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Syria Accuses U.S. Stole 40+ Tons of Its Gold

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The Syrian National News Agency headlined on February 26th, “Gold deal between United States and Daesh” (Daesh is ISIS) and reported that,

Information from local sources said that US army helicopters have already transported the gold bullions under cover of darkness on Sunday [February 24th], before transporting them to the United States.

The sources said that tens of tons that Daesh had been keeping in their last hotbed in al-Baghouz area in Deir Ezzor countryside have been handed to the Americans, adding up to other tons of gold that Americans have found in other hideouts for Daesh, making the total amount of gold taken by the Americans to the US around 50 tons, leaving only scraps for the SDF [Kurdish] militias that serve them [the U.S. operation].

Recently, sources said that the area where Daesh leaders and members have barricaded themselves in, contains around 40 tons of gold and tens of millions of dollars.

Allegedly, “US occupation forces in the Syrian al-Jazeera area made a deal with Daesh terrorists, by which Washington gets tens of tons of gold that the terror organization had stolen, in exchange for providing safe passage for the terrorists and their leaders from the areas in Deir Ezzor where they are located.”

ISIS was financing its operations largely by the theft of oil from the oil wells in the Deir Ezzor area, Syria’s oil-producing region, and they transported and sold this stolen oil via their allied forces, through Turkey, which was one of those U.S. allies trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government and install a Sunni fundamentalist regime that would be ruled from Riyadh (i.e., controlled by the Saud family). This gold is the property of the Syrian Government, which owns all that oil and the oil wells, which ISIS had captured (stolen), and then sold. Thus, this gold is from sale of that stolen black-market oil, which was Syria’s property.

The U.S. Government claims to be anti-ISIS, but actually didn’t even once bomb ISIS in Syria until Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, and the U.S. had actually been secretly arming ISIS there so as to help ISIS and especially Al Qaeda (and the U.S. was strongly protecting Al Qaeda in Syria) to overthrow Syria’s secular and non-sectarian Government. Thus, whereas Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, America (having become embarrassed) started bombing ISIS in Syria on 16 November 2015. The U.S. Government’s excuse was “This is our first strike against tanker trucks, and to minimize risks to civilians, we conducted a leaflet drop prior to the strike.” They pretended it was out of compassion — not in order to extend for as long as possible ISIS’s success in taking over territory in Syria. (And, under Trump, on the night of 2 March 2019, the U.S. rained down upon ISIS in northeast Syria the excruciating and internationally banned white phosphorous to burn ISIS and its hostages alive, which Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had routinely done to burn alive the residents in Donetsk and other parts of eastern former Ukraine where voters had voted more than 90% for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama’s coup in Ukraine had replaced. It was a way to eliminate some of the most-undesired voters — people who must never again be voting in a Ukrainian national election, not even if that region subsequently does become conquered by the post-coup, U.S.-imposed, regime. The land there is wanted; its residents certainly are not wanted by the Obama-imposed regime.) America’s line was: Russia just isn’t as ‘compassionate’ as America. Zero Hedge aptly headlined “’Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”. Nobody exceeds the United States Government in sheer hypocrisy.

The U.S. Government evidently thinks that the public are fools, idiots. America’s allies seem to be constantly amazed at how successful that approach turns out to be. 

Indeed, on 28 November 2012, Syria News headlined “Emir of Qatar & Prime Minister of Turkey Steal Syrian Oil Machinery in Broad Daylight” and presented video allegedly showing it (but unfortunately providing no authentication of the date and locale of that video). 

Jihadists were recruited from throughout the world to fight against Syria’s secular Government. Whereas ISIS was funded mainly by black-market sales of oil from conquered areas, the Al-Qaeda-led groups were mainly funded by the Sauds and other Arab royal families and their retinues, the rest of their aristocracy. On 13 December 2013, BBC headlined “Guide to the Syrian rebels” and opened “There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.” Except in the Kurdish areas in Syria’s northeast, almost all of those fighters were being led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian Branch, al-Nusra. Britain’s Center on Religion & Politics headlined on 21 December 2015, “Ideology and Objectives of the Syrian Rebellion” and reported: “If ISIS is defeated, there are at least 65,000 fighters belonging to other Salafi-jihadi groups ready to take its place.” Almost all of those 65,000 were trained and are led by Syria’s Al Qaeda (Nusra), which was protected by the U.S.

In September 2016 a UK official “FINAL REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON COMBATING TERRORIST AND FOREIGN FIGHTER TRAVEL” asserted that, “Over 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the battlefield to enlist with Islamist terrorist groups, including at least 4,500 Westerners. More than 250 individuals from the United States have also joined.” Even just 25,000 (that official lowest estimate) was a sizable U.S. proxy-army of religious fanatics to overthrow Syria’s Government. 

On 26 November 2015, the first of Russia’s videos of Russia’s bombing ISIS oil trucks headed into Turkey was bannered at a U.S. military website “Russia Airstrike on ISIS Oil Tankers”, and exactly a month later, on 26 December 2015, Britain’s Daily Express headlined “WATCH: Russian fighter jets smash ISIS oil tankers after spotting 12,000 at Turkish border”. This article, reporting around twelve thousand ISIS oil-tanker trucks heading into Turkey, opened: “The latest video, released by the Russian defence ministry, shows the tankers bunched together as they make their way along the road. They are then blasted by the fighter jet.” The U.S. military had nothing comparable to offer to its ‘news’-media. Britain’s Financial Times headlined on 14 October 2015, ”Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists”. Only America’s allies were involved in this commerce with ISIS — no nation that supported Syria’s Government was participating in this black market of stolen Syrian goods. So, it’s now clear that a lot of that stolen oil was sold for gold as Syria’s enemy-nations’ means of buying that oil from ISIS. They’d purchase it from ISIS, but not from Syria’s Government, the actual owner.

On 30 November 2015 Israel’s business-news daily Globes News Service bannered “Israel has become the main buyer for oil from ISIS controlled territory, report”, and reported:

An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization. The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.

After all, Israel too wants to overthrow Syria’s secular, non-sectarian Government, which would be replaced by rulers selected by the Saud family, who are the U.S. Government’s main international ally.

On 9 November 2014, when Turkey was still a crucial U.S. ally trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government (and this was before the failed 15 July 2016 U.S.-backed coup-attempt to overthrow and replace Turkey’s Government so as to impose an outright U.S. stooge), Turkey was perhaps ISIS’s most crucial international backer. Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader, had received no diploma beyond k-12, and all of that schooling was in Sunni schools and based on the Quran. (He pretended, however, to have a university diploma.) On 15 July 2015, AWD News headlined “Turkish President’s daughter heads a covert medical corps to help ISIS injured members”. On 2 December 2015, a Russian news-site headlined “Defense Ministry: Erdogan and his family are involved in the illegal supply of oil”; so, the Erdogan family itself was religiously committed to ISIS’s fighters against Syria, and they were key to the success of the U.S. operation against Syrians — theft from Syrians. The great investigative journalist Christof Lehmann, who was personally acquainted with many of the leading political figures in Africa and the Middle East, headlined on 22 June 2014, “U.S. Embassy in Ankara Headquarter for ISIS War on Iraq – Hariri Insider”, and he reported that the NATO-front the Atlantic Council had held a meeting in Turkey during 22-23 of November 2013 at which high officials of the U.S. and allied governments agreed that they were going to take over Syria’s oil, and that they even were threatening Iraq’s Government for its not complying with their demands to cooperate on overthrowing Syria’s Government. So, behind the scenes, this conquest of Syria was the clear aim by the U.S. and all of its allies.

The U.S. had done the same thing when it took over Ukraine by a brutal coup in February 2014: It grabbed the gold. Iskra News in Russian reported, on 7 March 2014, that “At 2 a.m. this morning … an unmarked transport plane was on the runway at Borosipol Airport” near Kiev in the west, and that, “According to airport staff, before the plane came to the airport, four trucks and two Volkswagen minibuses arrived, all the truck license plates missing.” This was as translated by Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research headlining on 14 March, “Ukraine’s Gold Reserves Secretly Flown Out and Confiscated by the New York Federal Reserve?” in which he noted that, when asked, “A spokesman for the New York Fed said simply, ‘Any inquiry regarding gold accounts should be directed to the account holder.’” The load was said to be “more than 40 heavy boxes.” Chossudovsky noted that, “The National Bank of Ukraine (Central Bank) estimated Ukraine’s gold reserves in February to be worth $1.8 billion dollars.” It was allegedly 36 tons. The U.S., according to Victoria Nuland (Obama’s detail-person overseeing the coup) had invested around $5 billion in the coup. Was her installed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk cleaning out the nation’s gold reserves in order to strip the nation so that the nation’s steep indebtedness for Russian gas would never be repaid to Russia’s oligarchs? Or was he doing it as a payoff for Nuland’s having installed him? Or both? In any case: Russia was being squeezed by this fascist Ukrainian-American ploy.

On 14 November 2014, a Russian youtube headlined “In Ukraine, there is no more gold and currency reserves” and reported that there is “virtually no gold. There is a small amount of gold bars, but it’s just 1%” of before the coup. Four days later, Zero Hedge bannered “Ukraine Admits Its Gold Is Gone: ‘There Is Almost No Gold Left In The Central Bank Vault’”. From actually 42.3 tons just before the coup, it was now far less than one ton. 

The Syria operation was about oil, gold, and guns. However, most of America’s support was to Al-Qaeda-led jihadists, not to ISIS-jihadists. As the great independent investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva reported on 2 July 2017:

In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehouses full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).” 

The U.S. had acquired weapons from around the world, and shipped them (and Gaytandzhieva’s report even displayed the transit-documents) through a network of its embassies, into Syria, for Nusra-led forces inside Syria. Almost certainly, the U.S. Government’s central command center for the entire arms-smuggling operation was the world’s largest embassy, which is America’s embassy in Baghdad.

Furthermore, On 8 March 2013, Richard Spenser of Britain’s Telegraph reported that Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper had reported that “3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November. … The airlift of dated but effective Yugoslav-made weapons meets key concerns of the West, and especially Turkey and the United States, who want the rebels to be better armed to drive out the Assad regime.”

Also, a September 2014 study by Conflict Armaments Research (CAR), titled “Islamic State Weapons in Iraq and Syria”, reported that not only east-European, but even U.S.-made, weapons were being “captured from Islamic State forces” by Kurds who were working for the Americans, and that this was very puzzling and disturbing to those Kurds, who were risking their lives to fight against those jihadists.

In December 2017, CAR headlined “Weapons of the Islamic State” and reported that “this materiel was rapidly captured by IS forces, only to be deployed by the group against international coalition forces.” The assumption made there was that the transfer of weapons to ISIS was all unintentional.

That report ignored contrary evidence, which I summed up on 2 September 2017 headlining “Russian TV Reports U.S. Secretly Backing ISIS in Syria”, and reporting there also from the Turkish Government an admission that the U.S. was working with Turkey to funnel surviving members of Iraq’s ISIS into the Deir Ezzor part of Syria to help defeat Syria’s Government in that crucial oil-producing region. Moreover, at least one member of the ‘rebels’ that the U.S. was training at Al Tanf on Syria’s Jordanian border had quit because his American trainers were secretly diverting some of their weapons to ISIS. Furthermore: why hadn’t the U.S. bombed Syrian ISIS before Russia entered the Syrian war on 30 September 2015? America talked lots about its supposed effort against ISIS, but why did U.S. wait till 16 November 2015 before taking action, “’Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”

So, regardless of whether the U.S. Government uses jihadists as its proxy-forces, or uses fascists as its proxy-forces, it grabs the gold — and grabs the oil, and takes whatever else it can. 

This is today’s form of imperialism. Grab what you can, and run. And call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption’. And the imperial regime’s allies watch in amazement, as they take their respective cuts of the loot. That’s the deal, and they call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world’. That’s the way it works. International gangland. That’s the reality, while most of the public think it’s instead really “fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world.” For example, as RT reported on Sunday, March 3rd, about John Bolton’s effort at regime-change in Venezuela, Bolton said: “I’d like to see as broad a coalition as we can put together to replace Maduro, to replace the whole corrupt regime,’ Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper.” Trump’s regime wants to bring clean and democratic government to the poor Venezuelans, just like Bush’s did to the Iraqis, and Obama’s did to the Libyans and to the Syrians and to the Ukrainians. And Trump, who pretends to oppose Obama’s regime-change policies, alternately expands them and shrinks them. Though he’s slightly different from Obama on domestic policies, he never, as the U.S. President, condemn’s any of his predecessors’ many coups and invasions, all of which were disasters for everybody except America’s and allies’ billionaires. They’re all in on the take.

The American public were suckered into destroying Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2011-now, and so many other countries, and still haven’t learned anything, other than to keep trusting the allegations of this lying and psychopathically vicious and super-aggressive Government and of its stenographic ‘news’-media. When is enough finally enough? Never? If not never, then when? Or do most people never learn? Or maybe they don’t really care. Perhaps that’s the problem.

On March 4th, the Jerusalem Post bannered “IRAN AND TURKEY MEDIA PUSH CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT US, ISIS: Claims pushed by Syrian regime media assert that US gave ISIS safe passage out of Baghuz in return for gold, a conspiracy picked up in Tehran and Ankara”, and simply assumed that it’s false — but provided no evidence to back their speculation up — and they closed by asserting “The conspiracies, which are manufactured in Damascus, are disseminated to Iraq and Turkey, both of whom oppose US policy in eastern Syria.” Why do people even subscribe to such ‘news’-sources as that? The key facts are hidden, the speculation that’s based on their own prejudices replaces whatever facts exist. Do the subscribers, to that, simply want to be deceived? Are most people that stupid?

Back on 21 December 2018, one of the U.S. regime’s top ‘news’-media, the Washington Post, had headlined “Retreating ISIS army smuggled a fortune in cash and gold out of Iraq and Syria” and reported that “the Islamic State is sitting on a mountain of stolen cash and gold that its leaders stashed away to finance terrorist operations.” So, it’s not as if there hadn’t been prior reason to believe that some day some of the gold would be found after America’s defeat in Syria. Maybe they just hadn’t expected this to happen quite so soon. But the regime will find ways to hoodwink its public, in the future, just as it has in the past. Unless the public wises-up (if that’s even possible).

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

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“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

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“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

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Political Violence and Elections: Should We Care?

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The next Sunday 6th of June, the Chamber of Deputies along with 15 out of the 32 governorships will be up for grabs in Mexico’s mid-term elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the popularity of the president and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). They currently hold majority in the Lower Chamber of the national Congress, and these elections could challenge this.

Recent national polls indicate that the ruling party, MORENA, is still the most popular political force in Mexico, and they are poised to win not only several governorships, but also several municipalities. They are also expected to maintain control of the Lower  Chamber, although with a loss of a few seats. In order to ensure MORENA keeps its current majority in the Congress, they have decided to pursue an electoral alliance with the Green Party (PVEM) and the Labout Party (PT). It is expected that with this move, they will be able to ensure the majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress.

There is, however, another aspect that is making the headlines in this current electoral process: The high levels of political and electoral violence, The current electoral process is the second most violent since 2000. The number of candidates that have been assassinated is close to 30% higher than the mid-term electoral process of 2015. More than 79 candidates have been killed so far all across the country.

Insecurity in Mexico has been an ongoing issue that has continued to deteriorate during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). AMLO has continually criticised his predecessors and the valid problems of their approaches to insecurity in Mexico along with the War on Drugs policy. However, to date, he has yet to offer a viable alternative to tackle the security problems he inherited. During his campaign, AMLO coined the phrase “abrazos no balazos” (hugs not bullets) to describe his approach toward improving security in Mexico. He believed that to successfully tackle the worsening crisis of insecurity, the structural conditions that forced people to commit crimes had to be addressed first: Namely inequality, poverty, low salaries, lack of access to employment etc. To date, insecurity in Mexico continues to worsen, and this had become evident during the current electoral process.

This nonsensical approach to insecurity has resulted in the first three years of his government reaching over 100,000 murders, along with the nearly 225,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

What should be particularly worrying in this spiral of violence, is the prevalence of political and electoral violence during the current process. Political violence represents not only a direct attack on democratic institutions and democracy itself, but it also compromises the independence, autonomy, and integrity of those currently in power, and those competing for positions of power. It affects democracy also because political violence offers a way for candidates to gain power through violent means against opposition, and this also allows organised crime to infiltrate the state apparatus.

Political violence is a phenomenon that hurts all citizens and actors in a democracy. It represents a breeding ground for authoritarianism, and impunity at all levels of government. This limits the freedoms and rights of citizens and other actors as it extinguishes any sort of democratic coexistence between those currently holding political power and those aspiring to achieve it. Political violence also obstructs the development of democracy as it discredits anyone with critical views to those in power. This is worrying when we consider that 49% of those assassinated belong to opposition parties. This increase in political violence has also highlighted AMLO´s inability to curtail organised crime and related violence.

Assassination of candidates is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised criminal groups have also infiltrated politics through financing of political campaigns. Most of electoral and political violence tends to happen an municipal levels, where it is easier for criminal groups to exert more pressure and influence in the hope of securing protection, and perpetuate impunity, or securing control over drug trafficking routes. This should be especially worrisome when there is close too government control in certain areas of the country, and there is a serious risk of state erosion at municipal level in several states.

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