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Lousy Deals and Turning Wheels


In that long ago yesteryear of 1979, before blogging, tweeting, twerking, hacking, posting, ghosting, doxing, and all the other Internet-enabled compulsions of the present day, a gang of inflamed young men, said to be students, invaded the US embassy compound in Teheran and took fifty-two American embassy personnel hostage — crossing an age-old line of geopolitical conduct that kicked off the epic conflict between global Islam and a USA-led West, still on-going as you read.

I followed the Iran Hostage Crisis avidly… the gibbering mullahs, the blindfolded captives, the rotating cast of double-taking prime ministers who lectured Jimmy Carter on the Nightly News, the rescue attempt fiasco that killed eight American soldiers out in the Persian desert. Oddly, what I remember most after all these years was the fact that the hostages ran out of dental floss and had to swap around between them the same recycled last strand for weeks on end — a ticket to periodontal hell, if ever there was one.

And then, as if by magic, Iran released the hostages on Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day and our splendiferous “morning in America” commenced. What really began that day, of course, was the asset-stripping of this land and its people, leading to the political disorders of the moment. Forty years later it’s hard to say which nation is a bigger pain-in-the-ass on the world stage, Iran or the USA. But the net effect of all that mutual antagonism is a vast region from North Africa to Central Asia of failed states, ruined cities, and dead bodies.

I’m rather skeptical that President Trump will manage to get a new-and-improved “deal” with Iran after tearing up the old one put together by Mr. Obama, which may have not been of much value anyway. I don’t believe that anything in it would have really deterred Iranian technicians from developing a serviceable nuclear weapon. It’s just not that hard to do anymore, given the number of physicists trained all over the world since 1945.

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We Are Being Lied To About Yet Another Middle Eastern Country By Yet Another US President 

We Are Being Lied To About Yet Another Middle Eastern Country By Yet Another US President 

Do you know who the single biggest donor was to any candidate in the 2016 presidential race?

Hillary Clinton’s massive $1.2 billion losing campaign budget might make you think that it was one of the many, many powerful influencers who were looking to get on her good side prior to her anticipated coronation, but it wasn’t. The largest donor to any campaign was oligarch Sheldon Adelson, who gave $25 million to the Trump campaign, and who in 2013 said that the US should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran.

After his election win, Adelson gave another $5 million to Trump’s inauguration, the largest single presidential inaugural donation ever made. Newt Gingrich, another of the billionaire’s hired politicians, has said that Adelson’s “central value” is Israel.

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another Adelson lackey, made an absurd and dishonest presentation arguing in favor of the termination of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Today, Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and announced aggressive new sanctions against Iran, like a good little boy. Lobelog‘s Eli Clifton has published an article on how two other pro-Israel, anti-Iran oligarchs, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer, helped pave the way for this decision along with Adelson.

If you want to know what policies a politician will take seriously, ignore his campaign rhetoric and look at his largest sponsors.


Statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal: https://www.pscp.tv/w/bcHoFDFvTlFsTFJub1dwUXd8MVlxS0RkRWt3RG9LVuGHoVNqHUMTOFsKvNeEtRThrkhTbwCW_TKUlteUhH3s?t=1s 

Fox News @FoxNews

LIVE: President Trump makes an announcement on the Iran deal

pscp.tv


In his statement on the decision to pull out of the deal, Trump repeated the brazen, demonstrable lie that Iran is the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, a lie again repeated on his Twitter account.

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Trump’s Decision on Iran Deal Spells Disaster for the Middle East 

Trump’s Decision on Iran Deal Spells Disaster for the Middle East 

Photo by The U.S. Army | CC BY 2.0

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal with Iran creates, unnecessarily, a new source of tension in a region besieged by conflicts. Given the level of legal troubles that President Trump is facing now, his decision could be based to some extent in creating the conditions to fog his personal drama.

President Trump’s move was heartily supported by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and opposed by all other governments that are part of the deal. In March 2015, in front of both houses of the U.S. Congress, Netanyahu said, “We’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”

For the last several decades, relations between the U.S. and Iran and between Iran and the West have been shrouded in misconceptions and prejudices. They have done nothing to achieve a peaceful relationship with that country, and only led to a permanent state of distrust that can lead to war at any moment.

Conflicting relations with Iran can be traced to a large extent to 19 August 1953, when both the United Kingdom and the U.S. orchestrated a coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The reason: Mossadegh was trying to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation, to change the terms of that company’s access to Iranian oil.

Following the refusal of AIOC to cooperate with the Iranian government, the Iranian parliament voted almost unanimously to nationalize AIOC and expel its representatives from Iran. The anti-government coup that ensued led to the formation of a military government under General Fazlollah Zahedi, which allowed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to return and rule the country as an absolute and ruthless monarch.

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Trump and Netanyahu May Not Want War With Iran, But They May Fall Into One Anyway

Trump and Netanyahu May Not Want War With Iran, But They May Fall Into One Anyway

Photo source StateofIsrael | CC BY 2.0 by Addy Cameron-Huff | CC BY 2.0

Iran has an exaggerated reputation in the Middle East for Machiavellian cunning and an ability to outmanoeuvre its enemies. Britain used to be regarded in the same light in the region: its most ill-considered actions were admired as devilishly clever plots when all it was doing was taking advantage of the blunders of its opponents.

The Islamic Republic is similarly seen as the sinister hidden hand behind many developments with which it has little to do. It is accused of creating a corridor of pro-Iranian states from Tehran to the Mediterranean, posing an existential threat to Israel and the Gulf monarchies. The Iran nuclear deal of 2015 is to be dropped by Donald Trump because it has supposedly done nothing to avert these dangers, possibly leaving military action as the only option.

Iranian influence has certainly expanded but only thanks to a series of disastrous US-led military interventions since the start of the millennium. In early 2001 Iran was isolated with Afghanistan to the east under the rule of the Taliban, whose Sunni sectarianism inspired them with hatred of Shia  Iran whose diplomats they casually murdered. Iran’s neighbour to the west was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with whom it had fought a ferocious eight-year war.

All this was to change in two years: in 2001 the US overthrew the Taliban, though it was never able to defeat them permanently or stabilise the rule of its local Afghan allies. In 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, bringing to power the first Shia government in the Arab world since the days of Saladin and one which inevitably looked to their fellow Shia in Iran.

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Shifting energy import patterns enhance China’s clout in the Middle East

Shifting energy import patterns enhance China’s clout in the Middle East

Subtle shifts in Chinese energy imports suggest that China may be able to exert influence in the Middle East in alternative and subtle ways that do not involve military or overt economic pressure.

The shifts involve greater dependency of the Gulf states on oil and gas exports to China, the world’s largest importer, at a time that the People’s Republic has been diversifying imports at the expense of Gulf producers.

The shifts first emerged in 2015 when Chinese oil imports from Saudi Arabia rose a mere two percent while purchase of Russian oil jumped almost 30 percent. Russia rather than Saudi Arabia has been for much of the period since China’s biggest crude oil supplier.

The shifts were reinforced by the US shale boom, a resulting drop in US imports from the Gulf, and President Donald J. Trump’s tougher trade policies.

“With the Trump administration, the pressure on China to balance accounts with the U.S. is huge… Buying U.S. oil clearly helps toward that goal to reduce the disbalance,” said Marco Dunand, chief executive and co-founder of commodity trading house Mercuria.

At the same time, China became in 2016 the largest investor in the Arab world with investments worth $29.5 billion, much of which targeted infrastructure, including the construction of industrial parks, pipelines, ports, and roads.

Compounding the impact of shifts in Chinese energy imports is the fact that despite support for Russian policy in the Middle East, Beijing increasingly fears that Moscow’s approach risks escalating conflicts and has complicated China’s ability to safeguard its mushrooming interests in the region.

Viewed from Beijing, the Middle East has deteriorated into a part of the world in which regional cohesion has been shattered, countries are fragmenting, domestic institutions are losing their grip, and political violence threatens to effect security and stability in northwest China.

 

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China’s Growing Oil Demand Has Created A Geopolitical Dilemma

China’s Growing Oil Demand Has Created A Geopolitical Dilemma

oil pipeline

China has become the world’s largest oil importer, and despite establishing the largely successful yuan-denominated oil futures, Beijing will have to grapple with an overlooked geopolitical and economic consequence as it seeks to quench its thirst for oil and gas.

As China relies more on both foreign crude oil imports and imported gas in the form of LNG and piped gas from neighboring countries, the outflow of petro-dollars or in this case petro-yuan will see the country contend with the decades-long dilemma that the U.S. faced; a massive transfer of capital to foreign oil producers.

Worse yet, for the U.S. at the time of its foreign oil import dependence, the transfer of funds was often to less-than-friendly Middle Eastern oil producers, including Saudi Arabia who in the 1970s and 80s could arguably have been called a quasi-friend or at least an ally of convenience. The U.S. needed Saudi oil as American oil production continued to decline while U.S. oil consumption spiked to unprecedented levels. For their part, the Saudis needed, and still do, the U.S. Navy’s 5th to keep open vital shipping lanes including the world’s most important maritime chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz, to allow the export of massive cargoes of crude to foreign markets.

China’s insatiable oil thirst

China surpassed the U.S. in annual gross crude oil imports in 2017 by importing 8.4 million barrels per day bpd compared with 7.9 million bpd of U.S. crude oil imports. China had become the world’s largest net importer (imports less exports) of total petroleum and other liquid fuels in 2013. New refinery capacity and strategic inventory stockpiling, combined with declining domestic production, were the major factors contributing to its recent increase in imports.

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Pompeo Lands In Saudi, Immediately Calls For New Iran Sanctions

Well that didn’t take long.

Just two days after being sworn in as US Secretary of State, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on a hastily-arranged visit to the Middle East to reinvigorate support for new sanctions against Iran.

As Reuters reports, the visit to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman comes as President Trump is set to decide whether to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that is still supported by European powers.

“We are urging nations around the world to sanction any individuals and entities associated with Iran’s missile program, and it has also been a big part of discussions with Europeans,” Brian Hook, a senior policy advisor traveling with Pompeo, told reporters.

“Iran’s missiles prolong war and suffering in the Middle East, they threaten our security and economic interests and they especially threaten Saudi Arabia and Israel,” he added.

Following Macron’s earlier-in-the-week efforts to persuade Trump not to kill the Iran deal, Pompeo told a news conference:

“There’s been no decision, so the team is working and I am sure we will have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear.”

In Riyadh, Pompeo was greeted on the tarmac by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. He is expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman during the visit.

But as Patrick Coburn writes at Counterpunch.org, as the Trump administration begins to berate Iran once again, their options may be more limited than many believe.

A crisis in relations between the US and Iran – which has the potential to produce a military confrontation in the Middle East – is building rapidly in the expectation that President Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal in just over two weeks’ time.

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What Is A ‘Fair’ Price For Oil?

What Is A ‘Fair’ Price For Oil?

Oil Pump

Last week, oil prices hit their highest level since late 2014 on the back of continued global and U.S. stockpile drawdowns and expectations that oil demand growth will stay strong this year.

Analysts and officials are once again trying to predict what a ‘fair’ price for oil is – a prediction that must take into account the summer driving season, the possibility of new sanctions on Iran, elections in Venezuela and Iraq, continuous OPEC chatter about “mission accomplished or not”, and reports of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia aiming for oil prices of $80 to $100 a barrel.

Some analysts and officials believe that oil prices could hit $80 this year, although such a price would probably be due to the geopolitical risk premium rather than market fundamentals.

Even if oil prices were to rise to $80, such an increase would be short-lived, and would be mostly fueled by fears of a supply disruption, especially in the Middle East with possible new sanctions on Iranian oil and with tenser situations in and around Syria and Yemen. Then there’s Venezuela, with its oil production plummeting and elections expected to be held in May—and if the U.S. were to slap further sanctions on Venezuela, such as on its oil industry, it would be yet another wild card for oil prices later this year.

Yet, around $75 oil is as good as it’s going to get in the short term, according to some investment banks and oil officials. No one is predicting oil at $100 yet.

“I think $65 to $75 is more realistic numbers for the rest of the year, but there are so many factors that can change that,” Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhi, the oil minister of non-OPEC participant in the production cut deal, Oman, told CNBC.

“In my opinion, where we are is not too bad and we can live with it. That’s $65 to $75, give or take, for the foreseeable future,” said the minister.

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How US Has Virtually Destroyed UN

How US Has Virtually Destroyed UN

How US Has Virtually Destroyed UN

Under President Donald Trump, the US has basically eliminated the only real international authority the UN used to have. Here is how this was done:

The equivalent, in international law, to a domestic-law crime involving murder, rape, and theft, is an international invasion that’s purely for aggressive purposes and not at all authentically a defensive act against an authentic foreign threat that was coming from the invaded foreign country. Consequently, for the US Government now to have removed the UN from any authority over international invasions, is, in domestic-law equivalency, like removing a national government from authority regarding murders, rapes, and thefts, which occur inside that nation. Such a ‘government’ is no government at all. But, tragically, this is what has happened; and, so, we are now careening into World War III, in this international “Wild West” world, which we live in (and may soon die in, as things thus head into WW III).

The US Government no longer even nominally cares whether or not the UN authorizes its invasions; but, as recently as 2003, it used to, even if only nominally, care. The US has thus effectively disgarded the UN altogether, whenever violating the UN is the only way to impose its will against a given target-country.

In late 2002 and early 2003, US President George W. Bush nominally expressed a desire for the UN to authorize an invasion of Iraq, but failed to receive that authorization and then did the invasion anyway, along with only UK, Australia, and Poland, joining the US-led gang, in this destruction of Iraq.

At a press conference on 6 March 2003, just 14 days before he ordered the UN weapons-inspectors to leave Iraq so that he could invade Iraq on March 20th (as he did), Bush said:

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Saudi Officials Worried About Oil’s Future

Saudi Officials Worried About Oil’s Future

Saudi delegation

Saudi government officials like talking to the media about oil. They invariably come across as upbeat, confident that the OPEC deal will achieve its goal of shrinking the global oversupply, and equally confident that U.S. shale will not seriously eat away at their oil revenues, however fast it grows.

The general message seems to be: We can handle everything. Behind the scenes, however, things look differently, Time reports, citing former and current U.S. government officials with experience in the Kingdom.

Following an interview with Crown Prince Mohammed, in which he anticipated a bright future for crude oil thanks to new strong demand, Time talked to several U.S. officials who shared their concern about how realistic this view of the industry actually is.

In fact, these officials believe Saudi Arabia is still overdependent on crude oil, and this could spell trouble for the barely contained powder keg that is the Middle East—a ripple in crude oil would likely set the region all ablaze. What’s more, they say, Saudi Arabia is still unable to make ends meet, even at the current higher oil prices. If prices fall and its deficit deepens further, the Kingdom would be hard pressed for an urgent change in its heavily subsidized economic model. There is even a danger of the economy crashing, one U.S. official said, and should this happen, chaos will ensue.

It is possible that Saudi officials are downplaying some very real threats to all the ambitious economic reform plans initiated by Mohammed bin Salman. However, it seems difficult to gauge the importance of these threats when Saudi sources are often at opposing ends of the opinion spectrum. Some, U.S. officials say, are adamant that everything around the reforms is proceeding smoothly. Others are equally adamant that the Kingdom is running on fumes that will soon evaporate.

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U.S. and Russia Making Preparations for World War III

U.S. and Russia Making Preparations for World War III

The anti-neoconservative Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who had been the chief aide to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and had opposed America’s invading Iraq, spoke on March 2nd explaining how the U.S. and Russia are drifting ever-more-rapidly into World War III. He said it’s essentially the same way that England and Germany drifted into WW I: being sucked in by their entangling web of foreign alliances. However, as he sees it, the role that Sarajevo played to spark world-war in 1914, is being performed this time by Israel. Instead of the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip igniting the war by assassinating in Sarajevo the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Benjamin Netanyahu is igniting this war throughout the Middle East, by escalating his campaign to conquer Shiites in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon — overthrowing and replacing the governments there (which would then become controlled by allies of the anti-Shiite Sunni regime in U.S.-Israel-allied Saudi Arabia), and also aiming ultimately to expand Israel itself, to take over Jordan so as to confirm biblical prophesy.

And, as Wilkerson sees it, Netanyahu is also fronting for the Saud family: the Israel lobby is fronting not only for Israel’s aristocracy, but for Saudi Arabia’s. (Whereas Israel works both inside and outside the U.S. Government to control the U.S. Government, the Sauds, which are the world’s richest family, work only inside the U.S. Government, by outright buying it; so, unlike the Jewish billionaires who control Israel, they don’t need acceptance by the American people; and each time the Sauds try, they fail at it.) However, since Wilkerson’s speech was being sponsored by organizations that oppose Israel’s lobbyists, most of it dealt with Israel’s side of the Israel-Saud alliance that controls U.S. foreign policies (especially in the Middle East). (The U.S. aristocracy’s hostility toward Russia is, however, its own; it is primary for America’s billionaires, but not for Israel’s aristocracy, and also not for the Sauds — both of which aristocracies are instead focused mainly against Iran and Shiites.)

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A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington

A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington

It’s a classic narrative: the foreign dignitary of a US ally visits Washington, the Pentagon and State Department are intent on selling him a large weapons package, a munitions maker seeks to capitalize on the visit, some senators resist and point to how US weapons are being used by that ally to kill civilians, and the administration answers that the US is not “a party” to the hostilities and must show good faith to the ally or risk losing its favor.

This is the Saudi Arabia story as its new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes to Washington. His country, as I have reported more than a few times, is valued by the Trump administration for several reasons, none of them compelling: a “bulwark” against Iran’s Shiite regime, thus an unofficial partner to Israel in a nonexistent peace process; a major oil producer; a longtime customer for US weapons, in the billions of dollars (recall last year’s $110-billion arms package); the senior partner to the US in the bloody war in Yemen (an estimated 10,000 civilian casualties); and, perhaps most importantly these days, a good friend to private investors, starting with the Real-Estate-Agents-in-Chief, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner.

Now this Saudi leader, hailed as a modernizer and reformer in some media, expects a warm welcome—and the chance to purchase another $1 billion in weapons, including Raytheon Corporation’s precision-guided munitions. He will thus gain US endorsement to more efficiently carry out war crimes in Yemen, a country in collapse and in the midst of cholera and malnutrition epidemics. All this largesse to maintain US “influence” and help make the Middle East more “stable.”

Back in the day, the Obama administration came, belatedly to be sure, to the conclusion that constant support of the Saudis had been mistaken and should no longer be allowed to get in the way of other US interests. One of those was pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran. (The full story is in Trita Parsi’s Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.) Under Trump, however, that direction has been reversed. Not only is Saudi Arabia very much in favor; it benefits from the administration’s determination early on to loosen restrictions on arms sales abroad in order to make US arms manufacturer’s more competitive.

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The Russian Military Warns: a Major War in Syria Is Imminent

The Russian Military Warns: a Major War in Syria Is Imminent

The Russian Military Warns: a Major War in Syria Is Imminent

On March 17, the Russian General Staff warned about an imminent attack on Syria. The statement did not elaborate. Of course, some information is classified but an independent and impartial analysis of publicly available information leads one to the same conclusion. Let’s look at the facts.

There are warships deployed by US Navy in the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf. They are ready to launch roughly 400 long-range Tomahawks against a target in the Middle East on any given day. Sea-launched cruise missiles were used to strike Syria in April. Anything that is at all related to the military operations on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is hush-hush information, but it’s an open secret that the strategic bombers based there can launch at least a hundred cruise missiles and then use other high-precision munitions in a follow-up attack. On average, one bomber carries 20 AGM-86 ALCMs. Five bombers are believed to be normally stationed on this island that is off-limits to inquisitive outsiders. This means that at least 500 cruise missiles can be fired on short notice.

On March 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that Great Britain, France, and some additional countries besides the US had special forces operating in Syria that were engaging the Syrian Army directly. But it’s not just commandos.

It was reported on March 16 that the UK would be stationing a significant number of troops at the US-controlled Al-Tanf military base, adjacent to the Iraqi border. This facility is prominently eatured in NATO’s war planning in Syria. It blocks the corridor linking Iran to Lebanon via Syria and Iraq. The size of the deployment — about 2,300 troops accompanied by tanks and helicopters — is too significant just to be intended to fight Islamic State militants who are already on the run.

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Oil Prices Tear Higher On Middle East Tensions

Oil Prices Tear Higher On Middle East Tensions

Marcellus gas rig

Oil prices rose on Tuesday ahead of the API data report, fueled by Middle East tensions and dwindling crude output in Venezuela.

(Click to enlarge)

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– U.S crude oil exports averaged 1.1 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2017, twice as high as 2016. It was the second full-year since the prohibition on crude exports had been lifted.

– Canada remained the largest buyer at 29 percent of total U.S. exports. But a notable development was the emergence of China as a major buyer of U.S. crude, representing 20 percent of the total.

– Breaking it down by product type, crude oil only accounts for 18 percent of total petroleum product exports, with hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) and distillates each accounting for 22 percent.

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Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

On February 18 the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that Iran “is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. This is a very dangerous development for our region.” Netanyahu’s presentation was dismissed by the Iranian foreign minister as “a cartoonish circus,” but it was nonetheless a reflection of the policy of the United States, which is Israel’s mentor and unconditional ally.

Last November Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested to President Vladimir Putin that Tehran and Moscow should cooperate more fully to try to dissuade the US from further disruptive dabbling throughout the Middle East. His opinion was that “Our cooperation can isolate America. The failure of US-backed terrorists in Syria cannot be denied but Americans continue their plots,” which is certainly the case, because although the so-called “moderate rebels” who were recruited to overthrow President Assad, with massive amounts of assistance from the Pentagon and the CIA, collapsed in ignominious failure, the US fandangos continue. Washington is not going to give up, and the Trump administration seems to relish being isolated by almost everyone.

During his time in the White House, President Obama tried to get US-Iran relations on an even keel, and managed to temporarily overcome the Washington warmongers to some extent and push forward the tension-reducing, trade-improving, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, which the BBC described as “the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency.” It was settled two years ago by China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US in a most welcome example of international solidarity and downright common sense, and removed sanctions on Iran in exchange for Teheran’s agreement to limit its nuclear research and development.

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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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