Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Google’s War on Media Freedom

© digitaltrends
A previous article explained Google’s transformation from search engine to online censor.

Changes in its search algorithm makes it harder to access what it calls fake news, low-quality information and conspiracy theories – code language for real news, information and analysis it wants suppressed.

In cahoots with US dark forces, it declared war on RT and Sputnik News.

RT is the most widely viewed news on Google-owned YouTube, now pulled from its prime ad list in America without notification, an attempt to censor its content, a flagrant First Amendment violation.

RT and Sputnik are highly respected media operations, not Russian propaganda as falsely claimed – polar opposite US major media disinformation, Big Lies and fake news, aiming to keep Americans uninformed about what they most need to know.

On Saturday, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said it intends engineering algorithms to make RT and Sputnik less prominent when conducting online searches through its search engine.

Asked about Google facilitating “Russian propaganda” (code language for real news, information and analysis), Schmidt said:

“We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent (RT and Sputnik content delivered to wide audiences)” – intending to de-rank both sites.

“But we don’t want to ban (them). That’s not how we operate.” That’s precisely how Alphabet-owned Google and YouTube operate – prominently featuring deplorable major media rubbish, punishing important content dissenting from the official narrative – censorship by any standard.

Responding to Schmidt, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said “(g)ood to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason.”

“Facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, ‘because (it’s from) Russia’ – even if we have Google on the congressional record saying they’ve found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT.”

Schmidt was allied with the Obama administration and Hillary’s campaign, actively supporting her, rigging Google searches for her last year, manipulating millions of people to back her over Trump.

It suppressed negative content harming her campaign, operating as her press agent, the same role played by the New York Times, abandoning unbiased electoral reporting.

Google masterfully manipulates online content, now aimed full-throttle at RT and Sputnik – complicit with US dark forces, heading toward likely banning their operations altogether.

That’s how all police states operate. Fascist tyranny pervades Washington.

Independent journalists, anti-war, human and civil rights activists, political dissidents, and others opposing America’s ruthless agenda potentially face its wrath.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”



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Veteran Journalist Charlie Rose Suspended, Show Yanked amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

teleSUR | Nov 21, 2017

Eight women have laid sexual allegation claims against veteran newsman Charlie Rose. | Photo: Reuters FILE
"Charlie Rose is suspended immediately while we look into this matter. These allegations are extremely disturbing and we take them very seriously," CBS News said in a statement.

World-renowned American journalist Charlie Rose has been suspended by CBS News, following sexual misconduct allegations.

Eight women have laid allegations against the veteran newsman in interviews with The Washington Post, while three others were mentioned in a Business Insider story late Monday.

"Charlie Rose is suspended immediately while we look into this matter. These allegations are extremely disturbing and we take them very seriously," CBS News said in a statement.

Five of the eight women related specific incidents to The Washington Post about their encounters with the "CBS This Morning" anchor.

One of the three accusers who spoke to the Post, on record, claimed that Rose paraded nude in front of her at one of his homes and made calls to her at inappropriate hours to describe fantasies of watching her swim naked.

The accuser added that she reported the matter to executive producer Yvette Vega, who replied: "That's just Charlie being Charlie."

Vega confirmed the exchange, to ABC News, stating regret for not doing more. “I should have stood up for them,” she said. “I failed. It is crushing. I deeply regret not helping them.”

A second woman, Reah Bravo, said she was groped by Rose on several occasions. She said the PBS anchor offered her a position in Washington, D.C., and a stay at one of his residence, in a bid to dissuade her from leaving the job, but she declined.

“I was leaving because I was getting away,” she said. “I would never want to live someplace where he had keys.”

The third, Megan Creydt, claimed Rose put his hand on her thigh.

"I don’t think I said anything,” she said. “I tensed up. I didn’t move his hand off, but I pulled my legs to the other side of the car. I tried not to get in a car with him ever again. I think he was testing me out.”

According to the Post's exposé, Rose's accusers were either employed to the journalist or hoped to be. The incidents reportedly took place from the late 1990s to 2011 and involved women aged between 21 and 37, the publication revealed.

Rose has since posted an apology to social media.

PBS has suspended the distribution of Rose's show.

"PBS was shocked to learn today of these deeply disturbing allegations," the network said in a statement. "'Charlie Rose' is produced by Charlie Rose, Inc., an independent television production company. PBS does not fund this nightly program or supervise its production, but we expect our producers to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect."
Additionally, Bloomberg also pulled the eponymous "Charlie Rose."

"We are deeply disturbed to learn of these allegations and are immediately suspending the show from airing on Bloomberg TV," the company said in a statement.

Rose also contributes to CBS' 60 Minutes.


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The End of THE MERKEL Is Nigh

Russia Insider | Nov 20, 2017 | Tom Luongo

Ever since she backed the appalling war against innocent civilians in East Ukraine in 2014, RI has been sounding the alarm about this awful woman.

She is a menace to all that is good and true, and now soon, it looks like she might finally go. 

This is a headline I’ve been waiting to write for six years.  German Chancellor Emeritus Angela Merkel can’t put a bad coalition together.  This is the result of an election that saw populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) rise and the Social Democrats, led by Soros-stooge Martin Schultz, fall.

Now the Free Democrats (FDP), led by Christian Lidner, understand just how strong their position is.  They don’t have to make a bad deal with Merkel to get a seat at the table only to have to share it with the ideologically-opposite Greens.  They can force a re-vote, see their standing rise, along with AfD and go for a far bigger piece of the pie.

But, ultimately, if Merkel’s CDU/CSU coalition party is to stay together, and there’s no guarantee of that anymore, it will have to dump Merkel herself if it wants to survive as a voting bloc.

Morevoer, the CSU, led by Bavarian Governer Horst Seehofer, could break off from the CDU making any kind of coalition building impossible without a re-vote.

Merkel-ism’s Last Stand

The only thing this article by the Washington Post gets right is that the decision now falls to President Frank-Walter Steinmeyer.  It lays out three scenarios, none of which include the obvious, a re-vote.  But, that is anathema to the Deep-State on both sides of the Atlantic so it is ignored by the Post.

Many Germans believe Merkel has brought bloodshed to their country with her open borders insanity
A re-vote, however, is what is likely on the table.  The powers-that-be in Europe will forestall that for as long as possible and try to drag this through the Bundestag in the hope that Merkel can win the ability to form a minority government.  But, frankly, I don’t see why anyone would want that other than to block any access to power by AfD.

With a minority government AfD’s voting bloc of nearly 100 seats puts it in a very strong position to begin cutting deals with the other parties, who publicly, say they would never work with them.

So, the reality of a re-vote is high. And that means gains for all of the so-called conservative German parties – The CSU, FDP and AfD.  The nightmare scenario for everyone is AfD rising above 15% in any re-vote.  Stripping out the CSU’s 6.8%, Merkel’s CDU only got 26.8% of the vote in September.

Falure to put a government together is not going to improve the CDU’s standing.  While the FDP, CSU and AfD all stand to gain to ensure that Merkelism is thoroughly rejected.  The Social Democrats have cut their own throats, first by entering into the grand coalition with Merkel after the last election and now after running Schultz as an obvious stalking horse for Merkel.

It can’t be stressed enough that Schultz was put up to oppose Merkel in order to lose, like McCain and Romney were here in the U.S.  His job was to funnel votes to Merkel from the Social Democrats.
But, it didn’t work.

What happened was a complete collapse of Merkel’s support, a shift towards a Germany-first mentality.  This is the opposite of who both Merkel and Schultz are.  They are EU-first people.  And, while EU sentiment in Germany is still very favorable, it is not favorable at the expense of German values, and frankly, German women.

Immigration Divisions Run Deep

Merkel’s radical adherence to Soros’ open borders ideology will cost her the Chancellorship. It will also throw the EU into complete turmoil as its de facto leader is deposed by a German electorate that is no longer wholly committed to committing cultural suicide as penance for the Holocaust.

Judging from the number of meme's out there of this woman, she is widely disliked
by a certain subset of Germans, to put it mildly

This leaves French boy-toy Emmanuel Macron to lead the EU at a time when strong leadership is needed to navigate the coming insanity in the banking system.  I’ve been handicapping an end to the EU as it is currently comprised for a couple of years now.

Watching the rise of populist movements across Europe has been slow but steady.  Despite getting Macron through in France, Front Nationale’s populist Marine Le Pen beat two of the major French parties.  While we may still wind up with a “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss” scenario in both France and Germany, the populist wave in Europe has yet to crest.

The end of Merkelism is the natural result of it.  It was always a dead-end political position.  A federated Europe on Germany’s terms was never going to be stable for more than the generation that sold it into being.

It was built on a foundation of division, rolling the wealth of the continent up to the Germans at the expense of everyone else.  As I outlined in this article back in October:
Up to this point Germany has used southern Europe as its dumping ground, trading Italian and Portuguese sovereign debt for BMWs.

But that scheme has reached its limit and is tearing the EU apart.  Germany doesn’t want to stop this arrangement nor does it want to pay its ‘fair share’ of the burden for its resolution, i.e. debt relief for what it considers the ‘Club Med’ countries.

German politicians like Merkel have exploited this cynically for political gain but, now that we’ve reached the debt limit she’s been exposed as nothing more than mouthpiece for U.S. Deep State policy, not the leader of Germany.

The EU Won’t Survive Merkel

And that’s where we are headed in Europe.  Once Merkel is gone, the real work of dismantling the current version of the European Project can begin.  Macron is the elites Plan B, an easily-swayed naif who will promote whatever crazed nonsense they want.
That means
  1. An EU army to subjugate breakaway states.
  2. New banking rules that ensure depositors get wiped out in the next financial crisis.
  3. More legal and political pressure on eastern European states like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic that reject wholeheartedly everything Merkelism stands for.
  4. Political turmoil in Italy and Spain who will see the opening to get more autonomy as the message from Brussels is less focused on saving Germany’s banks from contagion.
Merkel was really holding a lot of this together, but the election results make it impossible for her to continue doing so.  Her legacy will be a Europe fractured along old tribal lines, exactly the opposite goal of the EU.

Soros and the rest of the one-world elites will try to use the chaos this unleashes to forge a new European identity, a stronger EU.  But don’t count on it.  Theresa May is holding up better than expected in Brexit talks.  The Trump administration is getting its feet underneath it domestically and that means ending John McCain’s run as President via the Senate.

Once Trump has an actual legislative majority and his opposition within the GOP properly neutered he will assist in the resistance against the remnants of Merkelism.

This is why we need to watch the unfolding attacks on Merkelism’s pillars of support carefully.  The outing of the “Soros List” of MEP’s under his control is significant.  The abandonment of the Clintons by Democrats of all shapes and sizes is as well.  The loss of diplomatic trust and, more importantly, respect of the U.S. by its allies in all things Syria, as I outlined yesterday, will play into this as well.

And once the re-vote confirms the trend against Merkelism in Germany, we will have clarity as to what the next phase of this story looks like.


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And IT'S GONE: Another big cryptocurrency heist raises questions about digital money safety

RT | Nov 21, 2017

Hackers have robbed the wallet in the 19th largest cryptocurrency tether. The company behind the dollar-pegged cryptocurrency blamed "malicious action by an external attacker" for the theft of $30,950,010 on Monday.

Tether would not redeem any of the stolen tokens. The cryptocurrency’s market cap is $674 million, with the value of one tether equal to one US dollar.

 The tether.to back-end wallet service has been temporarily suspended. A thorough investigation of the cause of the attack is being undertaken to prevent similar actions in the future,” Tether wrote.

As the largest cryptocurrency bitcoin reacted negatively on the news, immediately falling about five percent, but soon recovered and is trading above $8,000, not far from the all-time high of $8,200 seen on Monday.

The incident is the latest in a number of hacks that are raising questions about the security of cryptocurrencies.

This month, $280 million worth in ethereum was frozen after someone made a mistake by deleting the code library of Parity Technologies, a large provider of cryptocurrency wallets.

The individual who triggered the lockdown claimed to be new to cryptocurrency.

Mt.Gox, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges, faced bankruptcy after hackers stole $460 million worth in bitcoin in 2014.

By May 2016, creditors of Mt. Gox claimed they lost $2.4 trillion when Mt. Gox went bankrupt. Only $91 million was eventually tracked down to distribute to claimants.


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The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

Moon of Alabama | Nov 20, 2017

© Spuntik News
The Saudi clown prince Mohammad Bin Salman is an impulsive tyrant. But what accounts for the urge to purge the country of any potential competing power center Why does he run a such an activist foreign policy? The answer might be Iran. Not Iran the country, but Iran the system.

Since the U.S. war on Iraq the sclerotic Saudi Arabia continuously lost standing in its region. The Iranian model gained ground. A decade later the authoritarian Arab systems were challenged by the so called "Arab spring". While the movements in the various countries -as far as their were genuine- have failed, they were a warning sign for things to come.

Saudi Arabia reacted to the challenges by moving away from a sedate, consensual run family business towards a centrally controlled, supercharged tyranny. The move allows for more flexible and faster reactions to any future challenge. But it also increases the chance of making mistakes. To understand why this endeavor is likely to fail one needs look at the traditional economic and social system that is the fabric of the country. The fate of the Hariri dynasty is an example for it.

Since Salman climbed the throne he has moved to eliminate all competition to his rule. The religious establishment was purged of any opposition. Its police arm was reigned in. First crown prince Murqrin was removed and then crown prince Nayef. They were replaced with Salman's inexperienced son. Economic and military powers were concentrated in his hands. During the recent night of the long knives powerful family members and business people were detained. The Wall Street Journal reported of a second arrest wave. More higher ups have been incarcerated. This round includes senior military commanders and very wealthy business people.

As the prison for the arrested VIPs, the Ritz-Carlton hotel, is fully booked, the next door Mariott is now put to use. Qualified personal was hired to handle the prisoners:
As many as 17 people detained in the anti-corruption campaign have required medical treatment for abuse by their captors, according to a doctor from the nearest hospital and an American official tracking the situation.
The former Egyptian security chief, Habib el-Adli, said by one of his advisers and a former Egyptian interior minister to be advising Prince Mohammed, earned a reputation for brutality and torture under President Hosni Mubarak.
After the torture reports spread due to employees of local hospitals, a medical unit was established in the Ritz itself.

My assertion in earlier pieces, that one motive of the arrest wave was to fleece the prisoners, is confirmed. The arrested rich people are pressed into "plea deals" in which they give up their assets in exchange for better treatment and some restricted kind of freedom. The aim is to "recover" up to $800 billion in so called "corruption" money. Thousands of domestic and international accounts have been blocked by the central bank of Saudi Arabia. They will eventually be confiscated. But Saudi billionaires have long been looking for ways to park their money outside of the country. The accounts which were now blocked are likely small change compared to their total holdings in this or that tax haven. Historically the recoveries of such assets is problematic:
Asset recovery programs never really go quite to plan. They are beset by obstacles -- most often in the form of wealth squirreled away offshore and political infighting over wealth seized onshore.

Most likely, Saudi Arabia will obtain a sliver of these assets -- say in the tens of billions of dollars -- a useful, but temporary, gain. What happens after that depends on how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman re-sets relations with business.
The financial success of the MbS raids will be insignificant. The financial damage he causes with his jihad against his own family members will be significant. It ruins his plans for attracting foreign investment:
“Half my Rolodex is in the Ritz right now. And they want me to invest there now? No way,” said one senior investor. “The wall of money that was going to deploy into the kingdom is falling apart.”
One can not steal money from some people and then expect other people to trust assurances that such could never happen to them. MbS's big plans for Neom, a $500 billion artificial city financed by foreign investors, will fall apart.

To accuse princes and high officials of "corruption" is a fancy excuse. "Corruption" is how business is done in Saudi Arabia. It is tightly connected to the traditional ruling system. The king and his son are trying to change both:
Foreign investors tend to enter the Saudi market via partnerships with established business franchises or princes as they seek to exploit their domestic clout to navigate a complicated bureaucratic landscape.
The same goes for any state tender. To contract for building a road or public housing a company will have to find a prince or high official with the necessary clout. To get a tender signed it will have to promise, or pay upfront, a share of the expected profits. When the job is finishes it will need to come back to get its bill paid. No money will flow for the delivered work unless another bribe is paid. Contracts are calculated with 40% on top to compensate for these necessary lubricants.

The systems works. It becomes problematic when a contractor delivers shoddy work, but can still bribe his patron into accepting it. Drainage man-hole covers in Saudi streets, without the necessary drainage tunnels below them, are a well known and despised phenomenon.

Rafic Hariri, the father of the Lebanese premier minister Saad Hariri, built a construction empire in Saudi Arabia by paying the right people. He was also a capable manager who ran his business, Saudi Oger, well. He was also the Saudis man in Lebanon and did his best to fulfill that role.

His son Saad never got a grip on the business site. By 2012, seven years after Rafic Hariri had been assassinated, the family business in Saudi Arabia ran into trouble:
Almost a year ago, the Saudis began keeping an eye on Hariri’s company, which reeked of corruption. Several high-ranking officials – some close to Saad Hariri – were accused of theft and extortion. But Hariri could not find a solution to the crisis, nor was he able to restore the confidence that the company lost in the market.

So he began a major pruning operation, laying off lower-level employees without any indication of objections to their job performance. The dismissals did not even spare Saudi nationals, leading to widespread dissent.
The Saudis once treated the company with care, providing it with contracts in the region’s biggest oil economy. Now, the company is suffering from internal disputes and theft. It became closer to a scrapyard for the Kingdom.
Saad Hariri had the wrong contacts, bribed the wrong people and delivered shoddy work which made his company an easy target. He also failed to be a reliable Saudi asset in Lebanon. There the Shia Hizbullah gained in standing while the Sunnis, led by Hariri, lost political ground.

The Hariri company took up large loans to finance its giant construction projects for the Saudi government. But by 2014 oil prices had fallen and the Kingdom simply stopped paying its bills. It is said to own $9 billion to the Hariri enterprises. Other Saudi constructions companies, like the Bin Laden group, also had troublesome times. But they were bailed out by the Saudi government with fresh loans and new contracts.

No new contracts were issued to Hariri. No new bank loans were available to him and his bills were not paid. The Saudis demanded control over Lebanon but Hariri could not deliver. In July, after 39 mostly successful years, Saudi Oger went out of business. The Hariri family is practically bankrupt.

Hariri's two youngest children, 16 and 12 years old, are kept hostage in Saudi Arabia. After the recent trip to Paris his wife also returned to Riyadh. The French President Macron had intervened and Hariri was allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. But Macron failed (intentionally?) to free him from Saudi influence. Hariri's financial means and his family are under control of the Saudi tyrant. He is not free in any of his political, business and personal decisions.

Hariri is pressed to now drive a political hardline against Hizbullah in Lebanon. He knows that this can not be successful but his mischievous Saudi minder, the Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer, does not understand this. His boss, MbS, believes that the whole world can and should be run the same way he wants to run his country.

Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker has long observed how business is done in Saudi Arabia. He had portrait the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. His recent observations at a nightly desert picnic explains how the al Saud family used to run the country:
It was almost midnight when the prince held a Majlis, a traditional Bedouin ceremony in which tribesmen come to pay their respects and ask for charity. A line of men in white robes and red-and-white Arab headdresses stretched into the darkness. One by one they approached, removing their sandals, bowing and handing him pieces of paper. Some recited poetry. The prince scribbled on each cover sheet and put the papers on a stack.
Saudi Arabia used to run on patronage:
Saudi society is divided by tribe, region, sect, degree (or nature of religiosity), and class. Although these various groups are only rarely organized in formal structures outside of the state, many developed special connections with specific state bodies, turning the sprawling state apparatus into constituencies of sorts.
Middle East expert Steffen Hertog has aptly described how the Saudi state emerged in the oil era: leading princes carved out structures they could dominate; state institutions worked in silos and coordinated poorly; and networks of beneficiaries, contractors, and influence brokers populated various bureaucracies. The Saudi state expanded rapidly into an uncoordinated group of what Hertog goes so far as to call “fiefdoms.”
High up princes take care of lower ranking ones. Each has common folks, clans or whole tribes he is supposed to take care of. Obedience is bought by controlling the "social" spending that trickles down through this pyramid. The princes make their money by having their fingers in, or "taxing", all kind of state businesses. It is this money that sponsors their luxurious life as well as the benefits they distribute. This was never seen as corruption as it is understood in the west. For decades these tribute payments were simply owned to the princes. They had a birth-right to them.

MbS "corruption" ride is destroying that system without him having a replacement. Saudi Arabia has been run as a family business. Decisions in recent decades were taken by consensus. Every part of the family was allowed to have its cash generating fiefdom and patronage network. The rule of King Salman and his activist son are trying to change that. They want to concentrate all business and all decisions in one hand.

Mohammad bin Salman's view of the world is that of Louis XIV - "L'etat, c'est moi" - I am the state. In his own view MbS is not just a crown prince or the future king of the state of Saudi Arabia. He, and he alone, is Saudi Arabia. He is the state. He let this view known in an interview with the Economist in January 2016:
[W]e have clear programmes over the next five years. We announced some of them, and the rest we will announce in the near future. In addition to this, my debt-to-GDP is only 5%. So I have all points of strength, and I have the opportunities to increase our non-oil revenues in many sectors, and I have a global economic network.
As I remarked at that time:
The young dude not only thinks he owns the country, he actually thinks he is the country. He has debt-to-GDP, he has ten million jobs in reserve, he has all women of Saudi Arabia as productive factor and he has scary population growth.

Does the guy understand that such an attitude guarantees that he personally will be held responsible for everything that will inevitably go wrong with his country?
Saudi Arabia and its state apparatus have for decades been build on an informal but elaborate system of personal relations and patronage. MbS expects that he can take out one part of the system, the princes and businessmen, and the rest will follow from that. He will be the one to control it all.

That is a doubtful endeavor. The ministries and local administrations are used to do their business under tutelage. Eliminating the leadership caste that controlled them will not turn them into corruption free technocracies. Seeing the exemplary punishments MbS hands out at the Ritz the bureaucracies will stop working. They will delay any decisions out of fear until they have the okay from the very top.

Ten-thousands of tribal and clan leaders are bound to and depend on the patronage system. The hundreds of people who sought audience with Alwaleed bin Talal at the desert picnic will turn whereto? Who will take up their issues with higher authorities? Who will provide them with hand outs and the "trickle down" money they depend on?

Another target of Mohammed bin Salman's activities have been the religious authorities. Some critical sheiks have been incarcerated, others are held incommunicado. The Salman "revolution from the top" extends into their judiciary role:
Historically, Saudi leaders have propounded the view that the sharia is the country’s highest law and the overall legal system operates within its bounds.
the domination of the religious establishment in law is ending. The king and crown prince are clearly favoring (and fostering) religious figures who repudiate some long-standing official views.
Bin Salman is purging the religious establishment, the military, the competing members of the families, the business people and the bureaucracy. He wants to run the state by his own. He demands the right to review any decision in the legal, business and foreign policy realm. He has authority to punish people responsible for decisions he dislikes. Under this concept any personal initiatives will become extinct.

The country is too big for one person to control. MbS can not take all decisions by himself. No large system can work like that. The people will soon become unhappy with his centralized and unresponsive control.

That is already visible in his failing foreign policy. MbS wants to be seen as the indisputable "leader of the Islamic world". His hate for everything Iran originates there. The Iranian system of a participatory and democratic Islamic state is a living alternative to the autocratic model he wants to implement in Saudi Arabia. The western model of a "liberal democracy" does not adapt well to the historic social models that are prevalent in the Middle East. But the Iranian system is genuine and fits the local culture. It is the sole competition he fears. It must be destroyed by any means.

But all his attempts to counter Iran (even where it was not involved) have been unsuccessful. Saudi interventions in Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have been disastrous. Over the weekend the Arab League delivered the usual criticism of Iran but decided on nothing else. Half of the Arab League states, including the powerful Egypt, are not willing to follow the aggressive Saudi course. Mohmmed bin Salman's grant scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unraveling.

The Saudi response to the competition of the Iranian system is a move towards more authoritarian rule. This is hoped to allow for more agile policies and responses. But the move breaks the traditional ruling system. It removes the sensible impediments to impulsive foreign policies. It creates the contitions for its very failure.


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France”s Macron Covers for Saudi Aggression

The Russophile | Nov 20, 2017 | Finian Cunningham

Strategic Culture Foundation - France’s invitation to beleaguered Lebanese premier Saad Hariri for him and his family to spend “a few days in Paris” has been viewed as French President Emmanuel Macron stepping in with deft soft power to resolve tensions between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Less charitably, what Macron is really doing is giving cynical cover to the Saudi rulers for their extraordinary acts of aggression towards Lebanon and their violation of that country’s sovereignty.

Two of Hariri’s children were left in Saudi capital Riyadh while he visited France over the weekend. Were they being used as hostages by the Saudis to ensure that Hariri maintains the Saudi spin on events? Certainly, the arrangement raises suspicions, but the French president sought instead to affect a “normal” nothing-is-unusual appearance.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun last week publicly accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri in Riyadh against his will. Aoun said the Saudi rulers were violating international law by detaining Hariri and forcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon. Such acts were tantamount to aggression, said President Aoun.

Yet Macron has said nothing about Saudi interference. He has instead turned reality on its head by censuring Iran for regional “aggression” and thereby backing Saudi claims that Iran is supplying ballistic missiles to Yemen. Iran swiftly condemned Macron for “stoking regional tensions”.

Credit goes to President Aoun for speaking out plainly, telling it like it is and expressing what many Lebanese citizens and many other observers around the world have concluded. The whole debacle is an outrageous affront to Lebanon and international law by the Saudi rulers, when it is taken into consideration Hariri’s hasty summoning to Saudi capital Riyadh earlier this month, his subsequent televised resignation speech on Saudi TV, and his long-delayed sojourn in that country. What is even more despicable is that the Saudi interference in the sovereign affairs of Lebanon is threatening to re-ignite a civil war within the small Mediterranean country, and, possibly worse, a war across the region with Iran.

Hariri has claimed in a later media interview, held in Saudi Arabia, and in reported communications with family and friends who are back in Lebanon that he was not under duress while staying in Saudi Arabia. That claim beggars belief given the bizarre circumstances of Hariri’s sudden departure and his protracted nearly two-week stay in Saudi Arabia.

In any case, the president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, has concluded that something is badly amiss in the saga, and he has explicitly accused Saudi rulers of violating his country’s sovereignty.

Therefore, if there were any principle or adherence to international law, the actions of Saudi Arabia should be condemned categorically by the international community, the UN, the European Union and France in particular owing to its historic relations with Lebanon as the former colonial power before independence in 1943.

But no. What we have instead are either shameful silence from Washington, or mealy-mouthed statements from the EU. The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a vague statement warning against “foreign interference” in the affairs of Lebanon. What kind of cowardly circumlocution is that?

Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri was, in effect, detained by Saudi Arabia and forced to tender his resignation from public office as a matter of ultimatum. It has been reliably reported that the Wahhabi Saudi rulers were exasperated with the Shia group Hezbollah being part of the coalition government in Beirut. Hariri is a Saudi-sponsored Sunni politician who is antagonistic to Hezbollah and by extension, Iran. But apparently, he was not sufficiently hostile, in the view of his Saudi backers. Hence, Hariri was summoned to Riyadh and ordered to resign on November 4. (The defeat of the Saudi-sponsored covert terror war in Syria no doubt was a factor too in the timing.)
France’s President Macron is playing a particularly slippery game of pandering and expedience towards the Saudi despots.

As the Washington Post’s WorldView briefing reported last week: “French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that it was important to dispel the implication that Hariri was a Saudi prisoner.”

The newspaper goes on to quote Macron saying rather vacuously: “We need to have leaders who are free to express themselves. It’s important that [Hariri] is able to advance the political process in his country in the coming days and weeks.”

The question should be asked: why is it important for Macron to “dispel the implication that Hariri was a Saudi prisoner”?

From virtually all accounts, including that of Lebanese President Michel Aoun whose view should surely be paramount here, that is exactly what Hariri was made by the Saudis – a prisoner.
Three days before his summoning to Riyadh and his scripted resignation speech on November 4 – in which Hariri claimed with incredible drama that he was in danger of an assassination plot by Hezbollah and its ally Iran – it was reported that Hariri was having dinner with the French culture minister in Beirut. During their meal, he received a phone call. His demeanor darkened, and immediately departed from the table for a flight to Riyadh. Without the company of aides, Hariri was met on his arrival by Saudi officials who took his mobile phone from him. He was not greeted by senior Saudi rulers like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would have been customary diplomatic protocol.

Everything about the next two weeks of Hariri’s stay in Saudi Arabia signals a de facto detention against his will. Admittedly, he made a brief flight to the United Arab Emirates during the time period, which was claimed by the Saudis to be proof of his free movement. The UAE rulers are closely aligned with the House of Saud, and besides Hariri was soon back in his Riyadh residence, from where he continued to tweet to friends that he was “fine”.

This is nothing but a sham. The stark facts are that Saudi Arabia has brazenly interfered in the internal affairs of Lebanon, trying to force its prime minister to step down. Furthermore, the Saudi rulers have accused Lebanon of “acts of war” by allegedly supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen; the Saudis have also ordered their nationals to leave Lebanon; and there are reports emerging of the Saudis now pushing to suspend Beirut from the Arab League. This is reckless incendiary behavior by the Saudi rulers.

Should we be surprised though? Saudi Arabia has shown absolute criminal disregard for international law over its bombing and genocidal blockade of Yemen, where humanitarian aid groups have warned that 50,000 children may die this year due to enforced deprivation from the nearly three-year American and British-backed Saudi war on Yemen.

The absolute Saudi monarchy has also gone on an internal rampage of arresting its own government ministers and other businessmen in an audacious power-grab under the guise of “an anti-corruption drive”. Moreover, Saudi rulers have been instrumental in organizing a legally dubious trade and diplomatic blockade of Qatar over trumped claims that the latter is a stooge for Iran and singularly supporting terrorists (this from the Saudis who have bankrolled terrorist proxies to overthrow the government in Syria.)

The criminality and rogue conduct of Saudi Arabia is legion and brazenly in your face.

That is why the so-called “international community”, the UN, Washington, the European Union, and France in particular are deserving of withering censure. Their mealy-mouthed muted statements on Saudi misconduct towards Lebanon are a disgrace. They are complicit in wanton lawlessness by their pandering to Saudi despots.

But France’s Emmanuel Macron has emerged as the prime disgrace. His invitation to Saad Hariri and his family to come to France is a cynical move to give cover to the Saudi despots. Tellingly, on the announcement of the invitation, Macron said that “it was not an offer of exile”. That’s Macron making it all sugary nice as pie.

On Friday, the day before Hariri arrived in Paris, Macron actually accused Iran of “aggression” and has called for sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile defense program. So, Macron, sneakily, is giving the Saudi narrative succor, and blaming Iran, instead of condemning Riyadh for its flagrant interference and aggression.

Again, by inviting Hariri to Paris, Macron is indulging the Saudi-Hariri charade that all is “normal” – when in reality the sordid shenanigans over the past two weeks amount to an outrageous and very grave violation of international law and of a neighboring country’s sovereignty by the Saudis.

With this kind of cynical “diplomacy”, Macron is showing that France is far from capable of having any leadership role or moral authority in the Middle East or the world.

Of course, France’s vested economic interests with the Saudi despots, from arms sales to energy and infrastructure projects, are central to Macron’s expedient calculations.

Macron’s ambitions of engendering some kind of renaissance of France as a global power are futile and nothing but sheer vanity. The cowardice of the French president in the face of Saudi aggression towards Lebanon shows that Macron and his pretensions of “global power” are a puff of cheap cosmetic powder.


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