Congress quietly Bans Federal Funds from labs in China, Russia and Iran

Congress quietly Bans Federal Funds from labs in China, Russia and Iran


Congress quietly Bans Federal Funds from labs in China, Russia and Iran

Vote is latest action to acknowledge that theory that COVID-19 leaked from Wuhan research lab — once censored as preposterous and by news organizations, social media giants — is viable enough for government to vote with its pocketbook

By John Solomon

While U.S. intelligence has been unable in two years to determine for sure if COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab, Congress has decided it no longer wants to take the risk of funding medical research at labs controlled by Beijing or other American adversaries.

With little fanfare and in bipartisan fashion, House appropriators quietly amended the 2023 federal budget for health and science agencies on Thursday to ban any funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which U.S. intelligence fears may have been the origin point for the coronavirus pandemic, and other labs like it.

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be made available to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or any other laboratory located in a country determined by the Secretary of State to be a foreign adversary, including China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran,” reads the amendment approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

You can read the amendment here:

The vote is the latest official government action to acknowledge that the theory that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan research lab — once panned as preposterous and censored by news organizations and social media giants — is viable enough for the government to vote with its pocketbook.

After more than a year of ridicule, the lab leak theory was officially recognized by the Biden administration’s intelligence apparatus as one of the two most viable explanations for the appearance of coronavirus, with the other being natural evolution.

The lab leak theory got even more credence last month when the World Health Organization, the United Nations body that first dismissed the lab leak theory, admitted there was “new evidence” supporting the theory that needed investigating.

WHO said on June 10 that  “key pieces of data” to explain how the pandemic began were still missing and that it must “remain open to any and all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses.”

The announcement by WHO led House Republicans to cheer. “Americans were smeared as ‘conspiracy theorists’ for asking whether #COVID19 came from a lab leak,” they tweeted. “Now, the WHO is asking the same questions.”

The Appropriations Committee action on Thursday was praised by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee who sponsored the amendment over national security concerns and the fact that many foreign labs conduct abusive experiments on animals.

“Our tax dollars should never go to countries that threaten our national security,” she said. “We’ve seen how dangerous it is to fund research at the Wuhan Lab in China. I’ve been leading efforts to defund animal labs in China, Russia and other foreign adversaries and I’m proud that the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment supporting my efforts to prevent taxpayers’ money from being sent to labs in these countries.”

Also applauding the action was the nonprofit group White Coat Waste Project, which earlier this year revealed that 32 animal labs in Russia and China were eligible to receive taxpayer dollars via the National Institutes of Health and that one in Russia was involved in a cruel experiment on cats.

“A majority of Americans agree that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay white coats in foreign labs to torture animals in dangerous and wasteful experiments,” said the group’s Senior Vice President Justin Goodman. “Having first exposed NIH funding for animal labs in China and Russia — including the notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology — we applaud Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee for their historic move to defund wasteful spending in dozens of animal testing labs run by our enemies.”

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(TLB) published this article with permission of John Solomon at Just the News.  Click Here to read about the staff at Just the News

Header featured image (edited) credit:  Lab/Orginal article Just the News

Emphasis added by (TLB) editors

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Global Energy Cleaving Continues, Iran and Argentina Apply to Join BRICS Economic Partnership

Global Energy Cleaving Continues, Iran and Argentina Apply to Join BRICS Economic Partnership

This is not some grand conspiracy, ‘out there‘ deep geopolitical possibility, or foreboding likelihood as an outcome of short-sighted western emotion.  No, this is just a predictable outcome from western created events that pushed specific countries to a natural conclusion based on their best interests.

You can debate the motives of the western leaders who structured the sanctions against Russia, and whether they knew the outcome would happen as a consequence of their effort, but the outcome was never really in doubt.  Personally, I believe this outcome is what the west intended. The people inside the World Economic Forum are not stupid – ideological, yes, but not stupid. They knew this global cleaving would happen.

In April the finance ministers of the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) decided to create their own financial mechanisms to continue trade between nations of similar disposition despite Western/NATO sanctions {LINK}. Earlier this month Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated, “rapid changes are taking place in the global monetary system that may affect the international role of the dollar.”  {LINK} Additionally, as the proverbial ‘west’ follows the corporate instructions from the World Economic Forum, Powell expanded his points to note the creation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) is also being reviewed. {LINK}

Following a recent meeting of the BRICS group, Iran (86 million people) and Argentina (46 million people) are now applying to join BRICS, possibly creating BRICS+

(Reuters) – Iran has submitted an application to become a member in the group of emerging economies known as the BRICS, an Iranian official said on Monday.

Iran’s membership in the BRICS group, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, “would result in added values for both sides,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said separately that Argentina had also applied to join the group. Argentinian officials could not be reached for immediate comment.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez, currently in Europe, has in recent days reiterated his desire for Argentina to join BRICS.

“While the White House was thinking about what else to turn off in the world, ban or spoil, Argentina and Iran applied to join the BRICS,” Zakharova wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia has long been pushing to forge closer ties with Asia, South America and the Middle East, but it has intensified its efforts recently to weather sanctions imposed by Europe, the United States and other countries over its invasion on Ukraine. (read more)

For a deep dive on BRICS, as predicted by CTH, {SEE HERE}.  The bottom line is – the 2022 punitive economic and financial sanctions by the western nations’ alliance against Russia was exactly the reason why BRICS assembled in the first place.

Multinational corporations in control of government are what the BRICS assembly foresaw when they first assembled during the Obama administration.  When multinational corporations run the policy of western government, there is going to be a problem.

In the bigger picture, the BRICS assembly are essentially leaders who do not want corporations and multinational banks running their government. BRICS leaders want their government running their government; and yes, that means whatever form of government that exists in their nation, even if it is communist.

BRICS leaders are aligned as anti-corporatist.  That doesn’t necessarily make those government leaders better stewards, it simply means they want to make the decisions, and they do not want corporations to become more powerful than they are.  As a result, if you really boil it down to the common denominator, what you find is the BRICS group are the opposing element to the World Economic Forum assembly.

The BRICS team intend to create an alternative option for all the other nations. An alternative to the current western trade and financial platforms operated on the use of the dollar as a currency.  Perhaps many nations will use both financial mechanisms depending on their need.

The objective of the BRICS group is simply to present an alternative trade mechanism that permits them to conduct business regardless of the opinion of the multinational corporations in the ‘western alliance.’

Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Narendra Modi (India) and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), the BRICS group.

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Pope Francis Answers Putin’s ‘Satan-2’ WMD Sabre-Rattling

Pope Francis insists that we do not require nuclear weapons or the lose-lose policy of mutually-assured destruction to maintain world peace and security. There is a better way forward than holding threats of total annihilation over the heads of humanity.

An ailing Pope Francis has dusted off rumours about his potential resignation due to his health.

Speculation continued to circulate this week after the 85-year-old acknowledged his struggle with age-related health issues, some of which have resulted in surgery, and an overseas trip cancellation.

A New York Post article fuelled the speculation, which was later written off by the Vatican as “fake news.” Addressing a gathering of bishops from Brazil, Francis spoke about his health, reassuring them that “resigning hadn’t crossed his mind”.

Asked about his plans, Francis replied,

“I want to live my mission as long as God allows me and that’s it.”

The moderate, theologically progressive Latin-American pope doesn’t appear to be giving up his tenure any time soon. He was also active this week in poking international social consciousness over nuclear weapons.

Free from Fear

Addressing the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Francis took to task the concept of mutually-assured destruction (MAD).

MAD is, Francis said, an inadequate way of keeping “collective security and peace”, asserting that “a world free from nuclear weapons is both necessary and possible.”

The Vatican boss gave the treaty’s President-designate Alexander Kmentt his full backing, recommitting the Catholic Church to “promoting peace between peoples and nations and fostering education for peace throughout its institutions.”

Pope Francis further argued that nuclear weapons “were a costly and dangerous liability”, only offering the “illusion of peace.”

He then damned the use and ownership of nuclear weapons, as “immoral,” stating,

“[The act of] trying to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security and a ‘balance of terror’, sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, inevitably ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any possible form of real dialogue.”

“Existing disarmament treaties,” he explained, “were more than just legal obligations. They are also moral commitments based on trust between citizens and their governments.”

As such, these treaties have “ethical consequences for current and future generations of humanity.”

Remaining true to his push for the abolition of extinction-level weaponry, Pope Francis recalled remarks from his February protest against the war in Ukraine, exclaiming, “those who wage war… forget humanity!”

Deadly Developments

The Catholic Church leader’s comments are not devoid of context.

Three months into his war on Ukrainians, Russian President Vladimir Putin, escalating the prospect of a nuclear winter, “bragged” that his “Satan-2” (the NATO designation for Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat) heavy ICBMs, will be “put on combat duty by the end of 2022.”

Popular Mechanics rates the RS-28 as being capable of “delivering up to ten thermonuclear warheads anywhere on Earth.”

The existence of RS-28, and Putin’s threats to deploy them in combat, give weight to Pope Francis’ disarmament demands.

Likewise, Pope Francis’ demand for the abolition of nuclear weapons is relevant to Iran’s quest for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Aside from Putin’s Eastern European powder keg, should Israel pre-emptively strike a weaponised nuclear facility in Iran, there is real potential for war in the Middle East.

It’s no secret that Israel is keeping the Biden administration at an arm’s length from its national security prerogatives. A likely reason for this is Team Biden/Obama’s face-saving attempts at a political resurrection of Barack Obama’s shady “Iran deal.”

Putin’s WMD sabre-rattling against Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and others, is an example of what Israel, and the West, could expect from a nuclear-armed Iranian jihadist regime. A regime already on record for threatening to destroy Jews, supporters of Israel, and the nation of Israel itself.

Despite the hopes and assurances of the current Pope, it is unlikely that nuclear-armed nations are going to lay down their arms while the world is being threatened by the ambitions of militant authoritarians.

The WMD pale horse cannot be corralled after it has already bolted.

The answer to eye-for-an-eye mutually assured destruction is eye-to-eye conduct. If the West’s fraternal policy of “peace through strength” is abandoned for a policy of appeasement, with it goes the conditions for relationship and respect. The outcome would be a world inevitably thrown back into the “old world balance of power” Pope Francis decries.

___

Photo: Paul Haring/CNS

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Iranian Dissidents Censored by Pro-Government Meta Fact-Checkers

Iranian Dissidents Censored by Pro-Government Meta Fact-Checkers

The BBC has claimed Persian-speaking employees of a third-party “Fact-Checker” operating on behalf of Meta were paid by the Iranian government to censor pro-freedom demonstrators on the social media giant’s platforms.

Former Telus International employees — turned whistleblowers — revealed to the BBC in May there was a pro-Iranian regime bias among some employees.

The whistle-blowers added that Telus moderators were offered bribes from the Iranian government to remove anti-regime content.

Bribery

According to the BBC, one of the former employees claimed he was offered upwards of “5,000 to 10,000 euros to delete” pro-freedom Instagram posts viewed as being critical of the Iranian government.

The BBC said that the former employees came forward after ‘Iranian Instagram users complained posts about recent anti-government protests in their country had been deleted.’

Telus International has refuted the claims, stating the company has no ties to the Iranian regime.

TI also told the BBC its employees could not be compromised because internal procedures guard against corruption.

In a statement to the BBC, Telus asserted,

‘The processes in place eliminate the ability of reviewers to insert personal or political opinions into their job; decisions are frequently audited for accuracy and to uncover any potential biases. Additional reviews have been undertaken and have found no validity to these claims.’

Meta rejected the whistleblower’s accusations, reassuring users that its “fact-checking” system was both compromise- and bias-proof:

“We see no evidence to support these claims. Our review teams remove content that breaks our rules.”

The spokesperson told the BBC:

“Those rules are deliberately detailed to avoid room for bias or interpretation, and reviewers’ decisions are regularly audited to help ensure accuracy.”

Putting a hole in Meta’s routine policy and procedure defence, the BBC reported: “only about 10% of content moderator decisions are audited.”

Suspicious

UK-based media insider Iran International didn’t take the revelations lightly. They argued the dots seem to strongly suggest,

‘Meta [however inadvertent] might be aiding the Iranian government by censoring information shared by Iranian dissidents and pro-democracy advocates.’

Providing context, Saudi organisation Arab News explained there has been ‘little coverage’ of widespread pro-freedom demonstrations which spanned ‘several provinces in Iran.’

Arab News put the cause of the protests down to a ‘government decision to cut subsidies to basic food items, which has resulted in higher prices.’

The protests coincided with the tragic collapse of a building in the South West of Iran, where demonstrators, appearing to reject government propaganda, chanted,

“They’re lying that it’s America; our enemy is right here.”

Ironically, Western knowledge about the freedom rallies is only coming to light because whistleblowers are exposing state-sanctioned censorship.

Meta’s potential involvement amplifies the voice of pro-freedom opposition within the Islamist state.

Such potential involvement presents implications for how far the Leftist-dominated organisation’s interference in politics — either by way of internal corruption or otherwise deliberate electioneering — goes.

Even if these whistleblower accusations prove to be untrue, it is still true that Zuckerberg technocrats play partisan politics.

The “breach of community standards” defence is often an excuse for social media platforms to undermine freedom of speech by conflating content with arbitrarily defined “hate speech”.

It is likely Iranian pro-democracy accounts posting videos of demonstrators chanting “Death to the dictator; death to Khamenei” met this end.

This is despite the chanting being an acceptable cultural expression of discontent, akin to a political slogan.

Regardless of any “misunderstanding” that might explain away the potential connection between Meta and the Iranian regime, there is a pattern of censorship evident in the treatment of Iranian dissidents.

Jewish oriented The Algemeiner recounted how,

‘Persian-speaking media outside Iran that oppose the Islamic Republic face similar uncertainty and restrictions on their social media posts. Even Radio Farda, which is funded by the US government, has had its posts removed.’

The article’s author, Potkin Azarmehr, used the example of satirist Salome Seyednia, who has a 1.2-million follower count on Instagram, ‘but has been warned her that her account could be taken down after she posted previous protest videos.’

Azarmehr concluded that while Iranian officials get a free pass on social media, the Iranian people,

‘who are risking their freedom, and even their lives, to speak out against their government are unfairly being silenced on the world’s largest social media platforms.’

Whistleblower revelations haven’t fallen on deaf ears in Washington.

The Paul Singer-backed Washington Free Beacon broke news this week about three Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, who’ve written to Meta seeking answers from them about the alleged state-sponsored censorship.

The letter, addressed to Zuckerberg, is a clear expression of concern for the wider implications, should a connection between in-house Persian speaking “fact-checkers,” and the Iranian government exist:

‘The threat of infiltration by Iran’s regime and its supporters into a social media platform used by millions of Americans is an unacceptable threat to their privacy, liberty, and our national security.’

Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been given until June 10 to reply.

___

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

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Iran: Biometric IDs Roll Out With Digital Food Rationing Amid Food Riots

Iran: Biometric IDs Roll Out With Digital Food Rationing Amid Food Riots

Iran set to be the first country to roll out food rationing scheme based on biometric IDs. Vaccine passports were not a wild success but food passports will be eagerly accepted by hungry people unable to afford inflated food prices.

This is the actualization of  the Rockefeller/UN/WEF  agenda to, as Kissinger put it, “control food, and control people.”

https://www.activistpost.com/2022/05/iran-digital-food-rationing-rolls-out-using-biometric-ids-amid-food-riots.html

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Food Riots In Sri Lanka Turn Deadly As Protesters Beat Up Police, Burn Down Politicians’ Houses

ZeroHedge | by Tyler DurdenSaturday, May 14, 2022 – 06:40 AM

Two months ago, we noted the first Arab Spring 2.0 incident when, as a result of soaring food, energy (and everything else) prices, thousands of angry Iraqis took to the street to protest. Needless to say, their complaints did not get much traction, and in the meantime food prices have only exploded to fresh record highs, far surpassing the levels hit in 2011 when riots against, you guessed it, food prices toppled most MENA political regimes (not without some CIA backing).

And as food prices keep rising, the protests across poor nations keep escalating, and on Thursday protests broke out in Iran leading to at least 22 arrests, after the government cut subsidies for food, sending prices through the roof as authorities braced for more unrest in the following weeks, Fox News reports.

In videos shared on social media, protesters can be seen marching through Dezful and Mahshahr in the southwestern province of Khezestan, chanting “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions, and rescue the economy.

Iranian state media has not publicly addressed the protests, but they have been covered by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group. Footage shared by the NCRI shows protesters setting fire to a Basij military base in Jooneghan, a city in the Central District of Jooneghan county.

“Every so often we see these types of protests in Iran. Each time it is under a different premise – the price of eggs, the price of gas, the price of bread, but the underlining message which is supported by the slogans heard throughout the demonstrations is the same; they are protesting the entirety of a brutal regime,” Lisa Daftari, Iran expert and editor-in-chief of the Foreign Desk, said in a statement.

“It is also evident in the fact that these protests are no longer just contained to Tehran, the capital city, and other urban areas. We are seeing protests throughout the country in urban and rural areas and throughout the very vast and diverse Iranian population.”

Daftari is right, and not just about Iran (and Iraq), but also Sri Lanka, where protesters angry at the soaring prices of everyday commodities including food, have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to “shoot on sight.”

Police in the island nation said Tuesday that in addition to the destroyed homes, 75 others have been damaged as angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.

The Ministry of Defense on Tuesday ordered troops to shoot anyone found damaging state property or assaulting officials, after violence left at least nine people dead since Monday, according to CNN; it is unclear if all of the deaths were directly related to the protests. More than 200 people have been injured.

The nation of 22 million is grappling with a devastating economic crisis, with prices of everyday goods soaring, and there have been widespread electricity shortages for weeks. Since March, thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets, demanding that the government resign.

The military had to rescue the country’s outgoing Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a pre-dawn operation on Tuesday, hours after he resigned following clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters. The military were called after protesters twice tried to breach the Prime Minister’s Temple Trees private residence compound overnight, a senior security source told CNN.

Rajapaksa’s resignation came after live television footage on Monday showed government supporters, armed with sticks, beating protesters at several locations across the capital, and tearing down and burning their tents. Dozens of homes were torched across the country amid the violence, according to witnesses CNN spoke to.

Armed troops were deployed to disperse the protesters, according to CNN’s team on the ground, while video footage showed police firing tear gas and water cannons.

It remains unclear if the curfew and the Prime Minister’s resignation will be enough to keep a lid on the increasingly volatile situation in the country.

Many protesters say their ultimate aim is to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — the Prime Minister’s brother — to step down, something he has so far shown no sign of doing.

* * *

Going back to the same soaring food prices which tend to have quite a deadly and destabilizing impact on the world’s mostly poor nations, the ones who have no social safety net, Goldman recently published a Q&A on global food inflation (available to Professional Subscribers in the usual place), in which the bank look at the consequences of the global food crisis which is only getting worse by the day. Below we excerpt several sections from the Q&A:

Q. How large is the shock to global food prices?

A. Quite large but not unprecedented, and less large than the shock to energy prices.

Our GSCI Agriculture and Livestock index has increased by 17% over the past year and by 75% since the start of the pandemic (Exhibit 1, LHS). These moves are similar to those in 2008 and 2012 but less large than the current rise in energy prices. Our GSCI Energy index has increased by 70% over the past year and by 110% since the start of the pandemic. Agriculture commodities have seen sharper price gains than livestock commodities with increases in the GSCI Agriculture Index of 21% over the last year and 90% since early 2020 (Exhibit 1, RHS). Wheat prices have risen particularly sharply since 2020H2 due to unfavorable weather conditions and higher input costs.

Q. How is the war in Ukraine affecting global food prices and what is the outlook?

A. War-related supply disruptions have contributed to the rise in wheat and oilseed prices. Our commodity strategists expect wheat prices to rise up to 15% over the next few months, with upside risk for the next year.

The war in Ukraine has severely disrupted shipments of grains and oilseeds from the region. Combined dry bulk shipping activity in Russia and Ukraine ports has dropped by 50% compared to the 2021 average (Exhibit 2, LHS). The war is also likely to depress future production by disrupting Ukrainian spring planting of corn and sunseed and tillering of wheat. Russia and Ukraine together account for 13% and 8% of global wheat and oilseeds production, respectively (Exhibit 2, RHS), with CEEMEA countries especially relying on food imports from the region. As a result, wheat and oilseed futures have increased by 30% and 25% since the invasion, respectively, from already high levels.

Although the region plays an important role in global food production, Russia’s share in global energy production is even higher. This helps to explain why energy prices have generally risen more since the invasion than food prices.

Q. How does the hit from higher food prices to consumer purchasing power compare across economies?

A. The contribution from food and beverages to year-over-year headline CPI inflation is the largest in CEEMEA (7.1pp, PPP-weighted average), followed by Latin America (2.8pp). The contributions are less large in EM Asia excluding China (2.3pp), in DMs (0.8pp), and China (-0.5pp).

The food contribution to inflation is larger in EMs than DMs, although it is not unprecedented for Latin America and EM Asia (excluding China). While less elevated than in comparison to EMs, the current DM food contribution of 0.8pp is the highest on record, going back to 1996 (Exhibit 3, LHS).

By country, the food contribution is the largest in Turkey (23pp) and Russia (4pp), but negative in China at -0.5pp (Exhibit 3, RHS). The very large contribution in Turkey reflects sharp currency depreciation, reliance on imports of cereal, oilseeds, and oils from Russia and Ukraine, and droughts. The large food contribution in Russia partly reflects recent war-triggered demand from hoarding of non-perishable food. Finally, food deflation in China reflects oversupply of hogs.

* * *

Q. What are the key implications of elevated food inflation for financial markets?

A. Upward pressure on EM policy rates and negative effects on credit and FX markets in frontier economies facing sharp “food-only” terms of trade deteriorations.

Further food price increases would likely put upward pressure on global and especially EM policy rates given the already very elevated inflation levels, and often less well anchored inflation expectations. The impact on DM policy rates should be more limited smaller, although food prices also influence DM short-term inflation expectations.

High food inflation can also have negative effects on credit and FX markets in frontier economies facing sharp terms of trade deteriorations. “Food-only” terms of trade have worsened in about 80% of the EMs this year. Using data on these terms of trade moves, food CPI weights, and fiscal balances, our EM strategists conclude that frontier sovereign credit markets in Egypt, Ghana, Tunisia, and Morocco are particularly vulnerable to food inflation shocks. Rising food inflation may also contribute to sociopolitical unrest in lower-income countries, as is currently the case in Sri Lanka.

More in the full report available to professional subs.

SourceSouth Australian Gov Criminal Organisation

State Department walks back on talks of ‘imminent’ status of Iran Nuclear Deal

State Department walks back on talks of ‘imminent’ status of Iran Nuclear Deal

The United States Department of State is pausing on its rhetoric of an “imminent” status of an Iran Nuclear Deal. On Monday State Department spokesman Ned Price said “an agreement is neither imminent nor is it certain.”

The State Department has said negotiations have made progress, although many are disappointed the Biden administration has even considered entering back into an agreement with Iran after former President Donald Trump removed the United States from the deal.

“Since there have not been public updates on the details or progress, lawmakers on both sides as well as media commentators have been skeptical of how the deal is being negotiated and what it will include” writes the Foreign Desk.

Being discussed are sanctions, detainment of Western nationals, Iran’s support of Houthi terrorists, and a U.S. desire to lengthen Iran’s ‘breakout time,’ which is the time it would take to accumulate enough material to make a nuclear weapon.

The breakout time was about a year under the previous 2015 Join Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limits, according to the State Department.

“JCPOA, the Obama-era nuclear deal between Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S., which aimed to restrict the Iran regime’s weapons development program failed to do so the first time around” adds Foreign Desk.

Iran has never been compliant nor honest in its dealings or negotiations. Iran denies its builds, refuses inspections and “deviated from JCPOA restrictions since the last U.S. inspection for compliance under President Trump in 2017. The U.S. then withdrew from the agreement in 2018.”

Iran’s current breakout time is estimated to be as short as a few weeks. “We are prepared to make difficult decisions to return Iran’s nuclear program to its JCPOA limits,” Price said.

Reaching an agreement at this time would hinge on whether Iran was interested in voluntarily returning to compliance with JCPOA limits, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We want to see… that Iran is verifiably and permanently barred from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Price said, adding that President Biden remains committed to preventing Iran from going nuclear with or without a return to the original JPCOA agreement.

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Gulf States Defy Biden with Assad Visit and Relations With Russia

Gulf States Defy Biden with Assad Visit and Relations With Russia

Gulf States Defy Biden with Assad Visit and Relations With Russia

The ‘puppets’ have Awakened

 NEWS WIRE

In an incredible turn of events, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad travels to meet with the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai – in his first visit to an Arab state since the Syrian war began in 2011. Also, Damascus has opened up productive discussions with Saudi Arabia. And his moves are causing panic in Washington and London. 

Steven Sahiounie from Middle East Discourse writes…

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, his first visit to an Arab state since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, during which Assad had only visited Iran and Russia.

Assad met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ) demonstrating a new relationship, as the UAE moves away from the failed US-EU-NATO attack on Syria and their plans for regime change.  MBZ stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security, and that the UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with it.  This is in direct contrast to the UAE’s former position backing the US attack on Syria utilizing terrorists following radical Islam.

Assad also met with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and discussed the prospects for expanding the circle of bilateral cooperation, especially at the economic, investment and commercial levels.  Abu Dhabi become Syria’s most prominent global trade partner with non-oil trade estimated at $272 million for the first half of 2021.

A deal has been signed for UAE based-firms to build a 300-megawatt solar power plant near Damascus in mid-November.

The visit brought a condescending rebuke from the US, which said the State Department was “profoundly disappointed and troubled.” The Gulf nations used to be characterized as ‘puppets’ in the hands of Washington, but it now appears the ‘puppets’ have found their own voice.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited Damascus in November after they reopened their embassy in Syria in late 2018.

Assad and the UAE leaders discussed Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of occupying foreign forces from the country, such as Iran, Turkey and the US.

Much has been destroyed in Syria, and reconstruction will cost tens of billions of dollars. The UAE are known for their building engineers and construction firms, and are poised to be a big part of rebuilding Syria.

With US-Saudi relations icy, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has strengthened ties with Russia and China. He views Russia as a future arms supplier, and the one country which can exert pressure on Iran. Saudi Arabia signed a military cooperation agreement with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a trade fair in Moscow last August.

Riyadh wants closer ties with Beijing and has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit this year. According to The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia was in talks to price some crude it sells to China in yuan. Saudi Arabia is also pursuing joint ventures with China and others to produce weapons systems in the Kingdom.

On March 2, OPEC+ met with ministers avoiding the Ukraine conflict, and all agreed to adhere to the existing policy which includes Russia, and to only increase oil output gradually.

MBS has been steadfast in maintaining the OPEC+ agreement and stressed the importance of keeping the oil markets balanced and stable. This stance has angered the US who tried to pressure Saudi Arabia to pump more oil in response to sanctions on Russian oil.  Riyadh did not bow to US pressure, and instead threatened to sell oil to China in yuan, instead of the US dollar.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are able to pump more oil, which would lower the price, but both have stood with the OPEC+ supply pact with Russia, and both have refused phone calls from US President Joe Biden recently.

The bad relationship between MBS and Biden is personal, and has a security aspect: the lack of a strong US response when Saudi’s Aramco oil facilities were attacked in 2019, and Washington’s announced desire to downgrade its military commitments in the Middle East. Riyadh was shaken with the Biden administration’s stated key goal of ending the war in Yemen, and the botched US withdrawal in Kabul.

MBS wants something from Biden: US support for the war in Yemen, help with the Saudi nuclear program, and legal immunity in the US against court actions by the likes of Saad al-Jabri, a former Saudi intelligence officer who alleged that the crown prince also tried to kill him.

The Biden administration has angered both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi by not heeding their concerns about Iran, ending US support for the war in Yemen and curtailing US weapons sales to the Gulf states.

Biden has refused to deal directly with MBS, and instead talks only with King Salman.  Biden ordered the release of a CIA report that directly implicated MBS in the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and has described Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state with “no redeeming social value.”

The US failed to defend Saudi Arabia from Iran’s 2019 attack on its central oil facilities, which temporarily knocked out 50% of the Kingdom’s production, and took no punitive action against Iran. During the Trump administration he regularly insulted King Salman for being kept in power by the might of the US, and characterized them as a cash cow to be milked by the US arms industry. Throughout Trump’s presidency, Saudi Arabia was deepening its relationship with Russia.

UAE abstained from a vote on a US-Albanian draft resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Russian oligarchs, businessmen and youth are pouring into Abu Dhabi, which is rapidly replacing London as the international center of Russian money.

Bahrain appointed its first ambassador to Syria in over a decade, and Jordan fully reopened its central border crossing with Syria to boost trade in a display of diplomatic gestures that point to a shift underway in the Middle East where several Arab countries are reviving ties with Assad.

Last year, Jordan’s King Abdullah held a phone call with Assad, and despite being a US ally, the King has urged Washington to ease sanctions on Syria to increase trade. High level meetings between Lebanon and Syria occurred in a joint effort to revive the Arab Oil Pipeline to provide electricity to Lebanon through Syria.

Reviving Syrian-Arab relations hinge on Saudi Arabia. In November, Saudi and Syrian intelligence chiefs sat together in the Arab Intelligence Forum in Cairo, while earlier in May the Saudis had visited Damascus, the first meeting of its kind since 2011. Also in May, Syrian Minister of Tourism Rami Radwan Martini travelled to Saudi Arabia for a conference on tourism in the Middle East hosted in Riyadh, in the first public visit of any Syrian official to the kingdom in over a decade. Damascus is scheduled to host an Arab energy conference in 2024, and it appears Syria is slowly coming in from the cold.

Syria was suspended from the 22-member Arab League after the conflict began, when the US-EU-NATO and their Arab allies supported the armed opposition, which was later identified as Al Qaeda and ISIS. The Arab League will hold its first annual summit for three years in Algeria with the two-day summit starting on November 1.

The message coming out of the Arab world, and notably the six oil-rich countries of the Gulf, is to prepare for a new Middle East, and that the balance of power is shifting.  The Gulf nations host US and western troops and bases, and have backed Washington faithfully for decades, but are now in a pivot towards Russia and China. They have no intention of supporting Biden’s sanctions on Moscow.

The ‘puppets’ have awakened.

*********

(TLB) published this article from 21WIRE with our appreciation for this perspective

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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