuela is that these aren’t accusations against individuals, it’s really an accusation against the entire Bolivarian revolution. And going a little bit deeper, this plot claim by the DOJ is patently ridiculous, I mean, the US government’s own statistics show that over 90% of the cocaine in the United States is either from Colombia, or has travelled through Colombia. Those same statistics show that less than 7% of the cocaine that the United States has transited through Venezuela at some point.

Venezuela doesn’t produce coca – the coca leaf – it doesn’t produce cocaine, whereas Colombia is the biggest producer of both coca and cocaine in the entire world. It’s clear that these accusations – these charges – are completely politically motivated and they’re not based on any sort of reality.

If they were, then really the conspiracy to flood the United States with cocaine – you have to look at the President of Colombia and the prior President Álvaro Uribe and really the kind of entire Colombian social structure, which enables narco-paramilitaries to control their society and to support cocaine.

AM: And you’ve written about, for The Grayzonea piece that explains that one consequence of this indictment, is that it’s triggered a confession – a very serious confession – by one of the people charged of a violent US-based plot against Maduro. Can you explain what happened there?

LF: Right. So one of the people indicted, his name is Cliver Alcalá, he was a former member of the military. He used to be very close to Chavismo. He flipped to the opposition in 2016 and since 2017, give or take, he’s been involved in various plots and coup attempts [including] attempted terror plots in Venezuela. He’s been linked to them.

And so immediately after the DOJ press conference last week that indicted Mr Alcalá, he posted some videos on Twitter and other social media confessing to a terror plot in Venezuela from about a week and a half ago —

So a bit of back story: the Colombian police seized 26 high-powered rifles and several other weapons of war and military equipment. Alcalá claimed that the weapons were his – that they were bought using money from Juan Guaidó. That he and Juan Guaidó had entered into a contract for the weapons. That the weapons were going to be used to help overthrow the Venezuelan government by causing a terror plot and by targeted assassination of Chavista leaders.

Alcalá now has been turned over to US authorities. It’s unclear what’s going to happen with him, but what is clear is that he implicated not just Juan Guaidó in this terror plot, but US advisors – he claims that he met with US advisors on at least seven different occasions.

AM: And just to put a final point on this, he says that Guaidó paid him money for this plot. And so those weapons that were seized in Colombia were paid for by Guaidó, and then presumably the US which backs up Guaidó, and is actually using money initially intended for Central American aid to pay for Guaidó and his fellow coup-plotters.

LF: Yeah, that’s right. The money wasn’t necessarily going to Alcalá directly, it was going to the weapons that Alcalá purchased. And Juan Guaidó’s only source of financing is the US government, which basically is us US taxpayers.

AM: So finally, as part of its coup effort in Venezuela, the US has been putting heavy pressure on anybody engaged in business with Venezuela, and that’s included sanctioning Russia’s state oil company, Rosnef.

Rosnef was recently forced to basically divest its holdings in Venezuela and then transfer it to another Russian government – in fact, the wholly Russian government owned company. Will this be enough to keep Venezuela afloat, or do you think that the power of the US is just too strong here?

LF: I think it would be enough under slightly different circumstances, but the fact is that oil is plummeting right now and so it’s unclear what’s happening with Venezuelan government’s finances.

I don’t think the Venezuelan government is going to fall due to financing. I think in that sense, you know, China and Russia have a lot invested in Venezuela, and Venezuela has other means of securing financing, whether it’s through gold or rare earth minerals. But it does make the situation much more difficult and it has led to gasoline shortages recently in Venezuela.

AM: And finally, in terms of what can be done here in the US, you mentioned that there’s now increased talk from Congress – increased pushback from Congress – asking them not to suspend the sanctions entirely, but to simply pause them during the coronavirus pandemic, which I suppose is better than nothing.

But as we are dealing now with economic troubles of our own here at home, what do you think can be done right now to push back on the Trump administration’s coup effort, and to try to stop the regime change plot on Venezuela – and to drop the sanctions?

LF: Well, I think for starters the issue of Venezuela has become incredibly toxic in mainstream politics. So if you take any sort of position that is deemed friendly to the Venezuelan government, even if it’s actually not necessarily friendly to the government, like say humanitarian relief and [lifting] sanctions, you’re immediately going to be seen with mistrust by a certain element of the political establishment.

And so I think that really what’s most important is that to highlight what the Trump administration has been doing to sabotage dialogue in Venezuela. If it were not for Trump, I think we would already have a political agreement in Venezuela and the country would be much more stable. But he’s in thrall to his financers in Florida, the Cuban-American lobby in Florida and rich Venezuelans in Florida; it all boils down to Florida unfortunately.

I think really that the best hope that the Venezuelan government has is to hold out until after the November elections. Even if Trump is re-elected I think it opens up a possibility of negotiations between the Trump administration and the Maduro government.

AM: Yeah, on that front it doesn’t inspire confidence that Joe Biden has fully embraced Trump’s coup attempt, and has recognised Juan Guaidó as the President, but certainly, no matter what happens, November will be a key date in all this and other issues of course.

Leo Flores, Latin American policy expert and campaigner with Codepink, thanks very much.

LF: Thank you Aaron.

Mossad In Charge of Taking Masks, Ventilators, Test Kits From Whomever For Zionist State

via Mossad In Charge of Taking Masks, Ventilators, Test Kits From Whomever For Zionist State

Spy agencies around the world, which normally deal with national security, terrorism and international crime, have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic to using their expertise to lay their hands on medical equipment that has become invaluable, a senior Mossad officer has said.

In an exposé broadcast Tuesday by Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigative news program, the head of the technology department in Israel’s Mossad intelligence service said countries have been locked in a fierce, covert battle to take control of a limited supply of ventilators at all costs.

Mossad, which has been tasked with securing medical equipment from abroad from unspecified countries amid worldwide shortages, has helped obtain 25,000 N95 respiratory masks, 20,000 virus test kits, 10 million surgical masks, and 700 overalls for ambulance workers who usually carry out the initial testing for the virus.

Israeli security services and government ministries had also acquired 27 ventilators and at least another 160 ventilators would be brought to Israel by Wednesday, the Mossad has said, without giving details on where the equipment was coming from.

It was the third such shipment by the Mossad over the past few weeks aimed at addressing shortages in Israel.

“I have overseen many operations in my life, and I’ve never dealt with such a complex operation,” said the Mossad officer, identified only by the Hebrew initial “Het.”

He said that the government has tasked the Mossad with obtaining more than 130,000 objects needed to fight the outbreak of the respiratory virus, including gas masks, virus test kits, medicine, protective gear and, most importantly, ventilators, which have become one of the most sought-after commodities in the world.

“The world is selling [ventilators] through cracks. We need to find the cracks,” said Het. “We are world champions in operations, and we know how to manage complex operations.

“We are utilizing our special connections to win the race and perhaps do what the whole world is doing — lay our hands on stocks ordered by others,” he said.

Het said his office was receiving over 2,000 leads every day, some false and some real, and some where other countries beat Israel to the punch.

“We had a country in Europe where our trucks arrived at the factory’s doors but another European country was ahead of us and loaded it up,” he described. “We also had a situation where we had equipment we purchased on a plane but it had to be unloaded because the plane didn’t get permission [to take off] due to the embargo.

“The whole world is looking after itself. Prices have risen four- and five-fold and the world has closed down.”

However, Het said he was confident his organization would meet the set goal of acquiring 7,000 ventilators.

“Uvda” cited senior officials as saying that by the coming weekend, Israel would manage to acquire another 1.5 million N95 protective masks necessary for medical staff, 700,000 surgical masks, 2 million protective overalls and protective glasses, 50,000 coronavirus medicines and, most importantly, 180 ventilators.

The report also said Israel had recently obtained essential information needed for local manufacturing of ventilators, via a complex operation.

Het said Israel’s goal was not to be dependent on anyone else, and Yaniv Rotem, head of the research and development department in the Defense Ministry, said the goal was to produce hundreds of ventilators a week.

“The first dozens of ventilators will be manufactured this week, and it will increase over time,” said Het. “That won’t be the bottleneck.”

He said that unlike three or four days ago, he was now confident that Israel would weather the crisis much better than Italy, Spain and the United States, and that there will be no shortage of equipment.

As of Wednesday morning there were 5,591 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Israel. Twenty-one people have died of the disease and 97 are in serious condition, including 76 who are hooked up to ventilators, according to Health Ministry figures.

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus, there were at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators.

Last week the Mossad brought 400,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel from an undisclosed foreign location, the Prime Minister’s Office said at the time. The shipment came a week after the agency had obtained 100,000 testing kits.

The PMO, which is responsible for the Mossad, said the intelligence service had imported the chemical reagents needed to perform approximately 400,000 tests. The swabs needed to carry out the task are being sourced both internally and from a number of foreign countries.

The PMO refused to comment further on the matter, specifically on the country or countries that sold it the testing components, leading many to assume that it was a country that does not have strong or formal ties with Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Tories’ deal with private hospitals amounts to gov’t bailout.

REVEALED: The Tories’ deal with private hospitals amounts to a government bailout

REVEALED: The Tories’ deal with private hospitals amounts to a government bailout

“Shareholders, landlords, and lenders stand to gain substantially from this deal – which effectively bails them out in the midst of a global recession.”

The government’s deal with independent healthcare providers amounts to a ‘bailout’ of the private health sector, according to new research.

Last month the government announced a deal with private health providers, ensuring the entire capacity of the private hospital sector in England will be used to treat coronavirus patients. The agreement was made on a ‘no profit’ basis, with health firms supposedly undertaking the work ‘at cost’, and the entire private health system effectively put under contract by the government.

But new analysis by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) sheds a highly critical light on the supposed ‘no profit’ claim of the deal, under which the NHS will gain an additional 8,000 beds and around 10,000 extra nurses from private health firms during the coronavirus crisis.

CPHI research suggests that the government – in agreeing to cover private hospitals’ rent and lease costs as part of the arrangement – are protecting private hospitals from severe financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

The deal ensures private firms will be in a good position once the pandemic recedes to ‘financially gain’ from dealing with a massive backlog of NHS cases, caused by the current crisis.

Announcing the deal in March, a statement from NHS England claimed: “Under the agreement, the independent sector will reallocate practically its entire national hospital capacity en bloc to the NHS. It will be reimbursed, at cost – meaning no profit will be made for doing so. “Open book” accounting and external auditors will verify the public funds being deployed.”

However, the new analysis by CPHI suggest profits will be made indirectly through the deal. The analysis points to a likely drop in demand for private health care during the crisis:

“The widespread uncertainty and disruption caused by coronavirus was already having a big effect on the finances of private hospitals. Many have cancelled operations for at-risk groups, travel restrictions are limiting the supply of lucrative overseas patients, and NHS-funded operations were at risk of temporary suspensions.

“In addition, the spectre of a deep recession reduces the number of self-paying patients and impacts business from private medical insurance…[but] private hospitals still have to pay the full rent on their buildings and repayments on their debts, or attempt to receive repayment holidays or reductions…

“For this reason, the government’s deal to purchase their entire capacity in return for covering their “operating costs, overheads, use of assets, rent and interest” is in effect a bailout for private hospitals. This is because it keeps the sector afloat when it would likely face the same fate as other industries who are experiencing a significant drop off in demand due to the virus. Crucially it also represents a bailout for the landlords and lenders of the private hospitals whose investments would also be at risk if the hospitals were unable to honour their payments.”

The findings come after a group of NHS campaigners – led by public ownership group We Own It – wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, demanding to see the contract between the NHS and private health firms.

Dr Colin Hutchinson, chair of campaign group Doctors for Our NHS, said:

“Help in this emergency is of course welcome. But should public money be used to bail out private health suppliers and leave them strengthened to cash in on the suffering which is bound to follow as treatment is delayed during the pandemic? Wouldn’t it be better to leave a stronger, less reliant NHS for all?”

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, told Left Foot Forward:

“This shows just what so many suspected – that the deal with private hospitals isn’t quite as ‘not-for-profit’ as we were told. It’s a scandal that at a time of national crisis, the government is paying out money like this to private companies.

“Instead, it should have followed the lead of Spain, by requisitioning private hospitals, to bring them into the vital fight against coronavirus without paying them a penny.”

A recent memorandum from NHS England to private healthcare patients states the service should ‘never subsidise private care’.

There are several key ways the NHS’ deal represents a ‘win’ for private hospitals:

  1. It secures their businesses against the damage caused by coronavirus
  2. To be seen to help the NHS during this crisis will certainly bolster their reputation and brand power, which aids their long-term goal to expand in the space left by a constrained and diminished NHS.
  3. While NHS hospitals recover and adjust they will be able to work on the rising backlog of patients whose elective (i.e. non-emergency) operations have been delayed.

One firm involved, Spire Healthcare Plc, has already boasted to investors following the deal: “The agreement allows for sufficient notice to prepare for the resumption of private and NHS elective care in the normal manner once the COVID-19 peak has passed. Spire Healthcare should then be in a strong position to meet the demand arising from the period of elective suspension.”

The research points out other ways that private health firms could make ‘hidden’ profits from the NHS deal – including the NHS covering high-interest loans made within corporate groups.

“Based on the accounts (2017 or 2018) of their operating companies, the ten largest private hospitals owe £2.6bn in loans from companies within their corporate group, which is over 2.5 times more than what they owe to external lenders (such as banks). On examination, these internal loans can prove to be at very high interest rates (above the overall cost of borrowing for the group), indicating an element of ‘hidden’ profit making.

“Similarly there are rent payments and management fees made to companies which are part of the same corporate group. When there are transactions and deals between related companies it can be hard to determine what the fair ‘cost’ of the services provided (loans, management fees, or a property to rent) are, and this opacity can be misused to shift ‘hidden’ profits out of the UK company to related companies in, say, low-tax jurisdictions

“Untangling what is true cost versus ‘hidden’ profit will therefore be a hard task for the government-appointed independent accounting firm.”

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

A FEW RECENT POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS WHICH SHOULD NOT GO UNNOTICED

Many thanks: Astute News

A Few Recent Political Developments Which Should Not Go Unnoticed

The COVID19/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is, by any measure, an immense planetary crisis which will probably change the world we live in forever. Still, there are other issues which are maybe not quite as dramatic and important, but which deserve not to be forgotten. Here are some of those

The grand betrayal of Tulsi Gabbard:

it was pretty clear to most observers that Tulsi Gabbard, being the only real “peace candidate” would never be allowed to get the nomination, nevermind make it into the White House. It was also clear that Tulsi, for all her very real qualities, simply did not have what it takes to take on “The Swamp”. Still, in spite of this all, her candidacy and campaign were like a huge pitcher of cool water in the middle of an immense and dry desert. Her uniqueness amongst all the candidate is what make her betrayal even more painful for those who respected or even supported her. Once it became clear that she would never get the nomination, not only did she not run as an independent (something which Hillary seems to fear a lot), she endorse Uncle Joe, the clearly senile, totally corrupt and generally repugnant frontman for the Clinton gang. This endorsement of Biden is something which she did not have to do, but she did it.

When the DNC stole the nomination from Sanders, he did not lead a protest or run as an independent, he endorsed Hillary. I always considered him a fraud for this (and many other) reason. Now Tulsi Gabbard is doing the same thing, which probably is a good indicator that the Democratic Party is evil and corrupt to the core, which is hardly big news, but which is dramatically confirmed by Gabbard profoundly immoral decision. Why do I say that? because Biden is the ultimate “anti-Gabbard”, she should have endorsed either Bernie, or even Trump, but instead she endorse a morally corrupt warmonger, a total pawn for the MIC.

At the end of the day, she mostly betrayed herself, and that is the saddest aspect of this debacle.

The AngloZionist Empire – as clueless as ever

I have forced myself to listen to the daily COVID19 briefings from the White House and I have to say that Trump’s constant flag-waving and self-worshiping is almost physically painful to watch. The worst parts of these briefings are when Trump, or Pompeo, speak about the US “leadership” as if the entire planet was desperately expecting the USA to help. It does not. In fact, most of the planet is disgusted by US action, be it the denial of vitally needed meds to countries like Iran or Venezuela, to the attempts are buying off German vaccines, to the mantric repetition about how great the US private sector is and how Amazon and Walmart will help us weather this crisis.

The truth is that this worldwide pandemic will allow us all to compare how different political systems, countries and cultures have reacted to the threat. In a year or so, we shall all know whether free-market capitalism and libertarianism compare with social-democracies, socialist and even communist countries fared when their population needed protection and assistance.

True, other countries have responded with truly amazing incompetence (including several EU countries), so the inability to protect its citizens is not a purely US problem, it really affects all the countries currently subjugated by the Empire.

Finally, it appears that the China-bashing strategic PSYOP has largely failed. Most fake-news about China were quickly and rapidly debunked, and even the legacy corporate ziomedia could not completely obfuscate the fact that China is, so far, the only country on our planet which defeated COVID19.

Will there be an “ideological lessons learned” once the crisis subsides? I sure hope so!

For the time being, the Empire does what it always does, it plans to deny even more civil rights to its own people which has true patriots like Ron Paul extremely worried. What else is new?

Capitalism with a human face?

Nope, that sure ain’t gonna happen this time around.

Serbia betrayed by Europe (again!) while Russia provides vital aid to Serbia and Italy

Serbia has been betrayed by the Europeans, again. This time around, the Europeans did not bomb Serbian civilians, they simply refused to sell the meds needed to respond to the crisis. President Aleksandar Vucic has now officially declared that the EU solidarity “exists only on paper“. He then openly appealed for China to help, and help China did – the Chinese send aircraft filled with much needed medical equipment and doctors. Then Russia followed suit and sent 10 heavy transporters fill with gear and specialists.

Even more amazing (and appalling) is the fact that the Empire does not even help its own subjects – in Italy, it was Russia again which organized a major air bridge (over 15 heavy transporters!) and now we see Russian Army units deployed in northern Italy to help the struggling Italians. Check out these short videos reports by the Russian military. You don’t need to understand Russian to see the size of the air-bridge the Russian Aerospace Forces have established or to how grateful the Italian officials are!

Also, check the excellent article by Andrei Martyanov about this “Russian invasion of Italy“.

I have to say that the Serbs have been fantastically naive to trust the very same people who bombed them, in total illegality, for 78 days, murdering scores of innocent civilians (including those murdered in the TV tour). For example, the Serbs could have considered how the EU has been lying to Turkey, for decades. But no, the Serbian elites now seem to think that they will be able to fill their pockets with lucrative contracts with the EU.

Hopefully, what these events have demonstrated shall not be forgotten when the next elections take place in Serbia.

That also goes for Italy.

And, finally,

The situation in northern Syria and Iraq

The situation in northern Syria and Iraq had developed pretty much as expected. So far, the Turks have been unable to re-take full control of the M4 highway. As a result of that failure, the joint Russian-Turkish patrols have not been able to move along the full length of the highway as spelled out in the agreement between Russia and Turkey. Clearly, Turkey lacks either the will, or the capability, or both, to remove the Takfiri forces from the M4 highway. So far, the Russians and Syrians have very kindly agreed to wait a little longer, but the recent visit of Russian Defense Minister Shoigu to Damascus clearly shows that big decisions are being worked on:

As for Iraq, the various Shia militias are doing exactly what everybody had predicted, they are executing limited but very disruptive strikes against US forces in Iraq. Here is a good infographic by the Institute for the Study of War which sums it up very nicely:

What we have hear is a small trickle of attacks which do not yield any major victory to the Iraqi forces, but which over time will tremendously demoralize US forces. Finally, such “death by a thousand cuts” strategy also will severely limit the operational capabilities of the US forces in Iraq: when you are mostly busy protecting yourself, you have less time to murder locals.

Still, sooner or later the Shias will have to step up their attacks because forcing the occupation forces to hunker down and actually kick them out of your country are two very different propositions. These small strikes are very useful, not only because they demoralize the enemy, but because by forcing him to stay inside fortified “secure” areas only makes them better targets for a bigger missile strike.

This is a very sound strategy against which the US forces have no good option, other than throwing in the towel and leaving, which they will have to do anyway (exact that they call it “declare victory and leave”, but its the exact same thing).


By The Saker
Source: The Unz Review

Russia Is Responding Better Than Everyone Else to World War C

Astute News

The largest country in the world is faring surprisingly well when it comes to surviving World War C, which is greatly attributable to Russia’s proactive measures in taking COVID-19 as serious as possible, including through border closures and the forthcoming imposition of what can be described as “lockdown-lite”.

Putin’s generous socio-economic support package aimed at preventing economic suffering Coronavirus lockdowns causing elsewhere:

“1. Nationwide paid leave starting week commencing March 28

2. The vote on constitutional changes has been postponed from April 22 until further notice

3. All social benefits are to be extended automatically, no documentation required

4. All families that qualify for maternity benefits are to get an additional 5,000 rubles (ca. $63) monthly for each child under 3 for the next three months starting from April, 2020.

5. All employees on sick leave will not have their pay reduced below the minimum wage – this provision will last through 2020

6. The new maximum unemployment benefit pay will be set at 12,130 rubles (ca. $154)

7. All private loans and mortgage payments are to be frozen for borrowers who provide evidence of a more than 30% decline in the ability to repay (failure of business, salary-related issues, etc.)

8. Concerning businesses suffering through the COVID-19 outbreak, the new measures are as follows:

* Small and midsize businesses: tax payments – aside from value added tax – are to be postponed for six months.

* Microbusinesses: an additional postponing of insurance payments for six months.

9. A six-month delay in loan payments for all small and midsize businesses

10. Additional measures for strengthening small businesses are to be introduced

11. A six month moratorium on bankruptcy claims for businesses operating in areas hardest hit by the outbreak

12. Dividend tax rate is to indefinitely be increased to 15 percent in case of money taken out of the country

13. Returns on each personal investment, including bank deposits and stocks exceeding the total sum of 1 million rubles (ca. $12,600), are to indefinitely be taxed 13 percent”

US GOVERNMENT THREATENS FAMILIES OF INT’L CRIMINAL COURT STAFF IF THEY TRY AMERICANS FOR WAR CRIMES

 

From: Astute news

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened the family members of International Criminal Court staff, vowing that Washington will take punitive action against them if the court tries American soldiers for war crimes.

Pompeo also announced an intensification of unilateral US sanctions on Iran and Syria, which are illegal under international law, and which are undermining the countries’ attempts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2019, the Pompeo State Department threatened to revoke or deny visas to any International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel investigating crimes committed by American forces.

A year later, on March 5, 2020, the ICC took a defiant step forward, officially approving an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US military and CIA in Afghanistan.

Pompeo responded by angrily condemning the court and its proceedings. His broadside was an apparent attempt at discrediting the institution, which the US government is not a party to.

In a subsequent State Department press briefing on March 17, Pompeo launched another tirade against the ICC, belittling it as a “so-called court,” a “nakedly political body,” and an “embarrassment.”

Pompeo, who previously served as director of the CIA, took the denunciations a step further, threatening the family members of ICC staff.

“We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans,” Pompeo said, according to the US State Department’s official transcript.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the managing director for research and policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, drew attention to the “shocking attack” on Twitter.

“This isn’t just unlawful collective punishment against family members; it’s not just a disturbing attack on staff of a judiciary — where the US has voted to refer other nations for prosecution; it’s abuse of federal authority to use sanctions against actual wrongdoers,” said Whitson, who previously directed the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

Whitson called on Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to “condemn this US State Department assault on the staff and FAMILIES of ICC – abuse of sanctions authority in flagrant attack on judicial independence, unlawful collective punishment.”

Sarah Leah Whitson

@sarahleah1

BREAKING: In shocking attack on @secpompeo threatens collective punishment against named staff of the court and their FAMILIES for court’s ongoing investigation into crimes that implicate US https://www.state.gov/secretary-michael-r-pompeo-remarks-to-the-press-6/#.XnEy9j9FwmM.twitter 

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press – United States Department of State

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good afternoon, everyone.  As you all know, the Trump administration continues to put an enormous amount of energy into combating the Wuhan virus and protecting the American…

state.gov

1,747 people are talking about this

Sarah Leah Whitson

@sarahleah1

.@SecPompeo names chef de cabinet to prosecutor, Sam Shoamanesh, & head of jurisdiction, complementarity, & cooperation division, Phakiso Mochochoko, as “helping drive ICC Bensouda’s effort to use court to investigate Americans”, claims they’re “putting Americans at risk”

Sarah Leah Whitson

@sarahleah1

.@SecPompeo threatens to impose travel bans on the ICC staff “and their family members”:
“We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States…”

146 people are talking about this

Sarah Leah Whitson

@sarahleah1

This isn’t just unlawful collective punishment against family members; it’s not just a disturbing attack on staff of a judiciary — where the US has voted to refer other nations for prosecution –; it’s abuse of federal authority to use sanctions against actual wrongdoers

Sarah Leah Whitson

@sarahleah1

Hi @JoeBiden @BernieSanders — looking to you to condemn this US State Department assault on the staff and FAMILIES of – abuse of sanctions authority in flagrant attack on judicial independence, unlawful collective punishment

188 people are talking about this

Long history of US threatening multilateral institutions

This blatant US threat against the family members of International Criminal Court prosecutors is part of a longer historical pattern of Washington attacking multilateral institutions.

At the beginning of the George W. Bush administration’s so-called war on terror, in 2002, the US Congress passed a bill called the American Service-Members’ Protection Act — more commonly known as the “Hague Invasion Act.”

This unprecedented piece of legislation, which has no precedent anywhere else in the world, declares that the US government unilaterally grants itself the right to militarily invade the Hague if a citizen of the United States or any allied country is tried at the court.

Nor are Secretary of State Pompeo’s threats the first time US government officials have targeted the family members of international organizations.

José Bustani, the former director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said hardline neoconservative John Bolton, a former under secretary of state for George W. Bush and national security adviser for Donald Trump, threatened him and his family when Bustani negotiated with the Iraqi government to allow in OPCW weapons inspectors.

“You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you,” Bolton reportedly told Bustani, according to his recollection. “We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”

US State Department imposes new sanctions on Iran and Syria as deadly coronavirus spreads

Denigrating the Iranian government as “terrorists” in his State Department press briefing, Mike Pompeo declared new sanctions on the social security investment company of Iran’s military, along with five Iranian nuclear scientists.

Moreover, Pompeo announced State Department sanctions on nine more entities, in South Africa, Hong Kong, and China, for doing business with Iran.

He also unveiled new sanctions on Syria’s minister of defense, citing the Syrian army’s battle to retake Idlib, the last remaining insurgent-held territory in the country, which is occupied by a rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate and other extremist Salafi-jihadists, backed by NATO member Turkey.

US sanctions on Iran have devastated the country’s health infrastructure, greatly exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic.

A new study by researchers at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran warned that millions of people could die due to Covid-19 — which Pompeo repeatedly referred to as the “Wuhan virus” in his press briefing.

An article by German state broadcaster DW concisely explained how US sanctions have set the stage for mass death in Iran: “Iran’s government applied for a $5 billion (€4.6 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the epidemic — the first time it has asked the IMF for assistance in over 50 years. Yet, even if it gets the loan, the administration won’t be able to shop for much-needed medical supplies: US sanctions make the banking transactions required to secure even medical supplies and humanitarian goods virtually impossible.”


By Ben Norton
Source: The Gray Zone