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The Trump Administration’s Iran Policy Will Hasten Imperial Decline

The Trump Administration’s Iran Policy Will Hasten Imperial Decline

There was a postwar order, but was it liberal?  Like most political orders, it looked much better on paper than it did in practice and to the core members of the order than those on the margins…

Liberal values were only remotely attached to the postwar institutions.  Sovereign equality did not translate into a liberal world order.  The postwar institutions were run by the most powerful countries, with middle and lesser powers either shunted to the back of the room or locked out altogether…Third World now comprised most of the world’s states, but it was on the outside looking in.  Western states enjoyed democracy and the rule of law, but the U.S. and the former colonial masters undermined rather than supported democracy and human rights elsewhere. Some Western states and analysts presumed that the global order must have some legitimacy because there were no great (or at least successful) revolts by the Third World, but they mistook coercion and the lack of alternative for consent…

The suggestion, then, is that if the international order is having greater difficulty creating rule-based governance, it might have less to do with the weakening of liberalism and more to do with the fact that the rules that have been in place for decades were overdue for an overhaul, and especially given a shift in power from the West to the East.  

– From Michael N. Barnett’s piece: The End of a Liberal International Order That Never Existed

A primary focus of my writing of late centers around the idea that the policies of the Trump administration, and the neocons in control of it, will hasten the decline of U.S. imperial power and more rapidly usher in a multi-polar (and possibly bifurcated) world. Today’s news regarding the elimination of waivers on Iranian oil imports provides another perfect example.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Kicks the Sanctions Can on Iran Oil

Trump Kicks the Sanctions Can on Iran Oil

Sanctions on Iran have failed. The weakness of the U.S. position in the oil markets is now complete. Donald Trump’s Energy Dominance strategy has failed.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R – The Eschaton) that no more sanctions waivers will be granted to importers of Iranian oil. Those that do so will face sanctions.

But let’s look at what is actually on the table.  Waivers will be extended to a year from now during a ‘wind-down’ period. But, I thought these past six months were the ‘wind down’ period Don?

I told you these would get extended the minute they were granted. Because three of these countries — India, Turkey and China — are in open revolt over the policy. 

And they have built plenty of infrastructure to get around these sanctions when or if they are ever implemented.

Three of the eight countries granted waivers — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — do not need waiver extensions as they’ve already cut their imports to zero.

No Disruptions

But the main issue here is the extension. It’s clear that Trump and his merry band of neocon handlers are afraid of further disruption of the oil supply and demand, otherwise the extensions wouldn’t have been granted at all.

They talk tough about UAE and Saudi Arabia adding supply but the reality is it isn’t that easy to spin up new supply. And the year-long waiver extension is proof of this. They’ll certainly sell all they can but there are those pesky OPEC quotas to deal with.

No one was willing to go along with the Saudis OPEC+ plan where they and Russia would be pigs more equal than the others this winter, so it’s unlikely that will happen now that Trump has helped them push prices back towards $75 per barrel.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Threatens To Close Strait Of Hormuz If US Blocks Its Oil Exports

Iran Threatens To Close Strait Of Hormuz If US Blocks Its Oil Exports

With oil surging to a six month high after a now confirmed report that Trump will not reissue Iranian oil export waivers after they expire on May 2, removing up to 1 million barrels from the market…

… Tehran has gone on the offensive and on Monday a senior Iranian military official said the Islamic Republic will close the Strait of Hormuz if it’s prevented from using it, the state-run Fars news agency reported.

“The Strait of Hormuz based on international law is a waterway and if we are prevented from using it, we will close it,” Reuters reported, citing Alireza Tangsiri, head of the revolutionary guards navy force.

Separately, the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Monday quoted an unnamed Iranian oil ministry source as saying that “whether the waivers continue or not, Iran’s oil exports will not be zero under any circumstances unless Iranian authorities decide to stop oil exports … and this is not relevant now.” The source added that “we have been monitoring and analyzing all possible scenarios and conditions for the advance of our country’s oil exports, and necessary measures have been taken … Iran is not waiting for America’s decision or the lack of it to export its oil. We have years of experience in neutralizing efforts by enemies to strike blows against our country.”

* * *

To be sure, this is not the first time Iran has made such a threat: back in December Iran warned it would close the global oil chokepoint, when it said that “if someday, the United States decides to block Iran’s oil (exports), no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf.” 

President Rouhani’s December threat had been welcomed by hardline clerics and military officials, including Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Will US Troops Be At Greater Risk After Tit-For-Tat ‘Terrorist Org’ Designations With Iran?

Will US Troops Be At Greater Risk After Tit-For-Tat ‘Terrorist Org’ Designations With Iran?

Following the US decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, and Iran’s decision to do the same with US Central Command in response, Russia’s RT has suggested that the escalation in tensions may put American troops at greater risk while operating in the Middle East. 

For example, the 2016 detention of 10 US sailors who strayed into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf may have gone differently today than it did three years ago. 

“The approach will be much different… the American soldiers would be treated as terrorists and not as soldiers of a [state-run] army,” said Ali Rizk, a Middle East-based journalist and writer. 

Terrorism is a criminal offense under Iranian law, and so “Iran could have taken the toughest action, including imprisonment and a subsequent trial,”Vladimir Sazhin, senior research fellow at Russia’s Institute for Oriental Studies, stated. –RT 

And while National Security John Bolton is undoubtedly a huge fan of the new terrorist designation pissing match, the last two administrations were hesitant to do the same, according to the New York Times

The George W. Bush administration considered a range of tough actions on Iran during the Iraq war, but held back.

The potential blowback vastly outweighs the benefits,” said Jeffrey Prescott, a senior Middle East director under President Barack Obama.

Wendy R. Sherman, a former top State Department official, said the Obama administration considered designating the Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization, but decided against it because there would be no practical payoff given the risks to Americans and the fact the group was already under other sanctions.

By designating a foreign military as a foreign terrorist organization, we were putting our troops at risk, particularly our troops in Iraq, next door to Iran,” she said.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Revolutionary Guard Commander Warns US Carrier: Stay Away From Our Speed Boats

Iran Revolutionary Guard Commander Warns US Carrier: Stay Away From Our Speed Boats

It begins: unprecedented tit-for-tat formal “terror” designations exchanged between Washington and Tehran on Monday could soon enter a hot war on the ground. A mere hours after President Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization on Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry responded in kind by immediately putting forward a bill placing the US Central Command (CENTCOM) on a list of organizations designated as terrorists, akin to ISIS. 

This means each side has given its armed forces authorization to target the other as part of “war on terror” operations. And already on Tuesday an IRGC commander has put the US Navy in the Persian Gulf on notice, warning it not to come anywhere near Revolutionary Guards speed boats. Specifically, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency, Tehran has warned that America’s aircraft carrier currently deployed to the gulf, the USS John C. Stennis, should not come anywhere near IRGC boatsIRGC speed boats, via Tasnim News

According to Reuters, citing Iranian state media: 

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander warned the U.S. Navy to keep its warships at a distance from Revolutionary Guards speed boats in Gulf waters, a day after the United States designated the Guards as a terrorist organisation.

“Mr Trump, tell your warships not to pass near the Revolutionary Guards boats,” ISNA news agency reported a tweet from Mohsen Rezaei as saying. 

Over the past years there’s been a number of intercept incidents in the Persian Gulf carried out by each side — none of them escalating to the point of serious exchange of fire. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Designates US Military As Terrorist Organization

Iran Designates US Military As Terrorist Organization

Just hours after President Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, Iran’s foreign ministry has put forward a bill placing US Central Command on a list of organizations designated as terrorists, akin to Daesh.

Statement from the President on the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Qods Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.  The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.

This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a FTO.  It underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.  This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime.  It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC.  If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.

This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences.  We will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

Iran has successfully navigated the first phase of its resistance to U.S. sanctions pressure. The U.S. State Department has admitted it’s goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero is not feasible.

The goal now is a 25% drop to 800,000 barrel per day. And that is no joke. It’s a big drop from where Iran was looking to produce in the coming years under the auspice of the JCPOA. 

The U.S. will not stop until all avenues have been exhausted or Trump fires his current cabinet. 

Iran’s total non-oil exports have suffered as well, since gas condensate exports have also dropped along with the crude oil numbers. 

But Iran is finding friends in other places. They are currently finalizing a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Belarus leading the talks at the 15th meeting between their Joint Economic Committee. 

Iran’s non-oil exports, however, are still just one-fifth of their peak exports. Like Russia it is working quickly with regional partners to change that dynamic. 

It won’t be enough to overcome the U.S.’s economic pressure in the short term.

But as I always say if it survives the initial onslaught then market forces open up opportunities for change. Things like INSTEX, the EU special purpose vehicle for getting around U.S. sanctions, is a perfect example.

Bilateral trade outside of the U.S. dollar is another.

North-South Trade Routes

The completion of the North South Transport Corridor (NSTC) is also helping. For example, trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran rose more than 70% last year. 

Speaking in the event, [Azeri Trade Minister] Mustafayev mentioned the 12 meetings between the two countries’ presidents during the past five years and said “that is an indication of how good the relations between the two countries are.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US officials offered my friend cash to take down Tehran’s power grid

US officials offered my friend cash to take down Tehran’s power grid

It took a country-wide power outage in Venezuela, whispers of a cyberattack, and smug tweets from US officials to make me suddenly recall the cloak-and-dagger story of a close Iranian-American friend nine years ago.

My friend, an engineer — who I will not name for obvious reasons and who I will call ‘Kourosh’ for the purpose of this article — revealed to me in 2010 that he was approached by two “State Department employees” who offered him $250,000 to “do something very simple” during his upcoming trip to Tehran.

Kourosh was freaking out because he didn’t know how these guys knew he was going to Iran in the first place, and how they knew he was “cash-strapped,” in the second.

He wasn’t a particularly political person, though he had participated in some DC protests in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2009 presidential elections. He was just one of thousands of Iranian-American engineers in the Washington-Maryland-Virginia technology belt looking to make a decent living.

Kourosh told the US officials that he was not interested, that if Iran needed to make changes, Iranians inside the country were the only ones who should do it.

I begged him to let me write this story, but he was very nervous and declined. Over the next year or two, I pushed some more and he gave me further information, but wouldn’t budge on its publication. Here’s what he revealed:

The State Department guys had since approached him a second time. They offered him further details about the job. They wanted him to disable Tehran’s power grid in exchange for the $250k. They needed someone with technical skills, but said the job was a simple one. He would have to go to a specific location in the Tehran area with a laptop or similar communication device and punch in a code.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Damascus To Become A “Ruinous Heap”?: Syria Threatens To Attack The Golan Heights And Israel Prepares For War

Damascus To Become A “Ruinous Heap”?: Syria Threatens To Attack The Golan Heights And Israel Prepares For War

The winds of war are blowing once again, and it isn’t going to take much to spark a major conflict in the Middle East.  This week is the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the civil war in Syria, and after the nightmare that the people of Syria have been through, you would think that the Assad regime would be eager for peace.  But instead, Assad appears to be ready to go for broke.  If Syria can spark a Middle East war that results in the complete destruction of Israel, Assad would be remembered as a hero in the Islamic world forever.  Instead of a legacy of civil war and crushing poverty, Assad’s legacy would be one of wartime leader that brought total victory over Syria’s most hated enemy.  But of course such a conflict would be a huge risk, because if it went badly the city of Damascus would be completely flattened and the nation of Syria as we know it today would be entirely destroyed.  And considering how overwhelmingly powerful the Israeli military is, it would seem to be a very foolish risk to take.  Unfortunately, Assad does not appear to be thinking rationally.  On Thursday, Syria officially threatened “to attack Israel unless it withdraws from the Golan Heights”.  The following comes from the Jerusalem Post

Syria vowed to attack Israel unless it withdraws from the Golan Heights, World Israel News reported on Thursday.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad submitted an official warning to the head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) Kristin Lund, in what seemed to be an attempt to prevent official US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tomgram: Bob Dreyfuss, The Rise of the Hardliners

Tomgram: Bob Dreyfuss, The Rise of the Hardliners

I’ll tell you when the nightmare that TomDispatch regular Bob Dreyfuss raises so eloquently first hit me hard. I’m talking about the possibility that the next U.S. military disaster of the twenty-first century might be Iran. That country has, of course, had a significant spot on Washington’s war-making to-do list since the days of George W. Bush’s presidency. After all, the Washington catch-phrase of that moment when neocons like… well, John Bolton… helped take us so disastrously into Iraq was “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” The “real men” didn’t make it then. The question is: Will they now?

You remember, of course, that, on entering the Oval Office, Donald Trump turned to America’s generals for a hand. For secretary of defense, he proudly tapped retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, reveling in his nickname, which was “Mad Dog.” As it happened, Mattis already had a rep for obsessiveness on Iran that seemed to fit that moniker perfectly. As the head of U.S. Central Command in 2011, he reportedly responded to a query from President Obama about the top three threats across the Greater Middle East by saying, “Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran.” In the end, he was evidently removed from that command early because he hatched a scheme to take out an Iranian oil refinery or power plant in a “dead-of-night U.S. strike” to pay Iran back for supporting Iraqi Shia militias then fighting American troops.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America and Europe: Growing differences over Iran

America and Europe: Growing differences over Iran

America and Europe: Growing differences over Iran

The United States’ and Poland’s co-hosted conference in Europe is a controversial event. It has united some American allies around President Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-Iran posturing while alienating some others. 

The Summit demonstrated divisions amongst European Union member states on the current American administration’s foreign and security policies. It also exhibited new budding relations between various states in the region. Furthermore, it showed the growing polarity between America and the EU on issues concerning the Middle East, especially the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran: Consensus achieved? Or division on display?

The Trump Administration’s publicised Warsaw Middle East Summit intended to unify American allies in pursuit of Middle Eastern peace and security. The two-day event brought together representatives from 60 countries where they publicly discussed geopolitical issues facing the region. This included promoting America’s current policy toward Iran. Nonetheless, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denied claims that the conference was singularly aimed at Tehran despite the antagonistic rhetoric employed during the event.

Speeches by the US and high-level allied officials showed a united front through anti-Iran posturing. Both Secretary Pompeo and Vice President Pence railed against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They demanded Europe support the US and withdraw from negotiations. The landmark Obama era agreement placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program while guaranteeing relief from American, European, and UN sanctions. However, not all traditional US allies have supported President Trump’s actions of withdrawal and the subsequent return of sanctions. The makeup of states present at the Summit highlighted these differences. Other than the UK, no other major European ally sent high-level representation. Turkey, a major NATO member and regional force also chose not to attend.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Netherlands Recalls Iranian Ambassador In Tit-For-Tat; Follows EU Charges Of Iran “Terror Plots”

Netherlands Recalls Iranian Ambassador In Tit-For-Tat; Follows EU Charges Of Iran “Terror Plots”

In a diplomatic tit-for-tat the Netherlands on Monday recalled its ambassador to Iran after members of its diplomatic staff at its embassy in Tehran were expelled, Foreign Minister Stef Blok announced on Monday. 

“[We] Have decided to recall the ambassador in Tehran for consultations,” Blok said in a tweet. “The decision follows the expulsion of two Dutch embassy staff. That is unacceptable.” 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) meets with visiting Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 21, 2018. Image source: Xinhua.

Though the immediate reasons for this latest spat between the two countries remains unclear, tensions have heightened after the European Union first began accusing Iran of “assassination attempts” and state-sponsored “terrorist plots” in Europe.

Last month Iran slammed EU charges as “groundless” — charges which Dutch officials had helped push into the open in tandem with other European leaders. 

Earlier, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) publicly leveled accusations against Iran’s intelligence service of planning an assassination operation against an Iranian separatist and opposition group member in Denmark. The Dutch Foreign Minister led efforts to bring Iran to account for plotting violent acts on European soil. 

Stef Blok alongside Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in January when the issue came to a head that they had “strong indications” that Tehran was behind assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017.

Heb besloten de Nederlandse ambassadeur in Teheran terug te roepen voor consultaties. Besluit volgt op de uitzetting van twee Nederlandse ambassademedewerkers door Iran. Dat is onacceptabel. Lees hier de Kamerbrief: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2019/03/04/kamerbrief-terugroepen-nederlandse-ambassadeur-iran …537:05 AM – Mar 4, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyKamerbrief terugroepen Nederlandse ambassadeur uit IranMinister Blok (Buitenlandse Zaken) informeert de Tweede Kamer over het terugroepen van de Nederlandse ambassadeur in Teheran.rijksoverheid.nl

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Navy Begins “Massive Drill” Stretching Across World’s Key Oil Chokepoints

Iran Navy Begins “Massive Drill” Stretching Across World’s Key Oil Chokepoints

Iran’s navy has begun a three day war game exercise on Friday in the Persian Gulf, in an expansive area encompassing Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, to the Sea of Oman and even stretching to northern parts of the Indian Ocean, state media reports. Some reports indicate the games could go on for as much as a week, but all emphasized the “large-scale” nature of the drills in which Iran’s navy will showcase the Fateh-class submarine — a domestically built sub carrying cruise missiles and torpedoes, as well as its Sahand destroyer.

The cruise missile-firing capable Fateh, or “Conqueror”, was launched for the first time at the start of this week and has been touted as “state-of-the-art” and with the ability to stay underwater for five weeks at a time. Crucially, the large exercises come after last week’s US-sponsored Warsaw conference in which both Israeli and US officials made threats of war with Tehran. Indeed during the conference Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu openly stated that he was attending the summit with an aim to “advance the common interest of war with Iran.”

Iran state media montage from the first day of the military games. 

The games also come at a time when even foreign policy establishment insiders, such as the Council on Foreign Relation’s Steven Cook, increasingly acknowledge that the White House’s “march to war against Iran” is now “echoing the drumbeats” of the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Cook warns

Taken together—the Warsaw conference, Pence’s bullying of the Europeans, Bolton’s threatening video, and the broader background noise in Washington—the events of the past week were familiar in a foreboding way. The chatter about Iran has not become the war fever that gripped Washington in 2002 over Iraq, but the echoes of that year are not hard to miss in the Trump administration’s effort to shape the domestic and international debate about Iran.

Iran’s drills in the coming days will further involve battleship exercises and amphibious and anti-amphibious warfare maneuvers, according to Iranian military statements. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Understanding Why Iranians Bash the U.S. Government

Understanding Why Iranians Bash the U.S. Government

Two days ago, the New York Times carried an article by Times’ journalist Thomas Erdbrink entitled, “For Iran, a Grand Occasion to Bash the U.S.,” which was about Iran’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of its revolution in 1979. The article included the following sentence, “And like some evil doppelgänger, the United States was omnipresent, despite having broken all ties with Iran in 1981.”

Unfortunately, Erdbrink failed to point out two things: One, it is understandable why the Iranian people bash the U.S. government, and, two, while the U.S. government may have broken diplomatic ties with Iran, it has nonetheless continued to use economic sanctions to target the Iranian people with impoverishment and death as a way of hopefully effecting another regime change within the country.

The distinction is important because the Iranian people love Americans. They just hate the U.S. government. And when one considers what the U.S. government has done to Iranians and continues to do to Iranians, which, unfortunately, many Americans don’t like to think about, it is not difficult to understand the deep enmity that Iranians have toward the U.S. government.

First things first though. When the Times refers to “bashing the U.S.,” it makes a common mistake by conflating the U.S. government and our nation. Actually, they are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon best reflected by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the citizenry (i.e., our country) from the U.S. government. 

In 1953, the CIA, which is one of three principal parts of the national-security branch of the federal government, secretly initiated a regime-change coup in Iran, one that not only ousted from power the democratically elected prime minister of the country, Mohammed Mossadegh, but also destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy. That’s ironic, of course, given that U.S. officials are always reminding people how enamored they are with “democracy.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unhinged Mike Pence Warns of ‘New Holocaust’ as Team Trump Tries to Rally EU Leaders for War With Iran

Unhinged Mike Pence Warns of ‘New Holocaust’ as Team Trump Tries to Rally EU Leaders for War With Iran

“Can someone remind me how things turned out the last time the U.S. pushed flimsy evidence of a nuclear weapons program in the Middle East and tried to bully its allies into supporting its policy?”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a U.S.-led summit about the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday. (Photo: VP/Twitter)

Speaking at a U.S.-led conference about the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, Vice President piled on the potent anti-Iran sentiment surrounding the conference by demanding that European Union (EU) allies withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump ditched last year, and accused Iran of plotting a “new Holocaust.”

“Instead of recognizing the U.S.’ failed Iran policy, Pence is doubling down in his search for an excuse to go to war.”
—NIAC

Pence accused Iran of being “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world” and “the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East” while attempting to shame European leaders over their recent “effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions…against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

His speech was met with a mix of frustration and alarm:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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