American Resistance To Empire

Saudis Visit Eritrea To Coordinate With Zionist Entity On Dahlak Island Navy Base?

[SEE: Israel’s second largest base is on Eritrea’s Dahlak Islands]

IDF Navy DahlakIDF Navy Dahlak3IDF Navy Dahlak2IDF Navy Dahlak4

Saudi Arabia, Eritrea agree to boost Red Sea security

Middle east monitor

Saudi Army

Saudi Arabia and Eritrea have reached a security and military agreement on fighting terrorism, illegal trade and piracy in the Red Sea, Eritrean diplomatic sources said yesterday.According to the sources, the agreement, reached during a visit by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to Saudi Arabia, also calls for preventing any foreign interference in Yemeni affairs.

Afwerki concluded a two-day visit to the oil-rich kingdom yesterday.

During his stay in the kingdom, the Eritrean leader held talks with Saudi officials on bilateral relations and the situation in Yemen, the sources told the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, informed Eritrean sources said that delegations from both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates visited Eritrean ports and islands close to Yemen.

According to the sources, Saudi helicopters flew from Eritrea to Djibouti, a move that refers to coordination between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of several Arab states in striking – from air so far – positions of the Shia Houthi group across Yemen for more than a month now.

Riyadh says the campaign comes at the request of embattled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The Family Curse–John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

George W. Bush acknowledges family name will hurt Jeb’s 2016 campaign


Barbara Believes America Has Enough President Name Bush

Barbara Believes America Has Enough President Name Bush

“My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”



MAERSK TIGRIS Container Ship–Shady Goings-On In St. of Hormuz

maersk tigris[The Marshall Islands-flagged, US Container Vessel Maersk Tigris, was diverted to a point near Bandar Abbas, where it is now anchored at sea with several other Iranian vessels.  Maersk tigris anchor

boundaries hormuz

Int. Bound. Iran OmanThe ship was running in Iranian waters, according to this reference, INTER. MARITIME BOUNDARIES, Vol. II, before it was turned north.  

Vessel track for MAERSK TIGRIS–

maersk 1st course change

According to the following article from the US Navy, the incident was over an unpaid Iranian portage billing, but it is a newly-commissioned vessel, which, according to its track history, has never docked at an Iranian port. 

Posted before the article are a series of snapshots, documenting Maersk Tigris positions.  Track history reveals that the voyage began at the port of Buyukcekmece, in Istanbul, before running the Red Sea, to the Gulf.  Maersk is alleged to be American-owned, but listings link it to Hamburg, Germany.]

Rickmers Group

Rickmers Holding GmbH & Cie. KG
Neumuehlen 19
22763 Hamburg
Tel.  +49 40 389 177 0
Fax. +49 40 389 177 500 

Maersk position vs international boundary Maersk Tigris turning north is represented by the northernmost star (Google Maps refused to mark eastern points 9-0 of the Oman/Iran border [see green pin in following Google version]).

Google referral point for coordinates

This is a current snapshot of Hormuz St. traffic.  Notice vessels turning back eastward, after reaching a point north of Oman.  Nothing is approaching from the south, to this point…something is going on…]

Iran Seizes Marshall Island Ship Maersk Tigris; U.S. Destroyer On Station


An updated photo of Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy patrol vessels. FARS News Photo

Iranian navy vessels shot at a Marshall Island-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz and directed it further into Iranian territorial waters, the Pentagon confirmed. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) has sent aircraft to observe and directed USS Farragut (DDG-99) to monitor the situation.

After the 52,600 gross ton cargo ship was surrounded by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) patrol craft, “the master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren.
“He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris. The master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island.”

Warren said that NAVCENT is in touch with the shipping company and continues to monitor the situation. The shipping company told NAVCENT there are no Americans onboard, he added.

The state-owned Iranian outlet Fars News Agency reported it “confiscated the American trade vessel” at the request of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.

“The ship was seized after a relevant court order was issued for its confiscation,” a source is quoted as saying. The story adds that the IPMO had monetary differences with the ship owner, and the IRGCN would escort the ship to Bandar Abbas.

According to Vessel Finder, the container ship made its last port stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after several stops earlier in the month throughout Turkey, and was headed to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. The ship was expected to reach its destination at 21:30 UTC/Zulu time. Instead, the ship was last reported at 14:20 Zulu off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran, near the narrowest part of the Strait of Hormuz. Warren said the IRGCN vessels surrounded the cargo ship at 0905 Zulu.

The track of the M/V Maersk Tigris before and after the seizure by IRGCN forces. Screen grab from

MALTA Makes Plea For Human Compassion, While Brits Call For Gun Boats

[The following posts perfectly frame the European opinion on refugees/illegal migrants.  Where a representative of tiny Malta (which is situated directly midstream between the African exodus and the safety of Europe) gives perfect expression to Human Hope, the mouthy spokesperson for British self-appointed overlords of the Continent (and Civilization itself) spews rivers of racist hatred over the torrent of “useless eaters” who were originally invited to Europe to serve as a new peon/peasant class.  BTW, ]


“We are all human, the ones who died and the ones who still breathe in freedom.”



“No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.”

[SEE: Met’s specialist crime unit considering case against Katie Hopkins over migrant ‘cockroaches’ article]

Malta boat people source

A sea of red

times of malta

A sea of words has flowed lately. We all cried when we heard the harrowing stories of people dying in the sea surrounding our tiny country.

I say we all cried but some are still pig-headed and spout horrid words even about the dead, the sad dead in our Mediterranean.

This sea has seen many wars, battles, victories, celebrations and it has been a lifeline for countries, empires, peoples. It has seen tragedy, it has seen happiness, it is the salt of our earth, the succour and hope of many. Only God, Allah, Neptune, Vishnu or whoever rules the skies and the seas, knows what lies in its basin.

It is now the resting-place of too many people, too many people who left their homeland in boats in dreams of better days. May their death help us all find a solution or, if a solution is impossible, at least more and enduringly more compassion for all and not just those of our own creed, colour or condition.

Today they represent a people who are the suffering, the downtrodden, the desperate. So desperate that they trust brigands and criminals who take them on board boats not even fit for cattle. Today it is they—tomorrow it could be us on that boat escaping God knows what mishap, what condition, what desperation.

Our blue sea will remain blue but let us remember that it is now tinged with red and feel compassion. We are all human, the ones who died and the ones who still breathe in freedom.

Hopkins: Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop illegal migrants

sun nation

“Make no mistake these migrants are like cockroaches”

NGN - SUNNEWS_dcy_calais_immigration16

“No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.”

I still don’t care.

Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship.

Watching them try to clamber on to British lorries and steal their way into the UK, do I feel pity? Only for the British drivers, who get hit with a fine every time one of this plague of feral humans ends up in their truck.

Understand this, these two populations are the same. The migrants harassing Brit truckers at the port are the same as the vagrants making the perilous trip across the Med.

And there is no stopping them. 170,000 came last year.

NGN - SUNNEWS_dcy_calais_immigration19

During a recent operation by the Italian coastguard to rescue migrants off the coast of Libya, the people traffickers threatened crew with Kalashnikovs to get their vessel back.

Clearly, boats are in short supply. And that is a good thing. No boats, no migrants.

There is a simple solution to this. It’s time for the Italians to stop singing opera, drinking espresso and looking chic in chuffing everything.

It’s time to get Australian.

Credit: Alamy

Australians are like British people but with balls of steel, can-do brains, tiny hearts and whacking great gunships.

Their approach to migrant boats is the sort of approach we need in the Med.

They threaten them with violence until they bugger off, throwing cans of Castlemaine in an Aussie version of sharia stoning.

And their approach is working. Migrant boats have halved in number since Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott got tough.

We don’t need another rescue project. The now defunct £7million-a-month Mare Nostrum — Italy’s navy search and rescue operation — was paid for (in part) by British taxpayers.

And we don’t need a campaign from Save the Children to encourage more migrants to take the journey.

What we need are gunships sending these boats back to their own country.

Asylum Seekers Transported To Christmas Island After Interception

You want to make a better life for yourself? Then you had better get creative in Northern Africa.

Britain is not El Dorado. We are not Elysium. Some of our towns are festering sores, plagued by swarms of migrants and asylum seekers, shelling out benefits like Monopoly money.

Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984′, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.

Once gunships have driven them back to their shores, boats need to be confiscated and burned on a huge bonfire.

Drilling a few holes in the bottom of anything suspiciously resembling a boat would be a good idea, too, just for belt and braces.

Unless we take the emotion out of this and start connecting the migrants in the Med with the Africans clinging to trucks in Calais, we cannot deliver an appropriate response.

If you think rescue boats are a good idea, you may as well set up a Libya to Italy P&O ferry service and send your taxes to Africa by direct debit for good measure.

Or if you think like me, then it’s time to get Australian. Bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats.

As it turns out, I do care. I care passionately about British truckers and taxpayers in the UK.

U.S. Supports Renewed Saudi Airstrikes Because Houthis Are Still Moving

[SEE: Saudi Yemeni Bombing Killed Impending UN Peace Deal]

U.S. blames Houthi battlefield moves for renewed Saudi strikes


(Reuters) – The United States squarely blamed Houthi fighters on Monday for renewed Saudi-led bombings, accusing them of using a relative lull in airstrikes meant to help set the stage for peace talks to instead pursue battlefield advances.

Saudi-led aircraft pounded Iran-allied Houthi militiamen and rebel army units on Monday, dashing hopes for a pause in fighting to let aid in as relief officials warned of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he would discuss the conflict with Iran’s foreign minister later on Monday, adding: “I will certainly urge that everybody do their part to try to reduce the violence and allow the negotiations to begin.”

Kerry and other U.S. officials said Houthis had sought more gains since Riyadh’s announcement last week that it was ending its nearly five-week-old bombing campaign, except in places where the Houthis were advancing.

“The Saudi shift … was predicated on the notion that people would freeze in place,” Kerry told a news conference in New York.

“But what happened was the Houthi began to take advantage of the absence of air campaign, moving not only additionally on Aden, but moving in other parts of the country.”

Kerry and other U.S. officials said the Houthis were shifting artillery and forces and targeting certain elements of the Yemen army.

A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, rattled by what they saw as expanding Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula, is trying to stop Houthi fighters and loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Salah taking control of Yemen.

But the air campaign has had little success and vital aid has been reported held up by both sides.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


Saudi Yemeni Bombing Killed Impending UN Peace Deal

Former UN envoy says Yemen political deal was close before Saudi airstrikes

Wall Street Journal

how solve

April 26, 2015 4:56 p.m. ET
UNITED NATIONS—Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led airstrikes began a month ago, derailing negotiations for a national unity government, the United Nations mediator said.

Jamal Benomar, the U.N. envoy who spearheaded those negotiations until he resigned last week, told The Wall Street Journal the bombing campaign against the Iran-linked Houthi rebels has hardened positions on a key point—the composition of an executive body to lead Yemen’s stalled transition from dictatorship to democracy. This will complicate new attempts to reach a solution, he said.

“When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,” said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat.

Mr. Benomar is scheduled to address the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors on Monday and report on the suspended political talks.

This round of U.N.-brokered talks—which began in January and included 12 political and tribal factions—represented a crucial part of a mission to install a unified government in Yemen, the poorest of Arab countries and home to al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot.

The Houthi rebels, who have overrun significant parts of Yemen in the past eight months, had agreed to remove their militias from the cities they were occupying under the deal that had been taking shape. The U.N. had worked out details of a new government force to replace them, Mr. Benomar said.

In exchange, Western-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has since fled the country, would have been part of an executive body that would run the country temporarily, Mr. Benomar said.

The Houthis had agreed to that reduced role for Mr. Hadi—possibly as a member of that executive council—until the Saudi military intervention began on March 26. At that point, the Houthis hardened their position on this key sticking point and opposed any role for Mr. Hadi in government, Mr. Benomar said.

Saudi-backed factions have also hardened their positions, saying the Houthis should not be granted political power.

With the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis, Yemen was transformed into a battlefield for a broader contest over regional power between the Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.

The Saudis want to restore Mr. Hadi to the presidency and also support a separate armed political faction named Islah, which is anti-Houthi. Iran supports the Houthis, who abide by a Shiite offshoot of Islam. Many Yemenis accuse both countries of meddling in their affairs.

The Houthis have taken over the capital San’a and the government and then advanced on the south. As they approached the port city of Aden, where Mr. Hadi had taken refuged, he fled the country and ended up in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s troubles mark an abrupt turnabout from what the international community had once hailed as a success story.

The 2011 Arab Spring protests triggered political change in the impoverished country. Groups that felt oppressed or excluded for decades under the former regime, such as the Houthis, were supposed to take part in the new government.

That transition stalled in 2014. In the two months leading up to the Saudi air campaign, the Houthis and other parties insisted on a reduced role for Mr. Hadi—blaming him for the slow pace of reform. Mr. Hadi, his Saudi allies and other political factions aligned with him opposed the terms being hammered out by Mr. Benomar.

“A very detailed agreement was being worked out, but there was one important issue on which there was no agreement, and that was what to do with the presidency,” Mr. Benomar said. “We were under no illusion that implementation of this would be easy.”

Before the Saudis started bombing, two other Arab states—Qatar and Morocco—were willing to host new rounds of Yemen peace talks. But after both countries joined the Saudi-led military coalition, the Houthis rejected those venues, according to Mr. Benomar.

President Hadi has suggested that talks resume in the Saudi capital of Riyadh under Saudi auspices. But that was a non-starter for the Houthis.

Officials from Saudi Arabia—Yemen’s largest neighbor and historically its biggest donor—say they started their military campaign to protect Yemen from a military force that they view as a puppet for Iran. The U.S. believes the Houthis have received assistance from Iran in recent years.

A senior diplomat familiar with the negotiations said the Saudis also intervened to prevent a power-sharing deal that would include the Houthis and that would give 30 % of the cabinet and parliament to women.

Some Yemeni factions said a deal wasn’t as close as Mr. Benomar has said. Several of those factions, which were also interested in power-sharing, said the military tensions in the capital led to feelings of unease during negotiations. In their takeover of the capital, the Houthis kidnapped members of rival political parties.

“We did not like the Houthi plan on the table, but we were willing to sign it since it reflected reality. It was either that or no [political] deal,” said Mohammed Abulahoum, president of the Justice and Building Party.

Saudi Arabia declared last week that it was shifting to a new phase in the Yemen campaign more focused on seeking a political solution. But it left open the option of continued military action, and has kept up airstrikes at a robust pace since the declaration.

Mr. Benomar said, however, that the Saudis have no chance of leading negotiations because the Houthis would never participate in their talks. He said he would tell the Security Council on Monday that only U.N.-led talks in a neutral location can have any chance of success.

On Saturday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania was named as the new U.N. envoy for Yemen.

On Sunday, Yemeni officials reported several apparent strikes by the Saudi coalition against Houthi targets amid deadly clashes between Houthi militants and forces aligned with Mr. Hadi.

Strikes hit the capital San’a as well as targets in energy-rich Marib province, officials said. Several southern provinces also saw strikes, including one that hit a convoy of Houthi fighters heading to the southern port city of Aden.

Deconstructing Russophobia

Deconstructing Russophobia

catherine brown


Imagine that Vladimir Putin were not a murderous autocrat and kleptocrat who has spent his fourteen years in power living up to his KGB past and dragging Russia ever back towards Communist autocracy, illiberalism, and expansionism. Imagine that instead he were the one of the greatest leaders that Russia has had, whose policies have helped produce a massive rise in living standards and life expectancy, recuperation of national pride, and enforcement of the rule of law, who has tackled kleptocrats and gangsters wisely and well, whose foreign policy has on balance been realistic, diplomatic, and conducive to peace, who has presided over a country of which the human rights record is considerably better than that of the United States and in which civil rights are improving, and who richly deserves the steady support of 65% – currently at a Ukraine-related high of 83% – of the population that he possesses. It is my understanding that the reality is closer to the second scenario than the first – and I may note that I say this as someone with no ethnic, financial, professional or political ties to Russia whatsoever. It follows that I am not a Russian expert – but nor am I, on the other hand, parti pris. I am a friendly, distanced observer of the country.

Let me start by explaining the history of my connection to the country. When I was a teenager my somewhat timid and unimaginative school uncharacteristically decided to organise a trip to a wacky place such as Russia, where, as it seemed, considerable political change happened to be taking place. So it was that I visited the Soviet Union during the last month of its existence, whilst myself having almost as little conception of what the Soviet Union was, as of what might be about to replace it. Some years later, in my year, so-called ‘out’, before university, I found myself living on the Danube’s South bank in Ruse, Bulgaria, learning some Bulgarian but telling myself that if ever I properly learned a Slavic language it would be one that would allow me to converse with hundreds of millions not just seven million users. After a degree in English I made a diagonal move into an MSc in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at the London School of Economics, where it was abundantly clear that Britain’s finest kremlinogists had had very little idea that or when the Soviet Union was going to end – and who, tsarist nostalgists and Soviet nostalgists alike – were dismayed at what was happening in the country at the time. The worst time was already over when, in 2002, I moved to Moscow to improve my book-learned Russian, and to teach English. I became amongst other things an Anglo-Russian literary comparatist, and have visited the country at least annually since then.

The Moscow I remember of 1991 was febrile, almost but not quite panicked, and throngingly poor. The Moscow I remember of 2002 can best be summarised with the word ‘rough’. Though safe in ways in which London isn’t – I often used private cars as taxis, alone, at night – there were also several obvious ways to die which London lacked. Open manhole covers, slipping drunk in the snow, crossfire. This was ‘diky capitalism’ – wild capitalism, with its gloves decidedly off. Legless – literally – Afghan vets pushing themselves through the snow, their torsoes balanced on makeshift skateboards. Families camped out singing for their supper. Concert-quality violinists busking. Professional gymnasts stripping in nightclubs. Makeup stores where Western brands were sold at what I at first thought were ruble prices but were in fact hugely inflated and illegal US dollar prices. My employer at a private English school wasn’t paying tax, on the grounds that he couldn’t both do that and be solvent. Police one crossed the street to avoid – both because one’s own affairs would inevitably involve some illegality, and because they were underpaid and relied on bribes.

A year later, on a visit, the situation was slightly better. The most extravagant misery was no longer apparent. A year later, better still. And that has been the consistent pattern on all my visits since then. Capitalism has been getting its gloves back on. Public facilities are in a much better state. Nothing is sold in dollars and Western brands have Russian rivals. A sensible tax structure means that businesses and salaried employees can and do pay their taxes. One sees no-one drunk in public. Muscovite women no longer exaggerate their femininity in a way which testifies to financial insecurity and a strenuous imitation of a pornographically-imagined West. And most reassuringly of all, to Westerners used to this custom, people have begun to smile. Even the hardest cases – the babushki guarding the museum rooms, and the border guards at passport control – will now return a smile. Last year, for the first time, I felt that Russia was in a new phase – the post-post-Soviet, in which people are no longer waiting for normality to be re-established, or yearning to live in a ‘normal’ country. A new normality, and a new optimism, have emerged.

My locus of pulse-taking of the country has usually been Moscow – to a lesser extent St Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Perm – but from what I hear of the rest of the country, the improvement has been, if slower, widespread and also steady.

Now this period of my acquaintance has coincided with Putin’s time in power. 
It is one feature of the Western media treatments of Russia that it makes Putin metonymic of the country, one of its assumptions being his increasingly autocratic control of it. I dispute that assumption; but I have no doubt that Putin has had a decisive impact on Russian politics in this century. For this reason, my target in this post is not only Russophobia but Putinophobia, and I consider these to be related biases: here I am taking a phobia in the sense of a negative prejudice.

The impetus for this post is my sense that the Russia which I have got to know, and the Russia I see described in Western and specifically British mainstream media, have become increasingly discrepant. As Russia, in my experience, has improved with regard to just about every indicator I can think of, its image in the Western press has deteriorated. Now, there are all kinds of ways in which improving living standards could be compatible with increasing autocracy and international belligerence – one thinks of Hitler. But I believe that no such combination pertains in Putin’s case.

I will just finish this introduction with an anecdote. This April I visited the British Council in Moscow and spoke to two of its young Russian employees. One expects such people to be broadly Western-orientated and Anglophile. Part of their job was to analyse British press coverage of Russia, and, for as long as they were under the mistaken impression that I was a BBC journalist, they were guarded to the point of hostility. When I clarified my position as an academic, and a sceptic of British coverage of Russia, they burst into smiles, and shared with me how depressed reading and watching this coverage makes them. I know no Russian who has any knowledge of Russia’s representation in Britain who is not strongly critical of it. I too am depressed by it, specifically because I think that it is intellectually and morally demeaning, and counter-productive to a dangerous degree.

In the rest of this post I’m not going to simply contrast mainstream British and American media assertions with my own. What I will try to do is describe a few of the ways in which what I consider to be a false image is constructed, and the factors favouring the survival of this image – in the hope that if my description of those processes rings true, then it may influence your responses to the media’s representations henceforth. Finally, I will consider the practical effects of the media’s image of Russia.

The means of its creation are the usual suspects in cases of bias: distortion of fact through exaggeration, understatement, and fabrication; false inferences; inconsistent application of standards; and misuse of language.

To start with exaggeration: the argument that Putin has overwhelming control of the Russian media is often highly overstated. Much TV is state-owned, but some of the state-owned channels, such as RIA Novosti, criticise Putin, as do many radio stations and newspapers. Putin gets far more criticism in the Russian press as a whole than does Cameron in the British press. Now this isn’t comparing like for like, since there might in theory be more grounds for criticising Putin – but it is nonetheless a fact, which conflicts with part of the image of Russia as frequently presented. The internet is freer than it is in Britain – one reason why online intellectual piracy is rife – and many Russians get their news from the internet. Government control of the media therefore cannot convincingly be adduced as a significant reason for Putin’s consistently high popularity ratings.

Protests against him, on the other hand, receive coverage far out of proportion to their size – even as overestimated, despite the fact that large, peaceful protests indicate the right to protest. The demonstrations in Moscow after the March 2012 presidential election are a case in point. Coverage of such protests also involved understatement of their most important political component – the Communists. Support for the Communist Party is running at a steady 20%, making it by far the most important opposition party. The British media, however, focuses overwhelmingly on the ‘liberal’ opposition. It is understandable that it does this given that that is the tendency which it supports, but it also gives a false impression that the ‘liberal’ opposition is in fact at present the main one. Footage of the demonstrations in which the Communist flag predominated undermined the British commentary which was voiced over it.

This exaggeration of size and importance both of the protests and of the liberal component in them, is clearly the product of wishful thinking – but if one is really interested in seeing the replacement of Putin by a liberal, it does one no favours to overstate the current importance of the liberal opposition even to oneself. One should instead confront the fact that the liberal parties combined poll around only 5% of the vote, and should then try to work out what is wrong with these parties’ message and or leaders, and/or what is wrong with the voters’ ability to perceive the attractiveness of their message.

But the most important elision in coverage of Russia is of those improvements in demographic indicators, living standards, national affluence, and the rule of law, which I mentioned. During his first twelve years in power GDP increased by some 850%. The country is now largely debtless, with a large reserve of currency reserves. Due to Putin’s policies revenues from oil now serve the national economy. Mortality has sharply declined, and the birth rate increased.

Then there is fabrication, or speculation presented as fact.

A good example of this is Putin’s personal wealth – which has received some fantastically high estimates in Forbes and Bloomberg, including that he is the ninth richest man in the world, or indeed the richest man. These theories took much of their impetus from claims by two men, analyst Stanislav Belkovsky, cousin of Berezovsky, and liberal politician Boris Nemtsov. The allegations are that he secretly owns a large part or all of Gazprom and related energy companies such as Gunvor. Indeed, when The Economist published allegations about Putin’s ownership of Gunvor in 2008 it was sued and forced to print a retraction. There are probably only a very few people in the world who actually know the size and precise form of Putin’s wealth: he himself, and one or two others. I would only observe, first, that specific allegations have not been proved; second, that speculations should not be presented as confirmed fact; and third, that nothing which is known about Putin’s history and proud, workaholic character suggests someone to whom the things that money can buy have a strong appeal; a sybaritic Goering he is not.

Other claims made about corruption in Russia are self-evidently absurd. Certain claims made about corruption at the Sochi Olympics would, if true, mean that more money had been lost to corruption than the entire GDP of the country.

The credulity leant to the claims made by critics of Putin by virtue of being made by Putin’s critics leads me onto one false inductive inference found commonly in coverage of Putin: that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. When combined with the assumption that there is governmental interference in the operation of the law in Russia, this has the outcome that when somebody who is accused of a crime in Russia voices criticism of Putin they effectually enlist on their side in protestation of their innocence a preponderance of the British media.

That is, not only is my enemy’s enemy my friend, and not only is Putin’s critic therefore my friend, but Putin’s critic is innocent – not only negatively innocent of any crime as charged, but positively innocent and good, because by virtue of opposing a tyrant they are dissident, and therefore of the same genre of person as the saintly Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov. In actual fact, a prisoner with political views is not the same as a political prisoner.

It is true that the Russian legal system is less fair than the British, and lacks several of its important features in both criminal and civil law – for example the principle of disclosure of adverse evidence. The system is young, having been created for the new capitalist system at the end of Communism. Many of the lawyers and judges are therefore still relatively young and inexperienced, and adhere rather too closely to the letter of the law. Defence is still not as well established a profession as prosecution, and this shows. These factors affect the justice of all trials in the country.

But two things must immediately be added to this. First, that the situation is getting gradually better. Putin did not destroy the independence of the judiciary; before him it scarcely existed, and is being gradually built up. Second, the allegation that all trials of Putin’s critics are unjust by the standards of the system as it exists has very little evidence to support it.

In the 1990s much of Russia’s wealth corruptly and often violently became the private property of a few so-called oligarchs. When Putin became President he made them an offer that constituted quite possibly the optimum intersection of pragmatism, forward-thinking, and justice. They could either pay back some of their unpaid tax, invest some of their wealth in their home regions, and refrain from leveraging their wealth into political power – or be prosecuted for their past crimes as committed. Some, like Abramovich, accepted the compromise offered, and have flourished. Others, like Khodorkovsky, didn’t. His trial for tax evasion was widely criticised in the West as politically motivated and unfair. What has scarcely been reported is that on 25th July 2013 the European Court of Human Rights (to which Russia as a member of the Council of Europe is subject) found that the trial was not politically motivated, that Khodorkovsky was guilty as charged, and that he was appropriately sentenced (although it found certain procedural irregularities in his treatment, for which it ordered compensation to be paid). In other cases, such as those of Pussy Riot and would-be presidential candidate Aleksei Navalny (whose appeals to the European Court of Human Rights have yet to be heard), the defendants were found guilty of crimes under Russian law on the basis of strong evidence, and were given sentences which not only fitted well within the range of sentences available for the crime concerned, but which resembled sentences which the same crimes would have received were they committed in Britain. In Britain, Pussy Riot would have been charged under the Public Order Act 1986, for offences under which the maximum sentence is two years in prison (which is what Pussy Riot received). Navalny would have been charged under the Theft Act 1968, for offences under which the maximum sentence is six years (Navalny received five). In certain respects the operation of the Russian law is more lenient than the British. Prior to their ‘punk prayer’ in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, members of Pussy Riot had performed public sex in a museum, and thrown live cats at workers in a McDonalds restaurant. In Britain such acts could have resulted in prison sentences of at least two years, whereas in Russia they were not prosecuted at all. One reason why Pussy Riot were prosecuted for their ‘punk prayer’ was that it disrupted and parodied a religious act of worship, which is specifically prohibited under Russian (as also British) law, and which is particularly comprehensible in a country with a history of state persecution of religion.

Finally, criticism of the conviction on well-founded criminal charges of those who have opposed Putin amounts to a demand that anyone who has opposed Putin should be above the law simply by that virtue. It should rather be argued that Putin’s closest allies (such as the former defence minister Serdyukov, whose trial for fraud has been much delayed), if suspected of criminal activities, should not be above the law. To do the inverse is to argue that the rule of law in Russia be undermined. Indeed, it is implicitly to argue that Putin should prevent the law taking its course in the case of anyone who criticises him, which is the same as calling for political interference in the law, which is precisely what is ostensibly being criticised. If the point is made that not all oligarchs have been treated equally, the proper response is to demand that they all be held accountable for their crimes, not none of them.

It is worth adding that supporting anyone, no matter how criminally malodorous, provided that they publically oppose Putin, turns us into their useful idiots, and makes us appear idiotic to many Russians who cannot understand on what basis other than political enmity such a person as Boris Berezovsky was given asylum in Britain rather than being extradited to stand trial for crimes in Russia.

Internationally, something of the same dynamic of support for an enemy’s enemy is apparent. NATO is hostile to Russia, therefore, for some, there is a reason to support NATO. But on what bases do NATO and Russia disagree?
 First, Russia weakly or strongly opposed NATO’s interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Which was right depends on your attitude towards those interventions, but if one desires peace rather than war – civil or otherwise – then Russia rather than NATO should be judged to have acted better.

Second, NATO has behaved with much greater hostility towards Russia than Russia towards it. In 1990 both the EU and NATO promised Russia they would not expand Eastwards. Since then they have done that relentlessly. Russia has done almost nothing in response. It did, however, protest loudly and understandably against the planned deployment of US ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and Romania. The US would certainly not tolerate Russia basing similar systems in Cuba or Venezuela.

This brings us on to inconsistent application of standards. The Russian government is almost invariably interpreted in the worst possible light by being held to higher standards than other countries.

Let’s take the recent controversial ‘gay law’. Such positive aspect as the Russian government uncharacteristically and briefly enjoyed in the eyes of Edward Snowden’s supporters when he was granted asylum in Russia was quickly lost in the US-centred campaign against the gay law which began immediately afterwards. The law making it an ‘administrative offence’ [minor crime] to present homosexuality in a positive light to minors is a bad law, because it makes a minor offence out of something which was scarcely practised and which should not be banned. It explicitly outlaws ‘homosexual paedophile propaganda’ whilst making no mention of ‘heterosexual paedophile propaganda’. However, in Russia private and public homosexuality is as legal as heterosexuality – yet there was negligible support for a boycott on for example Qatar, scheduled to hold the World Cup, which has vastly more repressive anti-gay legislation. Furthermore several US states have anti-gay legislation much stronger than what exists in Russia, but nobody has proposed any kind of boycott of America on this basis. Pro-gay American barmen did not pour Scotch whiskey down the drains between 1988 and 2003 to protest against the very similar law (Section 28 of the Local Government Act) which was then in place in Britain. It seems clear that the anti-Russian gay law campaign flourished because of Russophobia – the phenomenon I am describing. You may remember during the coverage of the Sochi Olympics there was Claire Balding being genially responsive to the impressive facilities and the warm support of the local Russians, standing alongside BBC Russian correspondent Daniel Sandford, who would repeatedly interject – rather in the manner of a Soviet commissar – comments such as: ‘ah, but we must never forget that this is the country where the presentation of homosexuality to minors in a positive light is an administrative offence’.

I am not saying that any amount of impressive facilities and warm locals should whitewash egregious human rights violations – but the Russian gay law simply isn’t that. Russia’s leading gay activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, became increasingly distressed at the way in which the US-based anti-gay-law campaign was being used as a tool of Russophobia. On the 17th August 2013 he tweeted: ‘All Western media want to hear from me that Russia is shit and I don’t want to take part in this hypocrisy. So all interviews are over!’ For this reaction, he, a brave campaigner against the gay law, was unfairly branded a stooge of Putin – and so a divide opened up between Russophobic pro-gay activists and Russian gay activists, whose job it is to actually change opinions on the ground.

And as with gay rights, so with human rights in general. Russia gets held to higher standards not only than countries such as Bahrain and China, but the United States. On the basis of Western media coverage one would think that Russia’s human rights situation was worse than that of the States, and at least as bad as that of China – both of which notions are preposterous.

Let us compare Russia to the United States (China being of course much worse than both). The US has around 730 to Russia’s 598 prisoners per 100,000 of the population. It uses the death penalty, executes minors, and empowers its President to authorise the kidnap, torture, and killing of domestic and foreign citizens without trial. Russia does none of these things. The US government has significantly curtailed Americans’ civil liberties under the Patriot Act, extensively spies on the media activities of its own and other countries’ citizens, and detains hundreds of people without trial in an international network of secret prisons. Russians’ civil liberates are now more strongly guaranteed by law than are Americans’; there is no evidence or suggestion that Russia kidnaps individuals abroad or outsources torture, nor that it runs a torture camp resembling Guantanamo Bay, nor that the FSB spies on Russian citizens to anything near the extent that the NSA spies on Americans, let alone on foreigners. In this respect – the extent of spying on their own citizens – Russia and the US have changed places since the end of the Soviet Union. Whereas the trend of US law over the last decade and a half has been to diminish civil liberties, in Russia the legal culture is becoming gradually more humane and liberal. Russia puts suspected Islamic terrorists whom it has captured on trial within a reasonable period, and does not deny them habeas corpus. America’s popular culture (including films such as Zero Dark Thirty) acknowledges that America has practised torture, and suggests that it may have been justified in doing so. Russia’s popular culture does not endorse the practice of torture. The contrast between Western treatments of Russia and of the US with regard to human rights was apparent when in 2012 Amnesty International ran a Priority Action campaign on behalf of Pussy Riot, whose members it had designated prisoners of conscience, whilst not running such a campaign on behalf of Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning, whom it had not (and has not) designated a prisoner of conscience. The members of Pussy Riot had been sentenced, as I mentioned, to two years in prison, according to the law, for a crime which they had committed. At the time, Bradley Manning was being subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, prior to being tried for any crime. This gave an unfortunate appearance of political partiality to Amnesty’s decisions, implying that they considered the relatively humane and legal treatment of critics of Putin to be a more urgent and flagrant violation of human rights than the torture before trial of a whistleblower on American torture.

On the issue of double standards let us consider too the advice which America gives to Russia. During the protests on Maidan Square in Kiev you may remember John Kerry urging Yanukovich to demonstrate ‘restraint’ with regard to the protesters. He showed so much restraint that he left the city rather than ordering his police to defend his Presidency by force, as they would have been capable of doing. Can you imagine any American President being induced to flee by violent street protests in Washington? In Washington the Maidan protests wouldn’t have lasted a couple of days. If you draw a lethal weapon in the presence of a police officer you may legally be shot dead. In Kiev, around 20 policemen were killed. One can imagine the scornful and outraged response were Putin, for example, to urge that Obama show restraint in the face of violent protests, to the extent of allowing himself to be overthrown.

It goes without saying that the dictators with whom Russia has relatively good relations, in Syria, North Korea, and Cuba, are excoriated in a way in which not only does the West not excoriate the dictators in Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, Quatar, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Thailand, and Egypt – but a way in which Russia doesn’t excoriate them either. Overall not only does the West not practice what it preaches to Russia, it preaches where Russia does not – and although I have no general objection to preaching – I’m a Lawrencian for goodness sake – I do object to the preaching of hypocrites.

One thing that assists in our inconsistent application of standards is our use of language. Protesters on Maidan were protesters; in Slaviansk, Kramatorsk, Mariupol they were rebels. Putin’s government is frequently referred to as a regime, and therefore likened to a dictatorship, whereas not only does Russia, like the US, have an imperfect democracy, but Putin personally has a twenty percent higher approval rating than does Obama, and at least twenty-five percent higher than Cameron. But there is one word in particular which is misused in a Russian context – ‘liberal’. Now, this is a notoriously protean word, but there does seem to be agreement over its denotation in a Russian context, where it generally assumed to mean ‘promoting Western values with regard to individual liberty, equality, democracy and the rule of law’. However, when one considers the policies of those politicians and commentators described as liberal, one finds that what is in fact denoted is ‘promoting foreign and economic policies which are aligned with Western interests, whatever other (possibly illiberal) views are held’. For example, Aleksei Navalny, who was frequently described as a liberal opposition leader, holds views which most Western liberals would categorise as racist. Since most Russians do not want Russia to conform to NATO geopolitical or economic interests at its own expense, and since Western capitalism is damaged by association with the nineteen-nineties (a period which has never sufficiently been accepted in the West as having been a catastrophe), so-called ‘liberals’ account for a relatively small proportion of the popular vote. Yet Russophobic narrative conflates ‘liberal’ with ‘democratic’. The fact that Putin’s policies have vastly more appeal than so-called liberal ones does not make Putin an anti-democrat, and those who oppose the democratically elected Putin are not ‘pro-democratic’ by that virtue.

Russophobia, like Said’s account of Orientalism, therefore relies on and generates contradictions. On the one hand it constructs an enemy which is aggressive and to be feared, threatening its neighbours such as the Ukraine and Georgia. On the other hand it creates a risible enemy of which the economy is flimsily dependent on oil – a point far less often made about far more strongly oil-reliant allies such as Saudi Arabia.

Both Russia’s aggression and its weakness are overstated – that is, the desire (for reasons I’ll come on to) to construct an enemy produces an image (and to a small extent, a reality) which is then actually feared, the power of which needs to be understated. Since 1989, when it withdrew from Afghanistan, it has sent its troops only into Georgia, and that in support of the inhabitants of a semi-autonomous enclave which Georgian troops had entered in violation of international treaties. In fact it threatens noone.

But the understatement of its power is just as striking.
 Speaking to businessmen working in Russia – Russian and foreign alike – it became clear to me that Russia is hugely and diversely economically productive, avoiding many of the pitfalls of indebtedness and a phony banking system which afflict our own economy. L’Oréal, Danône, Peugeot, and Renault are all making huge profits in Russia. Far from being entirely reliant on the export of oil, Russia makes a range of manufactured goods including steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, clothing, ship building, machine tools, aircraft, food processing, furniture, computers, tractors, optical devices, commercial vehicles, and mobile phones. It has a big construction industry, and in fields such as nuclear power engineering and space technology it is one of the world’s leaders. These are perhaps little thought of in the West perhaps because they tend to be heavy goods, not consumer goods, and are therefore not found in Western shops. Income tax is flat at 13%, in a way which at present encourages economic growth (though is, I assume, a temporary measure, before a more socialist graduated income tax one day replaces it). There is around 10% interest on current accounts. The sanctions have hurt, but have also led to more inward investment.
And the narrative of Russian weakness is also assisted by ignoring its relations with the rest of the world beyond the West. There are strengthening Russian-Chinese ties, and warm relations between Russia and most countries of Asia, Africa, and South America – including both China and Japan, both India and Pakistan, both Israel and Palestine.

When I attended a meeting of businessmen discussing responses to the sanctions in Moscow in April it was telling that the Ambassadors who decided to come – at least, those that I met – were from South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Benin, Indonesia and Malaysia. Not one from the ‘West’, and that is really a metaphor for the fact that the West does not witness, and does not want to see, the good relations which Russia has with the rest of the world.

But there are many factors which favour the construction and persistence of Russophobia.

One of the first and most obvious is limited contact with the country itself. From the sixteenth century, when West Europeans started travelling to Russia in any numbers, it’s been rightly observed that Russia is difficult to get to, travel in, and onerous in its passport requirements. Tit-for-tat visa policy means that it is not easy to pop to St Petersburg for a quick city break – indeed, there are very few direct flights between London, the world’s air-transport hub, and the second biggest city of the world’s biggest country – which, thinking of some of the other places you can get more frequent direct flights to from London, is extraordinary. Limited contact with Russia, and limited learning of its language, mean limited ability to test the validity of the media’s image of Russia. That image is itself partly the construction of journalists who themselves know very little about the country, and who echo each other. But it also the construction of local foreign correspondents such as The Guardian’s Luke Harding and The Economist’s Ed Lucas, who in my opinion fall into that category of people who can live in a country whilst loathing and misrepresenting it, just as people can live in a country, love it, and misrepresent it in a positive direction.

One feature favouring the re-echoing of opinions between journalists resident and otherwise is the obverse of a phenomenon I have discovered amongst people who disagree with them. In Moscow friends of mine who approve of Putin include 
Russians, Americans, a Finn, and a Frenchman. They work in Russia as journalists, businessmen and lawyers. Their political views range from Conservative to nearly-Communist to green. But they have all, along their different paths and from their own perspectives, come to admire Putin, whose politics can’t easily be described in terms of traditional left-right analysis. The obverse of this is that he can be criticised from all perspectives, so what we have is a rare unity in British Russophobia between left wing and right wing media outlets, and indeed broadsheet and tabloid newspapers.

Another feature favouring Russophobia is that its image of Russia chimes with much older images that Russia has had in the West – chiefly, as autocratic. The main period of contact between West Europe and Russia has been characterised by increasing disparity between levels of democracy in the West and the East; this remained true until relatively recently. Assertions that Putin is autocratic fit into a primordialist narrative about Russia as unfitted to democracy: there are just two problems. One, primordialism is now largely as discredited in political science as is racism, and for similar reasons (pace the success of Martin Sixsmith’s 2011 Russia: A Thousand Years of the Wild East). Second, Putin isn’t autocratic. The narrative of reversion to autocracy after the relatively democratic Yeltsin years is particularly absurd given that in 1993 Yeltsin closed down news outlets and sent tanks to the White House to disperse the Russian Parliament, which was opposing his deeply unpopular economic policies. Over the following few days it’s estimated that between 187 and 2000 people were killed. Putin has never done anything remotely similar, and it is of course possible to misinterpret someone whose policies are widely supported – inside of and beyond parliament – as a dictator who brooks no opposition.

It has to be said, though, that Russia itself has been a major home of primordialist thought, mainly about itself. What is the idea of the russkaia dusha, or Russian soul, but an argument that Russia is a) distinctive and b) unchanging, in its essence? The discourse of the Russian soul is complicated (please find my article about it here), but part of it fits with the idea that the Russian people are subservient and long-suffering. And this idea gets a lot of reinforcement from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. However, it was not the only primordialist account in town. Eurasianism competed with Slavophilism, and both with Westernism – Westernisers arguing, of course, that Russia could and should catch up with the West. Nonetheless, Russia of all countries has, in its literature and philosophy, given considerable encouragement to primordialist thought about itself.

I mentioned the homology of primordialism to racism – and I would argue that there is a racial dimension to Russophobia or what I might alternatively have called Russism. Here again it operates through contradiction. On the one hand Russians are othered as favouring autocracy and subservience. On the other hand they are expected to behave just like Western Europeans despite their vastly different historical circumstances, and I am sure that one reason for this is that European Russians look almost exactly like West Europeans, which the Chinese or the Turks, for example, don’t. In proportion as there is little difference of melanin pigmentation, eye colour, and facial structure, little difference of political behaviour is tolerated – and where it occurs, is then by reaction essentialised.

Putin himself has been very successfully demonised. His KGB past is frequently invoked in a way which overlooks the fact that the KGB was a standard career option for ambitious young Soviets when he was choosing his career. I might mention the fact that he cites Maxim Isayev as an influence on his desire to join the KGB. Isayev is the hero of the 1972 cult Soviet miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring – the Soviet answer to James Bond. Isayev is a Russian agent pretending to be an Obergruppenführer in Berlin at the end of the Second World War. He is brave, cultured, intelligent, merciful, and of complete integrity – a Soviet hero, protecting Russia from Germany and Germany from itself, of a kind that young men such as Putin aspired to become. Of course as we know, spying is not as it is in the films. But in our post-Snowden-revelations era, it is most odd to continue to deplore someone for having spied on the citizens of another country, and to repeatedly use this as a lens of negative interpretation of all of their subsequent actions.

In his self-presentation as a macho man Putin does himself no favours in the West. But I think that Russians need pay no more attention to our generalised scorn for this image than the British need pay to Americans, whose generalised impression it is that all British men are gay. The reason is that normal male behaviour here is in various ways softer, and less literally and metaphorically muscular, than is the norm in North America. In Russia Putin’s performance of masculinity is far more acceptable than it is here – and all the more so in contrast to the series of gerontocrats who ruled the Soviet Union after Stalin, and the embarrassingly hard-drinking Yeltsin. It should also be noted that it is not only for his macho personal qualities that he is admired; he is also admired as clean-living, in contrast to Yeltsin and many of the country’s men during Yeltsin’s period in power, and as highly educated – speaking Russian without grammatical errors, again in contrast to Yeltsin.

But his self-projection is emphatically directed at the Russian people, rather than the rest of the world, and this fits with the fact that Putin does not try to woo the West – he plays them (to adopt an English metaphor) with an entirely straight bat. Something of a Communist contempt for advertising is apparent in his lack of interest in spin for either himself or his country, when it comes to the West. This was one reason why Georgia got the best of the coverage of the Georgia-Russia conflict, in a way which even Martin Sixsmith admits was biased on the part of the BBC. Columbia-educated Saakashvili was willing and able to do PR in a way in which Medvedev wasn’t. A different contrast to Russia here is provided by China, which responds very sharply, and indeed aggressively, to public criticism, and which if anything is a beneficiary of the opprobrium heaped on Russia, since it takes attention away from itself, the far more credible threat to Western interests. Russia, on the other hand, does next to nothing to tackle Russophobia head-on. Nobody sent me here tonight.

I will add one more reason for the traction of Russophobia. Distrust of the media goes back a long way in Russia, to the early nineteenth century – and with very good reason. The default attitude of Russians, still today, is scepticism and cynicism. They may vote for Putin because they like him or his policies, but this does not make them trustful of what they read, and there is still a lot of insecurity about the state of the country, about which they openly complain. Despite the voter disaffection in this country, I think that there is a far higher level of trust of what is said by The Guardian, The Economist, The Sun, the BBC, amongst the British than there is of equivalent channels in Russia. That is, one difference between us and the Russians is that we are less sceptical of what we are told.

Cuyu bono? What are the most obvious motivations for fostering Russophobia?

In brief (and the substantive reasons really are brief): Russia’s foreign policy does not follow that of the West. Western armaments manufacturers have an interest in stoking a new Cold War, because the War against Terror has not filled the gap in arms sales – especially of nuclear weapons – left by the end of the Cold War. And NATO desperately needs a raison d’être.

But the interests of arms companies and NATO are not those of the West as a whole. Russophobia acts in massively counter-productive ways. It restricts its potentially enormous economic cooperation and cultural and touristic interchange with Russia – one reason why businesspeople have been opposed to the sanctions – and it pushes Russia decisively towards economic, political, and military cooperation with China and indeed the rest of the world. The sanctions have had the effect of making Russia look at developing its own version of VISA. It has welcomed the repatriation of Russian wealth held abroad. And in the Ukraine, Western support for a coup against an elected president has had the country on the brink of civil war, and has increased the size of the territory of Russia. As a friend of mine has repeatedly commented to me, ‘wars start when politicians lie to journalists then believe what the read in the press.’ Putin’s popularity is at a high of 83% in the wake of the events in the Ukraine, and feeling against the US and EU on the part of ordinary Russians is beginning to increase. This makes life harder for Russians whose political agenda has support in the West. A good example is gay rights activists, who have found their aims much harder to achieve since a pro-gay attitude has effectually been aligned with an anti-Russian one. Russian gay activists are now arguably a more highly distrusted and isolated group than before they received Western backing.

Also, as is apparent to all Russians who are familiar with Russophobia, Russia is being criticised for the wrong things – and this is its most tragic irony. The country is far from perfect. Social security is miserably low; there is bullying in the army and prisons, and problems with racism, drugs, and domestic violence; health and education are under-funded; income tax is flat. But these are not the things for which Russia gets criticised, either by Westerners or their own so-called liberal parties, which are obsessively concerned with Putin himself.

The people who are suffering in Russia are not liberal opposition leaders with their abundant coverage in the Western press, but the poor.

And who apart from the Communists, and to some extent Putin, is talking about them?

Russophobia is composed of ignorance, a failure of scepticism and reasoning, pride, hypocrisy, condescension and churlishness, turned to the service of the military-industrial complex and NATO. It supports a one-sided Cold War against a country which is only just getting on its feet after collapse, is primarily focused on improving the living conditions of its people, wants war nowhere, and has no desire to be our enemy unless forced to defend itself. I wish it well.

Putin Says US Special Forces Met With Chechen Islamist Terrorists In Azerbaijan

imageMOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin in a documentary broadcast Sunday accused the United States of directly contacting and providing logistical support to North Caucasus separatist militants.

In the documentary “President,” which has already been broadcast in far eastern Russia on Rossiya 1 television, Putin made the claim, citing intelligence from Russian special services, to state that it occurred in the early 2000s.

The documentary will air Sunday evening in Western Russia. It is being to shown to mark 15 years since Putin became president in 2000.

“Once our special services documented what were simply direct contacts between fighters from the North Caucasus and representatives of US special forces in Azerbaijan,” Putin said.

The US side “helped even with transport”, he added.

Putin said he told the US president of the day who told him: “I’ll kick their ass.” He did not give the name of the president.

“But within 10 days, our — my subordinates, the FSB heads, received a letter from their colleagues in Washington saying: ‘We have had and will have relations with all the opposition forces in Russia and we consider we have the right to do this and we will do this in the future’,” Putin said.

As prime minister from 1999, Putin launched the second Chechen War, which did not officially end until 2009. The first Chechen war which began in 1994 ended with Russia pulling out its troops in 1996, leaving the region with de facto independence.

Putin said Western special services apparently supported the militants because they believed that any opponent of Russia should be treated as an ally.

“Some people, especially special forces of Western countries, thought that if someone is working to destabilise their main geopolitical opponent — which as we realise now has always been Russia in their minds — then it is generally to their benefit.

“It turned out that’s not the case,” Putin added.

The Russian president insisted governments should never work with “terrorists”.

“Absolutely not, never and nowhere. You mustn’t even try to use terrorists to solve transitory political and even geopolitical tasks.

“Because if you support them in one place, they will raise their head in another place and they will definitely strike those who supported them yesterday.”

After the second Chechen war, Moscow installed a pro-Kremlin regime in the republic, first headed by rebel-turned-Moscow-ally Akhmad Kadyrov and then after his murder, by his son Ramzan Kadyrov.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

Let Saudi Arabia fume

Let Saudi Arabia fume


The prime minister, chief of army staff, minister for defence, foreign secretary, and an assemblage of high officials went hoping that their contrite expressions could somehow soothe an irritated septuagenarian monarch and his angry princes. There is no indication of success.

They should not worry. Sending Pakistani troops to kill and be killed in an overseas civil war is wrong, and no quantity of free oil or bales of cash can make it right.

Pakistanis have no desire to fight an enemy whose name (Houthis) they have heard now for the first time. Worn out by an internal Taliban insurgency that has claimed upwards of 50,000 lives, and wracked by a series of targeted assassinations and bombings of imambargahs, the country is in no mood for a potentially disastrous overseas adventure. Parliament’s decision to stay neutral accurately captures the public mood.

How far can Saudi anger go? We should not be too worried. Kicking out Pakistani workers is not an option for the kingdom and will not happen. Nationals of all Gulf countries are hopelessly poor in skill and work habits, and they are in no hurry to change. Without an adequate supply of hardworking and underpaid servants, every petro-country would grind to a halt.

A second reason also sharply limits the strength of Saudi reaction. Pakistan is the only country that can, at short notice, potentially provide the kingdom with nuclear weapons, or with a nuclear umbrella. Of course, Pakistan would be wise in not even considering such a possibility. But the fact is that there are no other nuclear vendors in town — and the Saudis know it.

For the very first time, to their great astonishment, GCC Arabs are seeing Pakistan reject their diktat.

Pakistan also stands squarely in the middle of all avenues that could lead to an eventual indigenous Saudi nuclear weapons capability, which the kingdom so strongly desires.

In March, it quietly signed an agreement with South Korea for importing two nuclear reactors. According to the World Nuclear Association, the kingdom plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, with the first reactor on line in 2022.

So far it has not agreed to US demands, and insists (unlike the UAE) on having a full nuclear fuel cycle. This leaves open the possibility of reprocessing weapon-grade plutonium from nuclear wastes, which only Pakistanis can secretly help in doing.

For the very first time, to their great astonishment, GCC Arabs are seeing Pakistan reject their diktat. Floating on an ocean of oil, they are used to having their every wish instantly obeyed. The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, was seething with exasperation: Pakistan had dared to choose neutrality in an “existential confrontation” with Iran and would “pay the price”.

Pakistan’s ‘disobedience’ might have been more forgivable had it not come at this particular moment, when the Saudis are already in a state of fury over the action of their long-time ally, the United States. A preliminary Iran-US nuclear deal, which the kingdom has long feared and opposed, has already been signed. Although staunch anti-Iran and pro-Israel Republicans in the US Congress plan to strain every nerve to block it, President Obama will likely succeed in pushing through the final version at the end of June. The Saudi nightmare is that an Iran-US rapprochement will accept Iran as a threshold nuclear state, and end US-imposed sanctions. Iran would then appear as the victor, giving a big blow to the Saudi-led coalition (of Sunni-majority states), of which Israel is an honorary member.

In its attempt to rally Sunni support, the kingdom wants the Yemen war to be seen as a doctrinal tussle. But at stake is the long-term survival of the House of Saud. Iran is an insurrectionary, revolutionary power while Saudi Arabia wants the status quo. Iran’s mullahs openly call for the overthrow of all monarchies. In their political model the clergy holds the reins of power, with some space allocated for the expression of popular opinion. But any political freedom, no matter how small, is anathema to the kingdom. It is deeply alarmed that Iran’s support for the Palestinians, and its staunch opposition to US-led wars in the Middle East, has resonated with Arab public opinion.

Arab anger at Pakistan is partly understandable. Nawaz Sharif and his government had given the Arabs an impression that this nation stands at their beck and call. So, on the one hand, they pampered the egos of Saudi despots and gratefully accepted their favors, including the mysterious ‘gift’ of $1.5bn in March, 2014. Was there to be no quid pro quo? Then, various leaders raised Arab expectations further with loud declarations promising to “shed every drop of our blood” for the defence of Haramain Sharifain when, in fact, no Muslim holy site was ever threatened. But, when it came to putting boots on the ground in what would be a long-drawn bloody civil war, they chickened out.

Pakistan should take no sides in an external power game between Muslim states. Instead, we need to be deeply concerned with Saudi Arabia deliberately fomenting extremism within Pakistan, leading to horrific consequences. The loud support it has received from the officially banned violent sectarian-militant group, the Sipah-i-Sahaba, now rechristened as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, stands testimony. Long the recipient of Saudi benevolence, ASWJ has blasted parliament’s decision and staged public rallies urging Pakistan’s intervention in Yemen. The International Islamic University in Islamabad, with a frankly sectarian agenda, is another Saudi bastion, headed by a Saudi national who, amazingly, can speak no English or Urdu. Across the country, madressahs and mullahs receive Saudi funding and spread sectarian poisons.

Pakistan must stand firm behind its parliament’s decision. Let the Saudis fume. We must not fight their war. They cannot afford to retaliate too harshly. But even if they do inflict some pain on Pakistan, it will be limited and we will emerge stronger at the end.

The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2015

West Wants Ukraine as ‘Anti-Russia’

West Wants Ukraine as ‘Anti-Russia’

russia insider

That’s what it wants Ukraine to be and is helping it to become

But there are Ukrainian citizens who did not sign up for that sort of Ukraine

This article is a recent one from Nikolai Starikov. It was extremely well received among Russian readers.

This article originally appeared at ВЗГЛЯД-Internet Gazette. It was translated by ‘Val from Osa’ at The Vineyard of the Saker

It is possible to understand what is happening in Ukraine, it is much more difficult to evaluate and forecast the development of events.

Whatever the case, it is necessary to consistently follow one rule: set emotions aside. Blood, death and destruction are the most serious emotional blows, but if you follow your emotions, neither proper assessment nor correct forecast will result.

Therefore, as hard it can be, set emotions aside. To assess the geopolitical game (and this is what we are looking at) we need only the head. Only conscious manipulators want you to think with your heart (and vote with your heart – as for Yeltsin in 1996).

The United States and the West are facing of the strongest crises in its history. The strength and depth of the problem are compounded by the fact that … the West has won. It incorporated practically all of Europe, crushed, to varying degrees, the whole world with a few exceptions.

Therein lies the problem – all its life the West lived by robbery. Now those who can be robbed are fewer and fewer, and those with whom it is necessary to share the “stolen goods”, that is the standard of living that rests on unrestricted dollar emissions, are more and more.

Hence the huge national debt. In the United States it is 18 trillion dollars, but such debts, and even worse ratios of the national debt to GDP, exist in all so-called developed countries.

What solution the US and its closest allies are looking for in this situation? It is now evident to everyone. The solution is war. Chaos. But this chaos and this war must lead to a “controlled collapse”.

As a result the US must eliminate two threats to its power – China and Russia. Ideally, make them clash with each other. To do this the US need to change regime in one of these countries. Obviously, the Americans think that the regime change in Russia is an easier task.

The question is how to achieve this? Orange technologies did not work in 2011, Putin became president again.

What the West does when it loses in any territory is most important for understanding the events in Ukraine.

When we talk about a Western loss we mean the failure of its plans and loss of control over a certain area, full or partial.

What do the Western strategists do in such a situation?

1949. Britain is “kicked out” of India. Before leaving the British set up the Anti-India – a new state of Pakistan. Tensions, military conflicts between the new states ensue. In short, many opportunities for the Anglo-Saxons.

Again in 1949. As a result of the civil war in China, pro-Soviet Mao Zedong wins. The US lose control over China. What do they do? Create the Anti-China -Taiwan. Evacuate there the army of Chiang Kai-shek under the protection of the US Navy.

Tensions, the permanent possibility of war between China and the Anti-China ensue. Tiananmen Square, 1989, Beijing – who can tell the “desperate” mainland Chinese from the agents of the Taiwanese special services?

Attention please. In the geopolitical game to grant a diplomatic recognition is to follow the current ‘national’ interests, and nothing more. First, the United States recognizes Taiwan as China.

For those who do not know: until 1973 the representative of Taiwan at the United Nations was seated as the representative of China. But later Washington changes its position, recognizes Beijing and ceases to recognize Taipei. At the same time it strongly supports Taiwan and prevents the reunification of the two “Chinas”

Let’s not stray far into history. The rule of the permanent Anglo-Saxon Western strategy states: lost control over the territory – create Antithesis.

In 2011 the West loses control of Russia – not completely yet, but its plans to deny Putin another presidential term fail. The dismantling of the fifth column begins, Russia strongly defends its interests in the world.

What is the West to do? Create Antithesis. That is the Anti-Russia.

And the Anglo-Saxons start creating it, the soil is prepared in Ukraine. Propaganda starts in 1991 and even earlier, militants are trained, money is allocated, the elite is bought and well fed.

According to the US plans, Yanukovych should be removed during the elections in 2015. Remove him in such a way as to launch anti-Russian hysteria and begin to create the Anti-Russia from Ukraine. Circumstances force an earlier start, but according to the main rule: not the peaceful departure of Yanukovych is required, but a bloody overthrow in order to blame Russia.

What is happening today in Ukraine is nothing more than the creation of the Anti-Russia. Propaganda, hate, readiness to destroy and kill on the part of the nationalists and some deceived common citizens.

Where do the US go with that? To war between Ukraine and Russia. On the “initiative” of Ukraine. When? When they pump up the Ukrainian army, equip it, create it, and prepare it. It will take about five years. After that the US will try to pit the two parts of the same nation against each other, set Ukraine against Russia. Occasion – Crimea.

Were the Crimea not reunited with Russia, it would still remain an excuse. Basing the Russian army in Crimea, pro-Russian population living there would give a lot of opportunities for the organization of conflicts and provocations. Therefore, regardless of the actions of Putin and the people of Crimea the Western plan would remain the same.

What can stop the development of this terrible scenario of sliding into a major war between brothers?

Support of those in Ukraine itself who do not agree with this turn of events.

The West creates the Anti-Russia, Russia must help and support the Anti-anti-Russia.

When in the Southeast of Ukraine the people who do not agree with the Kiev’s coup rose up, few had a clear idea that they were “blocking the road” of such a terrible scenario. The presence of the Anti-anti-Russia as a part of a federalized Ukraine, refusing either to arm for the West, nor to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for it, blocked the Western plans to unleash the Ukrainian-Russian war. Remember the end of the spring of 2014?

Moscow’s insistent calls for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, for federalization, for negotiations. Moscow needs a unified Ukraine, where the pro-Russian part of the society will “tie” the hands of the militants and bought politicians, and will not allow to draw the whole Ukrainian people into the war.

The West needs not the peace, not the prosperity of Ukraine. It needs a militarized state with an aggressive ideology in the form of hatred directed against Russia.

Kiev begins aggressive actions against Donbass. Immediately the propaganda about the “terrorists” and the Russian military starts. Military actions, conducted with cruelty to civilians, give the West two possibilities:

  • To win by military means and then start the planned collapse of the economy of Ukraine as the beginning of its preparation for war with Russia. The well fed do not want to fight. The West can blame Russia for the difficulties and hardships, whereas the military service provides an income, albeit a tiny one;
  • To draw Russia into war, forcing her to send troops into Ukraine. The defeat of the Ukrainian armed forces does not matter for the West. It wants not the victory but the war itself.

And the more Ukrainian citizens will die in the fratricidal war, the better for the West – the rebellious Slavic nation eliminates itself. As a result of the war in Ukraine the West will try to repeat 1917 and “overthrow the bloody Kremlin regime.” All of it in order to take the course toward preparation of the war between Russia and China.

And then a problem happened. Neither military success nor the military invasion by Russia and its participation in the civil conflict was achieved.

And then what? That’s what.

The existence of the DNR and LNR as Anti-anti-Russia is the key to inability of the West to start a war between Ukraine and Russia.

The cannonball on its leg does not let the United States to push Kiev toward this Great War with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of victims.

That is why Moscow is helping Donbass in every way possible that is why Sergei Lavrov says that we are for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

That is why Russia does not recognize the DNR and LNR as independent states. To recognize them, to let them secede means to launch countdown for war with Ukraine. In this scenario the Western plan kicks in: there is Russia, there is Anti-Russia, and there is Novorossia. Anti-anti-Russia is no more.

In case of incorporation of Donbass into Russia, those in Washington will stand up and give a standing ovation. This is it: the war becomes practically inevitable. The image of Russia as the enemy is created by Russia itself.

In today’s situation the Russian tactics in Ukraine are the only correct ones. US must pay to support 40 million people, Russia must help 3 million people in the Donbass and 1.5 million refugees. Moscow constantly insists on negotiations, not allowing the aggressor being shaped by the west to “remove the weight” from its leg, not allowing DNR and LNR to be defeated militarily.

How long will the West be willing to pay for the crumbling economy of Ukraine without guarantees to begin its war with Russia? These guys do nothing without a reason, they do not throw money away. Even to the militants in Chechnya in the 90’s they gave no dollars, instead they gave them clichés for printing fake dollars.

Self-financing – is the principle of the Anglo-Saxon politics, in extreme cases a refund within a short period of time. A striking example: the Bolsheviks paying with Russia’s gold through Swedish banks and the subsequent concessions, today’s Libyan “freedom fighters” with the oil dollars leaving Libya for unknown destinations.

Time is of great importance today. The bet of the West – to organize a new Maidan in Russia, now that the path to war in Ukraine was blocked by the courage and determination of the DNR and LNR militia fighters. The bet of Russia – wait till the West loses its interest in Ukraine because of high costs without any tangible benefits.

Washington’s desire to get “at least something” leads to the pressure on Europe and the paradoxical desire of the Europeans not to allow the construction of the “South Stream”.

Paradox? No paradox. Washington wants to use the instability of Ukraine at least for a possibility of gas blackmail of Moscow. And Europe.

That is the essence of current and past events in Ukraine.

And the last thing I want to say in this regard.

Few in today’s Ukraine understand what a tremendous role the courage of the Donbass residents plays in today’s world politics. They are rescuing the entire Russian world today. And the paradox, they save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens.

The same children that today are “jumping” in Ukrainian schools, whose parents collect money for ATO, support the Kiev authorities, in case of defeat Donbass, in a very short period of time they will become gun fodder, according to the US plan.

That’s what all of us need to remember, regardless of our current citizenship.

Oligarch Akhmetov Forces Ukrainian Miners To Strike, To Blackmail Govt

MP reveals Akhmetov’s involvement in organizing miners’ protests


Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov is defending the interests of his companies by blackmailing the government through staging protests by miners, MP from the Bloc of Poroshenko party Mustafa Nayyem wrote in his blog in Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda on Friday.


Nayyem posted a document as evidence for his claims. Entitled “Krepost” (or “Fortress” in English), it is alleged to detail plans by one of the companies Akhmetov owns to retain its monopoly on the energy market by organizing public protests and influencing the country’s media, politicians, unions, and judges.

“I have reason to believe that the events of recent days in Kyiv, including the miners’ strike, the [holding of the] Congress of the miners’ union, the demands for the resignation of the energy minister and the attack on the government and the president allegedly from the industry is a part of a plan to protect the interests of Akhmetov’s companies on the energy market,” Nayyem wrote.

“And to be precise, these are attempts by a businessman to suspend any actions to reform the electricity market and to maintain the status quo of a monopolist.”

According to Nayyem, the directors of DTEK, under the leadership of Maxim Timchenko, drew up a detailed description of all the activities that are planned to be realized by the management of Akhmetov’s companies in the coming months.

“The internal name of the document is ‘Fortress’… The document consists of four modules, which describe a strategy to protect the interests of DTEK and tactical steps in the period from January to May of this year. Deadlines of some of the activities listed in the document are scheduled for July and August. Meanwhile, most of the events should already have been carried out,” Nayyem said.

According to Nayyem, the fact that the company DTEK is an absolute monopoly on coal market needed to generate electricity is known to experts and officials over the years.

Coal makes up 70% of the cost of electricity produced by thermal power plants. DTEK supplies approximately 67% of the volume of the required type of coal.

“Taking advantage of its monopoly position, Rinat Akhmetov may dictate almost any price [his company’s] products, which affects the final price of electricity. [But] Akhmetov has large foreign currency loans. The dollar exchange rate is growing. It is growing not only for DTEK, but for the miners who extract coal in the mines of DTEK,” Nayyem said.

“Seeing the approach of default, the managers of Akhmetov include losses on loans into the cost of coal and imposed on the state a new price, without a moment’s thought about the salaries of the miners. And when the state refuses to accept the new price, DTEK brings thousands of miners onto the streets protesting against the bankruptcy industry and demanding the resignation of the energy minister,” he said.

According to Nayyem, at the moment Akhmetov has two goals.

“The first goal is short-term – to buy time to restructure the debts of DTEK, including at state expense. The second one is more important – to maintain a monopoly position in the energy market and to prevent the revision of the tariff for energy,” he said.

The MP also said that he had already sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Security Service of Ukraine and the Interior Ministry appropriate requests to verify the involvement of management of DTEK in the organization and financing of protests, interference in the activities of public authorities, and attempts to exert an improper influence on officials in order to protect commercial interests.
Read more on UNIAN:

Milliband’s “Truth-Bomb”

[SEE: Latest Med “Boat People” Tragedy Resulting From Anti-Libyan U.N. Sec. Council Res. 1973 ; The Obscenity of Humanitarian Warfare]

Nigel Farage: David Cameron ‘directly caused’ Libyan migrant crisis

“Ukip leader says Britain should offer refuge to Christians from Libya, as up to 700 die in latest disaster at sea.”

Cameron hits back after Labour suggests he is responsible for migrant deaths

“Prime minister says Miliband’s comments about failures of post-conflict plans in Libya are ill-judged, as Labour says Tories have manufactured the row.”

branded“shameful and absolutely unacceptable” by Number 10.

Miliband riles Tories with ‘bombing Libya led to migrant crisis’ claim


Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband arrives at a campaign event in Ipswich, eastern England April 22, 2015 (Reuters / Darren Staples)

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband arrives at a campaign event in Ipswich, eastern England April 22, 2015 (Reuters / Darren Staples)

Ed Miliband’s claims that David Cameron and other European leaders failed Libya and in part contributed to the migrant boat catastrophe in which 800 people drowned were branded “shameful and absolutely unacceptable” by Number 10.

The Labour leader, who has not yet given the speech, plans to say world leaders have not supported Libya in the wake of coalition airstrikes, which contributed to the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi, leading to growing numbers of migrants dying in the Mediterranean.

Despite having voted in favor of military action against Libya, Miliband will say there were “failures in post-conflict planning.” He will say the refugee situation could have been anticipated.

“In Libya, Labour supported military action to avoid the slaughter Gaddafi threatened in Benghazi,” Miliband will say.

“But since the action, the failure of post-conflict planning has become obvious. David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya’s political culture and institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own.”

“The tragedy is that this could have been anticipated. It should have been avoided. And Britain could have played its part in ensuring the international community stood by the people of Libya in practice rather than standing behind the unfounded hopes of potential progress only in principle.”

His comments echo those of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who said on Monday that EU leaders were responsible for the deaths of the migrants, suggesting airstrikes had de-stabilized the country and forced more migrants to flee.

The airstrikes carried out in 2011 by a UN-authorized coalition of France, the UK and the US saw Colonel Gaddafi’s regime collapse. The country has since been plagued by political insecurity, with no single functioning government.

Since the toppling of Gaddafi, a civil war between tribal militias throughout the country has ensued.

The Conservatives responded with anger, with Environment Secretary Liz Truss saying the remarks should be withdrawn. She said Miliband’s comments were not the way current affairs should be discussed.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, however, said the speech was not intended to create public argument, blaming Number 10 for fabricating the row.

Alexander insisted “the state of Libya is a failure for postwar conflict-planning for which the international community faces responsibility.

“I don’t think anyone disputes that we are witnessing a situation where Libya is perilously close to becoming a completely failed state on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. That is not a matter of dispute; that is simply a matter of fact,” he said.

Miliband will make a rare foray into foreign affairs in a speech at Chatham House on Friday, which is unusual for any politician during election campaign season.

He is expected to say that Cameron’s discourse on an EU referendum has given the world the impression the UK is slowly isolating itself from international affairs.

U.S. Policy Is To Oppose the ICC Crime of Aggression Amendment

U.S. Policy on the ICC Crime of Aggression Announced

just security

“Activation of the Court’s aggression jurisdiction [would have]…lasting negative effects.”–Sarah Sewell, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights

The “negative effects” would be–

the creation of international legal authority to intervene in US military aggression, even in “states parties that do not ratify the amendments.”  

“could chill the willingness of states to cooperate in certain military action where the legal basis for that action might be contested.”

Ms. Sowell welcomed “the decision to defer until 2017,” meaning that it would not effect Obama’s planned aggression.

[The following is the debated Amendment to the Rome Statute of the ICC.]

“Act of aggression” [Amendments   to   the Rome   Statute   of   the   International Criminal Court on the
crime of aggression]
means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, qualify as an act of aggression:

(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of
another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof;
(b)  Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;
(c)  The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;
(d)  An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or
marine and air fleets of another State;
(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;
(f)  The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed
at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;
(g)  The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.

 10 .b Amendments on the crime of aggression to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Kampala, 11 June 2010


Ratified by 23 Nations:

Participant Acceptance(A), Ratification
Andorra 26 Sep 2013 A
Austria 17 Jul 2014
Belgium 26 Nov 2013
Botswana  4 Jun 2013
Costa Rica  5 Feb 2015
Croatia 20 Dec 2013
Cyprus 25 Sep 2013
Czech Republic 12 Mar 2015 A
Estonia 27 Mar 2013
Georgia  5 Dec 2014
Germany  3 Jun 2013 A
Latvia 25 Sep 2014
Liechtenstein  8 May 2012
Luxembourg 15 Jan 2013
Malta 30 Jan 2015
Poland 25 Sep 2014
Samoa 25 Sep 2012
San Marino 14 Nov 2014
Slovakia 28 Apr 2014 A
Slovenia 25 Sep 2013
Spain 25 Sep 2014
Trinidad and Tobago 13 Nov 2012
Uruguay 26 Sep 2013

Payback time for Pakistan as Saudi bills come due

[As a member of the exclusive club of nations with no visible means to support itself, other than the drawing power of its begging diplomats, Pakistan has been living on borrowed time since its inception.  By going to the Saudi monarchs time after time, with beggar’s bowl in hand, Pakistani’s Establishment leadership has sold-out the Pakistani people in exchange for personal enrichment.  By doing so, Pakistan has seemingly cut-off its right to complain, or to criticize demands made upon it by its Wahhabi overlords, even though it would be the Pakistani Shias and other minorities who would always pay the ultimate price for this fealty to radical Sunni Islamists. 

Accepting “gratuities” from the royals, intended to pay the price for arming the Pak Army with nuclear missiles was a bad mistake.  This recent, first-ever denial of royal requests to send Pakistanis to Yemen will surely be followed by another Pakistani denial to exchange nuclear bomb-making material or expertise to the radical kingdom and the new jingoist king. 

Pakistan could survive without Saudi Arabia, but not without having to enact some very unpleasant major national changes, but it could not survive a state of war with Iran.  The bloodbath that would flow from a sectarian war within Pakistan would make the Syrian war look like a picnic. 

Sometimes the piper must be paid.]

Payback time for Pakistan as Saudi bills come due

the straits times

Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia are hidden, but will one day be as potent and strategically significant as its alliance with China.


WAS it a yes, a no or a “perhaps later”? For the past two weeks, Pakistan was locked in an anguished debate over how to respond to an appeal from Saudi Arabia for troops to fight in the war now raging in Yemen.

When the Saudi appeal first came, it seemed that the dispatch of Pakistani soldiers to the Gulf was imminent: “Any threat to the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia will be met with a firm response,” read a communique from Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

But soon thereafter, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a denial that any of the country’s military was engaged in Yemen, although the Pakistani flag continued to fly alongside that of Arab nations at the Saudi-based headquarters of Yemen operations.

This “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t” game ended only when Pakistan’s Parliament voted against the dispatch of troops. Still, the episode shed light on the murky world of Pakistani-Saudi relations, a link which looks destined to shape the security map of the Middle East for years to come.

– See more at:

Bereft of friends and under a constant fear of being dwarfed by India, Pakistani politicians have a tendency to over-hype every alliance their country forges. “Higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey” was how one senior Pakistani diplomat described relations with China, struggling to pile in as many euphemisms as he could think of.

“Unique, unparalleled in the history of sovereign nations” is how Pakistani politicians routinely refer to their links with Saudi Arabia.

However, while the Sino-Pakistani link remains overt and powerful as today’s arrival of President Xi Jinping in Islamabad indicates, the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are still well-hidden from publicity, although they will one day be just as potent and as strategically significant as the Pakistan-China alliance.

Saudi-Pakistani relations took off during the 1970s due to a variety of reasons which include the natural affinity between big Islamic states, Pakistan’s ability to export labourers to the Gulf and the US-led response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which transformed both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan into the Cold War’s front-line states.

From the start of this relationship, two things were clear: That Saudi Arabia viewed Pakistan as a unique military partner able to plug the desert kingdom’s inherent security vulnerabilities and, second, that the Saudis were determined to cement this alliance through the funding of a vast network of personal, commercial and business partnerships which ultimately drew in most of Pakistan’s ruling elite.

Saudi Arabia bankrolled large chunks of Pakistan’s nuclear programme precisely because the Saudis saw it as their own route to eventual nuclear power status, should Iran acquire such a capability. It was a secret Saudi guarantee to provide 50,000 barrels of free oil per day which reassured Pakistan that it could undertake its first nuclear test in 1998. Saudi credits also allowed Pakistan to withstand the economic sanctions which followed. The man who was central to Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making at the time is the same Mr Nawaz Sharif who rules the country’s destiny today.

But Saudi Arabia’s support for Mr Sharif is also of a more personal nature. During his decade-long political exile, it was the desert kingdom which provided him with home and the necessary financial resources to continue his activities. To this day, Mr Sharif’s son remains in Saudi Arabia, where he is prominent in local business.

The Saudi largesse goes much further: At key points during the military rule of General Pervez Musharraf, all of Pakistan’s exiled politicians were hosted by the Saudis, or offered indirect financial support. The Saudis understood that an alliance with Pakistan works best when that country’s national interests coincide with the private interests of its politicians.

But, while until fairly recently the Saudis were content not to ask for much in return, now they are beginning to demand their payback. In 2011, when Bahrain’s royal family was critically endangered by local Shi’ite protesters who had Iran’s encouragement, it was Saudi Arabia which put pressure on Pakistan to send thousands of Pakistani ex-policemen and soldiers to Bahrain to quell the revolt. During the years which followed, Pakistan was also asked to provide training and equipment for a variety of Saudi-financed fighters in Syria and Iraq.

But it was the recent demand to supply Pakistani troops for the war in Yemen which plunged Pakistan into its biggest dilemma. It is easy to see why the Saudis turned to Pakistan for help. Saudi Arabia wants to portray the fight against the Shi’ite rebels in Yemen as a confrontation between the whole of the Muslim world and Iran, which supports the rebellion in that country, and the inclusion of Pakistan into such a coalition helps.

The Saudis may also need Pakistan’s troops, should they opt for a land invasion of Yemen. But from the Saudi perspective, the most important advantage of Pakistan’s engagement in the Yemen conflict is strategic: It will act as a reminder that, while Iran attempts to corner Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia can also corner Iran from the east, with the help of Pakistan, which shares a 900km border with the Iranians.

The snag for Pakistan is that any overt involvement in Saudi Arabia’s wars will impose a heavy cost. After Iran itself, the largest concentration of Shi’ite Muslims is in Pakistan, where they account for around 26 million out of the country’s 190 million inhabitants. Pakistan is already suffering from unprecedented levels of sectarian violence, and that would clearly intensify if the country’s rulers are seen as engaging directly in the Sunni-Shi’ite war which now tears the Middle East apart.

Iran can also retaliate against Pakistan at little cost to itself, by encouraging mayhem in Afghanistan, and cross-border incursions into Pakistan itself; these are the well-honed techniques by which the Iranians have expanded their influence throughout the Middle East. That will bring closer the nightmare Pakistan’s military planners fear most: Instability on all of the country’s borders at the same time.

Besides, even if Pakistan was prepared to take such risks, its armed forces are overstretched: According to Western intelligence estimates, up to half of Pakistan’s soldiers are currently engaged in active operations against insurgents inside the country, imposing great strain on resources and combat-readiness. For all these reasons, Pakistan had to decline Saudi Arabia’s appeal for help.

The Pakistanis are trying to sweeten the pill of their refusal: Prime Minister Sharif sent his close aide Sartaj Aziz and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, to meet Saudi leaders in order to reassure them that, despite the refusal, Pakistan remains Saudi Arabia’s loyal ally.

And, according to Mr Abdul Basit, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Pakistan has also offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran; the effort could mirror the mediation efforts which Pakistan undertook with great success between the US and China at the height of the Cold War.

But neither the Saudis nor the Iranians are in any mood for negotiations, so mediation offers will get nowhere. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis seem destined to come under heavier pressure from their Arab allies: A minister in the United Arab Emirates has already publicly threatened that Pakistan would “pay a heavy price” for its continued neutrality.

Nor can it be excluded that, sooner rather than later, the Saudis will address to Pakistan the demand Pakistani leaders fear most: A request for the transfer of nuclear weapons know-how.

The Pakistanis have spent decades hoping to have their cake and eat it, assuming that they can get Saudi financial help with no strings attached. They are now discovering that, sadly, bills do have to be paid. And they won’t be allowed to get away with too many additional refusals for paybacks.

– See more at:

Video of ISIS leader Baghdadi Getting Hit By Shrapnel

[SEE: US: No reason to think ISIS leader wounded  ; ISIS spokesman confirms Baghdadi’s injuries]

Video of ISIS leader Baghdadi injured in Mosul aired by Balad TV

iraqi news

balad-tv-abu-bakr-baghdadi-2014-11-13Screenshot of footage aired by Balad TV supposedly showing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi injured after his convoy was attacked by coalition air strikes.

( The video below, broadcast on Balad TV, claims to show ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his convoy being attacked in an airstrike that led to his injury or death.

The video claims to show al-Baghdadi next to a black SUV car, suffering injuries due to the airstrike.

In the beginning, Baghdadi appears to be lying on the ground, groaning in pain while one of his aides is lying dead beside him. Baghdadi moves slightly before ISIS elements hurry to rescue him.

The injured, who Balad TV claims is al-Baghdadi, is dressed in a military uniform and is said to be wearing a watch on his right hand which appears similar to the one he wore during his sermon at Mosul. has not independently verified these claims.

A spokesman for the Central Command of the US Army, Col. Patrick Raider, said two days ago that warplanes of the international coalition targeted ISIS leaders who were meeting near Mosul and that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been among those who were targeted.

According to officials from the United States, US air raids managed to destroy a convoy of 10 cars belonging to the organization of the Islamic State; they were traveling in a convoy near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

Malaysia Govt. Blasts Islamic State’s Fake “Jihad”

IS’ ‘jihad fisabilillah’ is fake – Corps director


A file photo of the IS militants. Many Muslims in this country are lately influenced by the ‘Jihad Fisabilillah’ offered by the IS, with some of them willing to leave their jobs and families solely to join the jihad in Syria.
KUALA LUMPUR: ‘Jihad Fisabilillah’ (Fighting for Allah’s Sake) and ‘Mati Syahid’ (Dying as Martyrs) are propaganda used by militant groups, such as the so-called IS to lure Muslims from all around the world to join them, purportedly to uphold the ‘Islamist State (IS)’.

Many Muslims in this country were lately influenced by the ‘Jihad Fisabilillah’ offered by the IS, with some of them willing to leave their jobs and their families solely to join the jihad in Syria with the hope of becoming martyrs there.

The truth is their tyrannical acts of killing are deviated from the true teachings of Islam, said Armed Forces Religious Corps director, Major General Datuk Kamarudin Mamat.

He said obedience and piety to Allah would not be achieved through hasty action such as by joining fake jihad offered by the IS militant group, as the shortest path to get into heaven.

“Martyrs cannot be achieved by suicide or killing of innocent people and joining the IS struggle that is clearly contrary to the creed and Shari’a of Islam,” he told BERNAMA.

The National Fatwa Council on Monday issued an edict saying that the act of participating, helping or giving aid to the IS militant group was ‘haram’ (forbidden) for Muslims.

Its chairman, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Abd Shukor Husin said participating in the IS group’s fight was far from the actual meaning of jihad from the Islamic perspective, since the reason of the war itself was unclear.

“It is obvious that IS is not right and against Islamic teachings when they claimed that the blood of the people who fight against them are halal (allowed) and thus, can be violently killed, which clearly contravenes the Islamic teachings,” he said.

Commenting on jihad in Islam, Kamarudin explained that the general responsibility of jihad was upon the army which was entrusted with the country’s sovereignty and it became ‘fardhu kifayah’ (social obligations) during peace.

“It is allowed for society to come together during war and it becomes ‘fardhu ain’ (personal obligation) to protect our country, according to each and everyone’s capacity when we are being violated and the situation is no longer under control,” he said.

He said the real intention of jihad must be sincere for the sake of Allah while jihad by IS was more about revenge and did not represent the fight of all Muslims, but only for the benefit of some parties.

Kamarudin said this fake jihad by the IS militant group was made based on the misinterpretation of Al-Quran and Al-Hadith.

He said the lack of understanding on the true meaning of jihad made many to be interested and blindly follow the IS propaganda.

“The goal will not justify the means, the IS’ jihad does not take into account the restrictions outlined by Islam during a war and inhumanely killing civilians, women, children and prisoners of war at will,” he said.

Kamarudin said in Islam, war was the last form of solution when one failed to achieve a peaceful agreement to defend oneself and to open ways of preaching Islam with strong reasons, according to Islamic ruling.

“If we look at the ‘sirah’ of Prophet Muhammad (prophetic biography), he only allowed the Muslims to fight in a war after 15 years of spreadinig his dakwah, even when during those years, a lot of Muslims had been killed and tortured by the enemies of Islam,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Community Crime Care president, Tan Sri Musa Hassan said religious authorities needed to provide explanations, especially to the youngsters on the meaning of real jihad.

“This is important as we need to identify the movement of suspicious religious groups. People can easily be attracted to these groups and will try to involve themselves in jihad outside the country.

“This happened so many times. We also need to monitor the foreigners as we need to know who they are and why they are in our country. If they would like to open a religious school, we need to supervise what is being taught to the public. We have to identify their ideology,” he said.

The former inspector-general of police said the most worrying factor was the involvement of the national security forces personnel like the police and the army in the militant group.

“To me, they are traitors. When I was serving (in the police force), no one was involved in this activity but those who smpathised with the groups were identified early and given rehabilitation,” he added.

Neocon Formula For Failure In Asia

Last month, a majority of the Republicans in the US Senate sent an open letter to the leadership of Iran.

In it, they declared that any deal on Iranian nuclear technology between Tehran and the Obama Administration might be undone by Republicans in Washington, especially if they re-take the White House in 2016. This was widely understood as an effort to undermine President Obama’s search for a nuclear deal with Iran. There was much soul-searching about whether the GOP had overstepped its constitutional bounds, the Republicans’ ‘insurrectionary‘ disdain for President Obama, and so on.

But what I found most notable is how dangerous these sorts of neoconservative shenanigans would be if they were applied in Asia.

As I have argued elsewhere (short version; long version), neoconservatism is handicapping America’s ability to pivot to Asia. Although the Middle East is objectively less important to America’s future than Asia, the Middle East plays a far greater role in our politics and activates far more social mobilisation and political attention, particularly on the right.

For example, the foreign policy ‘litmus tests’ (ie. where public opinion is deeply informed and highly committed) for GOP presidential contenders all turn today on Middle Eastern questions such as Israel, ISIS and Iran. This was evident in the presidential campaign debates four years ago, and I predict will be so again in the next 18 months. And in classic neocon style, the ‘right’ answer to those litmus tests is almost always more hawkish chest-thumping, rejection of any deals or negotiations, accusations of appeasement and retreat, higher military spending, and so on – what Daniel Larison once aptly called ‘omidirectional belligerence.’

To my mind, this is reckless and arrogant, the sort of ‘exceptionalist’ imperiousness that much of the world finds so fatiguing about Americans. But it is also politically feasible in the Middle East, because America’s opponents there are so weak.

Yes, ISIS is terrifying and an Iran with a nuclear weapon is unnerving. And certainly the forces of Islamism across the region espouse values deeply antithetical to our own. In that sense, they pose a serious, long-term philosophic challenge to liberal modernity. But all the actors in the region – state and non-state – are actually quite weak. GDPs are small; militaries are weak and shot-through with cronyism; states are fragile with highly illegitimate ‘institutions’; many governments barely control their whole territories. And non-state actors, terrorist or otherwise, are even weaker challengers; for all their ideological-theological fire, Islamist groups have had a hard time actually building durable organisations, parties, and states. That Israel, a country of just eight million people, is considered the region’s dominant military power signifies just how secure America is from the region’s dangers.

In short, America enjoys the luxury of an enormous power buffer in the region, and that asymmetry creates the space for mischief-making like that GOP Iran letter. The US can absorb the costs of domestic irresponsibility and constitutional in-fighting, posture belligerently and abjure deals and negotiation, all because the costs are rather low (for the US). Even were the US to bomb Iran, the conflict would be far from US homeland with a minimal (or at least not very visible) impact on most Americans. Indeed, the US managed to fight an entire war in the Middle East that went horribly wrong and alienated much of the planet, yet without seriously jeopardising its regional hegemony. That is astonishing asymmetric power.

None of this applies at all in Asia.

One of my greatest concerns for US foreign policy in the coming decades is that this neocon ‘omnidirectional belligerence’ will, in time, come to the Asia Pacific. Neocon belligerence and recklessness are not feasible in Asia as they are in the Middle East, in Cuba or Venezuela, or even in responding to Putin. John McCain brought this type of thinking to Europe when he famously said ‘we are all Georgians now‘ after the 2008 Russian invasion. Russia’s stagnant GDP and population made such talk more feasible.

But the game in Asia is in far more flux than in eastern Europe, and America’s power advantage is thinner here than anywhere else. This means diplomacy and accommodation — the messy realpolitik of wheeling and dealing with regimes we may not always like, such as China – are more necessary. These are not traits neoconservatives excel at. Indeed, they damn them as ‘appeasement of evil’ and so on.

But neocon high-handed moralism and American exceptionalism in this business-like region will fail spectacularly. Neoconservatism will make an enemy of China, permanently end the possibility of any nuclear deal with North Korea (unlikely to be sure, but that is for Seoul to work out, not the US), and frighten American allies and friends such as South Korea and Vietnam with the thought that the US  is a war-monger.

No one wants a repeat of the Iraq war in North Korea or Southeast Asia. No one wants grandstanding, culturally-ignorant American exceptionalists lecturing the region about the ‘freedom agenda.’ Much of Asia may share the neocon belief that democracy is good for the world, but the neoconservative means to that end – threats, moralistic self-congratulation, refusal to negotiate with ‘evil,’ reckless use of force – will just provoke the Sino-US Cold War everyone is worried about.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mark Kortum.

Another Hostile Interview of President al-Assad to France 2 TV

President al-Assad to France 2 TV: France was a spearhead in supporting terrorism…


We are ready for any dialogue that meets Syrians’ interests



Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to France 2 TV.

Following is the full text:

Question 1: Good evening, Mr. President, I’d like to start straight forward. For most French, you are in a very large part responsible for the chaos going on in Syria, because of the brutality of the repression during the last four years. According to you, what is your part of responsibility?

President Assad: Actually, since the first few weeks of the conflict, the terrorists infiltrated the situation in Syria with the support of Western countries and regional countries, and they started attacking the civilians and destroying public places, public properties and private properties, and that’s documented on the internet, by them, not by us. So, our role as government is to defend our society and our citizens. If you want to say what you said is correct after four years, how could a government or president that’s been brutal with his population, killing them, and with the support from the other side of the greatest countries and political powers in the world, with the petrodollars  in our region… how could he withstand for four years? Is it possible to have the support of your public while you are brutal with your public?

Question 2: In the beginning, there were tens of thousands of people in the street. Were they all jihadists?

President Assad: No, definitely not. But the other question is, if in the sixth day of the conflict, the first Syrian policeman was killed… how? By the peaceful demonstration? By the audio waves of the demonstrators? How? He’s been killed by terrorists. Somebody who took a gun and shot that policeman, so he’s a terrorist. It doesn’t matter if he’s a jihadist or not, because he killed a policeman.

Question 3: There were perhaps jihadists or terrorists, but our reporters were there at the beginning and they met a lot of people saying “we want more freedom, more democracy.”  They weren’t terrorists or jihadists.

Every government should support freedom under the constitution


President Assad: Definitely, everybody has the right to ask for his freedom, and every government should support freedom, of course, under the constitution. But does freedom mean to kill the civilians, to kill policemen, to destroy the schools, the hospitals, the electricity, the infrastructure? That’s not owned by the government; it’s owned by the Syrian people. It’s not owned by us, it’s not owned by me. Is that the freedom that you’re talking about?

ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006 under the supervision of the Americans

Question 4: A lot of analysts and a lot of journalists say that you have helped ISIS to emerge, because it’s an opportunity for you to appear like a shield.

President Assad: But ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006 under the supervision of the Americans. I’m not in Iraq and I wasn’t in Iraq. I wasn’t controlling Iraq. The Americans controlled Iraq, and ISIS came from Iraq to Syria, because chaos is contagious. When you have chaos at your neighborhood, you have to expect it in your area.

Question 5: But the word ISIS at the beginning…

President Assad: Let me continue. Whenever you have chaos in a certain country, this is a fertile soil for the terrorists to come. So, when there is chaos in Syria, ISIS came to Syria. Before ISIS came al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaeda, and before that you had the Muslim Brotherhood. They all represent the same grassroots for ISIS to come later.

Question 6: So you have no responsibility at all for what happened since the last years in Syria?

President Assad: Normally, things are not absolute. To have no responsibility is not precise, because everybody has a responsibility. We have our own problems in Syria. The government is responsible, every one of us is responsible, every Syrian citizen is responsible, but now I’m talking about what brought ISIS here: the chaos, and your government, the government – or if you want to call it regime – the French regime, as they call us, is responsible for supporting those jihadists that they called moderate opposition.

Question 7: France is supporting a coalition, national Syrian coalition. Are they terrorists?

President Assad: The people who are supported now, who have Western armaments, they became ISIS, they were supported by your state, and by other Western states, by armaments, and that was announced by your Defense Minister. He announced it at the beginning of this year; he said we sent armaments. So, those people you called moderate, in 2012 before the rise of ISIS and before the West acknowledged the existence of al-Qaeda faction which is al-Nusra, they published videos where they eat the heart of a Syrian soldier, where they dismember other victims, and where they behead others. They published it, we didn’t. So, how can you ignore this reality, that they want to publish it, and tell you this is the fact?

Question 8: Let’s talk about the present. It appears that the Syrian army continues to utilize indiscriminate weapons like barrel bombs, which have devastating effects on civilians. Why don’t you change this strategy?

President Assad: We never heard in our army of indiscriminate killing weapons, because no army, including our army, will accept to use weaponry that doesn’t aim, because it will be of no use. You can’t use it, I mean from a military point of view. This is first. Second, when you want to talk about indiscriminate killing, it’s not about the weapon; it’s about the way you use it, and the proof of that is the drones, the American drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they killed more civilians than terrorists. They are the highest precision weapon in the world. So, it’s not about the kind of bomb. We have regular bombs, regular armaments.

Question 9: You don’t use barrel bombs?

President Assad: What is a barrel bomb? Can you tell me what it is?

Question 10: There are several documents, videos, and photographs like this, where you see a barrel bomb dropped by helicopters. This is Aleppo, this is Hama a few months ago, one year ago. Only Syrian army has helicopters, so what can you answer?

President Assad: This is not proof. These are two pictures of two things. No one can link them to each other.

Question 11: Aleppo, Hama.


President Assad: No, no. This picture that you mentioned here, what is it? I have never seen such a thing in our army. I’m not talking about the helicopters, I’m talking about two pictures. How can you relate between the two?

Question 12: You say it’s a fake? It’s a false document?

President Assad: No, no, it has to be verified, but in our army we only use regular bombs that could be aimed. So, we don’t have any armament that could be shelled indiscriminately. That’s it.

The war in Syria is about winning the hearts of the people, it’s not about killing people

Question 13: But this helicopter, only the Syrian army has helicopters.

President Assad: Yes, of course, I didn’t say we didn’t have helicopters, that we don’t use it. I’m talking about the armaments. They aim to target the terrorists. Why to kill indiscriminately? Why to kill the civilians? The war in Syria is about winning the hearts of the people, it’s not about killing people. If you kill people, you cannot be in your position, as a government, or as president. It’s impossible.

Question 14: What about chemical weapons? You committed two years ago not to use chemical weapons. Did you use chlorine gas in the battle of Idleb last month?

President Assad: No, this is another fake narrative by the Western governments. Why? Because we have two factories of chlorine. One of them is closed for a few years now, it’s not used anyway, and the other one is in the northern part in Syria, which is the most important factory than the first one. It’s on the Turkish border, it’s under the control of the terrorists for two years, and we sent formal documents to the United Nations regarding that factory. They wanted to come and they sent us a formal response, they couldn’t reach it. So, the chlorine in Syria is under the control of the rebels. This is first. Second, this is not a WMD, it’s not a weapon of mass destruction. The regular armaments that we have are more influential than chlorine, so we don’t need it anyway.

Question 15: But there are investigations, you must have seen that, from HRW, about last month in Idleb. Three attacks with chlorine smell, with symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic gas, that is what was concluded this investigation. These three attacks took place in territory controlled by armed opposition groups. HRW, are they liars?

President Assad: We didn’t use it. We don’t need to use it. We have our regular armaments, and we could achieve our goals without it. So, we don’t use it. No, there’s no proof.

Question 16: There are witnesses, there are testimonies of doctors.

President Assad: No, no. We ask, in every allegation regarding the chemical weapons in the past, in the present, we were the party who asked the international institutions to send delegations for investigations. We are, not the opposite, actually. And our soldiers were exposed to sarine gas two years ago, and we invited the United Nations to make investigations. How could we invite them while we are using them? That’s neither true nor reasonable.

Question 17: Are you ready to invite them again, on Idleb?

President Assad: We already did. We always invite. We don’t have a problem with that.

Question 18: Now, an international coalition led by the U.S. is bombing ISIS from the air. Is it a problem for you, or is it help for you?

President Assad: It’s neither, none of them. Because it’s not a problem of course if you attack terrorists, but at the same time, if you’re not serious, you don’t help us.

Question 19: Why not serious?


President Assad: If you want to make a comparison between the number of air raids of the coalition of 60 countries, while we are one country, a small country, what we do is tenfold, sometimes, than what they do in one day. IS that serious? It took them to liberate what they call in the media Kobani city, on the Turkish borders, it took them four months to liberate it, in spite of having Syrian fighters on the ground. So, they’re not serious so far. And the other proof is that ISIS has expanded in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in the region in general. So, how can you say that it was effective? They’re not serious, that’s why they don’t make any help to anyone in this region.

Question 20: There have been thousands of strikes of coalition in the beginning, but France only is striking in Iraq. Would you like France to join the coalition to strike in Syria?

The coalition against terrorism cannot be formed by countries who support terrorists 

President Assad: As I said, they’re not serious anyway. The coalition against terrorism cannot be formed by countries who support the terrorists at the same time, so we don’t care whether they attack it in Syria, or Iraq, or both, as long as they support the same terrorists at the same time. They send weapons to the same terrorists under the title of moderate opposition when Obama said it’s elusive, so the armaments will actually go to whom? To the terrorists. So, this is contradiction. It doesn’t work.

Question 21: You have the same enemy with France: ISIS. There have been attacks in France in January. For that moment, did your intelligence service have contact with French intelligence services?

President Assad: There are some contacts, but there’s no cooperation.

Question 22: What do you mean by contacts?

President Assad: We met with them, we met with some of your security officials, but there’s no cooperation.

Question 23: No exchange of information?

President Assad: No, nothing at all.

Question 24: So, why did you meet them?

President Assad: They came to Syria, we didn’t go to France. They came, maybe for some exchange of information, but when you want to have this kind of cooperation, it’s a two-directions way, so it’s about we help them, they help us. Now, according to the reality that’s related to your politics or to the policy of the French government, we should help them, while they support the terrorists and kill our people, so it doesn’t work.

Question 25: Did France ask for contact with your intelligence services?

President Assad: Yes, we met with them. There was a meeting with them.

Question 26: It was France asking?

President Assad: Yes. We don’t have anything to ask from the French intelligence. We have all the information about the terrorists.

Question 27: There are hundreds of French fighting with ISIS in Syria. Did you arrest some of them? Are there some French people from ISIS now in Syrian jails?

President Assad: No, in the prisons we don’t have any of them, we only have information, because the majority of those jihadists, they come here to fight and to die and to go to Heaven, that’s their ideology. So they’re not ready to go to any prison.

Question 28: So, there are none in jail?

President Assad: No, in jail we don’t have any of them.

Question 29: There are some people nowadays in France, some politicians, some MPs, you have received some of them these last days, they say that it’s time to dialogue with you. What initiative would you be ready to take to convince the others that you can become a partner for dialogue?

President Assad: With them?

Question 30: With France.


President Assad: They have to convince me first, that they don’t support terrorists, that they are not involved in the blood shedding of the Syrian people first. They made the mistake regarding Syria, we didn’t kill any French or European people. We didn’t help terrorists in your country. We didn’t help the Charlie Hebdo. You helped the terrorists, so your country, Western officials, should convince us that they don’t support terrorists. But we are ready for any dialogue, taking into consideration that it’s going to be for the interest of the Syrian citizens.

How can we make dialogue with a regime that supports terrorists in our country? 

Question 31: So at this moment, you are not interested in dialogue with France.

President Assad: No, we are always interested in dialogue with anyone, but that is based on the policy. How can we make dialogue with a regime that supports terrorists in our country, and what for? That’s the question. When they change their policy, we’ll be ready to make dialogue, but without that policy, there’s no aim for the dialogue. You don’t make dialogue for the sake of dialogue; you make it in order to reach certain results, and that result for me is for this government to stop supporting the terrorists in my country.

Question 32: So, you would have no message to send to Francois Hollande in the objective of dialogue?

President Assad: I think the main message that should be sent to him is by the French people, and the poll in France will tell you what message Hollande should listen to, which is, as the most unpopular president in the history of France since the 50s, should take care of his population and prevent terrorists from coming to France. For me, as somebody who suffering with his citizens, with the other citizens in Syria, from terrorists, I think the most important message is what you’ve been seeing in France is only the tip of the iceberg. When you talk about terrorism, you have a full mountain under the sea. Be aware of this mountain that will inflict your society.

Question 33: When John Kerry, the United States, said perhaps we will have dialogue with Mr. Bashar Assad, with President Assad, after he came back to another position, but you said ok, these are words, I want acts, I’m ready for dialogue. So, you are ready for dialogue?

France is the spearhead that supports terrorism in Syria 

President Assad: Of course, we are ready. I said we are ready, with every country in this world, including the great powers in the world, including France. But I said dialogue should be based on a certain policy. The spearhead against Syria, the spearhead that supports terrorism in Syria, was first France, second UK, not the US this time. Obama acknowledged that the moderate opposition is illusive.. he said that it is fantasy.

Question 34: He said it’s a phantasm to think that we could arm them and they could win the war, but he didn’t say there were no moderate opposition.

President Assad: Exactly. What’s the meaning of “we could arm them and they couldn’t win the war?” What does it mean? What does fantasy mean? They said they’re going to arm the moderate opposition. Can you tell me what is it, where it is? We don’t see it. We live in Syria, you live in France. I live here, I don’t find it to fight it, if we have to fight it. We don’t find it.

Question 35: You say there are foreign countries, too much foreign countries, involved in the Syria conflict, but without Iranian support, without Hezbollah support, would you be able to fight against terrorism now? I mean, you denounced that foreign countries are involved in Syria, but on your part there is Iranian and Hezbollah support for you.

President Assad: There’s a big difference between intervention and invitation. Every country, every government in the world, every state, has the right to invite any other country or party or organization to help in any domain, while no country has the right to intervene without invitation. So, we invited Hezbollah. We didn’t invite the Iranians, they’re not here, they didn’t send any troops.

Question 36: There are no Iranians here fighting with you?

President Assad: No, no, they don’t fight. We have regular relations with Iran for more than three decades. We have commanders, officers coming and going between the two countries based on the cooperation that existed between us for a long time. This is different from fighting. So, we as a government have the right to have such kind of cooperation, but France and other countries don’t have the right to support anyone within our country. This is a breach of the international law, this is a breach of our sovereignty, this a breach of the values that they’ve been proudly talking about – or allegedly some of them talk about – for decades now, maybe for centuries. One of these values is democracy. Is it democracy to send armaments to terrorists? To support rebels? Do I have the right to support the terrorists of Charlie Hebdo or something similar?

Question 37: You know what the French Prime Minister said recently about you. He said “he’s a butcher.” What’s your response?

President Assad: First of all, let me be frank with you. The statements of the officials in France, no-one is taking them seriously now, for one reason: because France is a satellite somehow to the American policy in the region. It’s not independent, it doesn’t have the weight, it doesn’t have the credibility. This is first. Second, as an official, you always care about the opinion of the population and Syrain citizens. I’m not made in France or any other country. I’m here because of the Syrian citizens, and that’s what you have to take care of.

Question 38: Do you think, one day, you will win this war, and that everybody, everything will go on like before, and Syria will go like before, with nothing changed?

President Assad: No, nothing should be as before, because you make things as before means you didn’t develop, you didn’t learn from the conflict. This conflict has many lessons. We have to learn from the lessons, and we have to make things not like before, but better, and there’s a big difference.

Question 39: And with Bashar Assad ruling Syria?

President Assad: I don’t care about this. I care about what the Syrian people want. If they want Bashar al-Assad, he will stay. If they don’t want him, he has to leave right now. I mean, how can he govern without the support of his public? Can he? He cannot.

Question 40: How can you know that you have the support of your population?

President Assad: First of all, when you don’t have support, they won’t support the army, you will not withstand for four years. How can you withstand without their support?

Question 41: Perhaps they’re scared.

President Assad: They are 23 millions. How can 23 millions be scared of one person, or one intelligence, or one government? That’s not realistic, not rational.

Question 42: You think it’s democracy now in Syria? You think people can really say what they think?

President Assad: No, we were on the way to democracy, it’s a process, it’s a long way. There’s no place you reach it, you say this is democracy. If you want to compare me to the West, to France, and other countries, no, you are much ahead of us, definitely, because of your history and because of many other circumstances and factors. If you want to compare me to your closest friend, Saudi Arabia, of course we are democratic. So, it depends on how you compare me.

Question 43: If you were convinced that leaving the power would mean peace for Syria, would you do it?

President Assad: Without hesitation. If that were the case, without hesitation, I would leave of course. If I’m the reason of conflict in my country, I shouldn’t be here. That’s self-evident.

Question 44: I wanted to show you another photograph. This is Gilles Jacquier. He was a journalist in our channel, France 2. He was killed here in Syria 3 years ago. You had promised an investigation about that to know who killed him. What can you tell us about this investigation today?

President Assad: Regardless of the allegations at that time that we killed him, he was in a residential area under the control of the government, and he was killed by a mortar, not by a bullet, so the self-evident thing is that the government wouldn’t shell itself or the residential area of its supporters by mortars. So, it’s very clear, everybody knows, and many French media at the time acknowledged that he was killed by a mortar that was shelled by what you call the opposition, actually they are terrorists. So, he was definitely killed by them, but if you want to about – are you asking about the investigation?

Question 45: Yes. There has been an investigation? Would you give the result of this investigation you have to prove for French justice?

President Assad: No, we don’t have to prove. We have legal procedures, and whenever we have any crime in Syria, we follow these procedures, like any other country. You have a judicial system in Syria, you have regular procedures; so if you want to know about the details, after this interview you can be referred to the involved or interested institution.

Question 46: And you would ok to give this information to French justice?

President Assad: Of course, we don’t have any problem.

Question 47: If French justice would like to send investigators here, policemen, judge, would you be willing to?

President Assad: That depends on the agreement between the two governments, if you have agreement or, let’s say, a treaty or such a thing, regarding the judicial systems in the two countries and the cooperation between these two systems, we don’t have a problem, but it’s not a political decision.

Question 48: Thank you, Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you for coming.

Swedish Interview With Bashar Assad–(hostile)

SADDAM’S FEDAYEEN REVENGE–More Iraqi Officers Exposed In ISIS Command Structure

[First we learn about al-Dhouri (SEE:  The Real Boss of ISIS, Iraqi Gen. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Killed In Tikrit), now we learn how far the Iraqi officer command goes.]

Haji Bakr ISIS
“Haji Bakr,” ISIS Strategist

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

der spiegel

By Christoph Reuter

Samir_al-Khlifawi_in_the_Iraqi_military “Haji Bakr,” Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, Iraqi Colonel

al-Khlifawi in Camp Bucca Haji Bakr at Camp Bucca

Aloof. Polite. Cajoling. Extremely attentive. Restrained. Dishonest. Inscrutable. Malicious. The rebels from northern Syria, remembering encounters with him months later, recall completely different facets of the man. But they agree on one thing: “We never knew exactly who we were sitting across from.”

In fact, not even those who shot and killed him after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself “Islamic State” (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn’t widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria’s rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.

Until now, much of the information about IS has come from fighters who had defected and data sets from the IS internal administration seized in Baghdad. But none of this offered an explanation for the group’s meteoric rise to prominence, before air strikes in the late summer of 2014 put a stop to its triumphal march.

For the first time, the Haji Bakr documents now make it possible to reach conclusions on how the IS leadership is organized and what role former officials in the government of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein play in it. Above all, however, they show how the takeover in northern Syria was planned, making the group’s later advances into Iraq possible in the first place. In addition, months of research undertaken by SPIEGEL in Syria, as well as other newly discovered records, exclusive to SPIEGEL, show that Haji Bakr’s instructions were carried out meticulously.

Bakr’s documents were long hidden in a tiny addition to a house in embattled northern Syria. Reports of their existence were first made by an eyewitness who had seen them in Haji Bakr’s house shortly after his death. In April 2014, a single page from the file was smuggled to Turkey, where SPIEGEL was able to examine it for the first time. It only became possible to reach Tal Rifaat to evaluate the entire set of handwritten papers in November 2014.

This document is Haji Bakr's sketch for the possible structure of the Islamic State administration. Zoom

This document is Haji Bakr’s sketch for the possible structure of the Islamic State administration.

“Our greatest concern was that these plans could fall into the wrong hands and would never have become known,” said the man who has been storing Haji Bakr’s notes after pulling them out from under a tall stack of boxes and blankets. The man, fearing the IS death squads, wishes to remain anonymous.The Master Plan

The story of this collection of documents begins at a time when few had yet heard of the “Islamic State.” When Iraqi national Haji Bakr traveled to Syria as part of a tiny advance party in late 2012, he had a seemingly absurd plan: IS would capture as much territory as possible in Syria. Then, using Syria as a beachhead, it would invade Iraq.

Bakr took up residence in an inconspicuous house in Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo. The town was a good choice. In the 1980s, many of its residents had gone to work in the Gulf nations, especially Saudi Arabia. When they returned, some brought along radical convictions and contacts. In 2013, Tal Rifaat would become IS’ stronghold in Aleppo Province, with hundreds of fighters stationed there.

It was there that the “Lord of the Shadows,” as some called him, sketched out the structure of the Islamic State, all the way down to the local level, compiled lists relating to the gradual infiltration of villages and determined who would oversee whom. Using a ballpoint pen, he drew the chains of command in the security apparatus on stationery. Though presumably a coincidence, the stationery was from the Syrian Defense Ministry and bore the letterhead of the department in charge of accommodations and furniture.

What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover. It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.

Graphic: A digital rendering of Haji Bakr's Islamic State organigram. Zoom


Graphic: A digital rendering of Haji Bakr’s Islamic State organigram.

This blueprint was implemented with astonishing accuracy in the ensuing months. The plan would always begin with the same detail: The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:

  • List the powerful families.
  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”

The spies were to find out as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were. Other details included what the imam’s sermons were like, whether he was more open to the Sufi, or mystical variant of Islam, whether he sided with the opposition or the regime, and what his position was on jihad. Bakr also wanted answers to questions like: Does the imam earn a salary? If so, who pays it? Who appoints him? Finally: How many people in the village are champions of democracy?

The agents were supposed to function as seismic signal waves, sent out to track down the tiniest cracks, as well as age-old faults within the deep layers of society — in short, any information that could be used to divide and subjugate the local population. The informants included former intelligence spies, but also regime opponents who had quarreled with one of the rebel groups. Some were also young men and adolescents who needed money or found the work exciting. Most of the men on Bakr’s list of informants, such as those from Tal Rifaat, were in their early twenties, but some were as young as 16 or 17.

The plans also include areas like finance, schools, daycare, the media and transportation. But there is a constantly recurring, core theme, which is meticulously addressed in organizational charts and lists of responsibilities and reporting requirements: surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping.

For each provincial council, Bakr had planned for an emir, or commander, to be in charge of murders, abductions, snipers, communication and encryption, as well as an emir to supervise the other emirs — “in case they don’t do their jobs well.” The nucleus of this godly state would be the demonic clockwork of a cell and commando structure designed to spread fear.

From the very beginning, the plan was to have the intelligence services operate in parallel, even at the provincial level. A general intelligence department reported to the “security emir” for a region, who was in charge of deputy-emirs for individual districts. A head of secret spy cells and an “intelligence service and information manager” for the district reported to each of these deputy-emirs. The spy cells at the local level reported to the district emir’s deputy. The goal was to have everyone keeping an eye on everyone else.

A handwritten chart shows Bakr's thoughts regarding the establishment of the Islamic State. Zoom

A handwritten chart shows Bakr’s thoughts regarding the establishment of the Islamic State.

Those in charge of training the “Sharia judges in intelligence gathering” also reported to the district emir, while a separate department of “security officers” was assigned to the regional emir.Sharia, the courts, prescribed piety — all of this served a single goal: surveillance and control. Even the word that Bakr used for the conversion of true Muslims, takwin, is not a religious but a technical term that translates as “implementation,” a prosaic word otherwise used in geology or construction. Still, 1,200 years ago, the word followed a unique path to a brief moment of notoriety. Shiite alchemists used it to describe the creation of artificial life. In his ninth century “Book of Stones,” the Persian Jabir Ibn Hayyan wrote — using a secret script and codes — about the creation of a homunculus. “The goal is to deceive all, but those who love God.” That may also have been to the liking of Islamic State strategists, although the group views Shiites as apostates who shun true Islam. But for Haji Bakr, God and the 1,400-year-old faith in him was but one of many modules at his disposal to arrange as he liked for a higher purpose.

The Beginnings in Iraq

It seemed as if George Orwell had been the model for this spawn of paranoid surveillance. But it was much simpler than that. Bakr was merely modifying what he had learned in the past: Saddam Hussein’s omnipresent security apparatus, in which no one, not even generals in the intelligence service, could be certain they weren’t being spied on.

Expatriate Iraqi author Kanan Makiya described this “Republic of Fear” in a book as a country in which anyone could simply disappear and in which Saddam could seal his official inauguration in 1979 by exposing a bogus conspiracy.

There is a simple reason why there is no mention in Bakr’s writings of prophecies relating to the establishment of an Islamic State allegedly ordained by God: He believed that fanatical religious convictions alone were not enough to achieve victory. But he did believe that the faith of others could be exploited.

In 2010, Bakr and a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir and later “caliph,” the official leader of the Islamic State. They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face.

Bakr was “a nationalist, not an Islamist,” says Iraqi journalist Hisham al-Hashimi, as he recalls the former career officer, who was stationed with Hashimi’s cousin at the Habbaniya Air Base. “Colonel Samir,” as Hashimi calls him, “was highly intelligent, firm and an excellent logistician.” But when Paul Bremer, then head of the US occupational authority in Baghdad, “dissolved the army by decree in May 2003, he was bitter and unemployed.”

Thousands of well-trained Sunni officers were robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen. In doing so, America created its most bitter and intelligent enemies. Bakr went underground and met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Anbar Province in western Iraq. Zarqawi, a Jordanian by birth, had previously run a training camp for international terrorist pilgrims in Afghanistan. Starting in 2003, he gained global notoriety as the mastermind of attacks against the United Nations, US troops and Shiite Muslims. He was even too radical for former Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi died in a US air strike in 2006.

Although Iraq’s dominant Baath Party was secular, the two systems ultimately shared a conviction that control over the masses should lie in the hands of a small elite that should not be answerable to anyone — because it ruled in the name of a grand plan, legitimized by either God or the glory of Arab history. The secret of IS’ success lies in the combination of opposites, the fanatical beliefs of one group and the strategic calculations of the other.

Bakr gradually became one of the military leaders in Iraq, and he was held from 2006 to 2008 in the US military’s Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison. He survived the waves of arrests and killings by American and Iraqi special units, which threatened the very existence of the IS precursor organization in 2010, Islamic State in Iraq.

For Bakr and a number of former high-ranking officers, this presented an opportunity to seize power in a significantly smaller circle of jihadists. They utilized the time they shared in Camp Bucca to establish a large network of contacts. But the top leaders had already known each other for a long time. Haji Bakr and an additional officer were part of the tiny secret-service unit attached to the anti-aircraft division. Two other IS leaders were from a small community of Sunni Turkmen in the town of Tal Afar. One of them was a high-ranking intelligence officer as well.

In 2010, the idea of trying to defeat Iraqi government forces militarily seemed futile. But a powerful underground organization took shape through acts of terror and protection rackets. When the uprising against the dictatorship of the Assad clan erupted in neighboring Syria, the organization’s leaders sensed an opportunity. By late 2012, particularly in the north, the formerly omnipotent government forces had largely been defeated and expelled. Instead, there were now hundreds of local councils and rebel brigades, part of an anarchic mix that no one could keep track of. It was a state of vulnerability that the tightly organized group of ex-officers sought to exploit.

Attempts to explain IS and its rapid rise to power vary depending on who is doing the explaining. Terrorism experts view IS as an al-Qaida offshoot and attribute the absence of spectacular attacks to date to what they view as a lack of organizational capacity. Criminologists see IS as a mafia-like holding company out to maximize profit. Scholars in the humanities point to the apocalyptic statements by the IS media department, its glorification of death and the belief that Islamic State is involved in a holy mission.

But apocalyptic visions alone are not enough to capture cities and take over countries. Terrorists don’t establish countries. And a criminal cartel is unlikely to generate enthusiasm among supporters around the world, who are willing to give up their lives to travel to the “Caliphate” and potentially their deaths.

IS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.

The Implementation of the Plan

The expansion of IS began so inconspicuously that, a year later, many Syrians had to think for a moment about when the jihadists had appeared in their midst. The Dawah offices that were opened in many towns in northern Syria in the spring of 2013 were innocent-looking missionary offices, not unlike the ones that Islamic charities have opened worldwide.

When a Dawah office opened in Raqqa, “all they said was that they were ‘brothers,’ and they never said a word about the ‘Islamic State’,” reports a doctor who fled from the city. A Dawah office was also opened in Manbij, a liberal city in Aleppo Province, in the spring of 2013. “I didn’t even notice it at first,” recalls a young civil rights activist. “Anyone was allowed to open what he wished. We would never have suspected that someone other than the regime could threaten us. It was only when the fighting erupted in January that we learned that Da’ish,” the Arab acronym for IS, “had already rented several apartments where it could store weapons and hide its men.”

The situation was similar in the towns of al-Bab, Atarib and Azaz. Dawah offices were also opened in neighboring Idlib Province in early 2013, in the towns of Sermada, Atmeh, Kafr Takharim, al-Dana and Salqin. As soon as it had identified enough “students” who could be recruited as spies, IS expanded its presence. In al-Dana, additional buildings were rented, black flags raised and streets blocked off. In towns where there was too much resistance or it was unable to secure enough supporters, IS chose to withdraw temporarily. At the beginning, its modus operandi was to expand without risking open resistance, and abduct or kill “hostile individuals,” while denying any involvement in these nefarious activities.

The fighters themselves also remained inconspicuous at first. Bakr and the advance guard had not brought them along from Iraq, which would have made sense. In fact, they had explicitly prohibited their Iraqi fighters from going to Syria. They also chose not to recruit very many Syrians. The IS leaders opted for the most complicated option instead: They decided to gather together all the foreign radicals who had been coming to the region since the summer of 2012. Students from Saudi Arabia, office workers from Tunisia and school dropouts from Europe with no military experience were to form an army with battle-tested Chechens and Uzbeks. It would be located in Syria under Iraqi command.

Already by the end of 2012, military camps had been erected in several places. Initially, no one knew what groups they belonged to. The camps were strictly organized and the men there came from numerous countries — and didn’t speak to journalists. Very few of them were from Iraq. Newcomers received two months of training and were drilled to be unconditionally obedient to the central command. The set-up was inconspicuous and also had another advantage: though necessarily chaotic at the beginning, what emerged were absolutely loyal troops. The foreigners knew nobody outside of their comrades, had no reason to show mercy and could be quickly deployed to many different places. This was in stark contrast to the Syrian rebels, who were mostly focused on defending their hometowns and had to look after their families and help out with the harvest. In fall 2013, IS books listed 2,650 foreign fighters in the Province of Aleppo alone. Tunisians represented a third of the total, followed by Saudi Arabians, Turks, Egyptians and, in smaller numbers, Chechens, Europeans and Indonesians.

Later too, the jihadist cadres were hopelessly outnumbered by the Syrian rebels. Although the rebels distrusted the jihadists, they didn’t join forces to challenge IS because they didn’t want to risk opening up a second front. Islamic State, though, increased its clout with a simple trick: The men always appeared wearing black masks, which not only made them look terrifying, but also meant that no one could know how many of them there actually were. When groups of 200 fighters appeared in five different places one after the other, did it mean that IS had 1,000 people? Or 500? Or just a little more than 200? In addition, spies also ensured that IS leadership was constantly informed of where the population was weak or divided or where there were local conflict, allowing IS to offer itself as a protective power in order to gain a foothold.

The Capture of Raqqa

Raqqa, a once sleepy provincial city on the Euphrates River, was to become the prototype of the complete IS conquest. The operation began subtly, gradually became more brutal and, in the end, IS prevailed over larger opponents without much of a fight. “We were never very political,” explained one doctor who had fled Raqqa for Turkey. “We also weren’t religious and didn’t pray much.”

When Raqqa fell to the rebels in March 2013, a city council was rapidly elected. Lawyers, doctors and journalists organized themselves. Women’s groups were established. The Free Youth Assembly was founded, as was the movement “For Our Rights” and dozens of other initiatives. Anything seemed possible in Raqqa. But in the view of some who fled the city, it also marked the start of its downfall.

True to Haji Bakr’s plan, the phase of infiltration was followed by the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent. The first person hit was the head of the city council, who was kidnapped in mid-May 2013 by masked men. The next person to disappear was the brother of a prominent novelist. Two days later, the man who had led the group that painted a revolutionary flag on the city walls vanished.

“We had an idea who kidnapped him,” one of his friends explains, “but no one dared any longer to do anything.” The system of fear began to take hold. Starting in July, first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared. Sometimes their bodies were found, but they usually disappeared without a trace. In August, the IS military leadership dispatched several cars driven by suicide bombers to the headquarters of the FSA brigade, the “Grandsons of the Prophet,” killing dozens of fighters and leading the rest to flee. The other rebels merely looked on. IS leadership had spun a web of secret deals with the brigades so that each thought it was only the others who might be the targets of IS attacks.

On Oct. 17, 2013, Islamic State called all civic leaders, clerics and lawyers in the city to a meeting. At the time, some thought it might be a gesture of conciliation. Of the 300 people who attended the meeting, only two spoke out against the ongoing takeover, the kidnappings and the murders committed by IS.

One of the two was Muhannad Habayebna, a civil rights activist and journalist well known in the city. He was found five days later tied up and executed with a gunshot wound to his head. Friends received an anonymous email with a photo of his body. The message included only one sentence: “Are you sad about your friend now?” Within hours around 20 leading members of the opposition fled to Turkey. The revolution in Raqqa had come to an end.

A short time later, the 14 chiefs of the largest clans gave an oath of allegiance to Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There’s even a film of the ceremony. They were sheiks with the same clans that had sworn their steadfast loyalty to Syrian President Bashar Assad only two years earlier.

The Death of Haji Bakr

Until the end of 2013, everything was going according to Islamic State’s plan — or at least according to the plan of Haji Bakr. The caliphate was expanding village by village without being confronted by unified resistance from Syrian rebels. Indeed, the rebels seemed paralyzed in the face of IS’ sinister power.

But when IS henchmen brutally tortured a well-liked rebel leader and doctor to death in December 2013, something unexpected happened. Across the country, Syrian brigades — both secular and parts of the radical Nusra Front — joined together to do battle with Islamic State. By attacking IS everywhere at the same time, they were able to rob the Islamists of their tactical advantage — that of being able to rapidly move units to where they were most urgently needed.

Within weeks, IS was pushed out of large regions of northern Syria. Even Raqqa, the Islamic State capital, had almost fallen by the time 1,300 IS fighters arrived from Iraq. But they didn’t simply march into battle. Rather, they employed a trickier approach, recalls the doctor who fled. “In Raqqa, there were so many brigades on the move that nobody knew who exactly the others were. Suddenly, a group in rebel dress began to shoot at the other rebels. They all simply fled.”

A small, simple masquerade had helped IS fighters to victory: Just change out of black clothes into jeans and vests. They did the same thing in the border town of Jarablus. On several occasions, rebels in other locations took drivers from IS suicide vehicles into custody. The drivers asked in surprise: “You are Sunnis too? Our emir told me you were infidels from Assad’s army.”

Once complete, the picture begins to look absurd: God’s self-proclaimed enforcers on Earth head out to conquer a future worldly empire, but with what? With ninja outfits, cheap tricks and espionage cells camouflaged as missionary offices. But it worked. IS held on to Raqqa and was able to reconquer some of its lost territories. But it came too late for the great planner Haji Bakr.

Haji Bakr stayed behind in the small city of Tal Rifaat, where IS had long had the upper hand. But when rebels attacked at the end of January 2014, the city became divided within just a few hours. One half remained under IS control while the other was wrested away by one of the local brigades. Haji Bakr was stuck in the wrong half. Furthermore, in order to remain incognito he had refrained from moving into one of the heavily guarded IS military quarters. And so, the godfather of snitching was snitched on by a neighbor. “A Daish sheik lives next door!” the man called. A local commander named Abdelmalik Hadbe and his men drove over to Bakr’s house. A woman jerked open the door and said brusquely: “My husband isn’t here.”

But his car is parked out front, the rebels countered.

At that moment, Haji Bakr appeared at the door in his pajamas. Hadbe ordered him to come with them, whereupon Bakr protested that he wanted to get dressed. No, Hadbe repeated: “Come with us! Immediately!”

Surprisingly nimbly for his age, Bakr jumped back and kicked the door closed, according to two people who witnessed the scene. He then hid under the stairs and yelled: “I have a suicide belt! I’ll blow up all of us!” He then came out with a Kalashnikov and began shooting. Hadbe then fired his weapon and killed Bakr.

When the men later learned who they had killed, they searched the house, gathering up computers, passports, mobile phone SIM cards, a GPS device and, most importantly, papers. They didn’t find a Koran anywhere.

Haji Bakr was dead and the local rebels took his wife into custody. Later, the rebels exchanged her for Turkish IS hostages at the request of Ankara. Bakr’s valuable papers were initially hidden away in a chamber, where they spent several months.

A Second Cache of Documents

Haji Bakr’s state continued to work even without its creator. Just how precisely his plans were implemented — point by point — is confirmed by the discovery of another file. When IS was forced to rapidly abandon its headquarters in Aleppo in January 2014, they tried to burn their archive, but they ran into a problem similar to that confronted by the East German secret police 25 years earlier: They had too many files.

Some of them remained intact and ended up with the al-Tawhid Brigade, Aleppo’s largest rebel group at the time. After lengthy negotiations, the group agreed to make the papers available to SPIEGEL for exclusive publication rights — everything except a list of IS spies inside of al-Tawhid.

An examination of the hundreds of pages of documents reveals a highly complex system involving the infiltration and surveillance of all groups, including IS’ own people. The jihad archivists maintained long lists noting which informants they had installed in which rebel brigades and government militias. It was even noted who among the rebels was a spy for Assad’s intelligence service.

“They knew more than we did, much more,” said the documents’ custodian. Personnel files of the fighters were among them, including detailed letters of application from incoming foreigners, such as the Jordanian Nidal Abu Eysch. He sent along all of his terror references, including their telephone numbers, and the file number of a felony case against him. His hobbies were also listed: hunting, boxing, bomb building.

IS wanted to know everything, but at the same time, the group wanted to deceive everyone about its true aims. One multiple-page report, for example, carefully lists all of the pretexts IS could use to justify the seizure of the largest flour mill in northern Syria. It includes such excuses as alleged embezzlement as well as the ungodly behavior of the mill’s workers. The reality — that all strategically important facilities like industrial bakeries, grain silos and generators were to be seized and their equipment sent to the caliphate’s unofficial capital Raqqa — was to be kept under wraps.

Over and over again, the documents reveal corollaries with Haji Bakr’s plans for the establishment of IS — for example that marrying in to influential families should be pushed. The files from Aleppo also included a list of 34 fighters who wanted wives in addition to other domestic needs. Abu Luqman and Abu Yahya al-Tunis, for example, noted that they needed an apartment. Abu Suheib and Abu Ahmed Osama requested bedroom furniture. Abu al-Baraa al Dimaschqi asked for financial assistance in addition to a complete set of furniture, while Abu Azmi wanted a fully automatic washing machine.

Shifting Alliances

But in the first months of 2014, yet another legacy from Haji Bakr began playing a decisive role: His decade of contacts to Assad’s intelligence services.

In 2003, the Damascus regime was panicked that then-US President George W. Bush, after his victory over Saddam Hussein, would have his troops continue into Syria to topple Assad as well. Thus, in the ensuing years, Syrian intelligence officials organized the transfer of thousands of radicals from Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia to al-Qaida in Iraq. Ninety percent of the suicide attackers entered Iraq via the Syrian route. A strange relationship developed between Syrian generals, international jihadists and former Iraqi officers who had been loyal to Saddam — a joint venture of deadly enemies, who met repeatedly to the west of Damascus.

At the time, the primary aim was to make the lives of the Americans in Iraq hell. Ten years later, Bashar Assad had a different motive to breathe new life into the alliance: He wanted to sell himself to the world as the lesser of several evils. Islamist terror, the more gruesome the better, was too important to leave it up to the terrorists. The regime’s relationship with Islamic State is — just as it was to its predecessor a decade prior — marked by a completely tactical pragmatism. Both sides are trying to use the other in the assumption that it will emerge as the stronger power, able to defeat the discrete collaborator of yesterday. Conversely, IS leaders had no problem receiving assistance from Assad’s air force, despite all of the group’s pledges to annihilate the apostate Shiites. Starting in January 2014, Syrian jets would regularly — and exclusively — bomb rebel positions and headquarters during battles between IS and rebel groups.

In battles between IS and rebels in January 2014, Assad’s jets regularly bombed only rebel positions, while the Islamic State emir ordered his fighters to refrain from shooting at the army. It was an arrangement that left many of the foreign fighters deeply disillusioned; they had imaged jihad differently.

IS threw its entire arsenal at the rebels, sending more suicide bombers into their ranks in just a few weeks than it deployed during the entire previous year against the Syrian army. Thanks in part to additional air strikes, IS was able to reconquer territory that it had briefly lost.

Nothing symbolizes the tactical shifting of alliances more than the fate of the Syrian army’s Division 17. The isolated base near Raqqa had been under rebel siege for more than a year. But then, IS units defeated the rebels there and Assad’s air force was once again able to use the base for supply flights without fear of attack.

But a half year later, after IS conquered Mosul and took control of a gigantic weapons depot there, the jihadists felt powerful enough to attack their erstwhile helpers. IS fighters overran Division 17 and slaughtered the soldiers, whom they had only recently protected.

What the Future May Hold

The setbacks suffered by IS in recent months — the defeat in the fight for Kurdish enclave Kobani and, more recently, the loss of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, have generated the impression that the end of Islamic State is nigh. As though it, in its megalomania, overreached itself, has lost its mystique, is in retreat and will soon disappear. But such forced optimism is likely premature. The IS may have lost many fighters, but it has continued expanding in Syria.

It is true that jihadist experiments in ruling a specific geographical area have failed in the past. Mostly, though, that was because of their lack of knowledge regarding how to administer a region, or even a state. That is exactly the weakness that IS strategists have long been aware of — and eliminated. Within the “Caliphate,” those in power have constructed a regime that is more stable and more flexible than it appears from the outside.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be the officially named leader, but it remains unclear how much power he holds. In any case, when an emissary of al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri contacted the Islamic State, it was Haji Bakr and other intelligence officers, and not al-Baghdadi, whom he approached. Afterwards, the emissary bemoaned “these phony snakes who are betraying the real jihad.”

Within IS, there are state structures, bureaucracy and authorities. But there is also a parallel command structure: elite units next to normal troops; additional commanders alongside nominal military head Omar al-Shishani; power brokers who transfer or demote provincial and town emirs or even make them disappear at will. Furthermore, decisions are not, as a rule, made in Shura Councils, nominally the highest decision-making body. Instead, they are being made by the “people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), a clandestine circle whose name is taken from the Islam of medieval times.

Islamic State is able to recognize all manner of internal revolts and stifle them. At the same time, the hermitic surveillance structure is also useful for the financial exploitation of its subjects.

The air strikes flown by the US-led coalition may have destroyed the oil wells and refineries. But nobody is preventing the Caliphate’s financial authorities from wringing money out of the millions of people who live in the regions under IS control — in the form of new taxes and fees, or simply by confiscating property. IS, after all, knows everything from its spies and from the data it plundered from banks, land-registry offices and money-changing offices. It knows who owns which homes and which fields; it knows who owns many sheep or has lots of money. The subjects may be unhappy, but there is minimal room for them to organize, arm themselves and rebel.

As the West’s attention is primarily focused on the possibility of terrorist attacks, a different scenario has been underestimated: the approaching intra-Muslim war between Shiites and Sunnis. Such a conflict would allow IS to graduate from being a hated terror organization to a central power.Already today, the frontlines in Syria, Iraq and Yemen follow this confessional line, with Shiite Afghans fighting against Sunni Afghans in Syria and IS profiting in Iraq from the barbarism of brutal Shiite militias. Should this ancient Islam conflict continue to escalate, it could spill over into confessionally mixed states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon.

In such a case, IS propaganda about the approaching apocalypse could become a reality. In its slipstream, an absolutist dictatorship in the name of God could be established.


Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri’s Cold, Lifeless Body

EXCLUSIVE: Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s VP, has been killed according to Governor of Salah al-Din

iraqi news

Izzat al-Douri, former Iraqi Vice President
Izzat al-Douri, former Iraqi Vice President

UPDATE 2015 April, 18: 

Confirmed: Izzat al-Douri, former Saddam Hussein deputy, killed by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq forces

The body of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri being examined in a mortuary.
The body of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri being examined in a mortuary.

( Salah al-Din – The Governor of Salah al-Din, Raed al-Jubouri, declared the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the Vice President of the Saddam Hussein in a military operation in the area of Hamrin Mountains.

Jubouri said that “Security forces managed to kill the terrorist Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri through a proactive process in Hamrin area near Alas fields,” as quoted by the official Iraqi channel without further details.

For its part, the Iraqi News Agency Alsumaria published a picture of a corpse claimed that it belongs to Izzat al-Douri, former Iraqi Vice President of Saddam Hussein after his death.

Douri was one of Saddam’s most trusted acolytes, helping to lead his 1968 coup. The US set a $10m bounty on him.

Izzat al-Duri's body after his death
Izzat al-Duri’s body after his death
Izzat al-Duri's body after his death
Izzat al-Duri’s body after his death
Izzat al-Duri's body after his death
Izzat al-Duri’s body after his death
Izzat al-Duri's body after his death
Izzat al-Duri’s body after his death

Iraqi News’ lead translator, Abdelhak is fluent in English, Arabic and French. He has worked as a translator, writer and researcher for 5 years and has advanced degrees in Linguistics & Translation as well as English Literature.

Saudis Bomb Shia In Yemen To Eliminate Al Qaeda’s Only Adversaries

[Bombing Shia in Yemen, while avoiding al-Qaeda targets, will prove to be a strategic error on the new king’s part.  This, more than anything else, will starkly paint a line in the Yemeni sand, separating Huthis from the takfiri militants who have been trying to genocide them.  If the Saudis dared to kill Qaeda outside of the kingdom, it would shatter the long-standing “protection racket” with bin Laden as alleged by researcher/reporter Seymour Hersh (SEE:  King’s Ransom).  According to Hersh, the Saudis have been channelling money to the terrorist group all along, protecting the Saudi homeland via this extortion/blackmail deal.]

Saudi Arabia will have to hit Al-Qaeda in Yemen: Reports

daily mail

Latest Med “Boat People” Tragedy Resulting From Anti-Libyan U.N. Sec. Council Res. 1973

[Until Europe summons the will to correct its mistakes in Libya, the Mediterranean will remain “Mare di Morte,” the Sea of Death.]

EU ministers to meet, Pope calls for action, as biggest ever tragedy unfolds in the Med

times of malta

File photo

File photo

EU ministers are to meet this week to discuss action after between 600 and 700 migrants were feared dead when a boat capsized in the Mediterranean last night.

A Maltese patrol boat has joined Italian vessels and a number of merchant ships looking for survivors in what Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said was the biggest ever tragedy in the Mediterranean.

The EU meeting will be held following a call by French President Francois Hollande, according to international media reports. “If confirmed this would be the worst disaster of recent years in the Mediterranean,” Hollande said on Canal+ television.

Rescue and disaster prevention efforts will need “more boats, more over flights and a much more intense battle against people-trafficking,” Hollande said, adding that he had phoned Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the wake of the tragedy.

The boat crammed with migrants capsized some 120 miles south of Lampedusa.

The emergency was declared at about midnight when the migrants are believed to have moved to one side of the boat, capsizing it, when a merchant ship approached.

49 survivors were picked up by a Portuguese merchant ship and scores of bodies were seen.

“They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water,” Dr Muscat said.

The incident bears similarities to another case last week when some 400 migrants are believed to have perished.


Pope Francis appealed to the international community to take swift and decisive action to avoid more tragedies.

“They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life,” he told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday noon address.

“Faced with such a tragedy, I express my most heartfelt pain and promise to remember the victims and their families in prayer,” he said, departing from his prepared text.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to react decisively and quickly to see to it that such tragedies are not repeated,” he said, before asking the crowd to pray “for these brothers and sisters”.


EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also urged European governments to support action to protect migrants in the Mediterranean.

“We have said too many times ‘never again’. Now is time for the European Union as such to tackle these tragedies without delay,” Mogherini said in a statement. “We need to save human lives all together, as all together we need to protect our borders and to fight the trafficking of human beings.”


President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said Malta could no longer look at migration as a “bogeyman” to be feared.

In an impassioned speech at the Vilhena Band Club in Floriana to mark the feast of St Publius, she called for society to welcome and show love to those who appeared as outsiders.

“We cannot have peace while people act in a hostile manner at others just because they see them with dark skin or wearing a headscarf,” she said.

“There are no easy solutions to migration. It’s no longer just about war. In today’s world people are on the move, just like our own children are going abroad to better themselves. If it were us – if we had to leave home for a chance at life with human dignity – wouldn’t we take that chance?”


Prime Minister Joseph Muscat referred to the tragedy this morning when he spoke at a PL meeting in Marsa.

He said he was informed at 1am that the AFM had been requested to help the Italian forces after the incident took place ‘in Libyan waters’.

He said a Maltese patrol boat was helping in the rescue efforts along with Italian naval ships and cargo vessels.

“They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water.”

If confirmed, he said, this would be the biggest tragedy to have ever taken place in the Mediterranean.

The enormity of what was taking place was far more important than other matters, he said.

Malta had problems over migration, he said, but no one should be allowed to die.

He said that despite the talk, Malta and Italy were still alone in this crisis. True, Europe appeared to be showing more understanding, but the bottom line was that this was political talk. What he got on his phone was pleas for help as people fought for their lives.

Malta, he said, should not shirk its responsibilities simply because the migrants were not being brought here.

“A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, they will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing,” Dr Muscat said.

Malta, he said, would do everything possible to save as many lives as it could. He asked all present to observe a minute’s silence.


Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, speaking in Siggiewi also expressed his concern and urged the government to offer whatever the country could do to help people’s lives. He also called on the government to seek an urgent EU meeting to address this issue and said the Opposition would back government efforts in this regard.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna used the opportunity of the Feast of St Publius this morning to call for greater respect and tolerance towards irregular migrants.

Celebrating Mass at the Floriana Parish Church, Archbishop Scicluna said the feast day should remind the faithful of the plight of “our brothers ‘shipwrecked’ on the Mediterranean today”.

“We cannot celebrate this feast here today and then turn round and use words of hate towards migrants on social media,” he said.

“Publius took Paul into his home, not knowing who he was. He didn’t ‘send him back’, and he received a great blessing for himself and his country as a result.”


John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia said: “What we are witnessing in the Mediterranean is a man-made tragedy of appalling proportions. These latest deaths at sea come as a shock, but not a surprise.

“Whilst merchant vessels and their crews have bravely attempted to fill the gap left by the chronic shortfall in specialist search and rescue teams, they are not designed, equipped or trained for maritime rescue. It is time for European governments to face their responsibilities and urgently set up a multi-country concerted humanitarian operation to save lives at sea.”


Refugee Ship Sinks Off Libyan Coast—700 Souls Aboard

[Italy and Malta are directly in the stream/river of refugees that the ISIS terrorists have turned toward Europe.  The Italian Foreign minister has proposed a massive international bombing of the militant encampments along the Mediterranean coast as a means to stem, or slow, the flow of refugees, which the Sunni terrorist union uses as a weapon (SEE: Italian FM proposes ‘targeted strikes’ to solve ISIS & refugee problems)]

“A massive influx of refugees from Libya, where ISIS extremists have been gaining ground, can be halted or at least reduced by extending “targeted ant-terrorist strikes” into the coastal area, said the Italian FM.”

Migrant Boat With About 700 Aboard Capsizes in Mediterranean

Bloomberg Business

AFRICAN REFUGEES IN ITALYMigrants wait to board a ship to leave the Island of Lampedusa, Italy, to be transferred in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Friday, April 17. Italy has been dealing with a wave of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who have boarded rickety vessels in Libya, paying human traffickers to take them across the Mediterranean Sea to refuge in Europe. Photographer: Francesco Malavolta/AP Photo

A fishing boat packed with about 700 migrants was reported capsized 60 nautical miles (110 kilometers) from the Libyan coast, in what may become the largest refugee tragedy in the Mediterranean.

Italy and Malta immediately deployed navy and coast guard ships in an effort to rescue survivors. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Sunday morning that 28 bodies had been recovered but the number is “bound to increase.” Maltese officials said 28 people had been rescued.

“If confirmed, this would be the largest tragedy ever in the Mediterranean involving migrants,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a telephone interview. “Nobody should be allowed to die this way.”

Italy has been dealing with a wave of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who have boarded rickety vessels in Libya, paying human traffickers to take them across the Mediterranean Sea to refuge in Europe. Italian politicians have been seeking increased international support to cope with the influx.

A Maltese military spokesman, who asked not be identified by name, confirmed Italian news reports that about 700 migrants were on board when the boat left the Libyan port of Zuara. The spokesman said the boat capsized about midnight on Saturday.

Italian news reports said the boat capsized when the passengers rushed to one side after spotting a merchant ship, in hopes of being rescued.


FBI Director Comey Pisses-Off Poland and Hungary For Equating Them With the Nazis

“the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary”

Palikot writes a letter to Obama. This is a reaction to the words of the head of the FBI Polish responsibility for the HolocaustPalikot pisze list do Obamy. To reakcja na słowa szefa FBI o współodpowiedzialności Polaków za Holocaust

FBI Director James Comey’s Remarks at National Tribute Dinner


April 15, 2015

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. First, a word of congratulations to the remarkable people that you have honored here tonight. I am honored that you have invited me to share some thoughts with you this evening. I would like to explain to you why the FBI’s partnership with the Museum matters so very much. And I will be brief.

* * *

I believe that the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history. And I mean “significant” in two different ways.

It is, of course, significant because it was the most horrific display in world history of inhumanity—one that simply defies words and challenges meaning. I was born into an Irish Catholic family in the New York area in this great, wonderful, and safe country, but the Holocaust has always haunted me and it has long stood as a stumbling block to faith.

How could such a thing be? How is that consistent with the concept of a loving God? How is that in any way reconcilable with the notion of a God with a role in human history? How could there possibly be meaning in life, when so many lives were snuffed out in such a fashion?

I have asked those questions since I was a young teenager. I have asked them my entire life.

I asked the same questions standing in the pit at Ground Zero in early 2002.

I have asked those questions many times as I have confronted unimaginable suffering and loss.

And I know I am in good company asking such questions. Last month, on a flight home from Eastern Europe, I re-read Viktor Frankl’s wrenching Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he seeks to find meaning in suffering and loving, among other things.

And going much farther back, back before I was a religious studies major in college, I recalled the voice from the whirlwind in the Book of Job, rebuking us for even asking the question “Why?” “How dare you!” the voice seems to say. “It is not for you to ask, it is not for you to know.”

And yet I ask, as so many of us do. And I still don’t know.

But I do know this: I know it is our duty, our obligation, to make sure some good comes from unimaginable bad. Not so we can comfort ourselves by saying, “Oh, that was worth it then.” That’s nonsense. That would be perverse. It will never be “worth it.”

Instead, I believe it is simply our duty to do that, and I believe this is truth no matter where you come from on a philosophical or religious spectrum. Our obligation is to refuse to let bad win, to refuse to let evil hold the field. As Abraham Lincoln said on a field of unimaginable pain and loss, it is essential “… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” Our resolution does not justify the loss, but we simply cannot be alive and give up.

There are so many ways to fight evil to ensure it doesn’t hold the field. This room is full of people who have made that fight their life’s work—to ensure that evil does not hold the field. They have made that fight their entire life.

Some by public service that involved actual physical battles against evil; others by different kinds of service, including the service of teaching a world what happened, teaching a world what is true.

* * *

And part of what you have taught is the second reason I believe the Holocaust is the most significant event in world history.

It was, as I said, just a couple of minutes ago, the most horrific display in world history of inhumanity.

But it was also the most horrific display in world history of our humanity—of our capacity for evil and for moral surrender.

And that second significance is the reason I require every new FBI special agent and intelligence analyst go to the Museum. Naturally, I want them to learn about abuse of authority on a breathtaking scale. But I want them to confront something more painful and more dangerous: I want them to see humanity and what we are capable of.

I want them to see that although this slaughter was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by, and followed by, people who loved their families, took soup to a sick neighbor, went to church, and gave to charity.

Good people helped murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all—that our very humanity made us capable—even susceptible—of surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil. Of being cowed by those in power of convincing ourselves of nearly anything.

In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.

That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the Museum. I want them to stare at us, and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender. I want them to walk out of that great museum treasuring the constraint and oversight of divided government, the restriction of the rule of law, the binding of a free and vibrant press. I want them to understand that all of this is necessary as a check on us because of the way we are. We must build it, we must know it, and we must nurture it now, so that it can save us later. That is the only path to the responsible exercise of power.

* * *

So my thanks to this room full of people who have chosen to devote their lives to ensuring that evil does not hold the field. And, on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thank you for making us better.

Iran And ISIS – Convenience Is The Enemy Of Research

The Real Boss of ISIS, Iraqi Gen. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Killed In Tikrit

Gen. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri

[Iraqi General al-Douri, right-hand of Saddam Hussein, is the one element that can explain both Al-Q In Iraq and Al-Q In Arabian Peninsula.  His spy network in Iraq automatically reported to him the names of those released from US prisoner of war camps, like Camp Bucca, as well as the names of Saudis released from Guantanamo into Saudi rehabilitation programs, the alma mater of all Al-Q in Yemen leaders.  (SEE: What is the truth about ISIS?Yemen–al-Munasaha , Saudi Re-Education)]

Hussein deputy, insurgent leader al-Douri killed, Iraqi TV reports

Iraq: Understanding the coup in Mosul and its consequences

[PART ONE published previously (SEE: The Very Real Conspiracy Between Al Douri’s Baathists and ISIS In Mosul).]


All the cards are in Bashar al-Assad’s hands


A woman holds a picture of re-elected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as she celebrates in Damascus after he was announced as the winner of the country’s presidential elections on June 4, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Joseph Eid)

By: Nahed Hattar

Published Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Objections to the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s presidency dissipated quickly. There were few passing comments, silence and in the end, a de facto recognition that a political majority in Syria stands behind the president. At the same time, there is an explicit recognition of the Syrian army, its cohesion, tenacity, abilities and achievements on the ground. In addition, local, regional and political reconciliation is spreading. The new Syrian government is expected to include opposition and independent figures. It has become evident today that Syria is a national, civil state that did not disintegrate, but rather managed to preserve its agencies and operations despite everything that happened.


At this moment, the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is heading the armed rebellion in Iraq, it is committing the most heinous massacres and threatening regional security as a whole. An international decision has been slow in coming, waiting for the picture to become clearer. What is the size of ISIS and the Baathist Naqshbandi army versus the size of the tribes and organizations of officers from the former Iraqi army in this rebellion? Can the latter contain ISIS and impose political changes in Baghdad at the same time? The thing is, ISIS’ organizational and military power, its armament and finance capabilities and its violent and barbaric criminality mean it is in control of this rebellion. Baghdad will be blackmailed but the international consensus to confront ISIS will not be delayed for long. Is it possible to provide political cover to fight ISIS in Iraq without doing the same in Syria? That is improbable of course. Just like it is unlikely now to distinguish between ISIS, al-Nusra Front and the other Salafi groups fighting in Syria. The international mandate will logically include fighting all those factions. This is the second card in Assad’s hands.


Terrorism’s geopolitical battle expected to achieve something has moved to Iraq where the social and sectarian nurturing environment embraces all sorts of insurgents and faces an army that is weak in terms of its cohesion, training, arming and capabilities. Iraq now is a magnet for foreign terrorists. They will migrate even from Syria to the new field of jihad. Tactically, this is a unique moment to pounce on terrorist groups in Syria. The day before last, Syrian planes began pounding ISIS’ positions. A battle of this kind rarely happened before, but the moment has come.


In the quick battle to liberate Kassab, there was a kind of surrender by the fighters of al-Nusra Front and the other armed groups. They withdrew ruefully because of the “lack of ammunition.” But in reality, it is perhaps more out of despair. The Turks refused to allow the terrorists into Turkey except those wounded and in critical condition. These groups, that had been threatening Latakia until very recently, went to the Idlib countryside in utter disappointment. What will those defeated groups do there except anticipate another defeat or look for an escape route to Iraq?(5)

A terrorist Erdoganist Turkey is today on the verge of change enabled by the power of developments. Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies are coming head to head with the outbreak of the terrorism phenomenon regionally. His calculations based on his spiteful sectarian motives, expansion into Syria and Iraq and seizing control of the Kurdish issue is countered by the concern of the ruling establishment over the repercussion of all of that on Turkey’s security. With the international mood moving towards giving priority to combating terrorism, the game of the obsessed terrorist invader in Ankara ends.


As Saudi Arabia saw its frenzy reach its peak with its blowback possibly hitting it soon, it started to turn around as seen in a statement in which it calls for a “national unity government to restore security and stability to the country.” Riyadh has no other options in Iraq. The US accepted Iranian support for Baghdad (consider the statement by US secretary of state John Kerry, which called for coordination with Tehran regarding the situation in Iraq) will prevent rebel control of the capital by any faction. Continuing south means a sectarian war which is not permitted internationally. On the other hand, the separation of the Sunni Iraqi provinces into a region teeming with armed groups of every kind, stripe and color with ISIS playing a prominent role as the strongest one, will pose an unprecedented security risk – through Iraq or Jordan – to Saudi Arabia which will fall in line now, whether it wants to or not, under any international anti-terrorism umbrella. The only road open to it is reaching an understanding with Damascus.


As ISIS terrorists approach the Jordanian borders, Amman is no longer willing to get involved in any plans along the northern border with Syria. The Jordanian government is mobilizing more troops in anticipation of terrorist infiltration from the East (there is information about catching infiltrators and two car bombs were caught trying to cross Jordanian territory) and in anticipation of new Iraqi migration. Jordan has no other option but to rely on Damascus.


Iraqi Kurdistan, practically a partner in the Mosul conspiracy, seized control of Kirkuk. But it also got an old and deeply-rooted enemy. And I do not mean only terrorism, but the anti-Kurdish Arab nationalist sentiment as well. As soon as the Arab Kurdish region settles down, confrontation with Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duhok will be reignited and the old war against Kurdistan drowning with Arabs will be renewed. I mean that the demographic change that president Saddam Hussein was trying to bring about little by little, is happening now on a large scale. As alway, the Kurds have no option but a political return to Syria.(9)

Faster than anyone thought, conflict between elements of the Iraqi rebellion emerged, the Izzat al-Douri group against ISIS and the Tribal Military Council against both. Within the tribes themselves, there are divisions that threaten to break the insurgency which ISIS colored with its criminal image. Preparations were quickly made to establish a military force from the tribe of Shammar to control the Yarubiyah border against ISIS and other insurgents. As is well known, Damascus traditionally has influence amongst the tribes. It was on shaky grounds for a while but positive developments inside Syria will patch it up and this will be essential for any solution to the Iraqi crisis.


Internationally, regionally, locally and on the ground, the cards are all coming together once again in Assad’s hands. Perhaps it would be realistic for the March 14 forces in Lebanon to get ready to digest possible future developments. President Assad is the upcoming golden voter of the Lebanese president.


“Direct line with Vladimir Putin”–COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

president of russiapresident of russia

Direct line with Vladimir Putin

Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live on Channel One, Rossiya-1 and Rossiya-24 TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.

April 16, 2015

Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.
29 of 44
Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

During the live broadcast that lasted 3 hours and 57 minutes, the President answered 74 questions out of the over 3 million that were received.

* * *

Direct line programme host Kirill Kleymenov: Good afternoon. You are watching Direct Line with President Vladimir Putin. Here in the studio today are Maria Sittel and Kirill Kleymenov.

Direct line programme host Maria Sittel: Good afternoon. Exactly a year has passed since we last met in this studio. This has been a year of serious trials for Russia: the sanctions, the drop in oil prices and the cold war atmosphere. This has been a year for us to comprehend the great tragedy that befell a fraternal people, a year when our country faced many new challenges.

At the same time, our society has become more consolidated. The Russian people’s self-assessment has grown. What is especially interesting is that the level of happiness – or the ‘happiness index’ as sociologists call it – has not gone down as one could have expected.

So, today in this studio we will discuss how we will respond to those challenges and where we are heading. We are live with Vladimir Putin.

Kirill Kleymenov: Our colleagues Olga Ushakova, Valeriya Korableva, Dmitry Shchugorev and Yekaterina Mironova will assist us during today’s broadcast on Channel One and Rossiya TV channels, while Tatyana Remizova and Natalya Yuryeva are working in the call and SMS processing centre. I would like to remind you that you can also watch us live on Rossiya-24 TV channel and hear us on Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.

We are live with President Vladimir Putin.

Tatyana Remizova: Good afternoon, colleagues! Hello, Mr President.

Our call centre has been working for a week, and we will continue to take calls during the Direct Line broadcast. Our operators are getting ready for a peak in your calls.

I would like to remind you that you can call us at the toll-free number 8 (800) 200–4040 or send text messages to 04040. People from other countries can call at the number you see on the screen.

Over the past seven days that our call centre has been operating, we have received a record number of calls. We have already received more questions than by the end of the live broadcast last year.

We now have a total of 2.486 million messages, of which over 1.7 million are phone calls and over 400,000 are SMS messages.

Natalya Yuryeva: Good afternoon. For the first time this year, you can send your questions to the President with photos and MMS messages to 04040. A picture is worth a thousand words and will be the best illustration to your problem. Our operators continue receiving your video messages that can be sent using the website or the free app on your smartphones and tablets. Just as last year, we provide live interpretation into sign language for people with impaired hearing. We will be receiving your questions throughout the live broadcast, so there is still time to record and send in your questions. Who knows, maybe the President will answer yours.

Yekaterina Mironova: Here in the studio we have people we featured in our reports, people representing all of Russia: doctors, teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs, rescue workers and service members. They all have questions for the President.

Maria Sittel: Shall we begin?

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Maria Sittel: Good afternoon, Mr President. This has been a year when you had to take on a lot. You might say this has been a year of personal decisions for you. You had to make them quickly and accurately, and nobody could do it for you. This applies to the counter-sanctions, the diplomatic marathon in Minsk, and Crimea, of course.

The economic situation is also complicated. Given the external pressure, it also required your direct personal decisions. What are the results of the year? What have you managed to add up, what has been brought down maybe?

Vladimir Putin: This is a traditional question. I proceeded from the idea that you would ask this and this is something I would have to mention in any case. So I made some notes to make sure I do not invent things or get confused in the numbers. Actually, a lot of this has already been made public, but some figures are new and I am happy to share them with you and with the entire country.

You have already mentioned some of the results. This is the accession of Crimea and Sevastopol and the complicated foreign economic situation. Something we have said a lot about, but is worth mentioning now again, although it happened last year is our victory in the 2014 Olympics, the successful Sochi Winter Olympic Games. All this happened last year.

I would also mention the fact that we have come across certain external limitations, which in one way or another have had an impact on our growth rates, on our development, though on the whole we can now see that the ruble is gaining strength and the stock markets are on the rise. We have managed to avoid spiralling inflation.

Let us look at some specific figures. By the end of last year, Russia’s GDP has grown by 0.6 percent – a small growth, but it is growth nevertheless. Industrial production has gone up slightly more – by 1.7 percent, while the processing industry – by 2.1 percent. We have set a new record in oil production – 525 million tons, which is the highest in recent history. We also took in the largest grain crop in recent history – 105.3 million tons. Overall, agriculture demonstrated very good results with a 3.7 percent growth. We are also observing growth in the first quarter of this year, and this is good news.

There are positive dynamics in a number of other industries as well. Thus, the chemical industry has grown by 4.1 percent, the production of mineral fertilizers by 4.2, and so forth. At the same time, as you have justly noted, we do have some problems. The reduction of capital investment from small businesses was a negative signal. Thus, overall capital investment last year went down by 2.5 percent.

At the same time, housing construction has been doing very well. Our construction workers can be proud that they have also demonstrated record achievements in the entire history of the Russian state. Never before, neither in Soviet nor in post-Soviet times, and not in pre-Soviet either, I am sure, have we built so much housing – around 81 or even 82 million square meters.

We also managed to avoid a sharp hike in unemployment. It did grow last year, from about 5.3–5.4 in the middle of last year to 5.8 now, but we have managed to hold it back. I am certain we will get back to this today.

Meanwhile, the results of last year show an 11.4 percent growth in consumer prices. There is nothing good about this, of course, because this affects people’s living standards. However, in March the inflation rate has dropped. The population’s disposable income has gone down by 1 percent, while wages and salaries grew by 1.3 percent. As you may know, we have indexed pensions – both social and old age ones. Meanwhile economic uncertainty has led to a capital outflow. This is also something we need to keep in mind, but if there are questions about this, we can discuss it in greater detail. I see nothing disastrous here.

Despite the significant fluctuations on the financial market, Russia’s banking sector has demonstrated good dynamics. The portfolio of loans to the real sector of the economy has grown, and what is especially good is that the overall assets of Russian banks have grown to reach 77 trillion rubles and for the first time they exceed the nation’s GDP. This is a very good index, demonstrating the stability and reliability of the Russian banking system.

I have to say that both individuals and legal entities are now returning the money they withdrew or exchanged into hard currency at the end of last year. Thus, citizens’ deposits grew by 9.4 percent last year, while those of economic entities – by 40.6 percent, and they continue growing this year. In January, citizens’ deposits have added another 2.8 percent to reach over 19 trillion rubles, while those of organisations grew by 5.1 percent to a total of over 26 trillion rubles.

Overall, if we move on to budget issues, we concluded last year with a slight deficit of 0.5 percent and managed to prevent a spiralling into a major deficit. In other words, there is a deficit, and we envisaged a somewhat greater one this year of 3.7 percent, but it is quite reasonable.

One of the positive outcomes of 2014 was undoubtedly the positive demographics. The birth rate has gone up against a drop in the death rate. The average life span continues growing and this speaks of an overall positive tendency and public sentiment in general.

These, briefly, are the results of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, the numbers you have provided mainly deal with macroeconomics and they are quite positive. However, if we consider the viewpoint of an ordinary person and judge by the questions we continue receiving on this live broadcast, the picture is not as rosy and there are quite a few problems. Let us consider the economy in detail, as this is the basis of everything.

I would like to begin with a question that was brought about by a recent publication. A participant in your meeting with entrepreneurs said you warned the businessmen at this meeting that the sanctions would not be lifted soon; that they should not expect this. First, let us set the record straight – did you have this conversation or not, and if you did, how do you see the situation.

Vladimir Putin: You did not listen to me attentively after all; you were thinking of the question you were going to ask and missed a few of the things I mentioned. I spoke of a number of positive developments, including those on a macroeconomic level, which are very important for further development. However, I also said the population’s incomes have gone down. Salaries have grown a little, but the overall incomes have dropped due to inflation of about 11.4 percent. I mentioned this as well.

As for sanctions, this conversation with entrepreneurs did take place, and I told them they should hardly expect a lifting of the sanctions because these are purely political matters, and for some of our partners I believe they have to do with their strategic interaction with Russia and with hindering our development.

Actually, I do not think this issue directly concerns Ukraine any longer, because the current goal is the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We are doing everything possible toward this goal, but Kiev is taking its time, while the sanctions have not been lifted.

The point at issue is not the sanctions. What did I tell the business people? I told them that the issue is not limited to the sanctions, that we must find better ways to manage these processes at home, in our country and economy. And that very much depends on what we do.

We have talked about prices and wages, but what is the reason? It is clear that the reason is the pressure on the ruble, its depreciation. In turn, it is connected to oil prices. We know very well that, unfortunately, our economic development has been lop-sided for a long time, and this will be very difficult to change.

What have we been doing for the past years? Wages were growing at a priority pace, much faster than labour efficiency. And the currency rate adjustment was unavoidable – unavoidable – even in the absence of the sanctions.

In fact, the sanctions came in handy for the Government and the Central Bank, which can now blame the situation on the sanctions. But the sanctions are not the only reason. We must adjust our economic policy more professionally, consistently and quickly. It has now been adjusted.

Believe me, this is a very important decision, and both the markets and investors have responded to it. It will help improve our economy and create basic conditions for further development. So the sanctions, which are definitely contributing to our current problems, and which we will possibly discuss here if there are questions, the sanctions are not our biggest problem.

Kirill Kleymenov: But still, how long will all this last, meaning the sanctions? As long as in Iran? We know that Tehran has been living under sanctions for several decades.

Vladimir Putin: After all, Russia is not Iran. Russia is bigger; its economy is bigger and by the way much more diversified than Iran’s. Moreover, our energy policy is different from that of the Iranian authorities, and this is for a number of reasons, which I will not analyse or asses here. After all, Russia’s energy industry is much more market-based than in a number of oil and gas producing countries. So you cannot really compare the two countries.

As for how long we will have to endure the sanctions, I would put the question differently. This should not be about enduring anything – we must benefit from the situation with the sanctions to reach new development frontiers. Otherwise, we probably would not have done it. This goes for import substitution policies, which we are now forced to implement. We will move in this direction, and I hope that these efforts will foster the development of the high-tech sectors of the economy with higher growth rates than previously seen.

The Russian market was too crowded for domestic agricultural producers, especially after our country joined the WTO. But now we are able to clear it up. It is true that this had a negative impact in terms of food price inflation. So in this respect we will have to put up with it for some time, but domestic agricultural output will inevitably grow, and it will grow, especially on the back of the government support measures that are in place.

I am aware of the discontent among agricultural producers. They are probably in the studio and will have an opportunity to ask some questions. We will discuss it, but it should be noted that the support is there. Domestic production and food security are extremely important, and we will seek to ensure them. Would we have taken these counter actions or not without the sanctions? The answer is no. But now we are doing it.

Maria Sittel: It is true that Russia is a strong nation, and we can endure. Many text messages from the regions are coming to mind, in which farmers and producers are all saying that the key thing is to ensure that the sanctions are not lifted, because we are beginning to step up local production. So removing the sanctions now would be a disaster.

We will come back to this issue later. At the same time there are other questions. People are recalling your press conference from six months ago, during which you said that it would take two years for the economy to recover. Maybe it is time for you to adjust your forecast?

Vladimir Putin: Perhaps we will do it sooner. Given what we see right now – the strengthening of the ruble, market growth and other things – I think that perhaps this could happen sooner, but still, I believe, it will take about two years. Considering all the factors, we are forecasting a certain production decline later this year. But then, we assumed that the start of this year would see a considerable drop in production, but it did not.

I would like to tell you that industrial production in March of this year was 99.4 percent of what it was in March 2014, and in the first quarter of this year, 99.6 percent of the level recorded in the first quarter of 2014.

In practical terms, there has been no decline in production during the start of this year. Some growth is possible but it will be contingent on the key rate, the Government’s and the state’s economic policy, and many other factors. Still, we must do our best to keep up the positive dynamics that we are witnessing right now. It should be maintained and accelerated.

Kirill Kleymenov: We are living in an environment of sanctions and counter-sanctions. Don’t you feel that something could have been done differently?

Vladimir Putin: Perhaps there is always a chance to do something differently. I do not know if something would have been better. I think we took the best approach.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, a very important question is whether we will have enough strength and resources?

Vladimir Putin: You know it is not even the matter of strength. As for resources, we certainly have a lot. The most important thing is human resources, people’s skills and willingness to work. I have had a lot of contact with people, and I know how they feel, particularly about the sanctions. But I do not want to show you the gestures – you can imagine what gestures come from ordinary people.

Our task – the task facing the President, the Government, the Central Bank, and the heads of the regions – is to get through this time with minimal loss. Can we make it or not? Yes we can, and it is not about being patient. We must use the situation to our benefit. And we can do this.

Maria Sittel: What other threats could Russia be faced with this year?

Vladimir Putin: You know, there are lots of unpredictable threats out there, but if we manage to maintain a stable political situation in the country and keep our people as united as we are now, we will be immune to any threats.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, I would still like to focus on some negative issues. The crisis is still here. The Government came up with an action plan to overcome it, but frankly we have not seen any results so far. Sometimes, it seems that the key strategy boils down to our expecting oil prices to improve, and the oil money to start flowing into the budget, thus resolving all the problems.

Vladimir Putin: This is an overly critical assessment of the Government’s work. Of course, the Government should always be criticised, just like the President and the governors. Everyone needs critical feedback as a matter of fact. Generally, criticism helps to look at things from a different perspective, which is always good.

Still, adopting a socioeconomic stabilisation plan for our country under such circumstances is not an easy task and requires a highly professional approach. These things cannot be dealt with in an offhanded manner. You cannot just throw money at the problem thinking that we have an infinite supply of it.

So, it took the Government some time to sort things out and see what needed to be done and what it takes to accomplish it. However, the plan that I mentioned was adopted in late December, and it is now being implemented gradually.

Could it have been done faster? Probably yes, we could have moved faster. Nevertheless, this action plan has been thoroughly thought out, and I believe it adequately reflects the current state of our economy. What I mean is that, first, this is an ambitious plan with a budget of 2.3 trillion rubles, which is a lot. Of this amount, 900 billion rubles were used to directly support the banking system, which is, according to some experts, the lifeblood of our economy. No matter who criticises the Government or the Central Bank, it must be admitted that these actions are correct and justified, which can be corroborated by the previous 2008–2009 crisis.

Moreover, 250 billion has been allocated to the goods-and-services sector, also via banks, but in effect straight into the real sector of the economy. A decision has been made to boost the capitalisation of the United Aircraft Corporation, i.e., to inject 100 billion rubles into the aircraft manufacturing sector. Over 82 billion will be provided to support the labour market and 200 billion plus 30 billion in guarantees to the real sector and for the specific project.

The Central Bank has provided for an entire package of what I regard as timely and economically vital measures. As I said earlier, we indexed pensions at the beginning of the year. In other words, a number of decisions were made in the tax sphere that we will probably discuss later. There is a separate programme to support the agricultural sector. Also, in the domestic transit sector − say, rail transit – things have not been finalised there yet, but nevertheless, a decision has been made to introduce zero VAT on commuter rail services, reduce VAT on domestic air services by 10 percent, and so on. In other words, there is a package, a comprehensive set of measures, and they are beginning to work.

It is probably not quite fair to say that we are not seeing the results. I understand that prices are still what they are, although they started falling in March. This is also a fact – perhaps not in all regions, but it is evident on a countrywide level. The ruble has also stabilised and strengthened. So it would be unfair to say that there are no results. Perhaps there were greater expectations, but this is exactly why I say that we should face up to reality and choose the right direction to move in. I believe that the Government has made the right choice and we are moving down this path.

Kirill Kleymenov: But by all accounts, the strengthening of the ruble has different causes.

Vladimir Putin: Do you think so? What causes?

Kirill Kleymenov: First of all, oil prices have grown slightly and stabilised. And then there is also an element of speculation because funds are simply being converted into rubles, since ruble interest rates have significantly increased.

Vladimir Putin: But why have they increased? (Laughs)

Oil prices indeed have gone up a little, but this is directly connected – and experts are already seeing this – the strengthening of the ruble is connected to oil prices, but this strengthening is not directly related to this increase.

There are other factors involved, and I have already mentioned the main one. Experts see that we have passed the peak of the problems with the repayment of external loans by our banking and other enterprises in the real sector, and we have adjusted the national currency exchange rate. And nothing went bust, everything works.

Yes, we have some problems: inflation has gone up, unemployment has increased slightly, but not like in the Euro zone: it is over 11percent there and here it is, so far, just 5.8 percent. So, all this contributes to the shoring up of our national currency.

Maria Sittel: Let us bring the citizens into our conversation. We will, in one way or another, chip in on various topics. So, while the Government is working on the anti-crisis plan, ordinary people are worried about prices: the prices of housing, medicines, and food.

Vladimir Putin: Pardon me, I would like to make a minor correction if I may. The Government has completed work on the anti-crisis plan. The task now is to put it into practice.

Maria Sittel: Very well.

Primorye Territory, Natalya Vorontsova: “Prices here have already gone up dramatically, the wages are the same and even lower than before, and there are massive lay-offs. We are not living – we are surviving. How long will this go on?”

Vladimir Putin: We have actually already begun to talk about this. It is true – and I said it at the very beginning – that people’s real incomes have dropped somewhat because of the inflation, which leapt to 11.4 percent last year. We will have to take that into account in our social policy by assisting, above all, the vulnerable social groups, the citizens who experience the most hardship.

The second most important task is to preserve jobs. I have already said that certain resources — and that is over 82 billion rubles — have been set aside to preserve jobs. If necessary, that money will be used. I also hope that the downward inflationary trend, in any case its rate of reduction, will remain the same, partly due to the strengthening of the national currency.

Maria Sittel: Thank you.

Let’s give the guests in our studio the opportunity to ask some questions.

Olga Ushakova: Mr President, we have many small business representatives here in the studio, and they certainly have a lot of questions. I would like to give a businessman from Nizhny Tagil, Sergei Partin, an opportunity to ask his question. He is the owner of a mobile confectionary company.

Sergei Partin: Good afternoon, Mr President. Hello Russia. I have the right to ask the first question, thank you. First, I would like to say that the measures to support young businesspeople and those who have only started their business are efficient. Ours is a good example of this. Two years ago, we launched a production company, and this year we have become Russia’s best youth business project. So we keep on working and doing it efficiently, and we wish the same to everyone.

We are experiencing a problem with youth personnel, and we are solving it at the local level. The point is that young people leaving school and even graduating from universities are unaware of what their talents are, how they can benefit Russia, and what they want to do in life. So my question is, how is the problem of early career guidance of young people going to be resolved at the state level? Thank you.

Olga Ushakova: As I understand it, you are ready to share your experience with us.

Sergei Partin: Yes, I have mentioned that we have some experience, and it helps a lot.

Vladimir Putin: What do you produce?

Sergei Partin: At the moment, we are making candies and expanding the business through franchising. We are teaching people excellent cooking skills, both children and adults.

Vladimir Putin: See? This is a perfect example of what can be done and in what way. Training professional personnel, particularly in production, is a key element for growth in the near term as production itself is becoming more complicated and we really need highly skilled workers in the first place.

We work closely in this area with business associations – those representing small, medium-sized and large businesses. We have agreed with them on a variety of cooperative measures. These include competences in many areas, the joint organisation of in-production practice and so on. Without this, it is simply impossible to move forward – this is obvious. The Government has a comprehensive programme for action in this area.

But of course, you are absolutely right: it would be better to start this career guidance at an early stage, in school. Yesterday, I had a discussion with my colleagues. In large cities like Moscow, almost 100 percent [of young people] want to move on with higher education. Striving for knowledge is, incidentally, a very good thing of course, but it shows, among other things, that career guidance at school, which you mentioned, is still poorly organised here. We’ll work with you on this.

Kirill Kleimenov: Let’s give our guests an opportunity to ask questions. Valeriya, please.

Valeriya Korableva: I would like to give the floor to Alexei Kudrin, the former finance minister, an eminent expert who has twice been recognised by the international community as the best finance minister in the world.

Mr Kudrin, your question please.

Alexei Kudrin: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Alexei Kudrin: This is also about the economy.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Alexei Kudrin: During your first presidential term, the economy grew by about 7 percent on average, even though oil cost approximately $30 per barrel. But during your current term, the average economic growth rate will be about 1.5 percent even if the price of oil goes to $65-$70. That is, there will be negative growth years and positive growth years, but the average rate will be about 1.5 percent, which is lower than the world’s average.

The global share of the Russian economy will decrease. There will be insufficient investment in technical progress and modernisation. We will lag behind the [industrialised] world technologically. Unfortunately, this will affect our defence capability, which depends on the economy and technological standards. No matter if we say we can manage, the figures I have provided are almost hard facts for the period until 2018. It is unfortunate, but we will be lagging behind the world.

You also said that the Government is adjusting its policy. But I do not think that adjustments can save the day. The old economic system has exhausted its potential, and nothing new has been proposed so far.

What can you do to help us create a new growth model?

Vladimir Putin: Mr Kudrin, we have worked together for many years, and we have very good and nearly friendly relations. I know your views on this matter. And you have presented your forecast very clearly, and it is very close to what can indeed happen.

To begin with, you were among the authors of the programme of the development of our country and its economy through 2020. “2020” is a well-known programme and it has not changed in any significant way. If you and I overlooked something, this has to be our fault, including your fault.

But we have to proceed from the realities of today and – you are right – to look at what is happening in the world and in our economy. The blueprints are known: we have to provide better conditions for business, we have to provide better conditions for private investment, we have to improve our monetary policy, and of course we must greatly improve the system of running the country as a whole, the Government and individual sectors, we must improve the work of law enforcement agencies and the justice system. This is a complex task. It is easier said than done, but of course we have to do it. As they say, “don’t dwell on it, deal with it.” We must do it.

Of course there are things that are well known, but, as they say, this requires political will. You know that in spite of the fairly difficult conditions, we are exerting certain efforts in the direction you and the people who share your views on the development of the economy have recommended.

For example, this year, the Government has not adjusted for inflation certain social benefits. I am aware that your colleagues, those who share your point of view, say this is not enough and that perhaps we should make more reductions and freeze more expenses, and reduce incomes because wages are growing too fast, that the retirement age should be raised as soon as possible if we are to balance the pension system in which we have to funnel huge resources out of the budget and the reserve funds. All this impedes our development. Theoretically, this is true, of course. To shape economic policy competently, a brain is definitely needed. But if we want people to trust us, we need a heart, too. And feel how ordinary people live and how this affects them.

If we keep people’s trust, they will support everything we do and even will be willing to put up with this situation, as our colleagues have assured us. But if we act while disregarding the people, then we will quickly roll back to the early 1990s, as I see it, when we will lose people’s trust and will have to spend much more money on social issues than is stipulated for onward movement, even if at a slow pace, like it was when we decided to convert from benefits in kind to cash payments, a sharp move that ultimately cost huge amounts of public funds. To prevent this, we will do what the Government and the Central Bank have proposed. I think this will suffice.

We will see if our lag will be really serious. Just look at the level of the US national debt, which is now higher than its GDP. This is an alarming sign, a red flag for the entire global economy. And we do not know which turn the events will take there.

The Euro zone has a huge amount of problems. It is coming apart. What will the debtor countries, whose debts have reached 174 percent of GDP, do? What will happen in Europe? Will the Euro zone leaders be able to help the underperformers? We do not know this either. So we will above all focus on ensuring high growth rates, but in doing so we will try to avoid putting an excessive burden on the people. Everybody knows this very well. Well, maybe not everybody, but Mr Kudrin knows enough as a member of the Presidential Expert Council. You know that we highly respect your opinion, and I personally respect it, honestly, and we will definitely listen to what you have to say.

Alexei Kudrin: Mr Putin, may I explain one detail?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, certainly.

Alexei Kudrin: The fact is that reform in the social sphere is part of structural reform. It is not entirely accurate to presume that my colleagues or I propose reducing incomes or freezing salaries. Targeted social assistance is one of our ideas. That is, the way things are now, someone needs to be paid more based on considerations other than average wage or benefit increase ratios. However, others may have to get by with smaller salary adjustments. Different approaches depending on household income are more efficient even before a crisis or in-between crises, all the more so during a crisis. This is my first point.

My second point is that, after all, our proposals are designed to curb inflation. Current inflation as of early April is up 17 percent compared to April 2014. This jump may not have happened if other reasonable measures had been taken, and the standard of living and real income would not have declined so much in that case. Remember when I said earlier that salary increases should not outpace labour efficiency? But that adjustment has now happened. If wage growth had stayed with labour efficiency growth, this adjustment would have been less pronounced. I wanted to clarify this.

Also, I believe that the Presidential Council, its Presidium, is too sluggish. It should work harder.

Also, Mr President, one more point: Strategy 2020 was developed, but it was not adopted by the Government. It remains a draft. About 25 percent of it was used for drafting various Government measures, but the strategy itself is not working. That is why I am saying that under the current circumstances we need a programme that can clearly identify the goals that we can reach despite the sanctions imposed on our country.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Programme 2020 is a guideline for our development and it is still in effect. As for the targeted nature of social assistance, I completely agree with you, and the Government has been instructed to work on this.

Regarding the issue of wages rising out of proportion to the rise in labour efficiency, I have already expressed my position on the issue and I believe that you are also right. Simply put, it is always more difficult to do this on the practical level than in conversation, even during direct lines, directly with the people, because the level of wages, the level of income, especially in such a sphere as school education, is too low to count on real results.

Granted, this leads to imbalances, like those that we have today. Yes, this happens, but on the whole we should seek to ensure that – as this is the case in some sectors – wage rises should follow productivity, not vice versa. This is true.

Maria Sittel: It is very important to preserve people’s trust, as you said a few minutes ago, and Russian people are willing to help you here by drawing your attention to the fact that the authorities, with their ill-considered actions, for example, provoke uncalled-for price hikes. I am now talking about the counter-sanctions and the fact that they have been successfully bypassed. For example, here are two short text messages: “Why is it that we were promised import substitution [programmes] but in reality we are buying the same things, only through ‘friends’?” The word “friends” is used here in quotation marks, meaning that imports are coming through intermediaries. The other message: “Despite the embargo, we continue eating Polish apples and cabbage. They have never disappeared from the shelves. In September, we had them at 35 rubles [per kilo] and in the winter they were 85. The deception is simply outrageous: They arrive in the same containers, but without the stickers or with stickers from other countries, and sales assistants know that these are Polish apples.”

Vladimir Putin: It would also be good to know who provides customs clearance for these shipments. If this is true, and it could actually be the case, we will try to eradicate such practices. Honestly, this actually makes the situation on the food market somewhat less dire. As I’ve already said, the counter-measures we have taken led to an increase in food prices, driving up inflation. Still, this is an issue of being dishonest about what you do. Please, let me know where such things are happening.

The main thing now is not to fight simply such negative developments, but to focus on fostering growth in the domestic agriculture industry. This way we will be able to free our shelves of foreign goods by economic means, coupled with a dose of administrative pressure based on counter-sanctions, so that domestic producers can have the place they deserve on store shelves.

Kirill Kleymenov: Let’s continue with agriculture.

Here is a text message confirming what Maria has just said. It comes from Yury Lang from the Novosibirsk Region, who works in agriculture. He writes: “Mr President, agricultural producers are asking you to refrain from lifting sanctions against foreign producers, give us a chance to flood the market with our own organic products. I’m afraid that foreign goods could invade our markets.” We have an opportunity to understand whether Yury’s colleagues in other parts of the country share this sentiment. The Stepanovo village in the Kostroma Region, where our colleague Pavel Krasnov is working, joins us now.

Pavel Krasnov: Hello, Moscow. This is the village of Stepanovo in Kostroma Region. We are now on a farm; there are perhaps thousands of similar farms in Russia. This cattle-breeding farm – you can see its structures around us – is the work of local farmers. Three farmers here in Stepanovo have formed a company to produce beef and milk. This farm is the result of their efforts. It is not big compared to others but, I repeat, it is like many others in this country. And the issues that concern the local farmers are certainly the same as those that interest their colleagues in other regions of Russia. These issues, of course, have to do with agriculture and support for it. But the professionals themselves can state their case much better than I. I’ll give it over to them.

Mikhail Rumyantsev: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Mikhail Rumyantsev, and I am a dairy farmer. I would like to ask you about state support. We have many agricultural programmes, perhaps even too many. But for some reason the money that comes to this region is shared mostly among major producers, big farms, and investors, while we, ordinary farmers, are left with crumbs. We would like this injustice to be rectified. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let me report in general on what is being done in the agricultural sector and in terms of its support. The host has just read a question asked by one of your colleagues, an agricultural producer. He said that we should keep the market free of foreign goods. But there is the other side of the coin, the consumers, who want quality goods at acceptable prices. This is why the state has developed a system of measures to support agriculture as a whole. This system includes two tax support options: a simplified tax system and a second system. Which one do you use?

Mikhail Rumyantsev: I pay agricultural tax.

Vladimir Putin: Unified agricultural tax, right? But this year we have introduced additional support measures. What are they? One of them – and I think it is the most significant one – is the increased subsidies for bank interest on loans that entrepreneurs use to increase their working capital. It used to be that the government only subsidised 5.5 percent of the bank’s interest rate on loans; now it is 14.7 percent. This means that if you, for example, borrow at 20 percent, you pay an interest of 20 percent minus 14.7 percent. However, if you borrow at 25 percent, your resulting interest will be 10.3 percent. But I hope that, once the Bank of Russia takes some steps to cut its key rate, borrowers’ lives will be easier.

We have allocated an additional 50 billion rubles to support agriculture this year, and approved another 4 billion to subsidise equipment leasing. Two of the four billion, I think, went to Rosagroleasing. Other government measures involve increasing the “per-hectare” support by 8.5 billion from the former 14-something – probably 14.5 billion rubles.

Now, regarding the support for small agricultural businesses such as yours. Our recommendation to regional governments is to provide two million each to start-up farms. The money comes from the federal budget.

You were right to say that there is a whole package of support measures. It is difficult to say why the support never reaches the small businesses it is meant for. To find out, we might need to explore the situation in your region specifically. The area you are working in is certainly a challenging segment of agriculture, so the government will need to think of more ways to support dairy producers. Right now, purchasing prices are often below your production costs, I know that. We understand your problems and will try to help you.

As for the problems your farm is facing, specifically, and the situation in your region, we’ll have to take a closer look and maybe talk to your governor. Which region is that?

Maria Sittel: Stepanovo in Kostroma Region.

There are more farmers here with us in the studio today, so let’s give them a chance to ask their questions.

Dmitry Shchugorev: In fact, every time I speak to farmers I see that these people carry endless optimism, despite everything – and there are many “despites.” For instance, here we have an ordinary Russian farmer who goes by the simple Russian name John. He arrived in Russia 23 year ago, and he’s been a citizen of Russia since 1997. I spoke to him – and to my surprise, I have learnt that throughout all these years, his farm hasn’t yielded a penny of profit.

Mr Kopiski, you have the floor.

John Kopiski: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

John Kopiski: Today we have 3,700 cows, of which 1,700 are milking cows. Each cow produces 10,000 litres of milk a year. We sell milk below cost, and we have no money in reserve. Now, after the well-known conflicts, the cost has increased. Today we have to sell our milking herd as we have absolutely no money.

I cannot develop my farm and build new farms because I have no profit. I have been in this business for 15 years. I cannot develop my farm if I can’t get a long-term loan not only for 15 but for 20 years, provided that a bank agrees to provide this money. You do a lot of good things, but banks are a different story.

So I cannot develop my farm if a bank demands collateral of at least 120 percent. A colleague of mine has collateral of 200 percent. To get the loan, my own contribution should sit at 30 percent. Even, as you have just mentioned, with a 26 percent interest rate. I can only hope that we’ll have to actually pay a 13 percent interest rate… If so, then when? Two years ago, I had to wait for 11 months. And we can be out of business any day.

You have the statistics. Everything looks fine, but, forgive me, this is not so. Please forgive me if I ask you a tough question, but I have five children and I love Russia. Russia is their homeland. I want their future in Russia to be secure. My son has been working in England for two years and he wants to return, but he doesn’t want to run a dairy farm. He told me: “Dad, I’m not a fool.” The future can only be built with the truth. Problems can be solved only if you know the real facts.

I am sorry, here’s my question: do you believe the statistics they show you, or are they lying because they are afraid to tell you the truth? I don’t like statistics.

Vladimir Putin: How did you end up here (in Russia)? Was it a case ofcherchez la femme? It means “look for the woman involved.”

D. Shchugorev: John has a Russian wife.

John Kopiski: I’ve been married to a Russian woman for 23 years, my whole family is Russian.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding trusting or not trusting statistics. Every country has some complaints about its statistics, but I do trust the figures they give me. If you noticed, answering the man who is in fact your colleague, the man from Kostroma who was just asking a question and who also produces milk, I told him right off that the procurement prices for milk are below cost, and this creates problems. These are statistical data. So I have no reason to mistrust these statistics.

The question is what to do to improve the situation? I have already mentioned one step. The Government has decided to increase subsidies on loans to replenish working capital. Anyway, you have been a farmer for so long and you continue to do it, which means that if things were really so bad, your business would have gone under, but in fact it exists.

There is also the issue of dried milk, which is imported in huge quantities, and we keep saying that dried milk imports, for example from Belarus, are ultimately decreasing the prices of Russian goods. As in any other economic association, we will talk it out with our partners in a frank manner to coordinate the methods and the level of subsidies for the agriculture industry as a whole and for individual sectors, including the dairy sector. This is first.

Second, we will certainly have to increase support. I think the Government will have to increase support, including in this particular sector, if we want to preserve dairy production.

However, there is one more component here. You mentioned milk yields. I do not know if milk yields are high at your farm, but I do know that the Russian average is low. Compared to other countries, our dairy industry is ineffective. What is the average for our country? What is the figure at your farm?

John Kopiski: The [annual] yield is above 10,000 litres, or 29 litres per day. I think that if we consider statistics, if we have honest statistics for forage-fed cows, we cannot say that the average annual yield in Russia is below 5,000 litres. The yield at my farm is higher.

Vladimir Putin: Twice as high.

John Kopiski: But that is because we do not have so many forage-fed cows. This is not right, because you need to manage your business, especially the dairy business. Pardon me, but this is very important.

Vladimir Putin: It is important indeed.

John Kopiski: So where is the reality?

Vladimir Putin: It is important, I agree. We are aware of the reality. You may think that this is not the case for me or the Government. But we do know how things are, and I hope that the Government will make relevant decisions to this effect, as I have already said.

Maybe what has been done so far is not enough. That said, quite a bit has been done on the back of some restrictions, including budget constraints. We have to balance the interests of a number of industries, although agriculture is currently among the priority areas. What I mean is that we are freeing up the market for domestic producers. We will keep working with you on this. Let’s wait and see.

As for statistics, I am inclined to trust rather than distrust them.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you. Let’s hear another question from Kostroma Region. Pavel, go ahead.

Pavel Krasnov: Here’s another question. We have set up a special display to illustrate it: a bottle of locally produced milk from the Stepanovo village. This isn’t a coincidence. So, what is your question?

S. Smirnov: Hello, Mr Putin, greetings to you from our staff. Hello to the people of Russia.

We are a small company, but still we are contributing to some extent to the wellbeing of our country. We produce milk and meat. Unfortunately, we now find it very challenging to sell our products, to get it to the customers. So I would like to ask two brief questions.

The first question has to do with what is known by the blanket term “social sphere”: kindergartens, schools, specialised boarding schools and so on. I would like our products to go directly to these institutions because we produce high-quality milk. Milk powder is good, but it needs to be rehydrated before it can be used. We provide real full-cream milk, and we find it difficult to compete with those who buy and resell. We don’t do this; we just need to sell what we produce. This means agricultural producers like us need some quota in this market niche, even a small one. This is my first point.

The second is that we need to reach our customers directly, to be close to them. We need to organise our own retail business, even a small one, small shops maybe or trailers, but we want to be able to offer customers our products bypassing large grocery chains, intermediaries and so on.

The math is quite simple really: we can supply our milk to a dairy plant which pays us 16–17 rubles a litre, while in a store, the kind of full-cream milk I have here costs 72 rubles or more. So who earns more per litre of milk: we, who produce it, or those who buy and resell?

So that is why farmers are so keen to have a channel to sell their products directly to customers, so that customers would be able to buy directly from their farmers.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: About the cost and purchase prices – we have already agreed that this is an issue we certainly need to address.

With regard to selling your product, milk. We have talked about this many times, and even adopted special legislation to protect agricultural producers and help them get their produce to grocery stores. If that is not enough, we can come back to this again and review this issue one more time.

Regarding the use of milk in social institutions, such as kindergartens, schools, etc., these issues should be addressed at the regional and local levels. I hope that your governor and other governors hear us and will act upon this.

However, in this case, you will still need to look at the price level, because if a region buys something, milk in this particular case, then of course, the regional authorities will be thinking about how much they can afford to spend on a particular product (it involves budget funds, which are limited).

And, finally, your last proposal, or rather idea, to operate through your own outlets. You are talking about large urban areas, right?

S. Smirnov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: That’s what I thought. Does it have to do with purchasing some retail space or setting up temporary selling spots? Is that what we are talking about?

S. Smirnov: I am not talking about the markets, because first, milk is a perishable product, and second, we want to be closer to our customers. We want to establish a presence in residential areas. There are clean water programmes with small outlets selling clean water. We need municipal authorities to give us five to six square metres in a city and hook us up to a power line. We will build a stall, which will be part of the urban development plan. So, everything will look good and neat and will be consistent with the sanitary-epidemiological regulations.

Vladimir Putin: I am sure it will. You know, there are misgivings, in particular among local authorities, because of the negative experience with outdoor markets, even very small ones. There is a problem here, that retail chains and individual stores sell expiring or expired goods to these small markets.

But you are speaking about very practical issues related to the marketing of particular goods, and I fully agree with you. We will send a signal to the heads of regions, who will in their turn get to the municipal authorities. I see nothing bad in this; the idea is very good because it will reduce the distance between the producers and their buyers. Indeed, we sell kvass and water at outdoor facilities, so why not sell milk too?

I fully agree with you. I will certainly discuss this idea with governors.

Thank you, and good luck.

Kirill Kleymenov: We thank the village of Stepanovo for taking part in this Direct Line.

We can also take questions from the audience. Valeriya, go ahead please.

Valeriya Korableva: We have a question on foreign policy. We have here MGIMO Rector Anatoly Torkunov, a diplomat, historian and political scientist.

Anatoly Torkunov: Thank you.

Mr President, we know that our prosperity and economic development largely depend on foreign developments, the global political agenda and international relations.

My question is specific rather than global. This week the media carried dozens and even hundreds of comments on Monday’s statement about removing obstacles to sending S-300 air defence systems to Iran. At one point we signed this agreement with Iran but then suspended it later.

In commenting on this issue, both journalists and politicians expressed many apprehensions over sending the S-300 missiles, that it would impede the completion of our six-way talks on Iran’s nuclear programme. Moreover, some of them even claimed the air defence systems would aggravate the situation in the Middle East.

This morning I also read Angela Merkel’s statement that the sanctions should have been cancelled simultaneously rather than one by one. Meanwhile, some people in Israel are saying, as you may have heard, that if the S-300 systems are sent to Iran, Israel would take its own measures, including arms sales to Ukraine. I would like to know what you think about this.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, we signed this contract way back in 2007. In 2010 it was suspended by a presidential executive order because of the problems over the Iranian nuclear programme. This was really the case, but today we can clearly see – and you understand it well, as an experienced person – that our Iranian partners are demonstrating a lot of flexibility and an obvious desire to reach a compromise on their nuclear programme.

In effect, all participants in the process have announced that an agreement has been reached. Now they only have the technical details to deal with, and they will complete this before June. This is why we made this decision.

I have not read or heard the statement by the German Federal Chancellor and cannot comment on it for this reason. But if someone fears that we have started cancelling the sanctions, apparently our colleagues do not know that the supply of these systems is not on the UN list of sanctions. We suspended this contract absolutely unilaterally. Now that there is obvious progress on the Iranian track, we do not see why we should continue imposing this ban unilaterally – I would like to emphasise this again.

As for the list of sanctions envisaged by the UN resolutions, we will of course act in unison with our partners. We have always cooperated with this, and I would like to stress that we have made a large contribution to the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.

Moreover, our companies made this equipment. It is expensive – worth about a billion dollars ($900 million). Nobody is paying our companies for these systems. There was a hint that they could be bought, but nobody buys. So we have to ask: why should we take the loss?

But the situation is improving and this equipment is not on the sanctions list. I think that on the contrary, our Iranian partners should be encouraged to continue in the same vein. In addition, there is one more aspect to this problem.

You mentioned the position of our Israeli partners. I must say, in our military arms exports we have always focused on the situation in the region in question – most importantly, in the Middle East. Speaking of which, we are not the Middle East’s largest arms supplier. The United States provides many more arms to the region and takes a much greater profit.

Well, just recently, Israel expressed concern over our exports of the same S-300 missiles to another country in the region. They stressed that if successful, this arrangement could result in big changes, even geopolitical changes, in the region because the S-300 can reach Israel from that country’s territory even though it is not an aggressive weapon. But as one of my counterparts said, none of Israel’s planes will be able to take off. And this is a serious problem.

We consulted with our buyers. Our partners in one of the Arab countries were quite understanding about the issue. So we cancelled the contract altogether and returned the advance payment of $400 million. We are trying to be very careful.

As far as Iran is concerned, it is a completely different story that does not pose any threat to Israel whatsoever. It is a solely defensive weapon. Moreover, we believe that under the current circumstances in the region, especially in view of the events in Yemen, supplies of this kind of weapon could be a restraining factor.

Maria Sittel: Mr President, we will get back to foreign policy later. I would like to steer the conversation back to Russia. Many people are complaining about high interest rates. I have two messages here.

Larisa Kim from Sverdlovsk Region: “Sberbank raised interest rates for small business loans that had already been extended by three percentage points, effective April 2015, and this despite the fact that the Central Bank is cutting its interest rates. New loans are now offered at an interest rate of 23–25 percent. Is there a way to influence how Sberbank provides financing to small businesses?”

Here’s a follow-up question. Sergei Yermachenko from Irkutsk: “When will loans become more affordable and reasonable in Russia? Interest rates at 35–55 percent kill the appetite and opportunities for business development.”

Vladimir Putin: Regarding small and medium-sized enterprises, support programmes are in place. I will not name them all. I think that those involved in SMEs should be aware of them. This information is public, you can find it online or through relevant business associations.

Just as with agriculture, it may seem that initiatives targeted at SMEs are underfunded. This is the way people should actually feel, because small and medium-size enterprises account for a smaller share of GDP in Russia compared to developed economies. Without a doubt, this is not the way it should be.

One of the main vectors is to create clusters of small enterprises serving major corporations. This is a project for the future. That said, we already have SME quotas in state and municipal procurement. A decision to provide a two-year tax holiday for people starting a business has already been made. This measure is especially relevant for entrepreneurs in rural areas, since they can also benefit from programmes offered by the state loan guarantee agency. The Central Bank of the Russian Federation maintains its interest rate for commercial banks at 6.5 percent. It is true that only one bank, a subsidiary of Vnesheconombank, currently offers such loans. Just recently, I was told by the Central Bank Governor that they intend to increase the number of banks offering such transactions. A bank with SME loan contracts will be able to benefit from a 6.5 percent interest rate from the Central Bank, which means that borrowing costs will be lower compared to market rates.

However, what you have said is, of course, over the top. Naturally, it is important to see what kind of client the bank is dealing with. If there is no collateral, if there is no credit history, then of course, the bank will increase the interest rate. But 35 or 55 percent is an unrealistic figure. Sberbank’s principal shareholder is the Central Bank of the Russian Federation: the Bank of Russia. I will certainly ask Elvira Nabiullina to look into what is going on there. Leave me this information.

Maria Sittel: 35, 55 [percent] – this is not Sberbank.

Vladimir Putin: And the previous one – what was it?

Maria Sittel: 23–25 – Sberbank.

Vladimir Putin: 23–25, maybe that was before the key interest rate was reduced? Well, anyway, this needs to be looked into. Please, give me this information later as well, okay?

Maria Sittel: Right, we will give it to you after the programme. This seems to be a good time for questions about the civil service, because there really are a lot of them. It seems that in turbulent times people pin special hopes on the civil service, with a lot of them asking questions like these: “How professional, in your opinion, is the civil service?” “Is it not the time to bring professionals back into the civil service?” and “Maybe a professional banker should be appointed to head the Central Bank?” These are the kinds of questions being asked.

Vladimir Putin: What “bring professionals back to the civil service” mean? There should always be professionals in the civil service. If there aren’t, this is sad. In fact, we are short of professionals. Incidentally, we seek to provide appropriate wages to attract the most proficient and best-qualified people from the labour market to the civil service. To reiterate, it is always better to have professionals in the civil service to prevent crises. However, if a crisis has struck for objective reasons, then we should find our way out of it with gains, not losses.

Speaking of the Central Bank, I have no major claims concerning its work. By the way, what do you mean by “returning a banker to head the Central Bank”? The Central Bank is not just a commercial bank; actually, it is not a commercial bank at all, it is the main regulator of the Russian monetary and credit sector. Now it also has been vested with larger authorities. That is why a person is needed who has a good knowledge of the work and functions of a banking system, but it has to be a specialist with specific knowledge, economic knowledge, in the first place. One can criticise the Central Bank – and here is a hidden criticism of the Central Bank – for its delay in taking a decision on raising the key interest rate. If they had done it earlier, then probably it wouldn’t be 17 percent. But I would like to stress that overall, all experts – both Russian and foreign – consider the Central Bank’s actions to be professional and efficient, with the necessary results achieved.

Kirill Kleymenov: Now it is time for us to link with the centre for processing phone calls and messages. But first, I would like to ask a question that comes up frequently. “Mr President, foreign currency mortgage borrowers are in trouble. I am appealing to you concerning the currency mortgage issue. We are aware of the Government’s negative attitude to this problem. We are not asking for our debts to be waived, we are asking to re-evaluate, on a legislative basis, the exchange rate in effect until devaluation and thus to make us equal with ruble mortgage borrowers. A law is needed here, as banks will not reject excess profit voluntarily. We are ready to continue paying the mortgage loan to the bank, but on adequate and reasonable terms.” And so on. Mr President, what do you think of this issue?

Vladimir Putin: My overall opinion on people’s problems is that one must always aspire to help them. The reason the state exists is to help people.

What is this particular case about? Not the one that you just read, I do not know who wrote it, but in general, how did the problem arise? No, let me approach it from a different angle. You know, mortgage loans in foreign currency are worthwhile for those who get paid in foreign currency. Assume someone lives in London, New York, Paris or Berlin and is paid in euros or dollars, but plans to live in Russia, as our friend from the United Kingdom and his children, who want to move to Russia. They get paid in foreign currency. His son lives abroad and is paid in foreign currency. He can take out a mortgage loan in foreign currency, because he does not expose himself to the exchange rate risk. However, if someone gets paid in rubles, but takes a loan in foreign currency, he or she would assume this risk. If the rate changes unfavourably, he or she will get in trouble. We should look into that. I am not familiar with the details, but when people take mortgage loans, banks do not assume the exchange rate risk. That way, customers assume this risk on their own accord.

With regard to those who took a mortgage in rubles and found themselves in a tough spot, the Government decided to help these people out. Some money, about 4.5 billion rubles, has been allocated from the budget to this end.

Kirill Kleymenov: Are you talking about the people who took out loans in rubles?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. But this applies only to people who found themselves in a tough spot, such as having lost their jobs. Perhaps the Government can think of ways to help those who took out a mortgage loan in foreign currency due to an unfavourable exchange rate, but this assistance should not be greater than the one provided to the people who took mortgage loans in rubles. In any case, the approach should be uniform.

Kirill Kleymenov: I just wanted to make a small clarification in defence of those people. The fact is that often mortgage loans in foreign currency were taken by customers who bought housing on the secondary market, and they had no choice. The banks did not extend ruble mortgage loans to buy pre-owned real estate.

Vladimir Putin: No, banks are required to extend mortgage loans in rubles. We do live in the ruble zone. But this is a different story. If they refused, you should have insisted, because the interest was as high as 12%. As I said, last year we reached a record volume of housing construction at 12% interest rate. That was for the first time in Russia’s history. The 12% interest rate actually turned out fine enough. Now, the Government also plans to support mortgage and has already approved financing for this.

Kirill Kleymenov: You mean new housing.

Vladimir Putin: Yes. I mean new development projects, and yes, our goal is not only to help people get new housing at affordable prices but also to support the construction market, which, in turn, creates a great number of jobs and encourages employment in related industries, such as building materials and so on, in power engineering and road construction. It is an important sector of any economy – the Russian economy as well.

This is another reason for our decision to subsidise mortgage loans. Mortgage interest has increased to 14%, and we aim to cut it to last year’s level of 12% to revive and support the growth of the construction sector. I think this is achievable.

As for foreign currency mortgages, we should help there too, but let me repeat that the approach and philosophy of that assistance should be comparable to our support for people who have found themselves in a difficult situation, but who had taken their loans in rubles.

Maria Sittel: We have been on air for almost an hour and a half, so let’s look at what’s happening at our message-processing centre. Let’s hear from Tatyana Remizova.

Tatyana Remizova: Thank you, colleagues.

In an hour and a half of this call-in, the number of questions has exceeded 2.8 million, including 2 million submitted by phone.

The Rostelecom lines are overloaded. Our operators are processing almost 4,000 calls a minute. There are a lot of questions about the ruble exchange rate. However, an even more popular theme is the commuter railway service. We are getting calls from the Lipetsk, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Vologda and Smolensk regions – I will not go through them all. We all remember how commuter trains were cancelled in January and then you, Mr President, personally and firmly demanded that the trains be restored. I suggest we take a call on the issue from the city of Balashov, from Alexei.

Good afternoon, Alexei, you are on the air. Go ahead with your question.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President! This is Alexei calling. You have pledged to bring back commuter trains. This is not happening in Balashov. Tell me, please, how our rural economy can be restored if we used to have a regular train service between Balashov and Saratov, but then it was cancelled a year ago and now people are unable to go anywhere. How are young people who live in villages supposed to study if there is no train service? How is this possible? On the one hand, we want to develop, but on the other, we deny young people access to studies and make it impossible for rural residents to move around.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Alexei, what can I say? I can only say that I share your opinion that this is unacceptable. I will not get into the details of this problem now. You may not be very interested in them, but in a nutshell, the problem is that commuter rail services are unprofitable for the carrier. They became even more lossmaking when the tariffs were raised for the maintenance and upkeep of everything having to do with rail services: tracks, infrastructure, etc.

The costs went up several times. It is for this reason that my response to this decision was so negative. When costs were increased several-fold, the regions were unable to pay. They simply lack the resources. So they just cancelled the commuter train service. Poor coordination and the inability to foresee the implications of such a decision led me to respond in such a harsh manner. Service resumed on many commuter train lines, but not everywhere. Your line is evidently among those that are still idle. You have said that you are from Balashov? Balashov-Saratov? We will definitely review this issue. Moving forward, we will strive to find the best economic solutions for the carries, for the regions, and of course, for the people.

The region and the state will have to assume some responsibility, especially where there is no alternative for people, who should be able to live normal lives. In this case, children should still be able to learn, and people in general should have an opportunity to commute to major cities for personal, family business, and so on and so forth.

I have taken note of what you have said. We will certainly explore this issue.

Maria Sittel: In some regions demand for commuter rail service is high, while in others it is not. There are lines where people really need commuter service, but it is not available, while on others empty carriages and trains are running.

Vladimir Putin: Such trains were launched out of fear, just to show that the trains are running. But this is not a solution. It should be said that a number of serious decisions have been passed on the government level. First, subsidies for Russian Railways have been fully restored to prevent losses for the company, since a monopoly should not have losses. If memory serves me, the government reimbursed Russian Railways 25 billion rubles. Costs related to engineering infrastructure, which Russian Railways had to assume when the subsidies were dropped, were also reduced. The fact that a zero-rate VAT was introduced is of special importance. The Ministry of Finance always opposes such measures, doesn’t it, Mr Kudrin? Introducing a zero-rate VAT on commuter train service was a wrong thing to do from the perspective of our financial block, it was a forced measure, but we had to do it.

Kirill Kleymenov: And here is a result of the measures you mentioned: a positive signal from Sochi about the Lastochka train. It is a commuter train that started running in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Ticket prices have been cut to one-third, and now a ride to Rosa Khutor costs 119 rubles instead of previous 350 rubles. In the future, commuter trains to Adler Airport will resume service, and there is a rumour that Lastochka trains may run to Rostov-on-Don. This would be great.

Maria Sittel: I would like to remind you about video questions. I am giving the floor to Natalya Yuryeva.

Natalya Yuryeva: In addition to video questions, we also receive MMS messages, which turned out to be very popular. We have received 43,000 MMS messages. This is a very popular format with messages coming from people of absolutely different ages – from five-year-olds to 80-year-old seniors. Mr President, people from around the country are inviting you to tea.

They also have requests, as in this message from Yelena: “Mr President, I do not have a question but a very serious request. My friend will be celebrating her 40th birthday on April 25. She has set her mind on a dog, and we her friends are willing to chip in, but her husband is firmly against this. He is a retired colonel with an iron will, like all our military. But he will be unable to refuse his Commander-in-Chief. Just tell him: Boris, you’re wrong! Let your wife have a dog!”

So Mr President, what should Boris do?

Vladimir Putin: Oh, you have put me in a fix. Of course, people in Russia have a special attitude towards military personnel, which is absolutely correct. Women love officers. There have been various songs to this effect — about women who love servicemen because they are big and handsome. Of course, we love our servicemen not only because they are big and handsome, but because they are real men who are always here to help you, and so on and so forth. The military are susceptible to female charms too, as we remember from the jokes about hussars.

Still, though, I can’t order anyone to do anything. Boris would be right to tell me to mind my own business. And, besides, he is a retired officer. So, I don’t know what to do, how to get out of this fix. What’s the woman’s name, Irina?

Natalya Yuryeva: It’s Yelena.

Vladimir Putin: We can try to work out some action plan. For example, we could ask Boris together to compromise with his wife, Yelena, while Yelena could say, “No, I do not want a dog. I will do as you like.” After that, sure enough, he will not just give her a dog. He will give her an elephant, especially if she asks for it at the right time in the right place. He might even promise her a fur coat. I do not know if he will buy her a fur coat, but he may buy a dog. So, let’s just ask him: Boris, please, be so kind as to let your wife have a dog. It is a good thing and I’m sure pets bring families closer.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, one of the crucial issues that we cannot avoid today is, of course, Ukraine. Before discussing Russian-Ukrainian relations, I would like to get back to the article that you mentioned at the very beginning. The same media outlet has leaked one more rumour.

At a meeting with business people you said, according to this media outlet, that, during the long night-time talks with Petro Poroshenko, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande in Minsk, at some point Poroshenko literally said the following: “Take Donbass. I don’t need it.” Did this really happen?

Vladimir Putin: No, it never happened. We discussed measures to recover economic and social welfare in Donbass. There are many problems there. And we see that the current leaders in Kiev are not willing to recover either the social welfare system or the economy of Donbass. This is true, and we talked a lot about this. This is included in the Minsk Agreements; the papers that were signed by Ukrainian authorities are legally binding.

Unfortunately, nothing has been done. As we know, Donbass is completely blocked up. The banking system is not operating. Social benefits and pensions are not being paid. We talked a lot about this, including with Mr Poroshenko.

I have also said in public that, okay, there are people there who are upholding their rights with arms in hand. Whether they are right or wrong in doing this is another matter but right now I do not even want to qualify this. Of course, I have my own opinion on this score. I can qualify this and have done so more than once.

But there are also people who have nothing to do with all this. They have earned a pension, in part, by working in independent Ukraine for 20 years and they have a right to it. They have nothing to do with the hostilities or struggle of these armed people for their rights. What do they have to do with all this? Why don’t you pay them? You are obliged to do this by law. But they are not being paid. To sum up, there are grounds to say that the current Kiev authorities are cutting Donbass from Ukraine themselves. This is the gist of the grief and tragedy and this is what we spoke about.

Maria Sittel: Mr President, one more question on the subject. If Kiev has already devalued the Minsk Agreements, and if it is actually pressing for war, how can a dialogue with Mr Poroshenko continue at all? He is telling you one thing, then another thing to his compatriots and still another thing to his Western partners. How can any dialogue be conducted in this case?

Vladimir Putin: Well, we do not choose our partners, but we should not be guided by likes or dislikes in our work. We must be guided by the interests of our country and we will proceed from this.

Maria Sittel: Here’s a text message — from Vladimir Vladimirovich as well: “Petro Poroshenko is a real criminal, considering how many people died because of his actions. Mr President, were you uncomfortable or reluctant to deal with him?”

Vladimir Putin: Certainly not and I have just said this. I think that the current Ukrainian leaders are making many mistakes and they will see negative results, but this is the choice of the President and the Government.

For a long time, I have been trying to talk them into not resuming hostilities. It was Mr Turchinov who first started hostilities in Donbass. Then Mr Poroshenko got elected. He had a chance to resolve things peacefully with the people of Donbass through negotiations.

So we tried to persuade him. I say “we” meaning the Normandy format participants. To be sure, I certainly tried to persuade him not to begin hostilities and to at least try to agree on things, but to no avail, as they resumed military operations.

It ended badly the first time and the second time. They tried again a third time, and it ended tragically for the Ukrainians again, particularly, for the Ukrainian army. I believe it was a huge mistake.

Such actions drive the situation into a dead end. But there can be a way out. The one and only way out of this is to comply with the Minsk Agreements, conduct constitutional reform, and resolve the social and economic problems facing Ukraine and Donbass, in particular.

Certainly, we are not going to intervene. It is not our business to impose a particular behaviour on Ukraine. But we have the right to express our opinion. Moreover, we have the right to draw attention to the need to implement the Minsk Agreements. We want them to be implemented and we are waiting for all our partners, including the Ukrainian leaders, to do so.

Kirill Kleymenov: There are lots of similarly harsh questions. People are asking why Russia offers discounts on gas to Ukraine, why it supplies cheap electricity and cheap coal to Ukraine and extends loans to it, but is not treated the same way in return? How do you respond to that?

Vladimir Putin: You know, the political situation in any country can change, but the people remain. The Ukrainians, as I mentioned earlier, are very close to us. I see no difference between Ukrainians and Russians, I believe we are one people. Someone may have a different opinion on this, and we can discuss it. Perhaps, this is not the right place to go into this issue now. But we are helping the Ukrainian people, first and foremost. This is my first point.

Second. We are interested in the Ukrainian economy recovering from the crisis, because they are our neighbours and partners, and we are interested in order and stability along our borders, and want to build and develop economic contacts with a partner that is well-off.

Suppose we give them gas discounts, if we know that their economy cannot afford to pay full price under the contract – we don’t have to do this of course, but we still think it is the right thing to do, and we can accommodate. The same holds true for electricity, coal and other deals.

Incidentally, look, we agreed with the Ukrainian leadership in November or December 2013 to provide a loan to that country. We planned to buy $15 billion worth of their bonds, but technically, it was a loan, that is, we were to lend $15 billion, plus a $5 billion discounted loan for road construction through commercial banks.

Now look what Ukraine has negotiated from its partners: $17.5 billion for four years.

We offered price cuts on gas, and we did reduce the price on the condition of regular payments and settlement of prior debts. We cut the gas price dramatically, and now they increased it by over 300 percent.

Our past cooperation, all the ties that remained, have been broken. We have difficulties here [in Russia], but their situation is beyond difficult. Major industrial companies halt production, they lose competence in high-tech industries such as rocket engineering, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding and nuclear power. I think these are really hard consequences. I do not understand why they did this.

But events are unfolding the way they are, and we will make every effort to restore relations with Ukraine. This is in our interests.

Kirill Kleymenov: We suggest discussing this issue with the guests in our studio.

Valeriya Korableva: Continuing the Ukrainian theme, here is a question from writer Sergei Shargunov.

Sergei Shargunov: Good afternoon, Mr President. In 1994, poet Joseph Brodsky wrote a poignant poem on Ukraine’s independence in which, with bitterness and sarcasm, he wrote about Ukrainian nationalists, and even lamented about Ukraine: “Gone is the love that was between us.”

But, apart from nationalists, there are also many millions of people living there, as you rightfully said. I think that today they are at risk. Unfortunately, you don’t have to go far to find examples. There are banners that read, “A separatist next door awaits ‘Russian peace,’ call the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) hotline” – this means people are being encouraged to rat on their neighbours. A vast number of people who simply have their own opinion are being persecuted, and there are even victims. Yesterday, former Party of Regions deputy Oleg Kalashnikov was gunned down. Prior to his death, he had received numerous threats from neo-Nazis.

And, of course, I cannot but mention those laws adopted by the Verkhovnaya Rada ahead of May 9 – so-called “anti-Communist” laws that ban Soviet symbols, but in fact offend all those who treasure historical memory of our common Victory. I think these laws just legalise a policy of apartheid towards Russians and those who are attracted to Russia.

So here is my question. Ukraine believes that Russia is its archenemy, but at the same time consistently demands natural gas discounts and other benefits. Under what conditions, realistically speaking, is normalisation of relations between Moscow and Kiev possible?

Vladimir Putin: This is not an easy question although we could elaborate on the unity and brotherhood of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. I often do this. I have to.

The conditions are simple. At this point, Russia is not expecting anything from Kiev officials except one thing. They must see us as equal partners in all aspects of cooperation. It is also very important that they observe the legitimate rights and interests of Russians living in Ukraine and those who consider themselves Russian regardless of what their passports say. People who consider Russian their mother tongue and Russian culture their native culture. People who feel an inextricable bond with Russia. Of course, any country cares about people who treat it as their motherland (in this case, Russia). This is nothing extraordinary.

Let me repeat, we are willing to fully improve relations with Ukraine and will do what we can on our side. Of course, the Donbass issue is high on the agenda. As I said, we are expecting the Ukrainian authorities to fully comply with the Minsk Agreements. First of all, and the process is already being talked about, it is necessary to create working groups within the framework of the Minsk negotiations and begin working on certain areas. These include political reform, its constitutional part, the economy and the country’s borders. The work must begin now. There is no time for discussion. Practical implementation is necessary.

Unfortunately, so far, we only see continuing attempts to influence and pressure instead of a genuine willingness to resolve the issue by political means.

But I believe there is no other way but a political resolution. And everybody must realise this. We will be working hard on this.

Kirill Kleymenov: I suggest we hear one more question from the audience on this subject.

Katya, please.

Yekaterina Mironova: Thank you, Kirill.

There is no need to introduce our next guest. This is Irina Khakamada who is well-known. She also has a question, including one on Ukraine.

Irina, go ahead.

Irina Khakamada: Mr President, I have been promised two questions.

The first question is of course about Boris Nemtsov’s tragic death, which has shaken me, not only as a citizen. You can understand this. We worked together. The pain is still terrible. So I have this question: what do you think about the way the investigation is moving along and is there a chance that we will learn who ordered this heinous murder, which is more reminiscent of a terrorist act? Considering that his associates are in opposition, including in opposition to you personally, are you prepared to ensure that they, including Navalny and Khodorkovsky, can in the future run for parliament on equal footing? Because it is easy to criticize, but it is a more responsible task to conduct opposition activity on the state level in parliament. Perhaps this would stabilise the situation and stimulate private business and private investment.

The second question. At Boris’ funeral, Western journalists approached me and said – this information is also available on the internet – that Boris Nemtsov had received certain information about the presence of Russian troops during the events in southeastern Ukraine. At the funeral, the Western journalists kept asking me the same question. Can you finally say, can you say it in so many words whether or not our troops have been there?

Vladimir Putin: Let’s begin with the opposition, which has a right and an opportunity to participate in [the country’s] political life officially and legally: A) of course, it can and should; B) if they get into parliament in the upcoming elections, this will mean that they have received popular support and then their activity will acquire a definitive official status, and of course they will bear responsibility for whatever they propose. However, you are experienced, you have worked in government agencies, and you know that it is one thing to be a State Duma deputy in opposition and criticise just about everything. The responsibility here is not very great but it provides some sort of a platform and allows people to come out of the shadows. I believe that this is a positive thing.

However, in the end, the people decide, the people vote on whether a particular person should be in parliament. I believe that this is a good thing.

Let’s now talk about the murder of Boris Nemtsov. You were friends with him, maintained contact. He was a harsh critic of the Government in general and me personally. That said, our relations were quite good at the time when we talked to each other. I have already made a statement regarding this issue. I believe a killing of this kind is a shame and a tragedy.

How’s the investigation going? I can tell you that it took the investigators from the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry a day or maybe a day and a half at most to uncover the names of the perpetrators. The only question was where and how they should be arrested. We should give credit to our special agencies, who provided objective data by using not only surveillance cameras, but also extensive possibilities that they recently acquired. I am afraid I have to be careful not to disclose the cutting-edge solutions and methods our special agencies use, but generally, as I have said, the issue was settled in just a few hours. In this respect, they worked efficiently and promptly through a number of channels. The same results were obtained by different services.

The question of whether those behind the murder will be found remains open. Of course, we will find out in the course of the work that is currently being done.

Finally, the question of whether Russian troops are present in Ukraine… I can tell you outright and unequivocally that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. By the way, during the last conflict in southeastern Ukraine, in Donbass, it was the Chief of Ukraine’s General Staff who put it best by stating in public at a meeting with his foreign colleagues: “We are not fighting against the Russian army.” What more can be said?

Kirill Kleymenov: I have a follow-up question that was submitted online to our programme. What has caused the failure of Russia’s Ukraine policy given, first, that Russia had such a huge edge compared to other countries due to historical ties with Ukraine? Second, Russia invested about $32–33 billion in Ukraine, while the United States invested only $5 billion, which Victoria Nuland acknowledged. Why did we fail on the Ukrainian track?

Vladimir Putin: You know, we were not the ones who failed; it was Ukraine’s domestic policy. That is where the problem lies. It is true that Russia helped Ukraine even when we were going through challenging times. How? By supplying hydrocarbons, primarily gas and oil, for a protracted period with a huge discount compared to world prices. This went on for years. It is true that this assistance — this tangible economic support — is without exaggeration worth billions of dollars. We were actively cooperating, to say the least. I hope that in some areas cooperation can still resume. Apart from cooperation projects, we have had broad and diversified trade and economic ties.

What happened? People simply got sick and tired of poverty, stealing and the impudence of the authorities, their relentless greed and corruption, from oligarchs who climbed to power. People got fed up with all this. When society and a country slide into this position, people try to look for ways out of the situation and, regrettably, sometimes address those who offer simple solutions exploiting current difficulties. Some of the latter are nationalists. Didn’t we have the same in the 1990s? Didn’t we have this “parade of sovereignties” or nationalism that flared up so brightly?

We have had all this. We have been through all this! And this takes place everywhere, so it happened in Ukraine. These nationalistic elements exploited the situation and brought it to the state that we are witnessing now. So, it is not our failure. This is a failure within Ukraine itself.

Kirill Kleymenov: But haven’t we missed the start of the process of Ukraine’s alienation from Russia? I am asking this question as such processes might also take place in Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and other post-Soviet countries where our Western partners are very active, as you said. There are more than a thousand – 1,200 NGOs funded by the Americans in Kyrgyzstan. These NGOs are involved exclusively in political activities. And how much is Russia spending on this aim? A lot less.

Vladimir Putin: You have made a Freudian slip.You said we missed Ukraine’s alienation from Russia but there was no alienation. Ukraine is an independent state and we must respect this.

We alienated all this ourselves at one time when we made a decision on the sovereignty of the Russian Federation in the early 1990s. We made this decision, didn’t we? We freed them from us but we took this step. It was our decision. And since we did this, we should treat their independence with respect. It is up to the Ukrainian people to decide how to develop relations.

When Ukraine had a previous crisis, also fairly acute, Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko came to power after a third round of presidential elections that was not envisaged by the Constitution. This was a quasi-coup. But at least they did it without arms and without bloodshed. By and large, we accepted this and worked with them but this time it came to a coup d’état. This is something that we cannot accept. Such a growth of extreme nationalism is inadmissible.

We must respect other countries and develop relations with them accordingly. As for what happens in these countries, this is not something we can control because these are sovereign countries and we cannot become involved – interfere in their affairs, which would be wrong.

For example, we are developing relations with Kazakhstan and Belarus within the Eurasian Economic Union. What is the idea of such associations? It is not to drag them over to us – not at all. The idea is that the people in our countries should live better and our mutual borders should be open.

What does it matter where ethnic Russians live, here or in a neighbouring state, over a state border, if they can freely visit their relatives, if their living standards are improving, if their rights are not infringed upon, if they can speak their native tongue, and so on. It doesn’t matter where they live if all of these requirements are honoured. If we see that people have a decent life there and are treated accordingly.

This is the type of relations that we are developing with Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. We really want this to continue. This is the main thing, and not trying to keep [your neighbour] in your sphere of influence. We are not going to revive an empire; we don’t have this goal in mind, contrary to what some people claim. This is a normal integration process. The world is moving along the integration path, including Latin America and North America – Canada, the United States and Mexico – as well as Europe. And this process is underway in Asia as well. Yet we are being accused of trying to revive the empire. It is unclear why? Why are they denying us this right?

I want to say that we have no plans to revive an empire. We have no imperial ambitions. However, we can ensure a befitting life for Russians who live outside Russia – in friendly CIS countries – by promoting interaction and cooperation.

Maria Sittel: Russia is now home to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who came to Russia fleeing the horrors of civil war. The town of Gukovo in Rostov Region on the border with Ukraine is one such place. Let’s bring it on. Our correspondent Pavel Zarubin reports from Gukovo.

Pavel Zarubin: Hello, Moscow! We are at a hotel in Gukovo near the Ukrainian border, where refugees from Ukraine live now. Most of these people came here two weeks ago and are now contemplating their next moves, such as where to move next and how to find a job, if that’s possible at all. There are 19 people, including seven children, in the hotel. They have all they need. The older children go to school. The younger ones are taken care of by a psychologist who plays a variety of games with them.

We met everyone over the several days that we are here. I would like to introduce some of the children to you. We have here a very lively, grownup boy named Seva. How old are you, Seva?

Seva: Four.

Pavel Zarubin: Where are you from?

Seva: Lugansk.

Pavel Zarubin: Tell us about Lugansk. What kind of place is it?

Seva: Lugansk was bombed when we were in Sevastopol, and then we came to Lugansk.

Pavel Zarubin: Is Lugansk destroyed now?

Seva: Yes.

Pavel Zarubin: I see. Come on, guys, let’s go to the living room to your parents. We can talk some more on our way there. Where are you from, Danila?

Danila: Lugansk.

Pavel Zarubin: Also Lugansk?

Danila: Yes.

Pavel Zarubin: Do you have friends or family in Lugansk?

Danila: Yes, my grandma.

Pavel Zarubin: What about your friends and classmates?

Danila: Of course, they are there.

Pavel Zarubin: When did you talk to them last time?

Danila: A while ago. On social networks.

Pavel Zarubin: Do you miss them?

Danila: A lot.

Pavel Zarubin: You can now say what you want to your friends and family. They will see you on TV.

Danila: I just want to say hi to everyone, my friends, grandma, grandpa and dad.

Pavel Zarubin: Good boy! Sure, they will see you!

Take your seats. I will remind you that there are now 38,000 refugees from Ukraine in Rostov Region alone and, of course, they have many questions. Let’s move on. The first question please.

Question: Hello! My name is Alexander. I am from Donbass. Residents of Donbass are deeply worried over the further destiny of our regions – Donetsk and Lugansk. Even though many people love Ukraine, yet it’s utterly impossible to coexist with these conflicts.

Pavel Zarubin: You mean the future status of those regions?

Remark: Yes, the unification of Donetsk and Lugansk as a future Novorossiya.

Vladimir Putin: You know, above all, it is necessary, of course, for life to return to normal both in Lugansk and Donetsk, on these territories that are called the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic] and the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic], that people stop fleeing their homeland and that those who have already fled could live normally in their native home.

I know that residents of Donbass, as we commonly refer to all these populated centres – both large cities and small towns, are great patriots of their small motherland. Many refuse to leave despite bombing and shelling, as they love their homeland. It is necessary to do everything possible to create conditions for normal life in their own land, so that people can raise children, work and make money.

What should be done in this regard? Above all, during the first stage, the Kiev authorities themselves, it seems, should be interested in this. It is necessary to restore economic ties. The overwhelming majority of power-generating facilities, say, in Ukraine, use coal produced in Donbass. It is absurd and silly, or it is being done on purpose to steal money from the Ukrainian people, to buy coal somewhere in South Africa or Australia. It is sheer nonsense. And yet, such attempts do occur.

But other things occur as well: at least elementary, first steps towards restoring the economy and economic ties are made as well. I believe that – provided that the Minsk Agreements are implemented [I already spoke about that] – it is possible to find some elements for restoring a sort of common political field with Ukraine. However, in the long run, of course, ultimately, the final say about how and with whom to live and on what terms should belong to the people who live in those territories. To a significant extent, this will depend on the flexibility and political wisdom of the Kiev leadership.

Kirill Kleymenov: Gukovo, please, you have one more question.

Pavel Zarubin: We have this hotel’s staff here with us, that is, the residents of Gukovo, a border town between Russia and Ukraine, and they definitely have a lot of difficult questions to ask. Please go ahead.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Tatyana. We live in Gukovo, which is right on the border, and we fear for our children and grandchildren. When we had fighting in the area, it was so very close. We kept our things packed for days. Will there be a full-scale war?

Vladimir Putin: No, I think this would be impossible, so you can rest easy. There have been incidents, I know, where stray projectiles indeed reached your town but I still firmly believe those were accidents, not attempts to harm our people or facilities from the neighbouring region.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you, Gukovo.

The call and SMS processing centre continues its work in our studio. Now let’s find out what is happening with video calls for the President. Natalya, go ahead please.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you, Kirill. We have a lot of video calls from the Siberian regions of Khakassia and the Transbaikal Territory, which were hit by wildfires. The video calls from people who have been hit by this tragedy, who lost all of their possessions in an instant, sound more like distress calls, like pleas for help. Let’s watch a video we received from Nadezhda Makarova from Bidzha in Khakassia.

Nadezhda Makarova: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. We have a question. My name is Nadezhda Makarova. In our village, eight houses burned down, and we only managed to save one. This is our question: will the Government give any assistance to the people, because those people have lost everything, they are going through tough times. We believe that you will help us. Please help us. It’s Bidzha, a village in Khakassia.

Vladimir Putin: Now first of all I have to explain what the law says and what the Government will do for certain. First, all victims are entitled to a one-off payment of 10,000 roubles. Second, the families of people who died will receive compensations of 1 million roubles. Third, those who lost all their property will be paid compensations of 100,000 roubles.

Kirill Kleymenov: Per family member, Mr Putin?

Vladimir Putin: Yes. Fourth, 50,000 roubles is given to those who have lost part of their property. However, in Khakassia and the Transbaikal Territory this, most cases involve the complete loss of property, because everything there was destroyed by fire. The next payment is in the event of minor or moderate bodily harm or injury: 200,000 roubles. For serious injury: 400,000 roubles.

Moreover, I spoke to the Governor today. Indeed, a large number of homes have been destroyed by fire. About 2,400 houses will have to be built. This will require approximately 5–6 billion roubles from the federal budget, plus 1–1.5 billion in aid.

However, all of this requires thorough calculations. The first payments will be made in the near future. As far as I know, the Government should make an appropriate decision if they have not done so already. I am acting on the assumption that these decisions may have already been made.

Then everything will need to be calculated and all the people who have been affected will receive the support I have told you about. The Governor has been tasked with restoring all infrastructure elements and building all homes by September 1.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you. This kind of situation has evolved in several regions.

Vladimir Putin: There are two main regions, two hot spots now.

Kirill Kleymenov: The Transbaikal Territory and Khakassia.

Mr President, I suggest we return to our studio and give our guests an opportunity to ask questions. Valeriya, over to you.

Valeriya Korableva: Our studio guests include Nezavisimaya Gazeta editor in chief Konstantin Remchukov. Mr Remchukov, go ahead.

Konstantin Remchukov: Mr President, I am one of those Russians who believe that good relations with the West benefit Russia. Unfortunately, during the last year these relations rapidly soured, degraded. You have repeatedly said that the West has for centuries been pursuing a policy of containing Russia, thus, as it were, putting the age-old historical confrontation and the current confrontation in the same context. The higher the level of confrontation, the higher the ratings and patriotism are, and unfortunately, the more radical nationalism. Sometimes it seems that the more you love your Motherland, the more intensely you will hate somebody. I call this “patriotism cum xenophobia”.

Here are my questions to you. Could you specify the conditions under which it will be possible to normalise the relations with the West as a whole and with the United States in particular? Second, what policy measures to counter radical nationalism do you consider effective? And third, do you admit the issue of xenophobic patriotism exists in our country?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I’ll start with the last question. You are placing patriotism and xenophobia on the same shelf. But I think these are two different things. Patriotism means to love your homeland, while xenophobia is to hate other nations. These are worlds apart. I wouldn’t mix apples and oranges.

As for radical nationalism, we have always fought it and will continue to fight it. I always say that nationalism is a very dangerous phenomenon that can have a destructive effect on the integrity of the Russian state, which has developed as a multinational and multi-confessional society.

And lastly, on the conditions for normalising relations with the West. It was not Russia who soured these relations. We have always advocated maintaining normal relations will all states, both in the East and in the West. The main condition for restoring normal relations is respect for Russia and its interests.

I said at one of the previous Direct Lines that some large powers, superpowers that have laid claim to exceptionalism and see themselves as the only centre of power in the world, do not need allies. What they need is vassals. I am referring to the United States. Russia cannot live in this system of relations. It not only cannot maintain these relations, it can’t live like that. Everyone must understand this. We are always open to cooperation. We have never stopped our cooperation. Isn’t it a fact that in the 1990s we opened up [to the West] and expected the same attitude towards us? But we received a harsh response when we tried to assert ourselves and to uphold our interests and views.

Remember what happened in the early 1990s, how the West applauded Boris Yeltsin. But when he announced our stance on Yugoslavia, they set the dogs on him. I won’t repeat here the obscenities that were hurled at him then. When we uphold our interests and take an independent stance, all the real intentions [of the West] reveal themselves.

But this doesn’t mean we should sulk or take offence, or move back and keep aloof. I have always said, and I will say again: we want to cooperate, we are ready to cooperate, and we will do this despite the stance taken by the leaders of some countries. But if they refuse, we’ll cooperate with those who want to work with us, with those businesses that are not afraid of political bark, the people working in culture and education, because this cooperation doesn’t end. As for the attempts to harm us through sanctions, they are being made but they are not very effective.

What has happened in reality? We just discussed the rouble exchange rate. Look, last year we had to repay $130 billion worth of loans. These $130 billion were taken out by Russian banks and corporations, not the Government. All of a sudden, we lost the ability to refinance these loans on the Western financial markets. I think that the hope behind this move was that it would create unsurmountable challenges for Russia’s financial institutions and the real economy.

This did not happen; they handled it, though not without Government support. That said, it was nothing like the assistance we provided in 2008–2009 when the Government had to take over payments when margin calls started coming in, take over assets and later return them with a profit. This time we didn’t even need to use such measures, since these companies had already put it behind them.

This year, another $60 billion in foreign debt is due, and a substantial share has already been paid out in the first quarter. Using such measures to pressure Russia is useless and doesn’t make any sense. I think that our partners will realise this at a certain point. They should at least try to reach a compromise with us instead of imposing clichés that they consider to be right.

Finally, to your first point: the higher the level of confrontation, the higher the rating. I can’t agree with such a vision. Russian people have a very sharp sense of what’s going on. I’m not even talking about experts such as the MGIMO University rector. People understand what is going on with their hearts, souls and, yes, minds. And when people see injustice, they always react. Moreover, there are people who see injustice in Russia and beyond. When someone sees that we are facing injustice, they always respond. If it is apparent that we are protecting our interests, people support us. I would like to thank Russians for this support.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, we have been receiving tragic news from Kiev just as we are holding the Direct Line with you. We have just received a report that Oles Buzina, one of Ukraine’s most prominent observers and journalists, has been killed. The Russian audience surely knows him, since he took part in talk shows on Russian TV networks on multiple occasions. This tragedy has just taken place. Former Member of Parliament from the Party of Regions Oleg Kalashnikov was killed yesterday. All in all, this situation is absolutely monstrous.

Vladimir Putin: This is not the first political assassination. In Ukraine, we have seen a whole series of such assassinations.

Irina Khakamada here asked a question about the investigation into Boris Nemtsov’s assassination – an assassination which I consider to be an absolute disgrace for this country. Law enforcement agencies must do all they can to track down the criminals. As we know, the perpetrators have been arrested.

In Ukraine, which is laying claim to the status of a democratic state and is seeking to become part of a democratic Europe, we are seeing none of this. Where are the killers of these people? There is no sign of them – neither the perpetrators nor those who have ordered these killings. Both Europe and North America choose to turn a blind eye to this.

Kirill Kleymenov: Of course, we express our profound condolences, above all, to Oles’s family and all of his colleagues.

Vladimir Putin: I join in completely.

Maria Sittel: Regardless of political views, there is one subject in Russia that arouses no doubts or speculation. It is the Great Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Because every Russian family has its hero and because any attempt, any pernicious action to rewrite the history of the Great Patriotic War arouses unanimous aversion. According to this history, the Soviet Union is put in the same league with Hitler’s Germany, while the Red Army is cast not as a liberator but as an occupier. Mr President, how do you, as the son of a frontline soldier, feel about this?

Vladimir Putin: I have mixed feelings. A great deal can be said about this, but I will try to be brief.

First of all, of course, it is impossible to put Nazism and Stalinismon the same plane because the Nazis directly, openly and publicly proclaimed one of their policy goals: the elimination of entire ethnic groups – Jews, Roma and Slavs.

For all the ugly nature of the Stalin regime, for all the reprisals and even the banishment of entire peoples, the Stalin regime never set the goal of destroying [those] peoples, so the attempt to put an equal sign between the two is absolutely groundless. This is the first thing.

The second may not be very pleasant for us to admit. But in truth, we, or rather our predecessors, gave cause for this. Why? Because after World War II, we tried to impose our own development model on many Eastern European countries, and we did so by force. This has to be admitted. There is nothing good about this and we are feeling the consequences now. Incidentally, this is more or less what the Americans are doing today, as they try to impose their model on practically the entire world, and they will fail as well.

Kirill Kleymenov: A rehearsal of the parade devoted to the great Victory Day is now taking place at the military testing grounds in Alabino near Moscow. Our camera crew and our colleague Anton Vernitsky are working there.

Anton Vernitsky: We have a working atmosphere here in Alabino. Despite the changeable April weather, army servicemen take part in almost daily training sessions 40 kilometres away from Moscow, where the parade will take place on Red Square on May 9. A record 16,000 servicemen will take part in the May 9 parade on Red Square this year. This has never been the case before. There will be about 200 units of the latest military hardware that many of us have never seen.

In keeping with a sound tradition, the Ministry of Defence invites veterans of the Great Patriotic War to attend the parade and its rehearsals. Today, veterans who took part in this war are our guests of honour here. They have every right to be the first to ask a question. Please, introduce yourself.

Vitaly Kolesov: I’m Vitaly Kolesov, a retired colonel.

I fought near Stalingrad as a 19-year-old battery commander. In the first years of the war, the Red Army, our people, were fighting all of Europe single-handedly, but with our Soviet weapons. Yes, we had allies, but they opened the second front too late, although they sided with us.

Mr Putin, do we have allies now, including those in the struggle against reviving Nazism?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I’ll recall in this context the words of Alexander III, our Emperor, – I think you’ll be pleased to hear this – that Russia has only two allies – its army and navy. Later he told his son that everyone was afraid of our vastness. By the way, there are certain grounds for this.

But in today’s context and speaking seriously, we should primarily look at the current threats. What are these threats? They have already been mentioned – terrorism, xenophobia, organised crime and so on and so forth. Naturally, there are many countries and many people in the world who support our efforts to counter these threats.

We have very good relations within various associations, including an association that was created relatively recently and comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It’s called BRICS, which is an acronym. There’s also the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. These are not military blocs. These are our friends with whom we maintain close and growing cooperation.

Then, there is the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. It is a military and political alliance comprising former Soviet republics, with which we have very close, confidential allied relations and also mutual obligations, including military ones.

I move forward knowing that we’re not getting ready to fight anyone, but will nevertheless strengthen our combat ability so that no one would even consider attacking Russia.

Maria Sittel: Mr Putin, may I ask a direct but possibly unpleasant question. Who are our enemies?

Vladimir Putin: Enemies?

Maria Sittel: Yes, enemies. You have named allies, challenges and threats. But who are the enemies?

Vladimir Putin: I spoke about the huge size of our country. Russia has a very big territory by European standards and in terms of its population. Russia is also a country with enormous potential for development and is rich in natural resources. And it is certainly a great nuclear power, with one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals that is comparable to the US arsenal and is actually practically equal to it. So it is equally honourable to be Russia’s friend or enemy.

Speaking seriously, I have already named our enemies: international terrorism, organised crime and so on. We don’t consider anyone as an enemy.

Kirill Kleymenov: We won’t place anyone between the Ebola virus and the Islamic State?

Vladimir Putin: I was referring to members of the international community. We don’t consider any one of them our enemy and wouldn’t recommend that anyone consider Russia an enemy.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, let’s talk some more about the Great Victory anniversary with this studio.

Olga, go ahead please.

Olga Ushakova: Of course, ahead of this joyous holiday, we have in our studio a lot of questions on the Great Victory anniversary. I’d like to give the floor to Doctor of History Mikhail Myagkov, the research director of the Military Historical Society.

Mikhail Myagkov: Good afternoon, Mr President. The joyous holiday, the 70th anniversary of Victory is drawing nearer. However, many world leaders will not attend our celebrations, will not come to Moscow. Perhaps we should just disregard this. If they don’t come, so what? When all is said and done, this is our holiday. This is our Victory. After all, by their attitude they insult the memory of the war veterans and the liberation mission of the Red Army. It is we who liberated them. We liberated them of that Nazi plague, or they would still be shouting “Heil!”

Do you think Russia should respond to these less-than-friendly moves against our country in a fitting manner? Should Russia do something in this respect?

Vladimir Putin: You’ve answered your own question. Have I commented on this in any way? Have we responded to this in any way on an official level? This is the choice of each concrete political figure, the choice of the country he or she represents. Some simply do not want to go, but some are not being allowed to go by the “Washington apparatchiks,” who say, “No way.” And they say, “We won’t go.” Although many would like to come. But this is their choice and we will always respect this choice.

If people wish to show, in any form, their respect for the victims of Nazism and pay tribute to the liberators and the victors over Nazism, we will welcome this – to reiterate, in any form, at any time and in any place. Those who want to come can come. Those who don’t want to come are free not to come.

You’ve put it well. I fully agree with you. Some people – let’s put it this way, so as not to offend them – may even be ashamed of themselves. But it is up to them to decide. We are celebrating our holiday. It is our holiday. We pay tribute to the generation of victors, as we say. We do this so that the present generation, both here and abroad, never forgets about this and never allows anything like this to happen again.

Maria Sittel: Let’s go back to Alabino. Direct Line is on air. Anton Vernitsky.

Anton Vernitsky: I have young people standing next to me who will participate in the May 9 parade. These young defenders of our Fatherland have a question for you.

Kirill Bakin: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I’m a cadet at the Voronezh Air Force Academy, Kirill Bakin. When I enrolled at the academy, there were five contenders per spot for my specialty. This means that many young men see themselves as defenders of our Fatherland. I’m a second-year cadet, and this is my first parade.

I saw a lot of new military equipment here that I’ve never seen before. Three years from now, I will graduate from the academy and continue to serve in the armed forces. Please tell me if there will be enough equipment for all of us, young officers? When will the re-equipment of our army be completed?

Vladimir Putin: I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that there is a plan to re-equip our army by 2020. We may move this date a little not only because of our economy, but also because of some of our companies are not ready to manufacture certain types of weapons by some deadlines. However, the programme will be implemented in full without a doubt.

Will there be enough modern equipment for all? I am sure there will be. Our aim is to ensure that by 2020 the new weapons and military equipment fielded to our army make up at least 70 percent.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you, Alabino.

I believe it is important to give veterans an opportunity to speak up. They are very active: we have received a lot of text and video messages from them. Over to my colleague, Natalya Yuryeva. Please go ahead.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you, Kirill.

Indeed, we have received video messages from Great Patriotic War veterans. They are concerned primarily with their pensions and the prices of medicines, as well as housing. Let’s watch a video that we have received from the Yerokhins.

Vasily Yerokhin: My name is Vasily Yerokhin. I’m a Great Patriotic War veteran. My wife, Yelena Yerokhina, is also a war veteran. We now live in an off-limits closed military compound in Vladimir Region. We have been living in service housing for 64 years now.

I am on the Defence Ministry’s waiting list to receive a state-issued housing certificate. They promised to give it to me at least two years from now, which means we might never see it during our lives. Mr Putin, could you please speed up the issuance of this certificate? Please make us a present for the 70th anniversary of Victory.

Vladimir Putin: I will reply to Mr Yerokhin and other veterans of the Great Patriotic War who are entitled to receive housing.

When we started this in 2008, we developed this programme when I was Prime Minister, and then President Dmitry Medvedev also supported it.

We proceeded from the premise that we must provide veterans with housing. Having reviewed tentative applications from the regions we concluded that this concerned about 25,000–35,000 people. Today 281,000 veterans have received flats. We have spent 308 billion roubles from the federal budget for this purpose. This year another 10,000 veterans will receive flats and there will remain another 5,000 people to get them.

Tentative estimates were inaccurate, but despite a sharp increase in the number of those who needed housing we still decided to complete this work, and it will be done during this year and the next. I understand the problem was that you lived in a closed area, correct?

Kirill Kleymenov: Yes, this was a closed city.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Yerokhin, we’ll do everything to resolve your problem as soon as possible.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, we have been receiving MMS messages as well. Our veterans sometimes live in houses like this. This is the Trans-Baikal Territory. This woman is 86 years old. Her neighbours took a picture of her house and sent it here.

Vladimir Putin: So we must react. Could you let me have it?

Kirill Kleymenov: I will.

Vladimir Putin: We understand that often our help does not go to a veteran directly but to his or her close family members, but we are still doing this in the belief that veterans are entitled to this.

Kirill Kleymenov: We’ve just been talking about allies and adversaries. But it appears, and here all experts are unanimous, that one of the key global threats today is the Islamic State – a terrorist organisation which is rapidly seizing territories and is strengthening its positions, and which has a colossal, phenomenal budget. In Russia too, we are seeing its first offshoots – at least, people are emerging who are connected with it in one way or another.

There is monstrous footage of public executions. All this is in the news almost daily. Questions about this issue are coming through Direct Line. Our guests [in the studio] also have questions. Olga, go ahead please.

Olga Ushakova: True, it’s a very acute topic that worries many people, including representatives of younger generations. I’d like to give the floor to Oleg Kaesh, a first-year student at Moscow State University.

Oleg Kaesh: Thank you.

Good afternoon, Mr President. I have a question concerning the Islamic State. We know that there are Russians too among this organisation’s ranks. Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries have recruiting centres and we have flows of immigrants from these countries into our territory. Some of them even have Russian passports already.

I’d like to hear your opinion, how serious are the threats posed by this organisation? Is Russia capable of resisting and curbing its activities, preventing it from spreading across our territory?

Olga Ushakova: If I may specify. How serious is the danger for Russia itself? Are we taking any preventive steps?

Vladimir Putin: You know, here is what I’d like to say first. The Islamic State was born and is expanding on the territory of Iraq, and also partly in Syria. So, I’d like to call your attention to the fact that up to a certain point in time, the Iraqi regime was, mildly speaking, far from democratic, in fact, tyrannical, but there was no terrorism there.

After Saddam Hussein was disposed of… In his time he worked with the United States, and benefited from its support in the war against Iran. By the way, Iran hasn’t been at war with anyone for thirty years, perhaps. At least it hasn’t attacked anyone head-on. But after everything went to pieces there, after a smaller portion of the population that was among the elite found itself on the margins, when people were thrown out from their offices, lost jobs and were left destitute, they joined extremist groups. They established the Islamic State, which included a substantial number of former officers of the Iraqi army.

Why are they so effective in battle? They are experts. There are many professionals in their ranks. Like a magnet, they started attracting other extremists of various kinds to the region.

Of course, the Islamic State does not pose a direct threat to Russia. But what you have said is a matter of grave concern for us: the fact that Russian citizens are in their ranks, are trained there and can return to Russian territory. People from the CIS are being trained there, are fighting in the region and can come to Russia with Russian passports. We are aware of this, we are taking it into account and are working to address this issue.

I can’t say that we know all of them by name, but we know approximately how many of them are out there, where they are fighting and training. We already know some names. Special services are very active on this track. By the way, they are working together with colleagues from the other CIS countries.

Kirill Kleymenov: Olga, I see Alexei Venediktov in your section. He always has a tough question to ask. Mr Venediktov, go ahead, please.

Olga Ushakova: Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of the Ekho Moskvy radio station. Your question, please.

Alexei Venediktov: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Alexei Venediktov: I would like to return to the topic of political assassinations, especially because Ukraine today saw one more assassination of a journalist. But first I would like to comment on the investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov. You knew him well. But you know what makes me wonder? It’s when investigators cannot question eyewitnesses, when an eyewitness is hiding on Russian territory in a Russian region, an army major, and investigators are unable to interrogate him.

I am beginning to wonder, has our state become so weak? When a person is killed within 200 metres of your residence, is this not a challenge to you? It’s an arrogant and brazen murder. An unarmed person walking with a woman is shot in the back and then finished off with two more shots when he tries to lift himself off the ground. The investigators are dawdling. They have caught the killer, but they can’t even find the organisers.

And my final point, Mr Putin. People come to the scene of the murder and lay flowers. Perhaps there are not all that many of them (hundreds, a thousand). They lay flowers and put up Russian flags and they want a memorial plaque to be set up there: “Boris Nemtsov, a politician was killed here.” Like the Olof Palme memorial plaque. You know there is a plaque on the spot there. No, they can’t do that. This is litter. Flowers into the trash bag, Russian flags into the trash bag, icons into the trash bag. The place has to be clean. It’s a “garden city.”

Surely, things will not get moving without your opinion on the matter, if you have an opinion. I would like to hear your view, all the more so because you knew Boris and you spoke well of him.

Here is another thing I would like to say. You know, of course – Mr President, you are a native of St Petersburg and I’m a Muscovite – but you certainly know that there is no Vladimir Vysotsky Street in Moscow. He died 35 years ago but there is no street in Moscow [named after him]. And there is nothing that can be done about this. However, in accordance with Moscow city law, the President can make a proposal and then, say, Marksistskaya Street, which leads to the Taganka Theatre, could be renamed Vladimir Vysotsky Street. Perhaps one day there will be a Nemtsov Bridge as well. Could you comment on this? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the assassination, I have already characterised it and I believe there is no point in repeating myself.

Now about the flowers, memorial plaques and street names. You know that this is the prerogative of local, regional authorities, in this case, the Moscow city authorities. There is a law whereby memorial plaques can be installed at the site where a person was killed 10 years after his or her death. However, to reiterate, in the end, it is up to the Moscow authorities to make a relevant decision.

As for the flowers and other forms of tribute, I absolutely don’t understand what these restrictions are all about and I don’t welcome them. Quite the contrary, I believe that there is nothing terrible about this. What’s wrong with people coming and placing an icon or laying flowers there? If this does not inconvenience anybody I don’t see any problem here. I will talk to the Mayor about this without fail to make sure that there are no impediments here.

Now about Vysotsky Street. I also find it strange – I have never paid attention to it, but without any doubt, Vladimir Vysotsky, with all his creative work, has certainly deserved for his name to be perpetuated, including by giving it to one of Moscow streets. I will also take this up with the Mayor.

Alexei Venediktov: Mr President, surely you realise that I’ve come prepared to this meeting. I’ve studied the Moscow law.

Vladimir Putin: I suppose you have.

Alexei Venediktov: The Moscow law expressly states that the President of the Russian Federation – that’s you – can come up with such a proposal in accordance with the law, and then the decision will be taken fairly quickly. Please, make such a proposal.

Vladimir Putin: All right, I’m not against it. Perhaps I will use this right, but I don’t believe I should use all my rights right away, and there are other tools as well. You can talk to the Mayor in order to use his rights. We will resolve this issue.

Olga Ushakova: Thank you.

Let’s take another question from the audience – from Dmitry Shchugorev’s section this time.

Dmitry Shchugorev: We have Dmitry Abzalov here, the president of the Center for Strategic Communications. Please, go ahead.

Dmitry Abzalov: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. I have this nagging question about Mistral ships. This week, the second ship was tested and left for the French shipyard. What are the prospects? Will we push for having these ships delivered to us? Will we seek financing? In general, what will our military and economic partnership with the European Union and France, in particular, be like after what happened a year ago?

Vladimir Putin: The refusal to deliver ships under the existing contract is, of course, a bad sign. However, frankly speaking, it’s of little consequence for us or our defence capability. We signed these contracts primarily to support our partners and offer work to their shipyard. We planned to use the ships in the Far East. For us, this is not critical.

However, I believe that the leadership of France – and the French people in general – are honourable people and will return the money. We are not even going to demand any penalties or exorbitant fines, but we want all of our costs covered. This certainly means that the reliability of our partners – who, acting as part of the military-political bloc, in this case NATO, have lost some of their sovereignty – has suffered, and is now questionable. Of course, we will keep this in mind as we continue our military and technical cooperation.

Kirill Kleymenov: Our partners may find that it was an easy way for them to get off the hook.

Vladimir Putin: That’s all right, we’ll survive.

Maria Sittel: Be it the United States, the Islamic State or other challenges and threats, to sleep peacefully, we need a strong army and a powerful navy. However, it is no less important for us to have an industrial potential that will ensure the army’s needs in the form of modern weapons, for one, or even more important, that will promote growth in the civilian branches of our economy. A strong economy means social stability, and this is very important. So let’s go live again, this time with the Irkut Corporation, an aircraft manufacturer from Irkutsk, and our correspondent Dmitry Kaistro.

Dmitry Kaistro: Good afternoon, Moscow! This is the Irkutsk aircraft manufacturer with an 80 year-long history. During this time it has produced 7,000 combat aircraft of 26 models. The place we are in now is called the final assembly shop. Next to me is the head of this shop, Igor Ivanov. Mr Ivanov, what aircraft do you assemble here?

Igor Ivanov: Our shop assembles Su-30 heavy fighters and Yak-130 combat trainers. Now we are actively getting ready for the assembly of MS-21 passenger liners.

Dmitry Kaistro: Mr Ivanov, I guess you and your colleagues have questions for the head of state?

Igor Ivanov: Yes, of course.

At present our Irkutsk aircraft manufacturer is working at full capacity. We are producing aircraft both for exports and our Defence Ministry. Naturally, we are very interested in our plant’s prospects. Today we can easily produce 50–60 combat aircraft. Over a thousand jobs have been created at the plant in the past few years, and we work in two shifts. Needless to say, we don’t want to lose the pace of production. Can we hope to get a long-term steady government contract for combat hardware?

Vladimir Putin: Of course. You just said that you manufacture Su-30, Yak-130 and are getting ready to make the MS-21 aircraft. Your order book for the next two or three years is full. I assume that you know this all too well. If not, that’s how things are. Afterwards, new orders will be discussed – this may concern new military aircraft.

As for the MS-21 that you’ve mentioned, this is a very promising aircraft. We already have about 100–120 so-called unconfirmed contracts that are signed until the relevant certificates are issued. However, I hope that by 2017 the certificates will have been issued, the unconfirmed orders will become fixed contracts and the aircraft will have been duly certified.

These aircraft are being ordered by Russian companies, mainly Aeroflot along with some other airlines. That said, foreign companies are also interested, including from Indonesia. I assume that this work will go smoothly. We will not allow any setbacks in the enterprise’s operations.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you, Irkutsk.

Now we are joined live by Vostochny Space Launch Centre. This is truly a nationwide construction project. This is not just about building a launch pad, but a whole city with the necessary infrastructure. However, it so happened that a number of high-profile scandals occurred in and around this project in the last few weeks. It started with the Accounts Chamber report revealing that the costs were blown out of proportion, then the scandal with unpaid wages and the workers’ refusal to turn out for work. We have an opportunity to find out what is going on out there on the construction site. Our colleague Yevgeny Rozhkov is there.

Yevgeny Rozhkov: Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues!

Although, as you can see, I should really say good evening, because we have a six-hour time difference. Nevertheless, it is still the Vostochny Space Centre, the country’s top priority construction project. How can it possibly be otherwise? After the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, the Universiade in Kazan and the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, this site has, without a doubt, become the number-one construction project. After all, it is from this “fire ring” – this is what it will be called – that a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket will be sent into orbit in December with three satellites on board.

I think you can only appreciate the scale of this construction project when you get here. I was lucky. This is my second visit here and I know that it is not only a huge launch pad from where the rocket will lift off but also a great number of other buildings, including a mobile service tower, a command and control centre, a technical centre, two plants and seven floors below us with utilities and corridors.

As we were told at SpetsStroy – the construction company that is working here – the facilities are 80–90 percent complete. In other words, there’s only a little left to be done, and the rocket should fly in December.

As with any big project, this one has not been problem-free. The last problem came up literally two days ago, when we came here. It turned out that about a dozen people, a dozen construction workers, or even several dozen construction workers, to be precise, have not seen their wages here for about four months now. They contacted our editorial office, they called Moscow – moreover, they wrote their demands on top of their trailers to make their problems known and attract attention. We decided to invite some of these people here so they can go on air.

Good afternoon, tell us about your problems and what caused them. All I know is that your company went belly up and you came from the Primorye Territory, right?

Anton Tyurishev: Yes, that’s correct.

Good afternoon, Mr President, we are the builders of the Golden Bridge. In 2012, we built some of the main facilities at the space launch centre; however, due to some factors, our company ended up facing bankruptcy. We have not been paid for four months and people have started to leave the site. Thirty personnel remained at the site to guard it.

The indifference we encountered has driven us to despair and made us appeal to you directly in this innovative manner, so you can see us and help us resolve our problems. We still want to stay here and go on with our work despite everything. So we have two requests – one is to help us receive our overdue wages and the other is to give us an opportunity to stay here and work.

Yevgeny Rozhkov: All the more so as a greater workforce is required for the space launch centre project.

Anton Tyurishev: Yes, we are professional builders and we built the bulk of the facilities for the summit.

Vladimir Putin: I understand. I would like to ask you a counter-question: Have you been paid your overdue wages? Regarding wages, how do things stand now?

Anton Tyurishev: All 1,123 members of our team were paid 17 percent of their December wages. Earlier today, 70 personnel who guard the site received from 70 to 80 percent of their overdue wages – the amount varies from person to person.

Vladimir Putin: Did you say that they were paid earlier today? This must have been done in anticipation of our talk.

Anton Tyurishev: Yes, and in light of the recent events, I would like to ask you to allow me to report to you personally on the last rouble that will be paid to us.

Vladimir Putin: Agreed. What is your name?

Anton Tyurishev: Anton Tyurishev.

Vladimir Putin: What is your patronymic?

Anton Tyurishev: Anton Ivanovich.

Vladimir Putin: So, Anton Ivanovich, we’ll take it under double control: you on the site and I here from Moscow.

I have to say that it was yours truly who initiated this construction project. I ordered the recent inspections. All the slip-ups in the construction and pay delays are absolutely inadmissible and will certainly not be tolerated. The main reason is that the project is financed entirely from the federal budget.

I’m not going to speak about all the resources committed in recent years, but this year alone the sum is 40 billion. Forty billion once again. Most importantly, the money has been transferred to the general contractor. Why it has not reached the subcontractors and why they are not paid their wages is a big question that requires an answer and a painstaking investigator, not only the Control Directorate and the Accounts Chamber, but also the Investigative Committee. I hope all that is needed will be done. I know that criminal cases have been brought. Make no mistake, we will make sure that what you are talking about will be done: payment of all the wages and your continued employment at what is truly a major and very important project in Russia.

Maria Sittel: Vostochny Space Launch Centre, you can ask President Putin one more question.

Yevgeny Rozhkov: Yes, we have many interesting people here and many interesting questions. There are those who have been working here from day one of the project, they came here three years ago and are still working here.

Mr Ostamchenko, hello. Come over. I know that you poured concrete to make the slab we are standing on. You’ve been here from the start. Please introduce yourself and ask your question.

Vladimir Ostamchenko: My name is Vladimir Ostamchenko and I come from Khabarovsk.

In the film about Crimea you spoke about very important events, about the return of Crimea. You played a major role in this, personally supervising it. I would like to say that the space launch centre we are building is as important for our country as the return of Crimea. So the people who are responsible for the launch centre, I think, ought to know that you are personally holding under constant review all the subsequent stages.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Ostamchenko, when I spoke in the film about the return of Crimea and said that everything was under control, including under my own control, it was not my intention to single out my personal role. The point I wanted to make was to show that where there are authorities that are legitimate and ready to assume responsibility, issues are solved in a way that is in the interests of the people. But when it comes to the collapse of a state and the collapse of the power structures, everything falls to pieces and nothing works, and the results are dire, if not disastrous.

As for the space launch centre and Crimea… I would agree with you that the space launch centre is very important, but with Crimea, the lives of millions of people were at stake. The construction site is of course very important, but still it is a different story. But I agree that it is one of the most important if not the most important construction project in the country, a very large and very necessary one. And we will go ahead, not because I initiated the project at some point, but because the country needs a new space launch centre.

We need it because we practically do not have a normal launch site. We have launching pads in Plesetsk, but that is a military launch site. We do not have a civilian one. We are using Baikonur, but it is in another state, even though it is a friendly state and our closest ally. If any problems crop up they are routine problems, but there are no fundamental problems, and we will continue to use this launch site. But Russia is a major space power and it must have its own space launch centre to be able to orbit every type of spacecraft, and we will of course do this, we have ambitious plans.

We just said that by the end of this year Soyuz-2 must be launched. However, your fellow correspondent mentioned three satellites. I think there are two, one of which is the Moscow University’s satellite. Anyway, the plan is to do the launch in December. Also, there is Angara, a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Lately, we have been planning a super heavy-lift launch vehicle but I agreed with the experts who believe that the deadlines should be moved forward a little. Not for economic but for technology-related reasons. The idea is to develop our own national orbital space station by 2023.

It is a remote but very important prospect. It is important for the national economy because the ISS is widely used for research and in the national economy, but it is only able to see five percent of Russia’s territory. A national space station must see the entire territory of our enormous country. This has a huge significance for the national economy, as well as other uses. Therefore, we will definitely go through with this project. There is no doubt it will be fully under our control.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you, Vostochny. Now back to the call centre. Tatyana, please.

Tatyana Remizova: Thank you, Kirill.

We have been on the air for three hours. The total number of messages has exceeded three million, which is an all-time record for Direct Line. We have received two million phone calls, half a million text messages. Now I would like to cover a very common issue that concerns all Russian car owners starting this week.

Blagoveshchensk is on the line. Good afternoon. I should say, good evening for you. Your question please.

Galina Zagorskaya: Good afternoon, Mr President. This is Galina Zagorskaya, a pensioner from the city of Blagoveshchensk.

On 12 April, the cost of the Compulsory Third-Party Liability Insurance (OSAGO) policy increased by 60 percent. That is around 10,000–12,000 rubles. This also includes a driver’s life insurance policy, without which the OSAGO is not issued. My pension is 14,000 rubles a month. The car is our breadwinner. It takes us to our garden plot. My question is this: how can I keep going for a month with what remains of my pension? Thank you. Wish you all the best.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Zagorskaya, this really is a stumper. What can I say? The decision to raise the cost of the OSAGO was made by the Central Bank. It was an economically indispensable measure. First, because the rates have not been reviewed for 11 years. Second, because the cost of car parts has grown due to exchange rate differences. And, third, because the cost of payments related to people’s life and health have increased. These three components have caused such a sharp rise.

The only thing that can be said is that such necessary things should be done in good time, and then there will be no abrupt hikes. Otherwise, insurance companies will simply leave this market segment and then, unfortunately, a situation may evolve that cannot be described other than as chaos.

So, we will consider this issue and I will give relevant instructions to the Central Bank and the Government. My colleagues here have said that if support is to be provided it should be targeted. We will consider how this could be done in this particular case.

Kirill Kleymenov: We still have a lot of questions here in the studio. Let’s hear one of them.

Olga, over to you.

Olga Ushakova: Thank you.

Let’s turn once again to the business community. There are a lot of questions, and I think it would make sense to give the floor to someone who represents the business community as a whole. Boris Titov, Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, go ahead with your question.

Boris Titov: Thank you very much.

Mr President, a lot has been said today about small business. However, since I am receiving so many appeals from small business, I cannot fail to mention this issue.

It is true that these are challenging times for small businesses. It is equally true that a lot is being done in this respect. That said, decisions coming out of nowhere are taken from time to time that frustrate all previous efforts. Today this is about street stalls: war is being waged against them across the country. We are talking about the fact that social insurance contributions have been raised.

You know, I think that the approach to small business should be changed in its entirety. We often say that it generates budget revenue. In fact, the financial institutions are talking a lot about this, while refraining from taking such serious decisions. I do not think that it is the case, and that is for two reasons.

First, small businesses account for a very small share of budget revenues. Small businesses contribute to the budget six times less than Gazprom does. Second, the main purpose of small businesses lies elsewhere: it has a social function, it creates jobs. Small business owners are able to sustain themselves. In addition, they create affordable goods and services that meet the basic needs of the population. This is especially important in times of crisis. Small businesses act as a buffer, a safety cushion for the country’s economy.

What I want to say is that we need to fundamentally change our approach. We must take the second road, understand the importance of small businesses, their social function. Administrative pressure should be reduced dramatically. When we ask for easing the pressure on businesses, we are calling for the emergence of a new cohort of small entrepreneurs called the self-employed, who would be able to operate without having to register.

Olga Ushakova: So, you sooner have a proposal than a question – to revise the attitude towards small business?

Boris Titov: Yes. Mr President, if possible I would like to hear your comment on this score.

Vladimir Putin: If something fails to work, this is your fault as well because after all you are an advisor on these issues, so you should be more meticulous as our famous and favourite satirist used to say.

But speaking about the gist of the matter, you know about the decisions that have been made recently and you said yourself that there are no grounds to assert that nothing is being done. To the contrary, much is being done to support small and medium-sized businesses, but apparently not enough if it is in the condition that we know about. However, saying that this is a strictly social issue is way too much because small business is still business albeit of a special type.

We are expanding the opportunities of the patent system – take a patent and simply get to work. We are saying that some benefits that individual entrepreneurs enjoy could be applied to small business. We discussed this with you at the recent State Council meeting and I think we should follow this road.

Let’s be specific and formulate not just our attitude but also additional measures that should be taken to make people feel confident. I have already spoken about the programme under which the Central Bank provides funds to private banks at an interest rate of 6.5 percent. All in all, it has 50 billion rubles for this purpose and they have not been spent yet.

You understand what the problem is – I think that only 20 or 30 billion were used. Hence, there are no adequate mechanisms for using even available resources and the Central Bank is prepared to increase these funds to 100 billion. This means that we do not have adequate mechanisms for getting these funds and decisions to the end consumer. Let’s think about this. Thank you.

Kirill Kleymenov: I will now give the floor to Natalya Yuryeva. She is literally showered with video questions. Go ahead please.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you.

Questions about social security and social protection are the absolute leaders in our video centre, followed by housing and utilities, then salaries. There are many questions about education. Schoolkids have tried to take advantage of this opportunity to lobby for the complete abolition of exams with the President. There are some serious proposals as well. Let’s watch a video sent by three students from St Petersburg.

Question (posed by schoolgirls from St Petersburg): Good afternoon, Mr Putin. On behalf of all Russian school students, we would like to ask you to have the National Final School Exam replaced with the ticket-based exam that was used in the Soviet Union. We believe that ticket-based examination is a very convenient system that allows the student to reveal all his or her knowledge. With the standardised test, even if students try hard and do well in a particular subject, the test does not allow them to show all their knowledge and skills. We may get a small amount of points even if you have good or extensive knowledge.

We would like to ask you to introduce more books that students must read in literature classes, particularly in the 10th and 11th forms.

Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

I don’t think we should open a full-blown debate on the National Final School Exam now. I think that public opinion is always focused on this issue. Anyway, it’s up to the experts who have in-depth knowledge of this issue to make the decision.

It has its downsides and upsides. I will not dwell on this, but the comforting fact remains that more and more talented young people from Russian regions are being admitted to our leading universities based on the results of the National Final School Exam. There are, of course, disadvantages to this system, because it looks like some kind of rote learning when students don’t go deep into a subject but rather train specifically for the test the way they do when they take their driving test.

There are downsides, indeed, but the Education Ministry is trying to compensate for them. Literature essays are back, for example. Also, some universities, such as Moscow State University, are allowed to run additional exams that build on the results achieved at various school contests and competitions. At any rate, I agree that this system needs to be improved.

Kirill Kleymenov: Natasha, you can have your audience ask one more question. Please go ahead.

Natalya Yuryeva: You know, our centre is receiving a lot of unusual videos: someone sings, someone does push-ups in front of the camera and Timur Kochebayev has asked us to persuade his girlfriend to accept his marriage proposal. Yulia Dorokhova, if you’re listening to us, I would think about it if I were you. Many videos have come from children, even very young ones. Let’s look at one of them.

Question: Mr Putin,I come from Nalchik, and I am four years old. I have wanted to become president since I was born. Is it hard to become president? How many hours a day do you sleep? I like sleeping, you know. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I didn’t hear him very well.

Kirill Kleymenov: How many hours do you sleep, because he likes sleeping and he has been dreaming of becoming a president since he was born.

Maria Sittel: And is it hard to be president?

Vladimir Putin: Is it hard to be president? I’m sure you’ll succeed if you really want to; judging from your personality, your attitude and drive, you’ll make it. And it’s great that you like sleeping, it shows that you’ll be a healthy president.

Maria Sittel: Let’s take one more question from Yekaterina Mironova’s section.

Yekaterina Mironova: Thank you. I suggest that we get back to serious matters. Let me introduce one more small business representative: Sergei Bakhov from Khabarovsk. Go ahead, Sergei.

Sergei Bakhov: Hello, Mr Putin.

The latest State Council meeting was devoted to small business. They said all the right things there, but very little was said about the fact that small business is in an unequal position compared to big business. Big business has long-term loans on easy terms from the Reserve Fund, which enable it to live comfortably, to pay millions in salaries and if necessary open up their “golden parachutes”.

Just one percent of that money, if distributed fairly and if it finds its way to small businesses, would give a big boost to production development. I can safely say this about the Far East because getting new equipment would enable us to replace imports, which come to us from China. We are working on that.

We have some success to report. Chinese businesses are among the biggest buyers of our products. Question: is there a need and a possibility to redistribute money to small business so that there is more money for to develop production?

Vladimir Putin: You know, Boris Titov already spoke here about high tax payments, social contributions and so on. But let me draw your attention to something that Boris should be aware of, by the way: social contributions have been reduced, and they are significantly lower than payments from other kinds of businesses. Above all, this concerns small and medium-sized businesses engaged in research, the social sphere and production.

As for long money, on the whole there isn’t enough of it in the economy. You said that large enterprises receive so-called long and cheap money. But if you ask the heads of large enterprises, they won’t agree with you.

On the whole, we don’t have enough long money in our economy. And where does it come from? It comes from people’s savings, from the deposits of legal entities, and also from pension money. That’s why we are being told that the accumulative pension system should be brought back. It is true that while it worked, almost no money for economic development was borrowed from it, except in the interests of the Finance Ministry to issue debt securities backed by that money.

I agree that this is a necessary measure. And, frankly, I would very much like for you to discuss this issue together with Boris Titov, regarding what can be done, including additionally, for small and medium-sized businesses in the Far East. It is especially important there.

I already spoke of a possible transition to a patent system. I already said that it’s possible to get subsidised loans through funding from the Central Bank. There could be other ways of benefiting and supporting small and medium-sized businesses. Talk it over. If there are additional constructive proposals, I will gladly support them.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, I’d like to ask about money as well, although a different kind of money. The top officials’ income declarations were published yesterday. They were very interesting to look at. So why aren’t the leaders of major state corporations required to disclose their incomes? How is this fair?

Vladimir Putin: I think the Government decided against it because there are quite a few foreign nationals sitting on their management boards and boards of directors. They are not top executives of course – something that is quite common in Ukraine, by the way. What they have is external management. They even have a foreigner serving as finance minister, and other key ministers, for that matter, as if there are no honest, decent and professional Ukrainians to fill these posts. In our corporations, many foreign professionals hold the second or third position, as board members. We cannot require that they disclose their incomes; we can’t just tell them to do so. Neither can we discriminate between Russian and non-Russian board members with regard to their disclosure requirements. It would be wrong to make Russians do so and waive this requirement for their foreign co-workers.

However, in most Western economies, the leaders of large corporations do this voluntarily. Our Government has even adopted a business code. It has been adopted, but it is not actually working. If you ask me, I would suggest that the leadership of large corporations simply declare their incomes – it won’t hurt them.

Maria Sittel: Now is the right time to go to the message processing centre. Tatyana, what are the most popular topics now? Who is calling? What is the level of activity?

Tatyana Remizova: Maria, there is unprecedented activity, as I said earlier. We have already set an all-time record for call-in shows, reaching over 3 million questions. The number of phone calls is continuing to grow exponentially. The most popular topics include social issues and housing and utilities. There are a lot of calls about the healthcare system and especially many questions about medicines. We are ready to put on one such call now. The village of Voronezhskaya in Krasnodar Territory is on the line. Yelena will now ask her question.

Good afternoon, Yelena, go ahead.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My child has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Doctors have prescribed medications – five in all. Pharmacies have not been providing them since January, saying they have none in stock. We are on a federal list for free medicine provision. When my child is in hospital, we get the necessary medicines. I am asking you to ensure that we receive life-saving medications. Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: I would like you to give me all the contact information on the woman who has just called, and here is why. The fact is that the Russian Government has not only expanded the list of vital medications to 608 (by 52 positions) – it now includes a total of 21,000 trade names, including 317 positions for people with disabilities, veterans and other groups entitled to benefits.

Judging by what we have just heard, these people are entitled to free medicine provision. And, very importantly, according to Healthcare Ministry reports, enough such medications have been purchased to last for almost a quarter of a year, for several months.

The Russian Government has allocated an additional 16 billion [rubles] for these purposes, but according to the healthcare minister, they do not even need to use up this 16 billion now because there is everything there should be, and supplies have been distributed among the regions. If this does not trickle down to the people, then this is simply something criminal. We must get to the bottom of this problem. I will instruct the Healthcare Ministry and the relevant agencies to look into this. I need information on that case.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, this happens in many regions. We have received many similar questions.

Maria Sittel: Yes, not just from one region.

Vladimir Putin: Ok, this is what the Direct Line is for.

Kirill Kleymenov: Moreover, there are currently no free medicines for privileged categories but they are available for money. Here is, for example, a message from Moscow Region, which is not even far away: “My father is a veteran of labour, with a B class disability. He has not been able to get a prescription for free drugs for four months now. He is told there are no supplies. He has to buy them.”

Vladimir Putin: I want information on this case, too. This is what the Direct Line is for.

Maria Sittel: Thank you.

Tatyana, let’s hear one more phone call.

Tatyana Remizova: Yes, Mr President, we will pass all the details of the call from Krasnodar to you. It turns out that there is more to the problem. Let’s take one more call, this time from Yaroslavl.

Good afternoon, you are on air. Your question please.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Yekaterina and here is my question: is it true that the Healthcare Ministry plans to abandon foreign medication imports? I think it’s wrong because our drugs are not of the same high quality. There have been cases when people with kidney transplants died after taking Russian analogues.

Thank you for your answer.

Vladimir Putin: Firstly, the Healthcare Ministry is not going to abandon foreign medication imports.

Secondly, we must develop our own pharmaceutical industry. It is obvious and you should agree with it. That is why several years ago, we developed and are now implementing an upgrade programme for the Russian pharmaceutical industry. If I am correct the cost of the programme is about 180 billion rubles. Russia produces a significant amount of quality medication that meets all international standards.

I think what you described is a situation that may happen every now and then, but such cases need to be examined by experts, by the professional community, and also investigated by law enforcement agencies to evaluate the legal aspect, and relevant conclusions need to be drawn. But I can assure you that the Government has no plans at all to fully denounce pharmaceutical imports.

Incidentally, this question raises a good opportunity to mention the recent price hikes on the pharmaceutical market, including Russian-made drugs. This happens because, although these drugs are manufactured locally, they still use imported ingredients, which went up in price due to exchange rate difference. However, we saw some stabilisation of the pharmaceutical market last month, and even some downward adjustments.

This wasn’t the case everywhere of course – the people listening to me right now might say, we haven’t seen any adjustments, and drugs are as expensive as they were before – but I mean on the whole across Russia, drug prices did go down a little.

Kirill Kleymenov: Let’s continue with calls and text messages and watch one more video call. Please, Natalya.

Natalya Yuryeva: Our video centre has received 13,000 video calls, already 5,000 more than last year. A lot of videos address medicine-related issues. Let’s watch one from Sofya Babich.

Sofya Babich: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Sofia Babich. I am from the city of Togliatti and I am fifteen years old. I have been suffering from cerebral palsy since childhood. I would very much like to be able to walk. I am trying hard, but I need a treadmill outfitted with lots of things. We cannot afford to buy one – it costs about 20,000 rubles. We don’t have rehab in our region. My mother is doing all she can, I have been operated on several times, but I need training equipment. Please, help me. I want to be able to walk very much. I love you. Yours, Sonya. Goodbye.

Vladimir Putin: Don’t worry. It is not a question that needs too much effort to solve. We will certainly solve it, don’t worry. Get well soon. I see that you have a strong character – you will fight and achieve results.

Maria Sittel: Thank you, Mr President. Thank you.

As a follow-up to this topic I would like to give the floor to Anna Federmesser who is here in the studio. She deals with many problems, including cancer. Go ahead.

Anna Federmesser: Thank you very much, and good afternoon.

Today I represent the most vulnerable category of patients: they are patients who are incurably ill; you can’t cure them, but you can help them. Which brings me to my two questions, which are really requests.

Number one. Even in this group there are fellow citizens who are even less fortunate. They are people, mainly children and young people, who depend all their lives on artificial lung ventilation. They cannot live without it because they cannot breathe without it.

In our healthcare system they are in intensive care units. Speaking about children, they cannot develop there, they cannot communicate with their mothers and they die early because the environment is far from friendly. Elsewhere in the world such patients are at home, they study and attend school. I have brought some photos: a good many children, including those under the wing of the VERA Hospice Charity Fund, which I head, are already at home with artificial lung ventilation.

But as soon as they are back home they are no longer entitled to state support because the state is not obliged to provide them with expectoration or artificial lung ventilation kits. And medical institutions are also interested in these patients going home because they then vacate a very costly bed, they make room for intensive care people to work with more promising patients.

My request is as follows: to devise a mechanism, to give instructions to the relevant agencies to work out a lending mechanism for temporary use – unfortunately, these patients don’t live long – free of charge, funded by the state, of artificial lung ventilators and mucus clearance devices.

And my second question is much more acute and stems from yesterday’s situation, which was actively mulled by the media. It concerns narcotic pain relieving analgesics for cancer patients. Yesterday, we tried to help Aminat, a girl from Daghestan, who is in Moscow now, to get analgesia.

I will say at once that everything went well, she received morphine, and I hope that she is not suffering from pain now, but for that we had to appeal to lots of agencies and dozens of officials. In short, many people tried hard to get morphine for the little girl to relieve her of her pain during her last remaining weeks.

This is, in fact, a systemic problem. Today, Russia has no system of palliative aid and analgesia for people where they live, not where they are registered.

In other words, all of this aid can only be provided locally – where a person is registered. And if relatives took him or her out somewhere, for instance, from a village to a big city, to give better care – in that case, the patient is cut off from aid.

These people have no strength for paperwork – reregister, deregister.

And one more request – to help work out a relevant mechanism.

If I understand it correctly, this should be done together with the Ministry of Finance as this will involve mutual settlements between regions – so as to provide palliative, hospice aid to dying patients where they live, where they need it, and not where they should be staying in accordance with their passports.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Vladimir Putin: As for artificial lung ventilators and the rest, why can’t they be used at home? To be honest, this is the first time I’m hearing about this problem. I will certainly issue instructions to this effect to the Healthcare Ministry and other parties concerned, as they say.

It has to be determined whether this is a purely financial issue, whether additional funding should be allocated for purchasing this equipment and providing it to patients. Or maybe the problem is that our medical personnel believe that this equipment can’t be used at home.

Anna Federmesser: No, not exactly. In fact, the medical personnel are not against sending such patients home, which would allow for better use of intensive care units.

There is no legal mechanism whereby parents would be vested with the necessary rights, so that they feel protected; there is a lack of properly trained doctors in local clinics. Of course, this is a comprehensive issue, and it can’t be solved with a single word. However, I think that the medical community and the patients are ready. And it won’t be a costly option for the country; since these patients are already using these ventilators in hospitals, transferring them home would be cheaper.

Vladimir Putin: I understand, you mean that this is a legal issue. The state is not entitled to put parents in charge of using this equipment?

Anna Federmesser: The issue is more complex, but this is part of it. If you issue an instruction, the problem will be addressed quicker.

Vladimir Putin: You’re right. An instruction will be issued and we will work with you on this problem. I hope that this will pave the way toward a positive solution.

As for other matters, they will also certainly be addressed. You have highlighted an issue to work on, and we will work on it and discuss it. I will hear a report from the Minister and proposals to this effect.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, let’s discuss another very important and somewhat controversial issue: pension reform. Today, everyone is saying our reform is troubled.

Valeriya, over to you.

Valeriya Korableva: Pension reform indeed concerns millions of Russians, both those who are near retirement age and those who are still a long way off. I’d like to give the floor to Irina Kosogorova, an entrepreneur from Tyumen.

Irina, your question, please.

Irina Kosogorova: Good afternoon, Mr President.

First of all, on behalf of the business community, I would like to thank you for supporting the restrictions on tax changes for entrepreneurs. Now, this is the third pension reform in my lifetime. And as a matter of fact, every time it becomes more enigmatic and interesting, and less predictable. Now new indicators have been introduced – points and coefficients – and it is totally incomprehensible what they will add up to in 10, 15 or 20 years, when we retire.

In this context, I have a question for you. Do you think such frequent changes in the rules of the game are justified? As far as I understand, every time such changes get less and less public support. Is this really necessary? Perhaps the rules of the game should be set, allowed to work and produce an effect, including on retirement age?

Vladimir Putin: I don’t think they are changed very often. It is simply that the proposed mechanism is not very comprehensible to the people and requires an explanation. One of the principal motives – but not the main motive – behind this system was to link a retiree’s pension income to his or her previous performance at work. At one point this connection was severed, and the introduction of these points had to do with this basically legitimate goal to link work performance and the level of income during a person’s working life to the level of pension. To reiterate, this requires additional explanation and possibly streamlining.

The retirement age is an important issue. What is the problem from the perspective of the financial and economic bloc? Are there problems at all? Of course, there are.

You see, in 2008, transfers from the federal budget to the pension system (if I make a mistake, Mr Kudrin will correct me) amounted to about 1.49 trillion roubles. In 2016, especially if we return the money to the funded part of the pension system, the transfers should amount to 2.7 trillion roubles, or three percent of the GDP.

This raises a question: where do we get the money? Clearly, we should take it from other types of expenses – defence, healthcare, and other spheres, and, perhaps, it will even lead to a decrease in the amount of pensions. This is the first problem.

The second problem – not a problem, but a factor: life expectancy in Russia is up and now stands at 71.5 years on average for women and men. Life expectancy is increasing even faster than we expected. This is due to healthcare improvements, healthier lifestyles and so on, with a slight decrease in alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking. There are many factors at play.

The number of people who work and make their contributions to the pension system is declining and the number of people who use the resources provided by the pension system is on the rise. At some point, we may come to a situation where direct budget support becomes simply unaffordable for the budget.

Are we ready and willing to sharply raise the retirement age? I believe not. I’ll tell you why. Yes, life expectancy is increasing, but for men it is 65 and a half years, and setting the retirement age for men at 65 means that, pardon me for this straightforward expression: you’ve done your fair share, here’s your wooden overcoat, have a nice ride? That’s impossible.

By the way, in those countries where the retirement age has been increased, such as the vast majority of European countries, the retirement age is set at 65 for both men and women, but life expectancy there is higher. Women’s life expectancy in Russia is 77.5 years, while in Europe it is 81 or higher. As life expectancy increases, we will probably get close to addressing these issues, including the retirement age.

First, this should be done in an open dialogue with society. People need to understand what’s going on, be aware of the underlying reasons, understand the consequences of our inaction and the implications of failure to take timely decisions. People need to know about this and understand this – not the way it is happening now with these points.

Next. Even in Soviet times we did not have those elements that our retirement system has now in plenty and that make it so unwieldy and expensive.

One more point. If some age-related changes are to be made, they should not apply to those who have practically earned their right to a pension. These changes certainly must not affect people approaching retirement age.

A smooth transition to this system should be made by mature – yet still young – people, who will know what is awaiting them in the next 10 or 15 years. These should be deferred decisions. I would like to repeat again that it is very important that all these issues should be openly discussed and, in the end, accepted by the public. This is the way things should be done.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, Crimea is on the line. Crimea is waiting to receive holidaymakers, adults and children alike. Our colleague Nikolai Dolgachev is on the line from the Artek International Children’s Centre.

Nikolai Dolgachev: Greetings to Moscow from Crimea! As you can see, we have fine weather here. We are at the Artek Children’s Centre, located on the southern coast of the peninsula. Artek will mark its 90th anniversary this year. In a few days, children from all over Russia will come here for recreation. The whole of Crimea is getting ready for the summer holiday season, which is essential to its prosperity. We have talked to many people living in the republic and in Sevastopol and there were many questions about the economy. Some of these people who are well aware of local problems are present here now and they will introduce themselves.

Ulyana Smirnova: I am Ulyana Smirnova, Chernomor travel agency and management company, Crimea.

Mikhail Kozinets: I am Mikhail Kozinets, a representative of international road haulers.

Valery Khasitashvili: I am Valery Khasitashvili, a manager at the Pravda agricultural enterprise.

Yanina Pavlenko: I am Yanina Pavlenko from the Massandra agrarian production company, the head of the Crimean Grape-Growing and Wine-Making Office.

Elmira Akimova: I am Elmira Akimova, I represent the Chaika sanatorium for children.

Oleg Zubkov: I am Oleg Zubkov, the director of the Skazka Zoo and Taigan Lion Park in Yalta.

Nikolai Dolgachev: The first question from Crimea.

Evelina Emiraliyeva: Hello, I am Evelina Emiraliyeva from the Entrepreneurs Association of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. I represent the private sector and am a student at Kazan University. I bought a return ticket recently to go to take my summer exams. It cost 17,800 roubles, which is a lot of money for an average family. Like many Crimean people, I am worried about the upcoming summer season. Have any measures been envisaged to cut the cost of airfare to encourage and support the summer holiday season in Crimea? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I have already said that the value added tax (VAT) on domestic transport in Russia has been cut to a minimum, to 10 percent. But Crimea is a special destination; it’s a place where millions of people go for their holidays. You may or may not have heard about it, but I can tell you that Aeroflot has decided to cut the price of tickets to Crimea from a number of cities, and the list will be expanded to include 50 cities; I think Kazan is among them as well. The price is 7,500 roubles for a return trip. And some airlines are thinking of cutting the prices even more. I hope this will happen. In any case, we’ll keep it under control.

The problem in Crimea is that the infrastructure has been destroyed. The runway is in a very bad state. It hasn’t been repaired since the Soviet era.

It still meets flight safety standards, but basically there is a lot to be done starting with the air terminal and ending with the runway. It is big and basically comfortable – I think it was built with an eye for the Buran space shuttle – but the quality still leaves something to be desired. The equipment is outdated and cannot cope with the required number of flights.

However, I repeat, this is a known problem. I hope that the Russian aviation authorities and the Crimean authorities will do everything to make travel to Crimea affordable and comfortable.

Nikolai Maximenko: Nikolai Maximenko, the Association of Crimean Transport Operators.

We have two questions – regarding the ferry crossing and the registration of transport vehicles. You may not be aware of this, perhaps you have not been informed, but I can tell you that lorries have to queue for 12–14 days at our ferry crossing, which means that the drivers live all this time in the cab of their lorry – no toilets, nothing to eat or drink, nothing at all. We tried to resolve the issue by introducing an electronic queuing system, but it failed and only led to corruption. We have proposed issuing electronic tickets that will resolve the queue issue and we won’t have this congestion of lorries.

The second issue that worries our owners of vehicles is the Ukrainian registration of our lorries and cars. We are Russian citizens and we have Crimean license plates, but the registration is still Ukrainian. To receive Russian license plates, we must take them to Ukraine, which is impossible due to the lack of Ukrainian insurance or technical inspections. And morally too, you can imagine what it’s like taking our cars and lorries to Ukraine. Will we get them back or not? Once we deregister in Ukraine, we have to go through customs procedures to return them to Crimea and this is impossible because our lorries have Euro 2 and Euro 3 standards while the customs agreement allows only Euro 5. Mr Putin, please help us with these issues, so that we can become fully-fledged Russian citizens.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: All right. As for the ferry crossing, you have plenty of problems there. To be honest, I didn’t know that you have such congestion there. How many lorries and cars are queuing there at the moment?

Nikolai Maximenko: Over 2,000.

Vladimir Putin: Two ferries are currently operating there, if I’m not mistaken.

Nikolai Maximenko: Kavkaz, Temryuk and Novorossiysk.

Vladimir Putin: Five should be in operation in the near future, and there is a plan to purchase additional ferry boats. In all, 10 ferries should operate on this line. Some of them would be quite big. I will certainly speak about the current developments with the Ministry of Transport and Crimean authorities. By the way, much of the powers in this respect have been transferred to the Crimean authorities. But they need help. You can’t just transfer responsibility to them and wait for a collapse to happen. We will work on this issue.

As for the proposal to replace the queue management system with electronic tickets, I can’t comment on this issue. But I promise to explore it along with the issue of reregistering vehicles. I don’t know yet how we’re going to do it, but we will definitely do it. You have my word.

Kirill Kleymenov: Thank you, Artek. Thank you, Crimea.

Mr Putin, with the holiday season approaching, I think that this text message is highly relevant: “Why were local police officers banned from travelling abroad? They can’t possibly disclose any classified information.” Indeed, why adopt such harsh measures against rank-and-file law enforcement officers?

Vladimir Putin: This decision was discussed at a National Security Council meeting. Of course, ordinary police officers do not have access to classified information and at first glance this measure seems to be excessive. We assumed, along with the Interior Ministry, that as long as a person is wearing a law enforcement uniform, he or she should be subject to the same rules as all other people in uniform. It would have been wrong if some employees of the Interior Ministry were allowed to travel abroad, while others weren’t. This general approach is to a large extent due to the stance adopted by the Ministry. At first glance, this doesn’t seem right. But when a person is employed by a law enforcement body or special service, he or she understands what’s going on. This information could be of interest to foreign special services. But I do agree with you, this does seem like an excessive measure.

Maria Sittel: We’ve been on air for nearly four hours now, so I suggest we move over to our traditional blitz Q&A: short question and short answer.

Vladimir Putin: Sure.

Maria Sittel: Mr President, would you like to clone yourself or have an army of look-alikes?

Vladimir Putin: No.

Maria Sittel: You see, Russian officials do not recognise anyone but you.

Vladimir Putin: I’ve already answered. Let’s move on.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr President, what I have here is not a question but a seriousrequest from a person who has introduced herself, but I will not identify her and I believe you will understand why.

“Mr President, I’m writing from Odessa. My name is Irina, and I will limit myself to this. As I revisit the events of last year, I recall our thousands-strong rallies. Then there was May 2 in Odessa, the Mariupol massacre and finally the war in Donbass. A few days ago the Verkhovna Rada passed legislation prohibiting Soviet symbols and communist ideology. When we were at school, at work and happy in the Soviet Union, our current ‘rulers’ sat in their dens, building up hatred and malice. Now this mob of man-hating psychopaths is trying to rule us. My cherished dream is to live to see the day when you come to Odessa on May 9 and congratulate Odessa and all of Ukraine on Victory Day. If you can’t make it this year, it’s all right, we’ll wait. In the meantime, please send us your holiday greetings from Moscow.”

Vladimir Putin: Best wishes to you. However, we all know about the tragedy in Odessa and of course, I hope that one day the entire Ukrainian people will make a fair assessment of the barbarity that we all witnessed.

Maria Sittel: Why do you choose Thursday for the [Direct Line] programme?

Vladimir Putin: Thursday? I have no idea, it’s just a coincidence.

Maria Sittel: All right. Kirill?

Kirill Kleymenov: Here is another serious question: “At some point, Andrei Sakharov was called our nation’s conscience. Would you give this title to any of the current politicians?” Let me add that it doesn’t have to be a politician.

Vladimir Putin: You know, it was the country and the public that called Sakharov the nation’s conscience. I don’t think I have the right, even as President, the head of state, to award such an honourable title to anyone. There are many decent people in our country. Let me just recall the police officers who shielded buses full of children with their bodies and their cars, or the officer who threw himself on a hand grenade to save young servicemen. There are many people like this in this country, but only the public can nominate someone from among their ranks to be the conscience of our nation.

Maria Sittel: It is a little embarrassing for me to switch from such a serious issue to mine but here is my question: “When will Gazprom start paying decent salaries to its employees?”

Vladimir Putin: Are they going to lower them?

Maria Sittel: I guess so.

Vladimir Putin: I don’t know. I need to ask Mr Miller.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, don’t you think that your friends are taking advantage of your kindness?

Vladimir Putin: Why only friends? Everybody is taking advantage of kindness.

Maria Sittel: Have you ever invited any foreign leaders to a Russian sauna? Talks could be much more successful there than at a roundtable.

Vladimir Putin: That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I should tell you but I will. The person I’m talking about is no longer a head of government. Former Chancellor of Germany Mr Schröder met with me at my residence once, many years ago. So we went to a sauna. Suddenly, it was on fire. True story. He just got himself a beer. I come out and say, “Look, Gerhard, we must leave right now. The sauna is on fire.” He says, “I’ll finish my beer first.” I say, “Are you out of your mind? The sauna is on fire, do you understand?” But he finished his beer. He is a stubborn man with an attitude. The sauna burned to the ground. We never went back. But in general I do enjoy a sauna.

Kirill Kleymenov: “A lot is being said now about the Russia of the past or present, but less about the Russia of the future. How do you envision the Russia of your dreams?”

Vladimir Putin: Well, you know, this is a traditional question. I have answered it many times. All I can say is that I see Russia as a prosperous nation and its citizens as happy people who have confidence in their future.

Maria Sittel: “Would Mr Putin like to become UN Secretary-General in the future?”

Vladimir Putin: No, I wouldn’t.

Kirill Kleymenov: Mr Putin, here’s the last question: “What is the purpose of the Direct Line with the President? What do you want to learn?”

Vladimir Putin: You know, first, this is the most representative sociological poll. Millions of questions have arrived though different channels and they offer an opportunity to see what people are really concerned about. A farmer spoke here about his mistrust of statistics. Probably, this is sometimes the case: when you look at people and listen to them, you perceive everything in a different way. This is the first point. Second, this is an opportunity to bring home to people the position of the country’s leaders and my own position on several key issues and to assess what is going on.

We have repeatedly discussed these sanctions and the problems related to our national currency. The rouble is tied up to the price of a barrel of oil. This is still the case to some extent. But the price of a barrel of oil decreased from $100 to $50. It has halved. Our total oil revenues were about $500 billion, but because of the drop in the oil price we received $160 billion less than expected. Plus, there were payments on the debts of our banks, financial institutions and enterprises of the real economy: $130 billion last year and $60 billion this year. At the peak of payments we could not get refinancing on the foreign markets. Of course, a very alarming situation took shape but we have gone through it. This was a substantial element of consolidation that became the foundation of the efforts to enhance our national currency and confirmed the correctness of the course chosen by the Government towards stabilisation. The nation must know it. That is one of the reasons for holding such events as the Direct Line.

Maria Sittel: Thank you, Mr Putin.

Kirill Kleymenov: Well, we have set an absolute record: we received over three million telephone calls and SMS messages during this Direct Line. Interest has been enormous. It only remains to hope that officials and executives at different levels will promptly react to all questions asked during this Direct Line.

Mr Putin, thank you very much.

Maria Sittel: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: We’ll make sure they react. Thank you.

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Iranian Ayatollah Calls For Liberation of Mecca From Wahhabi Imposters

Pilgrims at Mecca’s al-Haram mosque. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s increasingly bitter dispute about Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca escalated after a senior Iranian cleric publicly called Saudi custodianship of Islam’s two holiest sites as “servitude” and called for their “emancipation.” Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, speaking to an Iranian seminary class, also denounced the Saudi government’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen, Iranian media reported Thursday.

“The custodianship of [Mecca and Medina] should be handed to men of piety,” Amoli, an influential Shiite Muslim scholar, said in comments reported by the semi-official state news agency Mehr. “The current Saudi custodians however are the [descendents] of those who turned it to a house of idols and indulged themselves in drunken revelry,” he said, adding that the conditions of the holy cities’ custodianship should be reviewed with the aim of freeing them “from the servitude” of the Sunni monarchy.

Harsh rhetoric between the two regional rivals is far from uncommon and has heated up in recent months against the backdrop of the Saudi-led airstrike campaign targeting Iranian-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, in Yemen. However, Amoli’s call hits a sensitive spot for Saudi Arabia’s rulers, who have historically derived much of their regional credibility from their custodianship of Mecca, the birthplace of Islam that all able-bodied Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to once in their lifetime.

“Saudi Arabia bases its whole legitimacy on religion,” said Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi expert and the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington. “Because the Saudis control Mecca, they have been able to make themselves a great regional player.” The importance of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s second-holiest city, to the Saudi monarchy is underscored by the official title claimed by the kingdom’s rulers. Every Saudi king since 1986 has officially been called the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” in reference to Mecca’s al-Haram mosque and Medina’s al-Nabawi mosque.

Control of the holy cities has historically been an important tool not only for political legitimacy but as a means of elevating its rulers to represent all Muslims, according to Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the Middle East Center in the London School of Economics. “Mecca was and continues to be the jewel in the Arab crown,” Al-Rasheed wrote in a commentary for Al-Monitor. “Without it, the Saudi leadership would be just one regional power among many others.”

In recent years, the kingdom has used its position as the gatekeeper of the holy cities as an effective political tool, leveraging access to minimize criticism of its government by Muslims and to retaliate against critics, Al-Ahmed said. This tendency appears to be particularly true where Iran is concerned. The current dispute between the Saudi government and Iran around the pilgrimages was sparked by allegations that Saudi authorities sexually harassed two teenage Iranian male pilgrims. Tensions were later exacerbated when the kingdom turned away an Iranian plane carrying 260 pilgrims on the grounds that it did not have permission to use the country’s airspace. Iran suspended all pilgrimages to the country on Monday in response.

Amoli’s call for the emancipation of the mosques has some precedent in a particularly dark period in relations between the two countries. The last time such a high-ranking Iranian official publicly disavowed Saudi Arabia’s custodianship of the holy sites was in the contentious aftermath of the 1987 bloodshed in Mecca that left 400 pilgrims, mostly Iranians, dead after Saudi security forces cracked down on an unauthorized protest at the holy site. Following the incident, Iran broke off diplomatic relations with the kingdom and boycotted the pilgrimage for several years, while prominent figures began calling for the transfer of Saudi control of Mecca.

The calls for emancipating Mecca and Medina from Saudi control come at a time when the political tensions between the two states are dialing up, both from the Yemen conflict and as the recently signed nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers adds to Saudi Arabia’s and its Gulf allies’ concerns about the Islamic Republic’s regional hegemony.

Multiple Murders of Both Pro-Russian and Anti-Russian Ukrainian leaders

Ukraine conflict: Pro-Russia journalist Oles Buzyna killed

16 April 2015

Ukraine ally of ex-President Yanukovych (Oleg Kalashnikov) found dead

15 April 2015

Son of former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych dies in accident in Russia

22 March 2015

Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead

28 February 2015

‘Batman’ (Alexandr Bednov) Killed By Ukrainian Security Forces

04 January 2015



US-Sponsored “Coup” In Kyiv Triggered Russian Reaction In Eastern Ukraine

Russia blames U.S. for security crises, turmoil in Ukraine


(Reuters) – Top Russian officials accused the United States on Thursday of seeking political and military dominance in the world and sought to put blame on the West for international security crises, including the conflict in east Ukraine.

Evoking Cold War-style rhetoric, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said a drive by the United States and its allies to bring Kiev closer to the West was a threat to Moscow and had forced it to react.

“The United States and its allies have crossed all possible lines in their drive to bring Kiev into their orbit. That could not have failed to trigger our reaction,” he told an annual security conference in Moscow.

Echoing his comments, General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told the meeting: “Considering themselves the winners of the Cold War, the United States decided to reshape the world to fit its needs.

“Aiming at complete dominance, Washington stopped taking into account the interests of other countries and respect international law.”

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last March following what it says was an “unconstitutional coup” in which street protests toppled a Moscow-allied Ukrainian president in Kiev after he ditched a deal to move closer to the European Union.

Separatist unrest then spread to eastern, Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine where fighting between Kiev’s troops and pro-Russian rebels killed more than 6,000 people. The West says Moscow drives the rebellion, sends serving Russian troops there and provides the rebels with arms, training and intelligence.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday repeated Moscow’s denial, saying Russian military forces were not in Ukraine and denying that it was providing troops and support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Shoigu blamed the violence on Kiev and sought to dismiss Western criticism that Russia was forcibly remaking European borders, pointing to Western military involvement in Serbia, Iraq and Libya.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the conference, attended by envoys from China, Iran, Pakistan and some of Russia’s allies, that Kiev had to deliver on its obligations under peace agreements reached in Minsk to “safeguard unity of the Ukrainian state”.

Both said Moscow saw the development of the U.S.-led missile shield in Europe as tilting the post-war balance of power and a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent capability. Shoigu said Moscow was taking steps to counteract that.

Gerasimov told delegates the eastward expansion of NATO posed another major threat to Russia and criticized the alliance for boosting military exercises involving eastern members.

NATO says intensified drills are aimed at reassuring eastern members worried by Moscow.

“It’s clear that measures taken by NATO to strengthen the bloc and increase its military capabilities are far from being defensive,” he said.

(Editing by Alison Williams)


Pakistan, Russia to hold first-ever joint military exercises

Pakistan, Russia to hold first-ever joint military exercises

india tv

Pakistan, Russia to hold first-ever joint military exercises
Islamabad: Pakistan and Russia have agreed to hold first-ever joint military exercises as part of their enhanced defence cooperation, in a sign of increasing bonhomie between the Cold War-era adversaries.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Moscow between Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, Express Tribune reported.  “We agreed to enhance cooperation in both defence industry and military training,” Asif was quoted as saying by state-run Russian news agency Sputnik International.

Asif is on an official visit to Moscow to attend a regional security conference. He held talks with the Russian defence minister, during which the two ministers agreed to increase military cooperation in training and import of arms and equipment.

“Joint participation in military exercises will be promoted,” the Pakistan defence ministry said in a statement.  The ministers also agreed that conflicts should be resolved through diplomatic means and that use of force must be discouraged and abandoned.

They also reached a consensus that a multi-polar world would ensure peace and balance in international relations.  Pakistan and Russia last year signed a military cooperation agreement to deepen their defence ties and vowed to translate their relationship in “tangible” terms during the first-ever visit of a Russian defence minister in 45 years.

Russian Defence Minister Shoigu’s visit last November to Pakistan came at a very critical juncture as US-led NATO forces drawdown from Afghanistan.

Russia lifted embargoes on providing defence supplies to Pakistan and currently the two sides are working on different options to increase the ties in the defence field.

Using Yemeni Battle Ground To Settle “Schism” Within Islam

[Saudi “Decisive Storm” is a religious “ethnic cleansing” operation, meant to either eliminate the troublesome Shia minority on the Arabian Peninsula, or to excommunicate all Shiites from the House of Islam.  There is extreme danger that the Saudi coalition has bigger plans than just housecleaning in Yemen, going way beyond the political contest with Iran. ultimately mutating into a Wahhabi holy war to eliminate the “schism” within Islam (by slaughtering all of the “kfirs/disbelievers”).  

A religious slaughter of this magnitude will automatically trigger the retaliatory the wrath of the “civilized world” (despite US efforts to profit from this jihad), in order to eliminate the danger to the oil fields of the Middle East, even though it will be called a “humanitarian effort.”  As the world becomes aware of the bloody truth about this Saudi power grab, the diplomatic pressure will build, forcing an end to this lunacy, or at least a pause in the bombing for the evacuation of trapped civilian populations and humanitarian relief to take place (SEE: Groups call for ‘pause’ in Yemen ; Iraqi leader decries Saudis on Yemen role).]

UN slams Saudi airstrikes’ violence on Yemeni civilians

miami herald


The United Nations’ expert on internally displaced people accused Saudi Arabia on Wednesday of intentionally bombing a camp for people who’d fled Yemen’s violence last week and said airstrikes also had hit hospitals, schools and “other civilian buildings.”

Chaloka Beyani, the U.N.’s rapporteur for internally displaced persons, said at least 25 people had been killed when Saudi aircraft bombed the al Mazraq camp in northern Yemen on March 30, and that another 37, including 12 children, had been injured. He called the attack “a grave violation against some of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable civilians.”

Beyani’s denunciation of the Saudi air campaign, which began March 26, came on the same day that global humanitarian agencies, including the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross, said they were preparing for a massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen. In Washington, a coalition of Arab-American groups said they would sue the Obama administration to force it to evacuate Americans trapped in Yemen.

A State Department official said the U.S. government, which is providing logistical support for the Saudi campaign, believes it is too dangerous to risk a military operation to rescue Americans. “There are no current U.S. government-sponsored plans to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Yemen,” the official said. “We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely.”

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that between March 19 and Monday, 643 people had been killed in Yemen’s violence, including 74 children. WHO said another 2,226 people had been injured. Separately, Beyani said at least 311 civilians had been killed.

According to estimates from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the capital, Sanaa, had the highest death toll, with 88 civilians killed. Eighty-five civilians died in Aden and 43 have been killed in al Dhale. The U.N. office estimated that of 37 public buildings bombed around the country, five were hospitals.

Beyani warned that “the picture on the ground is extremely bleak” as fighting intensifies between Houthi rebels and the government, whose president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, fled to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

“Humanitarian responses must be stepped up as a matter of urgency,” Beyani said, predicting that thousands more people are likely to flee their homes as the fighting worsens. Already, the U.N. estimates, 100,000 people have been displaced and 14 of Yemen’s 22 provinces have seen fighting or bombing raids.

Fighting is most intense in Aden, Sanaa, Sadah and Dhale, the U.N. said.

Sitara Jabeen, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told McClatchy that the agency has secured clearance from the Saudi-led coalition to fly in humanitarian supplies. Jabeen said that two flights, one carrying 16 tons of medical supplies from Amman, Jordan, and the other carrying 32 tons of water and sanitation and medical supplies from Liege, Belgium, had been cleared to arrive at Sanaa’s airport.

Separately, Jabeen said a Red Cross medical team of five arrived in Aden late Wednesday after a 12-hour journey by sea from Djibouti. She said the ICRC now has more than 250 national and international staff working in Yemen, she said.

Paul Garwood, a WHO spokesman, told McClatchy that the agency was providing health kits for 240,000 people throughout the country and enough trauma supplies for 400 operations at 18 hospitals throughout the country. The supplies included 11,000 bags of blood and intravenous fluids.

While the United States did not launch an evacuation of its citizens, other countries did, among them India, which rescued 232 people from 26 countries, including an unspecified number of Americans.

Hannah Allam in Washington contributed to this report.

Zarocostas is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Saudi Arabia’s UAE Puppets Publicly Pressurize Pakistan To Provide Troops For Religious War Against Iran

[SEE: Nisar hits out at UAE minister for ‘threatening’ Pakistan]

Yemen conflict: Pakistan’s decision is dangerous and unexpected, says UAE foreign minister

express tribune

Slamming Pakistan’s decision to not join the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen as ‘dangerous and unexpected,’ the United Arab Emirates said the country was favouring Iran over the Gulf nations.

“The Pakistani parliament’s resolution, which promoted neutrality on the Yemeni conflict, and voiced support for Saudi Arabia is contradictory and dangerous and unexpected from Islamabad,” UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

Gargash accused Pakistan of choosing Iran over the Gulf nations at a time when they face an “existential confrontation” in the Yemen conflict, according to Al Arabiya.

“Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries,” Gargash added.

After a marathon debate on Riyadh’s request for Pakistan to join the military coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen, federal lawmakers asked the government on Friday with one voice to stay out of the conflict in the Arabian Peninsula, but backed its commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory which is currently under no threat.

“Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” he wrote, referring to the Gulf countries economic assistance to Pakistan.

“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” the minister further said.

“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries.”

Turkey expressed its support for the Saudi-led coalition and said it would offer logistics and intelligence support.

“This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand,” Gargash added.

Not only criticising Pakistan’s stance, the minister also demanded Pakistan to show a clear stand “in favour of its strategic relations with the Gulf nations, contradictory and ambiguous views on this decisive matter will cost highly.”

Meanwhile, the military spokesperson for the Saudi-led offensive code named Operation Decisive Storm, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri claimed on Friday, Pakistan is yet to announce its official position.

Asiri said while Pakistan’s participation would be an addition to the coalition, its absence in the operation wouldn’t affect the coalition’s work.

Obama Clumsily Exposes Israeli/Jewish Control of American Govt, With Iranian Nuke Gambit

[SEE: Half of the US Senate Publicly Undermines and Embarasses the President of the United States]

[BREAKING—White House gives in to Congress on right to reject any Iran nuclear pact ; Israel happy at compromise deal on Iran between Congress-Obama: minister ]

[Here we have the Iranian President Rouhani asserting one fact–that the Iran nuke negotiations are with six nations, NOT JUST THE UNITED STATES–followed by the Congress demonstrating another fact–that the US Congress represents the Israeli government, NOT the American people, quickly followed by a third fact, that the American President is also a puppet of these wealthy foreign interests. 

The American govt. is pounding the US Constitution into a fine parchment powder right here for the whole world to see, as it answers its true masters, the International Jewish elite.]

In-Charge1 source

Iran leader: We are in talks with ‘the major powers,’ not the U.S. Congress



Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Tehran was negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers, not the U.S. Congress, and called a Senate committee’s vote to give Congress the power to review any potential deal a domestic U.S. matter.

The Iranian leader, speaking in a televised speech in the northern Iranian city of Rasht, also repeated earlier statements that his country will not accept any comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers unless all sanctions imposed against it are lifted.

“We are in talks with the major powers and not with the Congress,” Rouhani said, Iranian state television reported. Rouhani said the U.S. Congress’ power to review a nuclear deal with Iran was a domestic U.S. matter, the Reuters news agency reported.

He said Iran wanted to end its isolation from the world by constructing “constructive interaction with the world and not confrontation.”

Rouhani’s comments came one day after a Senate committee voted unanimously to give Congress the power to review a potential Iran nuclear deal after a June 30 negotiating deadline, in a compromise with the White House that allows President Obama to avoid possible legislative disapproval of the pact before it can be completed.

Ukrainian Ambassador To US Fired (Scapegoated) Over Porky’s Push For Peace In Donbass

[Why would Porky fire his own ambassador for following the orders that he had given him?   Answer…He wouldn’t.  Therefore Porky was following the boss’ orders (Obama).  Ukraine is slated to become the 51st US State, no doubt.]

“Ukrainian President Poroshenko has once again called on the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine – a repeated appeal that has previously been slammed as meaningless by analysts and seen as hopeless by the West.

But this time around, Poroshenko hinted, there is more support for the move – and it could be decisive in resolving the country’s ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A statement posted on the president’s website on April 4 suggested that progress had already been made on the matter, with foreign ministers of the so-called “Normandy 4″ said to have reacted positively to the idea after previously being skeptical in light of Russia’s reluctance and veto power in the UN Security Council.”–Kyiv Post

Motsyk_OlexanderOlexander Motsyk   

Ukrainian President Recalls Ambassador to US After Peacekeepers Request


Petro Poroshenko recalled Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States after he called on Russia to support a resolution on peacekeepers in Donbass.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko recalled the country’s Ambassador to the United States Olexander Motsyk, according to the Ukrainian Presidency’s website.

Motsyk previously called on Russia to support a resolution which would deploy peacekeepers to the Donbass region.

The Human Race Must Choose To Evolve Mentally and Spiritually, Or Perish By Our Own Hands

[SEE: “THE ONE TRUE RELIGION” Human Nature Is the Enemy of the State ; Changing Images of Man]

It’s always said with a sigh of resignation — “You can’t change the world” — and every time I hear it, I feel crucified. No, I’m not under the illusion that I’m Jesus Christ. But, to be honest, I think I understand him.

I am living in two worlds. I have part of my brain firmly planted in reality, and the rest of it resides in its opposite: our immediate situation, where some of us are intent upon “making this a better world to live in.”

Politicians talk about reducing the number of weapons and reducing the use of fossil fuel. Worshippers pander to a selectively empathic, rewarding and punitive image of ultimate power. We feed the hungry, clothe the poor, stave off disaster through myriad worthy causes, and all while we collectively continue to head toward disaster. We’re not likely to survive unless we engage in an all-out, worldwide effort to accelerate our spiritual development and change the world.

We’re afraid. We sense we’re being misled, and feel powerless. Some of us seek comfort in the doctrine of our childhood, some of us have thrown the spirit out with religion, and some of us try to believe whatever we choose to believe — usually feel-good nonsense. We refuse to see, hear or understand yet, ironically, we want our opinions to be respected. We work hard, play hard, mind our own business, pray that God will save us, while we are judging, condemning and punishing each other out of existence.

We cling to the notion that our judgment is rational, our condemnation righteous. We call vengeance “justifiable retaliation.” We are criminals punishing the innocent for our abusive past, and victims punishing criminals for our abusive present. Games of slaughter and revenge are moneymaking entertainment poisoning our children’s developing brains. We march toward extinction in chains of abuse.

We have not yet learned to “hate the crime, not the criminal.” We have not learned that we are “one body,” and that forgiveness of ourselves and forgiveness of all come with the realization that we are all made of the same material. We punish those we condemn, lock wrongdoers in cages, even torture and kill them, while all over the world tricksters attain wealth and high places in our world’s rich/poor, slave/master system.

We plead before merciless leaders, while we are intimidated into aiding them with our labor and blood to enrich their personal lives with endless war that is destroying our planet and our children’s future.

The image of God that is stunting our growth is going to have to go. The misconception, the cruel image of power that has browbeaten us into accepting a fearful/fearsome system as a way of life has to be replaced. Fear of an archaic image has led us to compete for favors from our “superiors,” to obey authority without question, and to be careful not to offend our peers with unpleasant facts or ideas they are too fragile to contemplate. Fear has prevented us from speaking the truth. We have worshipped a mentor that has enslaved us.

Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

When an overwhelming number of us has the self-respect to put the past in its place, and to embrace an image of ultimate goodness that is appropriate for our stage of development, the power of our collective effort to embody that image will lead us toward reality.

God is a feeling. A feeling more powerful than an image of fear. A feeling that is beyond our reasoning, a feeling that informs our behavior when we give up our pride and ask for help to do everything we can to help our collective self. Jesus said, “God is love.” So do I.

All over the world, our closets are crowded with saviors who, having been ridiculed by the arrogant, are afraid and ashamed of their own higher level of awareness. It’s time for saviors’ liberation.

Gretchen Nielsen is a published poet and a preacher without a church. Contact her at

Shell Oil Bows-Down Before the Gods of Predatory Capitalism, Then Buys BG

(SEE:  Obama Pushing the World To Embrace American Failure ;  Sermon from the Corporate Church)


Shell’s carpe diem a lesson for all


Royal Dutch Shell’s $90 billion pitch at step-change growth is expected to trigger a tornado of consolidation across a wide landscape of global petroleum, with the Deepwater Horizon-blighted BP rated the next-most-likely landing point of acquisitive interest.

Indeed, while Shell’s interest in the British-based Mini Me that is BG Group has long been anticipated, there are some surprised by this acutely timed fulfilment, only because it was felt BP might be a more attractive target for the world’s second-biggest oil company.

The word is that Shell certainly took more than a sideways glance at the other British-born super major. But, in the end it plumped for BG, because it introduced more momentum in Shell’s transitional embrace of global gas markets as a core growth engine, would arrive in the original dual-listed giant carrying less uncertainty and reputational risk and was a deal more likely to be consummated reasonable quickly.

But there is some conviction that the mighty ExxonMobil might not feel as constrained by risk and that BP would deliver the world’s biggest listed petroleum house with massive reserve growth, at a serious discount to the cost of finding replacement barrels and with the potential of serious synergies, given the considerable geographic overlap of their resource bases.

The fact that the addition of BP would retain for any foreseeable future Exxon’s place as petroleum’s biggest listed operator might not hurt either. Given Shell is successful with the BG pitch, that title is likely to be a matter of some contention by about 2018, when the new combination’s production will outstrip that of the Exxon we see today.

Needless to say, the existing Exxon is the product of the same sort of targeted and ambitious opportunism that would be required to take on BP. It was at the depths of a slump in oil prices in 1998 that Exxon opened a campaign that ended with it paying $75 billion in paper to merge with Mobil. History says that deal was done at a discount to long-term value and generated far more in synergies than originally anticipated.

Whether Shell will extract more from BG than the $US2.5 billion ($3.25 billion) of annual savings targeted for 2018, time will tell. What is more certain though is that Shell is getting BG at a 50 per cent discount to its five-year average valuation and that more that justifies the similarly sized premium it has offered for ownership.

Well timed

Add to that the fact that Shell is using its own paper to cover 70 per cent of price and what you have is a deal as well timed as it is structured.

Interestingly enough, the man who led BG to this deal was chairman Andrew Gould. We know the former Schlumberger boss better as the lead independent director of Rio Tinto through a period that included the resistance of BHP Billiton’s attempt at mega-major consolidation in 2008.

To some degree, Gould’s readiness to accept a deal at BG highlights the polar opposite tacks being taken by mega petroleum and big mining during these days of cyclical retreat in their respective markets.

The oilmen are seizing their moment to drive tectonic change that delivers geographic diversification, with new reserves being acquired at a discount to their long-term value. Meanwhile the miners, with the notable exception of Glencore’s bellicose Ivan Glasenberg, seem content to live within the security of their known knowns.

Australia’s pair of dual-listed resource houses, for example, have been strident in their rejection of opportunistic, inorganic growth through this period of cyclical weakness across their suite of commodities. Instead both, publicly at least, are sticking resolutely to strategic rhetoric that focuses on driving growth through targeted brownfields expansions, cost management and productivity enhancement.

This focus on the known has been particularly laser-like at the world’s biggest diversified resources business, BHP Billiton. The only concession chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has made to counter-cyclical opportunism is in deep-water petroleum, where he has raised the potential of acquisitions as the most economically attractive way of filling an emerging medium-term production gap.

As we keep noting, Mackenzie’s management thesis stands unique in the resources business, because he expresses so little interest in the reserve replacement that sits central to big oil’s routine of consolidation through period of price retreat.

Eating itself

Despite throwing $35 billion annually at growth, Shell has recently been unable to find new resources at a rate fast enough to cover its production. Reserve replacement has been running at less than 80 per cent and that means Shell is eating itself.

Exxon, on the other hand, is under considerably less pressure to acquire reserves, given it has been replacing them at 101 per cent over the past three years. In other words, it has more reserves now than it did in 2012.

For all that, though, chief executive Rex Tillerson told the market in March that Exxon stood ready for a big transaction. Whether coincidence or not, there was a consensus formed that Tillerson had ambitions for BG and speculation abounds that Exxon might yet invited itself to Shell’s party.

Back at BHP, Mackenzie insists the Global Australian has its foot on all that it needs to sustain a compound production growth of 6 per cent and will, in turn, support the company’s progressive dividend strategy. Instead, the BHP strategy is aimed at maximising returns on every key measure, from operating margins to shareholder returns. Mackenzie insists, too, that being the biggest is not the point and has underlined that point by moving to release a fleet of sub-scale assets to shareholders in the form of South32.

But, given BHP’s pretty fine history of engineering growth through structural transition has enabled it to anticipate long-term shifts in commodities demand, this certainty in the sustainability of the existing BHP asset base sits just that little bit uncomfortably for some.

As one senior mining executive observed on Thursday: “To a degree, Shell is calling an end to the oil era and the transition to the gas era. But while Shell is moving to the future, to gas, the likes of BHP are committed to the past, to steel-related products and thermal coal.”

Now, while this is a pretty high-level view and one that does not account fully for intricacies of either the attributes of the Shell deal or to BHP’s portfolio investment strategy, it does effectively capture the divergence of approach to generating growth.

For a start, of course, Shell is buying a good deal more in BG than expanded exposure to export gas markets, the gas resources that sustains them and the massively expensive LNG chillers that facilitates them.

Oil prosects

BG will arrive with Brazilian oil prosects that are expected to be producing at 550,000 barrels a day by 2018 – equivalent to about 15 per cent of Shell’s current daily oil output – and that remains highly prospective exploration territory. It introduces upside too in the North Sea, Kazakhstan and Tanzania.

But the view that Shell’s BG play is an evolutionary investment holds. This is a deal driven by short-term expediency and long-term strategy and one that illuminates Shell’s view of the potential of gas as the transitional fuel for both advanced and emerging economies as they manufacture a reduction in the carbon intensity of their energy infrastructure.

The phrase “straw hats in winter” is embedded in BHP history. It was uttered in 1984 by BHP’s then chairman Sir James MacNeill to explain why he would countenance spending $US2.4 billion on a coal company during a price slump. That deal delivered two of the four pillars that support Mackenzie’s strategy – coal in the Bowen Basin coal and copper at Escondida.

And Shell’s shape-shifting approach on BG arguably offers a timely reminder that a bit of counter-cyclical carpe diem can go an awfully long way.

20 Laborers Murdered In Balochistan, One Day After China Agrees To Finance Peace Pipeline From Iran

YESTERDAY:  (China To Finance Iran-Pakistan “Peace Pipeline,” US/Saudis To Supply Lashkar Jhangvi Terrorists To Kill The Deal)

Firing by unidentified assailants leaves 20 labourers dead, 3 injured in Balochistan

express tribune

Firing took place late last night for reasons on the workers working at Surab Dam. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Firing took place late last night for reasons on the workers working at Surab Dam. PHOTO: EXPRESS

QUETTA: Firing by unidentified assailants left 20 labourers dead and three injured in Balochistan’s Turbat area, Express News reported Saturday.


Initial reports revealed that firing took place late last night when suspected militants came to the camp of the labourers who were working on Surab Dam.

“The labourers were working on construction of a small local bridge,” senior police official Tariq Khilji told AFP.

Read: Targeted: Three of a family killed in firing

As they fired in the camps, 20 were killed and three others were injured. Of the 20 that died, 16 hailed from Punjab while the other four were from Hyderabad.

“Armed gunmen stormed the camp of labourers in Gokh Don area of Baluchistan late Friday night and killed 20 labourers,” the official said.

“They had lined them up and shot them at point blank range after identifying their identity,” he added.

According to an administration official, some of the labourers reported being woken from their sleep by the sound of gunshots and screams.

Hussain said some of the labourers reported being woken from their sleep by the sound of gunshots and screams.

The injured were taken to a nearby hospital as the police cordoned off the area.

Despite the lapse of security, police clashed with the assailants and firing took place between the two groups.

Read: ‘Retaliatory action’: Iran fires 42 mortar shells into Balochistan

Police out the area on high alert and a search operation commenced in the area.

Addressing a press conference in Quetta, pertaining to last night’s attacks, Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti assured that the attack was not by someone of Balochi descent.

“Everyone should know that this attack was not by a Balochi and nor was it to target Punjabis,” he said.

He said that the attack was a terrorist attack and confirmed that a search operation and investigation were underway in the area.

The minister further announced compensation of Rs1 million for the families of the victims and those injured.

“The Balochistan Chief Minister as well as Law Enforcement Agencies are going to Turbat and I myself will be visiting,” he announced.

Commenting on the security lapse, Bugti said that there was no space for security personnel who did not perform their duties.

“They are paid salaries and they should all be doing their jobs. There is no space for those who do not perform their duties,” he said.

He concluded by saying that everyone is accountable to the state and the government and that this attack would be treated as an attack on religion.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reaffirmed the government’s resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country.

According to Radio Pakistan, he strongly condemned the attack on the 20 labourers and expressed deep grief and sorrow of the incident.

Further, the premier sought a report pertaining to the incident.

Terrorists and Their Quranic Distortions

The Quran |The Quran Photo: Getty Images

Terrorists and Their Quranic Delusions

Wall Street Journal

Egypt’s grand mufti on ugly distortions of Islam masking a hunger for power and bloodshed.

Terrorist groups who flagrantly use religion as a cloak to cover up acts of violent extremism cannot hide their serious ideological flaws. These reveal the warped logic and ill-informed and unauthentic sourcing from religious texts as they try to justify what in reality is an insatiable desire for power, control and bloodshed.

The first ideological flaw is related to the terror groups’ abominable crimes against the Quran and hadith, or reports of prophetic statements, when they take the Quranic verses and the Prophet’s words out of context and imbue them with savage meanings. The terrorists are totally ignorant and incapable of comprehending the Quran and hadith or the objectives of Islamic law and its principles.

As a result, the words of God in the Quran or of the Prophet—which should fill hearts of believers with peace and mercy and reverence for religion—are replaced with ugly distortions that fill hearts with repulsion and fear. The radicals willfully misquote or misuse Quranic verses, and then hold tight to their deviant interpretations.

These groups have the audacity to dismiss any Quranic verses that don’t fit their claims. They declare unilateral war against both Muslims and non-Muslims who don’t share their barbarous mentality. They completely disregard the Quranic conception of human brotherhood and peaceful relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

For example, in the Quran, God says, “O Mankind. We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things” (49:13).

The Quran urges the embrace of people from different religious affiliations, cultural backgrounds and racial origins. Yet the radical groups insist that anyone who rejects their extremist ideology is a legitimate target who may be killed. This lunacy stands in total contrast to the clear Quranic message in which God says, “If anyone kills a person, it is as if he kills all mankind while if anyone saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind” (5:32).

Second, the radicals narrow the concept of jihad and restrict it to combat and slaughter while claiming that such distortions represent the jihad legislated by God. The truth is that jihad, in essence, is the human endeavor of striving to improve the individual and the society and to bring life closer to the divine model. The extremists have made physical jihad an end in itself, when in fact it is one means of seeking individual spiritual understanding of God’s path for us, or guidance.

Whenever jihad deviates from this goal it backfires, becoming a means of outright harm that repels people from God’s religion. The extremists cannot declare “jihad” on behalf of 1.5 billion Muslims. Simply put, the declaration of armed struggle is the prerogative of the ruler of the state or his deputy. These terrorist groups, as nonstate actors, are not allowed to declare it.

Third, it is delusional for these terrorists to think that those who were killed in the line of “duty” are considered martyrs and will be rewarded with paradise. The terrorists who are killed aren’t considered martyrs according to Islamic law, even if they considered their act to be a form of jihad, had sincere intentions and were acting out of ignorance. Good intentions don’t justify illegal acts—and it is totally prohibited by Islam to kill innocent people. Thus terrorist acts like 9/11 in the U.S., 7/7 in London or any other similar horrendous attacks are sheer murder and have nothing to do with jihad.

In sum, the noble form of physical jihad—which is waged by legitimate state authorities to fend off aggression and establish justice—has nothing to do with the supposed jihad of these terrorists, who practice nothing more than the ruthless mass murder of innocents. Jihad is a war fought with honor and guided with moral codes of conduct.

Since terrorist groups have the audacity to interpret from the Quran selectively to suit their own agendas, their deviant ideology must be debunked by intellectual responses. The fight will be stronger with the help of the international media and academia in publishing and broadcasting the voices of authentic Muslim scholars who can counter the extremists’ false claims and their warped interpretation of the Quran.

Dr. Allam is the grand mufti of Egypt.

Debunking ideological flaws At the Root of Extremist Mentality

Extremist mentality: Debunking the ideological flaws

mena fn

(MENAFN – Arab News) Terrorist groups who flagrantly use religion as a cloak to cover up for their dastardly acts of extremism fall into some serious ideological flaws which reveal their warped logic and ill-informed and unauthentic sources which they turn to in order to derive their legal justification for their insatiable desire for power control and bloodshed.
The first ideological flaw is expressed through their unilateral declaration of war against both Muslims and non-Muslims which completely disregard the Qur’anic conception of diversity human brotherhood and peaceful relation between Muslims and non-Muslims referred to for example in the Qur’an in which God says ‘O Mankind. We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things’ (49:13)
Although the Qur’anic emphasis on embracing diversities and entertaining differences is well established as a basic principle in dealing with people from different religious affiliations cultural backgrounds and racial origins the radical groups are adamant on considering anyone who rejects their extremist ideology unjustifiably a legitimate target who may be killed; a thing which stands in total contrast to the clear Qur’anic message in which God says ‘If anyone kills a person-unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land-it is as if he kills all mankind while if anyone saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind’ (5:32).
Secondly these terrorist groups justify their horrendous killings as a ‘defensive jihad’ against the US and its allies to defend usurpation of Muslim lands but this claim is nothing more than a lame excuse because these terrorist groups constitute a very tiny minority representing none but themselves.
Thus they cannot declare ‘defensive jihad’ on behalf of 1.5 billion Muslims. Simply put the declaration of jihad is the prerogative of the ruler of the Muslim state or his deputy and these terrorist groups as non-state actors are not allowed to declare it.
In addition the ‘defensive jihad’ launched by Al-Qaeda terrorist group against the US and its allies or the QSIS extremist group in Iraq and Syria is unjustified because the expansionist American policy against some Muslim countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan does not justify shifting the war one to American soil by attacking its innocent citizens under the pretext that they are the ‘far enemies.’
By the same token it is not allowed for any group to topple the ruler of a Muslim country under the false claim that he is only a Muslim by name and they declare him as an apostate because he does not apply the Islamic code of laws according to their own warped understanding.
Declaring war against occupying countries can only be done after reaching the consensus and seeking allies of all the Muslim countries and only then both the International law and the Islamic law would be in support of this declared war against hostile countries.
Thirdly the methodology of quoting Qur’anic exegesis is marked with high selectivity and decontextualizing as these terrorist groups pick and choose from the views of classical scholars and exegetes without consideration for the historical contexts in which their views were formulated and with superficial application to a modern reality that is completely different. They willfully omit the qualifying parts of Qur’anic verses they quote and only stick to misquoted verses and hold tight to their deviant interpretations.

Terrorists are not martyrs
Fourthly the false belief that those terrorists who were killed in line of ‘duty’ are considered martyrs and should be rewarded paradise is another delusional understanding of the concept of martyrdom. The terrorists who get killed are not considered to be martyrs according to Islamic law even if they considered their act to be a form of jihad had sincere intentions and were acting out of ignorance. Good intentions do not justify illegal acts and it is totally prohibited to kill innocent people from an Islamic perspective. Thus terrorist acts like 9/11 7/7 or any other similar horrendous acts are sheer acts of terrorism and has nothing to do with jihad.
From these four ideological flaws we can deduce that these terrorist groups are mixing between the noble jihad which is raged to fend off aggression and establish justice and the bloodthirsty ruthless acts of killings indiscriminately against innocent people.
Jihad is a war fought with honor and guided with moral codes of conduct and involves the consensus of the political leaders of the Muslim world. If we compare the noble aim of jihad with the ruthless acts of murder we can honestly see the huge lacuna which can never be abridged between the noble jihad and bloody terrorism.
Terrorist groups have the audacity to interpret from the Qur’an selectively to suit their own agendas and add an ‘authoritative’ dressing to their views.
These deviant ideologies need to be fought by intellectual responses which debunk their erroneous ideologies along with the help of the international media as well as academia in publishing and broadcasting the vocal Muslim authentic scholars who deconstruct the false claims and warped understanding of the Qur’anic exegesis.



Reviving The Geometrical Spirit Emanating From The Words of God and His Prophet

Geometry of the spirit

asian age

The first word to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the intermediary angel Gabriel was “Iqra”, which translates as “read”, the following lines commanding, “Read in the name of the Lord, Who created man out of a clot of congealed blood, Proclaim! Thy Lord is most Bounteous, he who taught the use of the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not”.

Iqra is the basis of human knowledge, and the spirit of Islam lies in nurturing the intellect. A chapter of the Quran is called “Al Qalam” in which God swears by the pen. The verses in the chapter demonstrate the importance of seeking knowledge, the sanctity of the written word and the pen as an instrument of inscription. There is the concept of a divine pen with which the destinies of all created beings to come into this world until the Day of Judgment are inscribed upon the Lauh-e-Mahfooz — the divine guarded tablet.

The Quran contains inexhaustible possibilities of creativity, attesting to the “ink” in the verse — “if all the trees in the earth were pens, and if the sea eked out by seven seas more were ink, the words of God could not be written out unto their end”.

All Islamic art is based on a saying of Prophet Muhammad, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” It remains the most visible feature of Islamic civilisation.

Arabic is written from the right to the left — this is said to symbolise the movement from the periphery to the heart, which is located on the left side of the body. Traditionally, Muslims have practised calligraphy, not just to improve their handwriting, but also to discipline their souls. Through centuries, Sufis and sages have studied the hikmah (wisdom) of Islamic calligraphy, drawing spiritual nourishment from the sacred art form.

The art of Islamic calligraphy reflects on the earthly plane the writing of His word upon the written tablet. It is a visual representation of the divine message. Some traditionalists call it the “geometry of the spirit”. Each letter has a personality of its own, symbolising in its visual form a particular divine quality as the letters of the sacred alphabet correspond to features and qualities of God, the divine scribe.

The universe can be symbolised by a tree, which according to the Quran has “its roots firm and its branches in the heavens”. Islamic patterns often combine Quran verses with stylised plant forms, known as arabesque, and geometric patterns. Through the symbolism of its forms, Islamic calligraphy represents the intertwining between permanence and change, characterising the very nature of creation. Vertical letters and patterns represent the principal of divine unity, the horizontal, the multiplicity of manifestation. Quranic calligraphy represents the response of the soul to the divine message.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at

China To Finance Iran-Pakistan “Peace Pipeline,” US/Saudis To Supply Lashkar Jhangvi Terrorists To Kill The Deal

[Look for Saudi-backed Lashkar e-Jhangvi Sunni terrorists to reignite the bloody sectarian warfare in Balochistan (SEE: US-Saudi funded terrorists sowing chaos in Pakistan).]

China to build $2bn Iran-Pakistan pipeline – media


Irani workers stand near as a security helicopter lands near the pipeline during a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, in the city of Chahbahar in southeastern Iran. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)

Irani workers stand near as a security helicopter lands near the pipeline during a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, in the city of Chahbahar in southeastern Iran. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)

China will reportedly finance the so-called ‘Peace Pipeline’ natural gas pipeline from Iran, home to the world’s second largest reserves, to energy-deprived Pakistan. The project was delayed due to US dissent.

The final deal is to be signed during the long-sought visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Islamabad in April, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

“We’re building it. The process has started,” Pakistani Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the WSJ.

First proposed over 20 years ago, the 1045 mile (1682km) pipeline will transfer gas from Iran’s south to the Pakistani cities of Gwadar and Nawabshah. Karachi, the country’s biggest city of 27.3 million, will also be connected via local energy distribution systems already in place.

Iran has said the 560-mile portion that runs to the Pakistan border is already complete, which only leaves $2 billion needed to build the Pakistani stretch.

The project could cost up to $2 billion if a Liquefied Natural Gas port is constructed at Gwadar. Otherwise, the project to complete the Pakistani pipeline will cost between $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion, the WSJ said. Pakistan is in negotiations with China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau, a subsidiary of Chinese energy major China National Petroleum Corporation, to finance 85 percent of the project. Pakistan will pay the rest.

The original plan envisioned the pipeline continuing to India, but Delhi dropped out due to US pressure in 2009, Tehran claims. Pakistan, a country of 199 million people faces intermittent blackouts in major cities, and Iran is looking for a place to export its soon-to-not-be-banned gas.

Iran has 33.7 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves according to the June 2014 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. According to BP estimates, it has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves at 157 billion barrels.

US-led sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program have stunted Iran’s oil and gas industry.

Iran’s oil exports have dropped from 2.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to about one million barrels in 2014, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). In March, Iran produced 2.85 million barrels of oil per day, according to data from Bloomberg.

British Surgeon Turned Pak Terrorist Leader– Jamaat -ul- Ahrar (TTP JA)





    A British surgeon who fled the country after being charged with violent disorder during an extremist rally has become a senior leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, it has been claimed.

    Dr Mirza Tariq Ali, 39, who practiced on the NHS, has appeared in a chilling recruitment video for the terrorist organization, urging foreign jihadists to join him.

    He has also edited an online English-language jihadist magazine, called ‘Ihya-e-Khilafat’, from Pakistan, Revival of the Islamic Caliphate, aimed at recruiting Muslim youths from the West.

    The surgeon was convicted in the first-ever successful prosecution for Islamic sectarian violence in Britain after he was seen hitting a bystander over the head with a pole at a Central London rally in 2013.

    But he skipped bail and was found guilty in his absence at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 15 months.

    He was then struck off by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) after a hearing in Manchester.

    It was previously reported that he was fighting as a jihad in Syria, but how he slipped from Pakistan Airport of Islamabad to FATA and he was never Arrested is both Eye Brow raising and Points to complacency of Pakistan Intelligence Agencies in supporting him.

    But it has now emerged that he has become a mouthpiece for a Taliban creation of Pakistan in 1992 under ISI Lt-general Javaid Ashraf Qazi , called Jamaat Ahrar under Lashkar Jhangavi Punjab based Taliban splinter-group under a new name – Dr Abu Obaidah Al-Islamabadi, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

    Wearing a black turban, he was seen in a video clip, saying: ‘Allah blessed me with the passion of Jihad. I left Britain with an intention to go to Iraq and join Islamic State, but I was arrested on the way and sent to prison in Croatia.’

    The extremist magazine which he helps to edit publishes contact details for potential jihadi youths and advises them not to use home computers which might be tracked by intelligence agencies.

    In a recent interview he revealed he was captured on his way to join the Islamic State led by Abu-Baker Al-Baghdadi in Iraq.

    Dr Tariq Ali has edited an online English-language jihadist magazine, called ‘Ihya-e-Khilafat’, Revival of the Islamic Caliphate, aimed at recruiting Muslim youths from the West

    Dr Tariq Ali has edited an online English-language jihadist magazine, called ‘Ihya-e-Khilafat’, Revival of the Islamic Caliphate, aimed at recruiting Muslim youths from the West

    It is not clear where he was when he was captured, but he revealed he was jailed in Croatia.

    After his release from Croatia, Dr Tariq Ali reached Pakistan and joined the Movement of Pakistani Taliban Punjab wing Lashkar Jhangavi Splinter Group called Jamaat Ahrar led by Omar Khalid Khorasani from Mommand Agency.

    He worked as a doctor in the Pakistani army before arriving in Britain in 2004 and Graduated from Army medical College Rawalpindi a Few yards from GHQ Pakistan Army.

    The extremist then trained at a London teaching hospital and worked shifts in the capital and Cambridge.

    While based in the UK he was associated with pro-jihadist groups led by leading British Islamist Anjum Chaudhry belonging to Lashkar Jhangavi and known for His Speeches in lal Masjid Islamabad Near the HQ of ISI in Abpara Islamabad under Maulana Abdul Aziz leader of Lashkar Jhangavi Punjab Based Shia Hating Wing of Punjabi Taliban based in Faislabad and Lahore under the protection of Nawaz Sharif and Deobandi/Wahabi Ideological politicians and Political parties that are based in Punjab and Head Quartered there.

    Police and security services are now facing embarrassing questions over how he was able to skip his bail.

    He was held twice by police and in November last year was briefly imprisoned for breaching his bail before evading the Metropolitan Police and MI5 and travelling abroad.

    British PM David Cameron has pledged to prevent British jihadists from returning by cancelling their passports for two years. But the case of Dr Tariq Ali highlights the damage that can be caused by extremists who evade the British justice system.

    Research Sources:























Captain Tariq Mirza on Left  and Jamaat Ahrar Chief on right 

    1. Game of Aliases and Pakistani Media as Accomplice :

    Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza Pakistan Army doctor from Army Medical College and serving in Pakistan army and a Punjabi who would dress and imitate as Tribal from FATA and wear Black Turban and also dress like FATA tribes men and Imitating as Pashtun but why ? .

    Why a Punjabi from Islamabad, where his family lives and Has Links with Pakistan Army is eye brow and hair raising is Chief Taliban commander of Taliban was recently Killed although where is his dead body and where is Media and why they are not showing his Parents his Family or even Putting up the News on Pakistani Media .

    It seems the Pakistani Media is Hand in Gloves with Terrorist and it tries to hide Facts that Lie in Plane sight .

    He used Aliases as Islamabad and Tariq Khorasani or countless other Terms to confuse the Simpleton Pakistani People in believing his false and carefully managed Identity and hiding his real Punjabi Identity and Operated freely with an Open Pass.

    Khorasan term ( A Non Pashtun very Short lived Kingdom Near Bokhara and Samarkand Area of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan which was one and signified a Non Pashtun , Tajik Government ) Signifies wish of Pakistan to Establish a Non Pashtun Power Base in Afghanistan and also on Pashtun Lands and this they have achieved so far via Taliban who have put fire to Pashtun lands on both Sides of Durand line as a Policy of Pakistan and current Government of Afghanistan is Predominant Tajik power base after thousands of Years of them being ruled by Pashtuns .

    Pakistani Media is also accomplice in this Dirty Game of Hiding Taliban in Plain Sight.


  1. His Role as Leader of Lashkar Jhangavi Part of Taliban in Punjab and UK :

    Dr Tariq Ali Mirza ran from UK after his Arrest Warrants were Issued after he Beat Shia Muslims Bystanders on Edgware Street London , the same Street where Ex-Pakistan Army chief and Dictator President of Pakistan for more then a Decade General Mushraff ex –Pakistan Army chief and Mr. Altaf Hussian of MQM another creation of Punjabi Establishment owns Luxurious Apartments.

    Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza was spotted on Cameras beating the Shia Bystanders on their Head with Flag Poles after he and his Partner Mr Anjum Chaudhry both of Lashkar Jhangavi of Pakistan Known for their hate of Shias and also Frequent Guest Speakers at Lal Masjid at Abpara Islamabad a few yards of ISI Head Quarter in Islamabad , were taking out a Procession in favor of Al-Qaida /ISIS and Against hafiz ul Assad a Shia Democratic President of Syria .

    In Britain His Degree was terminated after a trial and he was Struck off from GMC general medical register of UK and also , arrest warrant was issued of him but he slipped out of UK a Mystery that is hard to understand on standards of common sense ?

    The Same Lashkar Jhangavi is a terrorist organization and has Killed countless Army and FC Personnel in Pakistan and yet it enjoys the state Patronage and Support .

    Most of its Leaders and their families in Punjab gets state Funding and Bursaries ton their families under Nawaz Sharif Government and his peers in Punjabi Establishment .

  2. His Role as ISIS Volunteer in Syria and His Arrest in Croatia Europe and Release by Pakistan. 


Later he was caught in Croatia in Europe by its government while going to Syria with Anjum Chaudhry and his Associates of Dubious character, who had arrested him while on his way to join AL-Qaeda / ISISI associating with CIA Agent Al-Baghdadi head of ISIS , who is now Fighting the Shia Regime of Hafiz Al Assad.

After he was sent to Jail in Croatia and then released that the Croatian Authorities have to answer as they are now accomplice in this crime as well.

From Croatia he was then sent to Pakistan with his file to Islamabad and he landed at Islamabad Airport of Pakistan from Croatia on a commercial Airplane and not a camel for God Sake!!!! and he was a Deportee from both Croatia and UK at same time and list of terrorist .

After his Arrival in Pakistan after he landed at Islamabad Airport in Presence of FIA , Intelligence Agencies and ISI Agents Presence on Airport off course not Arresting him even when the Croatia Authorities had informed Pakistan before hand after he was sent from Croatia to Pakistan on an Airplane with handing and taking orders and Interpol Reports and also UK and Pakistan has Extradition treaty and Agreements and he was not Arrested .

Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza, did not come on camel from Croatia he was using a Airplane and a Commercial Airline and also he was Arrested by Croatia for Being an Al-Qeda and ISIS and he was also convicted by UK for the same connections and also his Information was Given to Interpol International Police and UK Authorities .

How come he was a Free man in Pakistan ? and suddenly the ISI and Army both part of Punjabi Establishment became Blind and this Army person was Again Given Freedom to Kill anybody he likes or he was Agent of Our Punjabi Establishment and Some other Agencies combined ???

3. His Role of leader of Taliban and its Media Head :

As a Free Man from Islamabad he went to FATA and as Captain Pakistan Army Dr Tariq Ali Mirza joined Jamaat Ahrar of as a spokesperson for Taliban TTP created from Punjab based Lashkar Jhangavi His parent Unit .

He was physically embraced by the Taliban and says he is “very happy”. He features Prominently on TTP JA promotional photo for the video.

The caption states the production “is the story of a Mujahid who joined Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaat -ul-Ahrar after abandoning officership of Pakistan Army and a luxurious life in Britain.” The new addition to the Taliban appears wearing traditional clothes, white shalwar kameez, waistcoat, black turban and is seen in one clip displaying his skill with a firearm.

Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza also Maintained “Shariah4Pakistan” Media Outlet where he maintained a Twitter and Face book Account.

  1. His Death in FATA Real or fake ?:

    Recently it was announced , he has died in an Airstrike in FATA and he is dead while no Dead Body is ever being Shown on TV or Pakistani Media it is not sure that is really dead or being shipped to Syria or other places that our Establishment wants to see as New War games where they want to earn money with USA Dollars and Saudi Riyals ?? that is beign spent on Punjab and up keep of Punjabi Establishment with its Wahabi / Deobandi Leanings that always work for US and Israeli Objectives .

Research Sources:

























    5. Pakistan Army Personal Involved in Jihads !!:

Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza Studied in Islamabad from one its School and His house is in Islamabad capital Territory and his Parents and family are Pure Punjabi,s ethnically and not Pashtuns or Tribal’s of FATA ( Federally Administered Tribal Area )

Punjabi Claim they have not Stake in Afghanistan and consider it to be a Friendly Muslim country but this is as far from Reality as North Pole is from South Pole.

Why would a Pakistan Army person and a Punjabi be Masquerading as a Pashtun? And also wear Dress like the Local Tribal Person from FATA?? to deceive the Public and also Fight wars in which Pakistan and Punjabis have no Stake ??

Another Mind Boggling Question he Harbor Sectarian hate Against Shia,s is Mind Boggling ???

  1. Punjabi Nationalism Masked as Wahabi,ism under Taliban !!:

He has been a Member of Punjabi wing of Taliban Called Lashkar Jhangavi ( Parent Organization of all Taliban of Pakistan ) while being in the Army and that is Parent organization of Taliban and also Jamaat Ahrar of which he was a leader and it was Involved in following Attacks “

  1. On Malalaa Yousafzai

    2. On APS school in Peshawar

    3. On countless Schools in Pashtun Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    4. On Attacks on Shia in Pashtun Area of Pakistan in Baluchistan and Pakhtunkhwa FATA and in Afghanistan.

    Lashkar Jhangavi is Based in Faisalabad Punjab and Also South Punjab and Lahore , Lashkar Jhangavi , Sipah Sahaba ( SsP or AWSJ one and the Same ) forms Major Part of Taliban TTP.

    This Organization is famous for its Hate of Shia and Christians and is involved in Murders and terrorism on these People in Mainly Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan and it Rarely Operates in Punjab.

    While the Leaders are Mostly Punjabi and their families and children lives there and often Protected by Pakistan state and Government and some of Leaders under a Deobandi and Wahabi Government of Nawaz Sharif Gives money and Bursaries to families of These Taliban leaders like Malik Ishaq of Lashkar Jhangavi and also Mullah Ludhanavi and they he in Turn help select Leaders of Punjab like Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Shabaz Sharif or Imran Khan or who ever is Authorized by Punjabi Establishment to rule a Fake Majority province of Punjab .

    Nawaz Sharif Punjabi Nationalist Belonging to Amritsar India ( Who calls himself Lion of Punjab bases on his grand Parents the Sikhs of Punjab Ranjit Singh ) is itself a Creation of Same Punjabi Establishment and Military Establishment as Proven by Yunas Habib case in Supreme Court via Intelligence Bureau Under Lt-General Assad Durrani and General Zia ul Haq both Punjabis and Chief of Army Staff Aslam beg, a Immigrant from India who Happened to also Make another terrorist group MQM of Immigrants to Safe guard the Supply route of Arms and Ammunition from Karachi Port to FATA via Altaf Hussian and its safeguarding of Karachi port from Pashtuns capture in case they Block the Arms supply.

  2. Selective Wahibism and Restriction Policy or Oppression for Pashtuns!!:

Further more why would Captain Tariq Ali Mirza , Hate the Pashtuns and Targets their Education and target small girls like Malalaa and stop education of Women only in Pakhtunkhwa only ??

Why he could not follow this in Islamabad and Punjab with its open Brothels in Lahore and Rawalpindi as hera Maundee or Red Light Districts is OK but even education is not for Pashtuns???

Why only the Women folk be restricted in Pashtun lands and not in Punjab ???

Captain Tariq Mirza becomes Leaders of a Group called Jamaat Ahrar Part of TTP / Taliban Wing comprising of as facts that only do murder of Pashtuns in Pakhtunkhwa , Baluchistan and FATA and does not operate in Punjab from where he Belongs and Why would he not join Lashkar Jhangavi directly who’s member he already was while in Pakistan Army and while serving as a doctor?

These are new startling facts are Emerging and quite Disturbing !!!

  1. Targeting only Pashtun Education??

Why it would Target Education of Pashtuns only and blow 5000 Schools in Area of Pashtun of Pakistan in Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Baluchistan ( 90% Pashtuns ) and also in Afghanistan in Pashtun Belt of Pashtuns areas ???

Why the Leaders of Taliban who are ethnically Punjabi murder children of Pashtuns and not Army officers in Peshawar army Public Schools which has 95% civilian People as Student and since last decade the Punjabi Army officers ( Majority of Army Officer and generals more then 80% are Punjabi ) serving in Peshawar Garrison and cantonment are Keeping their Families in Punjab and Live like Bachelors in Peshawar ???. aa

Why would Jamaat Ahrar Part of TTP Taliban Punjab Make a Lal Masjid in Mohmand Agency ??? Changing the Name of Mosque Named after a Anti Colonial Ghazi of times of British Rule before Pakistan creation and Mask the Pashtun Resistance Against British but changing the Name of Historic Mosque?

Why would Captain Tariq Ali Mirza Served as its Mid Level Leader of Jamaat Ahrar / TTP and Appear in Promotional Videos of Taliban and its media Omar wing?? Follow its Leader called

This Story is Fascinating and Mind Boggling why he became of tool in Hands of People (Punjabi Establishment ) who Played him even when he was a Doctor and intellectual Person and had Above Average Back ground and he could Understand the Geo Politics ??



  1. Fear of Pashtuns by Punjabi Establishment and Duping the World ??

Does Pakistan and Pakistan Army Fear the Pashtuns??? and would resort to Target a Small School Girl Malalaa Yousafzai who is Education Activist in Swat part of Same Group Jamaat Ahrar to which this Punjabi captain of Pakistan Army Belonged and it Explains the Media and Social media campaign Against Malalaa Yousafzai .

Taliban and Jamaat Ahrar segment of it is Made by Another Punjabi Maulana Qasmi by breaking away from Lashkar Jhangavi and Sipah Sahaba / Taliban Punjab Wing based in Central Punjab and South Punjab.

They duped the whole World that it is Pashtun Rebellion or Pashtun Movement called Taliban Movement while it was purely working for Punjab and Punjabi Establishment of Pakistan.

They have Protected Punjab and Punjabi from harm and less then 1% Terrorism occurs in last 4 Decades in Punjab and Majority of deaths are of Pashtuns and 5.5 Millions of Pashtuns have died so far in this Adventurism of Punjabi Establishment and their Quest of US Dollars and Saudi Dollars .

Recently the Brother of Deobandi / Wahabi Aligned and Saudi and USA Supported PM Pakistan Mr Shahbaz Sharif letter to Osama Bin Laden has come to Surface that indicated that Taliban and Punjabi are one and same and their Objectives are same as discovered by USA Elite team that’s shot and Killed that Terrorist in Abbotabad ( A Non Pashtun Area Near Punjab) a few yards from Officers training Academy of Pakistan Army in Kakul.


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Posted by Alija Khan at 9:44 AM No comments:

Labels: Captain Tariq Ali Mirza, GHQ, Jamaat Ahrar, Lashkar Jhangavi, Massacre, Pakistan Army, Punjabi establishment, Taliban



10 . Punjabis Role in Producing Terrorist theology :

Why Pakistan army person and student of an Army Institution is producing Taliban leaders and why such People are Duping and Defrauding People of the World that it is Pashtun Resistance and its is Pashtun that are Fighting the War with USA and not Punjabi , while almost Majority of Theologists like Deobandi /Wahabi School of thought and Movement has Originated in Punjab ( Indian Punjab at City of Deoband under a British Rule of Lord Curzon in 1864) and even most of Sect has roots in Punjab like Qadiani ( 23 March 1889) from City of Qadian Punjab and Barelevi (1940) from City of Barela in East Punjab .

Deobandi Madrissah was Made in 1864 under Lord Curzon after British Ruled the Indian Sub continent and Deobandi was a city of Punjab and its Leader were mostly Punjabis and were ex –Sikh Converts by Pashtuns who Invaded India , Like Obaid Ullah Sindhi ( who was a Punjabi belonging to Sialkot and all his family never converted to Islam and were Hindu and only he was So called Muslim and also ex – Employee of East India company as a Teacher of Elite Ruling class in Farsi and Arabic )

Same was case of its other founders like , Qasim Naintaawi and others who also Happened to be Teachers in East India company and were Mysteriously Spared by British in 1857 Rebellion and allowed to Operate under Lord Curzon Guidence to Missguide Islam on Pattern of Wahabi,ism another Creation of British Lord Mempher a Spy of Queen of Britain and from Ministry of Colonies who groomed and Made Mullah Wahab the Father of Wahabi,ism in Nejd Saudia Arabia .

  1. Shia Hate or Money Making Schemes by Punjabi Establishment !!:

The Corner Stone of Wahabi Ism is hate of Shia Islam and Also Shai all over the world as they have corrupted the Sunni Sect as Wahabi,s but were unsuccessful to Pollute the Shia sect because of their Rigid and very Strict Beliefs and Strong Iranian Kingdom that they failed to conquer under Shah of Persia known as Shah Qajar .

In Pakistan Captain Tariq Mirza being member of these Shia Hating Organizations like Sipah Sahaba and Lashkar Jhangavi that are Parent units from which TTP came into being .

Rest of name and aliases and sub Organizations are just Mambo Jumbo to confuse the people the real deal is actually Lashkar Jhangavi and Sipah Sahaba.

Was he a Tool in this Geo –Strategies that are being woven as Great Game of USA versus Russia and with Iran , China and Pakistan as accessory and coalition Partner of USA made moves that made what Captain Tariq Ali Mirza did .

Why he had hate of Pashtuns and Why had so much hate of Shia,s, as this is like hating two Different communities that have no Link with Each other ?

Was he a Punjabi Nationalist fighting for his Punjab survival or was he tool in hands of Punjabi Establishment who have deep rooted hate of Pashtuns and their Past history of Ruling them as Durrani Empire of India 1747-1857 or Afghan Mughals 1550-1747 or the Delhi’s Afghan Sultanate 800 AD to 1550 AD.

There is a lot in this Un Told story then being Told in Media and Continently hidden from General pubic and not reported Pakistani Controlled Media and TV channels.

Or this is Money Making schemes of Punjab to follow Wahabi Agenda and use this money to spend on Punjab and its people while conveniently making Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan as battle grounds and also sabotaging Afghanistan a Muslim country from Developing attacking its Education institutions and those that lie in Pashtuns Areas of Both countries.


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  1. Tool in Hand of Punjabi Establishment and British MI6 at same time !!:



While he had tarnished Back Ground How come he could to go to UK and join its National health Service belonging to British Government and become a Doctor there while he claims he ran away from Pakistan Army as a Absconder?


Why the Britain and its National health Service Accepted his Medical Degree and his Status was verified by Pakistan Army and its medical College called Army medical college , as he was Graduate of Army medical College Rawalpindi and he was also serving Doctor in Pakistan Army , how his degrees was checked and who has verified by Both Pakistan Army and Britain ?


Is Pakistan Government and Pakistan Army Accomplice in Sending him to UK as Health Ministry verifies the documents and so did the GHQ in Rawalpindi , as if he was Absconder how this was done and Apparently he has not changed his Name from Captain Tariq Ali Mirza and his Degree had the same name??


Was he operating as Intelligence Operative of Pakistan Army or British MI6 ?? because he cannot operate and have a medical License with him in UK if he has not gone through this verification checks .



  1. Common Goal Lashkar Jhangavi / Taliban Al-Qaeda and Syria based ISIS !! with common factor of Shia Hate and that of Iran:



From the Above Mentioned Facts its is clear that Captain Tariq Ali Mirza was having one thing in common that is hate of Shia and Iran and Pashtuns and this is official Policy of Taliban , ISIS , Al-Qaeda and also Saudia Arabia and Deobandi,s ( Paki version not Indian ) , which is one and same thing .


While in UK he was Associate of another Punjabi Terrorist Mr. Anjum Chaudhry Member of Lashkar Jhangavi and close Associate of Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal ( Red Mosque a Few feet from ISI Head Quarter in Islamabad ) who is also while Heading the Lashkar Jhangavi has recently Announced to be leader of ISIS in Pakistan ???


Mr. Anjum Chaudhry based in UK , is a free man and he is Given a Free hand both by Pakistan and UK in was recently Involved in Hate Speeches and also Harassing people of Britain in forming a Shriat state a Laughable Task .


He was member of Lashkar Jhangavi made in 1992 by Lt-General Javaid Ashraf Qazi head of ISI .


Anjum Chaudhry frequented the Lal Masjid and was Mostly Guest Speaker with Maulana Abdul Aziz , Head of Lashkar Jhangavi and Now ISIS ( made from Same Punjabi Taliban ) .


Captain Tariq Ali Mirza was Great Friend of Mr Anjum and Chaudhry and also wanted to go to Syria with him.


And He did along with some friends of Mr Anjum Chuadhry and Captian Dr Tariq Ali Anjum went to Syria but while crossing Europe he was Arrested by Croation Authorities and sent to Jail in Croatia and when he was Released he was sent Back to Pakistan and


During his time in Pakistan, Ali edited an online English-language jihadist magazine, called ‘Ihya-e-Khilafat’ (Revival of the Islamic Caliphate) aimed at recruiting Muslim youths from the west to fight the shia,s



  1. Family of All terrorist live in Punjab under Safety and Protections of Pakistan :



Captain Pakistan Army Mr. Tariq Ali Mirza who have big Families in Punjab and are Living comfortably without Police Knocking on their Doors , or their Kith and Kin not Disappearing like those hundreds and thousands in Baluchistan , FATA and Pakhtunkhwa ??? Exposes the Hand on our Punjabi Establishment in one way or Another .


These so called Commanders of Taliban Ethnically Punjab Groomed and made from Taliban Punjab wing like LEJ, ( Lashkar Jhangavi ) and SSP ( Sipah Sahaba now known as ( ASWJ Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ) are Comfortably sitting in their comfy homes in Punjab while two provinces are Burned because of their Misdeeds and they are Invading Afghanistan and Indian Via Kashmir exposes their Game .


These Punjabi Commanders of Taliban their families and with their Glowing Links with Pakistan Army hide in Plane Sight and use multiple Aliases and Like Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza ( Sur Name of Qadianis or Mughals Punjabis ) used many Aliases like Dr Abu Obadiah Al-Islamabadi or



  1. Punjabi Generals Role in Making TTP / Punjabi Taliban:



Captain Dr Tariq Ali Mirza from Army Medical college Rawalpindi and From Pakistan Army as a Doctor , made himself a Leader of Lashkar Jhangavi a Punjab Based Terrorist organization made in 1992, during time of General Javaid Ashraf Qazi , the same Man who was education Minister under General Mushraff a Military Dictator that ruled Pakistan for more then a Decade and put Pakistan on Fake War on terror via its own created Taliban and such Jihad’s they wanted to use Against India in Kashmir .


This Same general Lt- General Javaid Ashraff Qazi Ex ISI head in 1992 was one who made Lashkar Jhangavi when he was Head of ISI and Afghan War had finished and the funding from USA had finished and yet Pakistan carried out the Making of new Jihad and terrorist so that they can use them in Kashmir and Later Afghanistan as Taliban and that was reason that immediately the Taliban came into being under Army rule of general Mushraff when MMA rule was Establishment by General Mushraff and the MMA ( Mutihada Majlis Amal made from Jamaat Islam and JUI ) under Fake Ballot and Election under Military Punjabi Establishment .


These partners of Punjabi Establishment which is Practically the Political Front of Taliban worked for Punjabi Establishment inte3retss Back in 1970 in East Pakistan and previously Kashmir since 1990,s were now made to conquer Afghanistan in 1979 fighting the Charlie Wilson war as US calls the Afghan Jihad , and later the Taliban Movement after 9/11 in 1999.


Taliban were made to Provide the Bassis of invading Afghanistan by USA although Afghanistan had never any Intention of Attacking or Invading USA and Niether it has Attacked USA in Past ever .


These Taliban provided the “” Reason””, Badly needed by USA for Invasion of and Iraq and Syria and later half a Dozen Muslim countries like Somalia , Libya and Lebanon China (Xinagiang , Ugyrs near Gilgit Pakistan ) and Iran in future as well , via a Basis of Islamic terrorism which was Made in USA and , while theses same Group are “””Made by USA””” and funded by USA itself and Saudia and Trained and Kept by Pakistanis.


After the War in Afghanistan was won by so called Taliban , the Punjabi Establishment thought then can , make use of same Taliban in Kashmir and they made Lashkar Jhangavi and Sipah Sahaba , and also USA wanted to Use them againt Shia Iran and Syria back in 1990,s they devised of Shia Hating Wahabi Patterned Taliban theologically Trained from Deoband Madrissah on Punjab land of Deoband city Punjab India and Pakistani Lahore from Raiwind and countless Madrissah,s in Pakistan all over Punjab which harbor 75% of these Madrissah in Punjab .



  1. Immunity from Corruption and VIP Status:



Although same Lt- General Javaid Ashraff Qazi Ex ISI head in 1992, and was later also Implicated in Massive Corruption of Property Deals worth Billions when he made himself owner of State Land of Pakistan Railway.


The General made a Golf course and wedding halls on these State Lands of Pakistan Railway, he was one who also made Massive Money in deals of Chinese and Sub Standard Railway Engines in collaboration with Sheikh Rasheed another Minister in General Mushraff Cabinet with Lt- General Javaid Ashraff Qazi and his


Practically he started the War on terror by Lodged an FIR on Maulana Abdul Aziz and his Brother the Mullah Killed in Army Operation Later of Capturing State land and Library in Islamabad by building Lal Masjid on it , this was start of Military


Operation on Jihadi Groups like Lashkar Jhangavi and Sipah he had made Himself ????



  1. Protection by GHQ of these Corrupt Generals :



Recently when this Ex-ISI chief of 1992 Year was caught by Anti-corruption Department , he was besieged by Media and he gave shut Up calls to media when they asked his role in corruption and some Pinching Questions , and they the Supreme court asked them to appear before it and then immediately the Army chief General Kiyani chief of Army Staff , Intervened and declared that they are officers of Pakistan Army and they are immune of Superior courts a Lie and not established fact .


He made a Sham inquiry in order to Protect them and its results are still unknown and not made public to this day and he is free man now worth Billions and smiling and enjoying his life.


Why would Serving in Uniform army chief protect a general who is retired more then two decades ago and declare him a Serving Officer of Army and stop prosecution of him . ?? and with his role in Making Taliban and also Shia Hating parts of it called Lashkar Jhangavi and Sipah Sahaba ( Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat now ) .



  1. Conclusion:


It is clear now that these People of Pakistani Establishment would never Leave the Pashtuns Lands alone and will continue to Destabilize Afghanistan and also Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Baluchistan ( Ethnically 90% Pashtun) .


They will continue to Ignite one fire or another and afford Killing of Pashtun Pakistani in both west of Indus River that is in Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Baluchistan ( Ethnically 90% Pashtun) .


This fire is money Earner for Punjab and they Have Benefited a lot from this and earned a lot of money from it and will continue to do so with Blood and tears for Pashtuns who are not Equal Citizens of Pakistan and their Genocide will continue and not stop.


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‘It’s like a war here’—Saudi police raid defiant eastern province amid wider conflict with Shias

‘It’s like a war here’: Saudi police raid defiant eastern province amid wider conflict with Shias

Download video (42.88 MB)

One Saudi policeman was killed and four injured during raids on a Shia-dominated oil-rich eastern province, as the Saudi-led coalition bombardment of rebels in neighboring Yemen prompted fears of the fighting spilling over the border.

It is thought the security raid in the eastern town of Amawiyah was aimed at subduing Shiite discontent with the Saudi Sunni majority. The gulf kingdom fears further escalation amid the latest regional developments and wider allegations of discrimination.

Locals say 30 arrests were made, according to reports. They also accuse authorities of cracking down on anti-government protests and using it as an excuse for the raids. The region is keen to show its dissatisfaction with the Saudi coalition bombardment of Shiite rebels in neighboring Yemen, whom they see as brothers in faith.

This is aside from the more general grievances over Saudi discrimination of the Shia in nearly every sector of public life.

That the “exchange of fire” quickly turned into a gun battle is hardly a unique occurrence in the resource-rich, but poor majority-Shiite province – incidents have been happening since 2011 when the Shia (10 to 15 percent of the country’s 29 million inhabitants), decided they had had enough and began engaging in activities reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests.

Locals report seeing 40 armored security vehicles enter Awamiya at 15:30 (12:30 GMT) on Sunday. One anonymous resident told the Middle East Eye “the gunfire didn’t stop” until 21:00. “Security forces shot randomly at people’s homes, and closed all but one of the roads leading in and out of the village.”

“It is like a war here – we are under siege,” he added.

Alleged eyewitness footage sent to the MEE depicts gunfire, supposedly coming from the police forces. Buildings and cars appear to be ablaze in the video.

Armed locals reportedly engaged the security forces in a gunfight. Armored vehicles were allegedly still seen in the small town after sundown at 9pm (18:00GMT), as the Saudi forces set up security checkpoints and roadblocks.

The fighting follows local rumors of an anti-government protest that never actually took place.

“The protest was canceled because we were told to be careful and that if we rallied they [the security forces] would kill everyone,” one local said.

Saudi Arabia’s leading Sunni clerics have labeled the Shiite minority as heretics.

According to Saudi Arabian officials, the death and injuries in Awamiya on Sunday took place during a security operation to target “terrorist elements,” their weapons and communications equipment. They said the raid also resulted in four arrests for targeting the security forces, according to the state-run SPA news agency.

The violence is the latest in a string of restive events that has seen some 20 people lose their lives since 2011.

People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike in the Okash village near Sanaa April 4, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike in the Okash village near Sanaa April 4, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

The official Saudi line is that no discrimination is taking place and it’s about fighting an armed uprising.

The special op in the east of the country comes as the Saudi-led coalition kept bombarding Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen with airstrikes, an operation that has been ongoing for over a week now, after Yemeni President Hadi was forced to flee the country. The president asked for international intervention to reinstate his rule.

Associate Professor Firat Demir at the University of Oklahoma sees this as a measure to galvanize Sunnis to target Shias wherever they may be.

“I’m afraid the characterization of this war is quite misrepresented in international media, especially in the US press… the main goal isn’t to uproot or eliminate terrorism in Yemen, but in fact to encourage terrorism against Shias. We should remember that Saudi Arabia provided 15 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11. They have the same religion – Wahabism – as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and right now Sunnis are fighting against Shias not only in Yemen, but in Syria and Iraq. Here, the Shias are the underdogs – they are the good guys.

“Yemen is already a failed state,” he goes on, remembering that the same fate befell Libya, which became “a breeding ground for extremists.”

Airstrikes since Saturday morning have targeted Houthi positions near Aden and the Houthi stronghold of Saada in the north of the country. At least 193 people have been killed and more than 1,200 wounded in the fighting there. Three-quarters of the dead were civilians, a medical official told AFP on Saturday.

People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike in Okash village near Sanaa April 4, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike in Okash village near Sanaa April 4, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

Political analyst Kamel Al Wazne believes the same. “The confrontation that is going on with Yemen is not going to leave Saudi Arabia without any consequences,” he tells RT.

“Obviously there’s a large minority that exists in Saudi Arabia, they’ve been deprived for a very long time of their basic rights and they’ve been treated like second-class [citizens],” he says, adding that the situation could “explode at any time.”

“The Saudis are playing with fire… they invested in military equipment for years, spending probably more money than countries like India. They can resolve things with their aircraft, not knowing that their aircraft hasn’t actually achieved anything. I think logic and reason and a political solution would be the answer… otherwise they made a large miscalculation entering the war.”

Finally, Yemen, with its 10 million living below the poverty line, “doesn’t need[bombardment]… it needs health, it needs food, it needs shelter, it needs water, it needs medical supplies,” Al Wazne explains.

Sunni Dictators and Autocrats Expect United States to do their dirty work in Yemen

Autocrats United Against Yemen

for policy in focus


The latest war in the Middle East is now well underway in Yemen, where airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition have killed hundreds and plunged the Arab world’s poorest country into a deepening humanitarian crisis.

The target of the strikes are Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Zaydi Shiite resistance fighters that seized the capital Sanaa last January and have made inroads in southern Yemen since. Other members of the 10-country coalition include Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, and most of the Gulf Cooperation Council of Sunni monarchies.

Washington has confirmed that it’s providing logistical support on the ground.

It’s a variation on an old theme, where autocratic and despotic regimes in the Middle East call on the United States to do their dirty work. The result for the United States helping these regimes to stay in power has been the prevalence of anti-Americanism among Arabs and Muslims.

Nonetheless, in addition to providing intelligence to the Saudis for their bombings in Yemen, the U.S. also just removed its partial weapons freeze on Egypt’s military regime — a signal of approval of Cairo’s leadership in the anti-Houthi fight.

A Proxy War?

The members of the coalition allege that the Houthis are proxies for Tehran. By roping in Washington, the Saudis (like the Israelis) may be trying to forestall the U.S. rapprochement with Iran after the recent breakthrough in nuclear talks and tacit cooperation between the two countries against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Media reports have largely echoed the charge that the Houthis are Iranian proxies. Yet this misleading cliché serves no other interest than to demonize Iran.

Though it’s likely that Tehran is helping the Houthis in some capacity, scholars on Yemen have been unable to gather much credible evidence of Iran’s military involvement. Even Katherine Zimmerman, a policy wonk at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, told Foreign Policy there was “nothing that’s seen as hard evidence” to indicate Iranian involvement.

More likely, the driving forces of the rebellion are local, as a Chatham House report by Peter Salisbury recently indicated, concluding that the influence of external forces is exaggerated. “The Houthi are not Iranian proxies in the sense that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy,” adds British foreign secretary Philip Hammond. Even if Iran is supplying help, Tehran “can’t actually control what the Houthis do.”

Of course, the U.S. is over 7,000 miles away, yet it flies drones, runs special ops, and facilitates Saudi bombing raids in Yemen. Can it really treat alleged Iranian involvement from next door with much disdain?

A Local Conflict

Despite some of their more strident rhetoric, the Houthis appear much more moderate in their aims — namely, representation and resources for their Zaydi Shiite constituency — than they’re credited with by the West. They’re also staunch opponents of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al-Qaeda franchise most feared by Western intelligence agencies, and of the Islamic State, which has allegedly established a foothold in Yemen.

But outside these Sunni extremist forces, the conflict in Yemen isn’t so much about sectarian affiliation as it is access to resources.

Home to 25 million people, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world despite the recent discovery of oil there. Resources have historically been scarce and wealth is concentrated among the few in power.

In the late 1960s, Yemen went through two simultaneous revolutions — one in the north and one in the south. A new Yemen Arab Republic was declared in the north along the Saudi border and enjoyed good relations with the Saudis. In the south, a new Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen was declared. A socialist country, it enjoyed the patronage of the Soviet Union and favorable relations with Tehran.

In 1990, the two countries merged into a unified country under the leadership of Ali Abdullah Saleh as a president. Yes, that’s the same Saleh who became a cooperative client of the United States.

Saleh became increasingly corrupt and autocratic, concentrating power in the hands of his family before he was finally deposed in 2012. In the meantime, AQAP thrived in Yemen, opening the door to later inroads by ISIS. Both AQAP and ISIS are sworn enemies of the Shiite Houthis. Recently, suicide bombers allegedly linked to ISIS killed and wounded hundreds of Shiite worshipers.

The Houthis backed the uprising that overthrew Saleh from the presidency in 2012. But in the current Houthi revolt, Saleh — a secular Zaydi Shiite who retains some supporters in the Yemeni army — has supported them in the hope of re-installing himself or his son to power. He’s calling for new elections, since the pact that ousted him and installed his

vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as the country’s leader was only intended to be transitional.

Playing with Fire

With the Houthis continuing to make gains around the southern port city of Aden despite the airstrikes, the Saudis’ bombing alone will not likely not be enough to tip the battle. More ominous is the prospect of a ground intervention, particularly as Sunni Arab countries contemplate forming an “Arab NATO” alliance to enforce the region’s status quo.

However, the Houthis and their allies are battle-hardened and know the terrain — this is their mountainous country, after all. The war could then degrade into guerilla warfare with no end in sight. With their chief rival for power tied up, al-Qaeda and ISIS will thrive further. Even now, AQAP is exploiting the chaos.

The Egyptian-Saudi armada to topple the Houthis and their allies could result in Iran deepening its own suspected involvement in the war. The involvement of so many countries in the region in the war in Yemen could result in a wider war with completely unpredictable outcomes, even outside the country’s borders.

The Saudis and the Egyptians are particularly vulnerable to internal and external serious rebellions. The Saudis military may not stay loyal to the regime if the war with Yemen drags on. The restive Shia population in eastern Saudi Arabia may rebel. The majority Shia in Bahrain could rise up again against the Bahraini government, as well as against the Saudi military forces stationed there. The Egyptians are at war from within already and the new war will just inflame it further.

The silver lining is the emerging U.S. rapprochement with Iran, which could tilt control of the narrative away from Israel and the Sunni countries and form the basis for a mediated settlement — but only if the recent nuclear agreement survives an assault from Netanyahu and congressional hardliners.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth – When Humanity Will Have Peace. He can be reached at

Guaranteed Financial Security Is A Fantasy

Guaranteed Financial Security Is A Fantasy


Charles Hugh Smith Charles Hugh Smith

Guarantees based on extracting higher taxes, borrowing trillions of dollars and creating trillions more out of thin air only guarantee eventual systemic implosion.

It is difficult for those living through tectonic social and economic shifts to recognize the passing of one era and the emergence of a new era. We are clearly in such a tectonic shift, yet it is slow enough and uneven enough that those who hope the old era will somehow endure despite the erosion of its foundations can find evidence to support their beliefs.

One such cherished belief is the faith that financial security can be guaranteed. This faith has two components:

1. The faith that risk can be identified and managed to the point it cannot disrupt the payment of promised pensions, benefits, yields, etc.

2. The faith that the system can pay what has been promised by one means or another.

If tax revenues are inadequate, taxes can always be raised. If tax revenues fail to rise, then the money needed to pay the promised pensions, benefits, etc. can be borrowed. If the money cannot be borrowed, then it can simply be created out of thin air by central banks or printed by government treasuries.

Before the advent of high finance, lowering risk could only be achieved by spreading the risk over a large populace. To lower the risk to individuals that their house would burn down in an accidental fire, insurance was sold to 1,000 homes. If one or two of the 1,000 homes burned down each year, the insurance could pay the claims and still build up reserves for future claims.

But if a conflagration burns down all 1,000 homes, the insurance is overwhelmed; the guaranteed coverage is rendered worthless.

The creation of a volunteer (or tax-supported) fire brigade will also lower the risk that an accidental fire could spread. But once again, such a brigade can only mitigate very limited fires; a second fire or a windstorm would exceed the capacity of the brigade to extinguish multiple fires.

The faith in guaranteed security is actually a faith that there will be no consequences from borrowing or printing enormous sums of money, and no possible risk to the system that cannot be anticipated and mitigated with some fancy financial footwork.

Is this faith reality-based? We know that borrowing immense sums of money does have consequences: interest must be paid out of future income, reducing the income that can be consumed or invested, and dependence on borrowed money creates moral hazard: rather than make difficult trade-offs, the borrower just borrows more money.

Creating money out of thin air is also not consequence-free. Fancy financial footwork can mask the consequences of creating money to pay promised pensions, benefits, etc., but eventually the reality that creating money does not create wealth intrudes on the fantasy that if tax revenues are insufficient, and borrowing has limits, then we can guarantee incomes, pensions, benefits, etc. by creating money out of thin air.

Those dependent on the promises made in the previous era will support any policy that “extends and pretends” the illusion that financial security can be guaranteed, regardless of seismic shifts in the natural and financial economies.

The irony of “extend and pretend” is these policies only push the system to extremes that guarantee systemic collapse. The more we avoid facing the intrinsic insecurities generated by tectonic shifts, the more we hasten the sudden implosion of old systems pushed beyond their limits.

Real security arises from the constant volatility, friction and insecurity of experimentation, adaptation and dissent. Guarantees based on extracting higher taxes, borrowing trillions of dollars and creating trillions more out of thin air only guarantee eventual systemic implosion.

Put another way: spreading the risk of a house fire amongst the 1,000 homeowners does not actually lessen the risk of a conflagration burning down the entire town.

Pakistan and the Saudi Dominance

saudi-pakistanPakistan and the Saudi attack on Yemen

in defense of marxism

Written by Lal Khan 

The Pakistani masses have reacted very negatively to the prospects of becoming an accomplice in the Saudi Monarchy’s brutal aggression against Yemen. This response has shocked Pakistan’s ruling elite, the state’s bosses, the media and the intelligentsia. Even some in the media have dared to reveal the vicious character of the despotic Saudi regime and its atrocious treatment of more than 2.5 million Pakistani immigrant workers banished into slavery and drudgery by these tyrannical monarchs

The hesitation, lack of any confidence, and hypocrisy of the rulers is pathetic. An official Press report stated that, “Pakistan called upon the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. An official statement from the PM House (Prime Minister’s Office) had said the meeting concluded that Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It was also emphasised in the meeting that Pakistan is committed to playing a meaningful role in resolving the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.”

What a laughable, pathetic and spineless response! What is said about consulting the ‘parliament’ and informing the people is a reeking cynical farce. These rulers themselves are mere timid puppets. Usually they are only informed about military operations and crucial foreign policy decisions after the fact by the top bosses of the state and their imperialist masters. These are the real people calling the shots.

Saudi Arabia’s influence in Pakistan

The influence of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan should not be underestimated. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was granted amnesty under pressure from the Saudi Monarchs and spent his years in exile after Musharraf’s coup in 1999 in Saudi Arabia. During Sharif’s time in Saudi Arabia he was a guest of the Royal family who were also his business partners. His return to the country and his road to power was paved by the Saudi Royals. On his coming to power in 2013 he was doled out a gift of $1.5 billion by the Saudi government. Despite his frequent visits and business deals with China, Turkey and Qatar, and his bondage with his American masters, he is still most indebted to the Saudi monarchy. At the same time, Saudi Arabia regularly provides free oil for Pakistan’s military and other ‘gifts’ on regular basis. With tanks, fighter planes and naval ships running on Saudi oil, it is not an option for the Pakistani ruling class to disobey their masters orders. Pakistan’s Mullahs and religious parties from Wahhabi sects also regularly receive large donations to run their madrassas and terrorist outfits. Saudi Arabia was the first country in the whole world to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan back in 1996.

Saudi Arabia has always been a bossy key player in Pakistani politics for a long time. Along with doling out large sums of money for the Army and the clerics, they have been instrumental in toppling unwanted governments and bringing their favourites to power. All of this was being done in cooperation with US Imperialism. But since the US-Saudi alliance has begun to crack, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Pakistani ruling class to serve two masters at the same time.

For the working masses, this Saudi patronage for the right wing parties and the ruling class of Pakistan has always been presented as a kindness from their religious brothers in the “holy land”. But those Pakistanis who work in this “holy land” know the disgusting truth; that for the Saudi rulers they are merely considered slaves and untouchables. They can never attain a Saudi nationality and always need a Saudi citizen’s approval to live or do any business in the country. The Saudi regime’s contemptuous attitude towards Pakistanis is laid bare by the fact that no Pakistani under the age of 40 is allowed to perform Umra – a form of pilgrimage of the holy Kaaba – in all other months than the the month of the Hajj. Only Pakistani Muslims are subjected to this prohibition.  Millions of Pakistanis, mainly from the petit bourgeoisie, visit Mecca and Medina for Hajj every year. This is a huge source of income for the Saudi regime.

Why is Saudi Arabia attacking Yemen?

On the other hand the Saudi Army, which is the fourth most costly in the world, has never gone to war. When the Saudis moved to crush the revolution in Bahrain in 2011, they relied heavily on Pakistani soldiers and mercenaries. The Saudis have also, allegedly, recently called for the Pakistani army to deploy 30,000 troops on the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Syria to defend the House of Saud against an impending attack by the ISIL. It is clear that the kingdom does not trust its own forces that could just as well turn their expensive arms against the Royalty itself.  It shows the intrinsic weakness of this despotic regime and the fears of the ruling elite.

sanaa yemen rebels rallySaudi Arabian fighter aircraft have been ferociously bombing targets across Yemen, killing hundreds if not thousands of civilians, including children. It is clear that this figure will dramatically rise as the targets of the attack are moving into the civilian populated areas in Sana’a and in the northern Houthi villages which are expected to be heavily bombed.  Refugee camps, factories and congested populated civilian areas are being bombed. The infrastructure, whole towns and cities are being destroyed and turned into ruins.  Along with the ‘holy’ alliance of the Arab states, Israel has also supported the bombings. This reveals the decline of the system. These events are now exposing the farce of Saudi foreign policy towards Israel, the disingenuous anti-Israel rhetoric, and the hollow slogans of Palestinian freedom. It shows the class unity of the rulers of repressive regimes and why workers from all religions and nationalities should come together and fight against this cruel system.

Yet again, Yemen, which is the poorest Arab country, has become a target for savage attacks by the Saudi regime and its Arab and non-Arab allies.

The burgeoning domestic crisis, Saudi Arabia’s waning hegemony in the region and the rising desperation of the reactionary Al Saud family, with its growing internal conflicts, has brought desperation to the present clique that came to power along with the new King, Salman. His thirty-year-old son, Mohammad, who has been appointed the new defence minister, is a bully gone berserk. In reality they are trying to protect the Saudi ruling class and its imperialist designs in the Middle East. The Saudis could not accept the disintegration of Yemen and it falling into the hands of Iranian backed forces on its southern borders. Since the Iraq war, Iran and to a minor extent Qatar have developed into the biggest threat to the supremacy of Saudi Arabia in the region. Turkey is also expanding its influence by supporting IS in Iraq and Syria and other proxies in the region.

This conflict has exacerbated tensions and bloody conflicts between Saudi and Iranian proxies in the region in which sectarian hatred is being imposed by the warring mercenaries. The Iranian regime has not only been supporting clerics and sectarian terrorist outfits in Pakistan, but in many other countries in the region as well. Reactionary Shia clerics and religious parties are heavily funded across the Middle East by the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime also attempted to divert the revolutionary movement in Bahrain on sectarian lines. This movement was a threat to both Saudi and Iranian interests, and both regimes tried to crush it in their own way. Similarly, the Iranian regime tried to intervene in other movements of the Arab revolution and impose their own narrow agenda. The collapse of Mubarak in Egypt and the temporary retreat of the Arab revolutionary upheaval provided them with an opportunity to step up their intervention in the region. Because of the internal crisis of the Iranian State and decaying economy, they use the threat of external enemies to prop up their rule at home.

In these circumstances, the Iranian mullah regime used the rise of the IS to rally sectarian support. Similarly, Saudi aggression in Yemen will provide them with more excuses for spreading their influence. The regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been used by both regimes for this purpose. But the sectarianism they have spawned has not been able to find fertile ground to spread on a mass scale. In fact, the masses are becoming wary of the situation of which they are the victims. Although the Arab revolution has receded without achieving its ultimate goals, the possibility of sharp swings in public opinion is implicit in the situation.

The Pakistani army for hire

The intervention of Pakistan’s military in the Middle East is not a new phenomenon. They have been used as mercenaries by the reactionary and despotic regimes of the Middle East for decades. One of the most gruesome episodes was the massacre of the Palestinians in Jordan in 1970 to protect the monarchy there. From 1967 to 1970, Brigadier Muhammad Zia ul Haq was stationed in Jordan in Official Military Capacity to protect the Hashemite Kingdom. On September 15, 1970, King Hussein declared martial law in Jordan to crush a revolutionary uprising of the Palestinians. The next day, Jordanian tanks of the 60th Armoured Brigade attacked the headquarters of Palestinian organizations in Amman while the army also attacked camps in Irbid, Salt, Sweileh, Baq’aa, Wehdat and Zarqa. Then the head of the Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (later Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan), took command of the 2nd division. King Hussain took this extraordinary step because he was terrified that the Jordanian generals would refuse to massacre fellow Palestinians and could turn their guns against him. The American backed Jordanian army shelled the PLO headquarters in Amman and battled with Palestinian guerrillas in the narrow streets of the capital. Yasir Arafat had later claimed that the Jordanian and Pakistani troops killed between 10,000 and 25,000 Palestinians.

The intensity of the bloodletting by Zia ul Haq and King Hussain was such that one of the founder fathers of Israel, Moshe Dayan, cynically remarked:“King Hussein, with help from Zia-ul-Haq of the Pakistani army, sent in his Bedouin army on 27 September to clear out the Palestinian bases in Jordan. Hussein killed more Palestinians in eleven days than Israel could kill in twenty years.” Also, a year later, they participated in the bloody civil war and massacres in East Bengal. Again, in the 1980’s, Zia ul Haq, who was now the head of state, rented the Pakistani military institutions to American Imperialism and forged the “dollar jihad” to overthrow the Afghan revolution of 1978.

A state of crisis

However, any direct intervention of the Pakistani troops in this Saudi aggression against Yemen will be much more dangerous. This intervention would come back to bite the ruling classes and the state. It could severely harm Pakistan’s relationship with Iran and incite protest by the masses. The indecisiveness of the ruling elite exposes their fear and cowardice. Currently, the Pakistani State is quite different to what it was in the 1970s or 1980s. It is now at war with itself. A cruel operation is being carried out in Baluchistan on a vast scale in which hundreds of Baluchi militants have been killed and their mutilated bodies thrown in streets. Helicopter gunships are used to annihilate whole villages and towns in which women and children are mercilessly killed.

A so called operation against the Taliban is also being carried out in tribal regions along the Afghan border. In this fake operation, many ordinary Pashtoons are killed on the pretext of killing Taliban while real terrorists are protected by the State and its army. In Karachi, the Army is also involved in a mutually destructive conflict between the neo-fascist MQM, and Taliban terrorists and other reactionary forces.

On the eastern border, skirmishes with the Indian army are a regular occurrence. Continuous attempts are made to smuggle terrorists into Indian held Kashmir and other parts of India. The ruling class on both sides never wants to give anything up. They whip up hatred against each other in order to continue their oppressive rule at home and to justify the buildup of expensive nuclear arsenals at the expense of endless poverty and misery.

Suicide bombs, lynching by mobs and other terrorist activities in which the warring factions of the Pakistani state is involved have become a normality. The Pakistani State always relies on sectarian hatred to continue its oppression of the working masses. Saudi and Iranian Riyals for clerics and terrorist outfits are considered as donations from holy lands by the ruling class. This sectarian hatred found fertile ground amongst some layers of the middle-class in the 1980s after the defeat of the revolution. The Neo-fascist MQM in Karachi was also built in those times to divide the proletarians of Karachi on communal lines. But now, it is becoming increasingly difficult for reactionary outfits to appeal to these layers and find mass following. All attempts to organize mass marches by religious alliances, supported by secret agencies and the bourgeois media, end up as a gathering of a few hundred people. Most of these people are paid to attend or are promised benefits and perks.

The state, the army and the various secret agencies are all in a state of crisis, and the different factions within them are in open war with each other. The army has its hands in everything from real estate development to the drug trade. The distribution of heroin and other drugs from Afghanistan’s opium fields to the Arabian Sea and from there to parts of Europe and Africa is making an estimated 100 billion dollars per year. This is the main source of income for many in the ruling circles including Parliamentarians, Generals, Judges and top bureaucrats.

All of this leads to is more bloodletting as the warring factions of the state clash. At the same time, sectarianism is destabilising the army itself. If Pakistan is thrown into the Yemeni conflict this problem will get worse. A sectarian conflict can have a devastating effect on the already decaying and demoralised army. It could lead to the destabilisation of the state itself.

Pakistani society is at an impasse. Unemployment exists on a massive scale. Street crimes, prostitution, drug addiction and general decay is on the rise. All of this provides breeding ground for reactionary and terrorist outfits. Although reactionary state sponsored groups have not been able to gain mass support, lynch mobs killing people on religious grounds are normal occurrences. A conflict in Yemen could lead to further disintegration and chaos.

Class struggle

However, the Pakistani working class has a long history of struggle. Pakistani workers also have a strong bond to Yemeni workers and workers in other gulf states. However much the ruling class tries to divide the working class, class solidarity will always emerge eventually.

In the past, Baluchi student leaders defied the attempts by the Pakistani state to send Baluchis to Oman and Bahrain as mercenaries. Those student leaders had to pay for this with their lives. The reactionary acts of ruling classes of the Middle East and Pakistan can lead to a revolutionary response from the working class and revolutionary youth. Class solidarity is the only way out of this mayhem.

From the shores of the Mediterranean to the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East is descending into bloody chaos and barbarism. This is the only outcome under capitalism. However, the Arab revolution proved that once the masses move all the reactionaries can be easily swept aside. Without the overthrow of the reactionary regimes, from the Israeli Zionists to the Saudi despotic monarchy, and from the Mullahcracy in Iran to the rotten Pakistani ruling elite, no way out is possible. Without a socialist revolution, the crisis in the middle east will not be resolved. Such is the intensity of the capitalist crisis that a revolutionary transformation in any one country can, and must, quickly spread throughout the entire region.

Operation Decisive Storm Brings not Stability but Death to Yemen

Operation Decisive Storm Brings not Stability but Death to Yemen

national yemen

National Yemen

By Harun Yahya

Many people were proven right in their guesses that the Arab Spring in Yemen would turn into a hurricane of war. The so-called ‘Operation Decisive Storm‘ by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition against the Houthis is expanding. Even though the coalition claims to target only the Houthi militia and their ammunition, many civilians face the danger of death.

It is only the eleventh day of the operation, but tens of people already lost their lives when the refugee camp in the north of the country was hit. The situation became even more grim with claims like that of Pablo Marco, the Director of Medecins Sans Frontieres , who said that the refugee camp was targeted in a planned airstrike. (1)

As people speculate over the start of a ground operation, it seems almost certain that the civilian death toll will increase. The interesting thing about the operation is that it started without a certain military target, and this makes even the USA, the biggest supporter of the operation, uncomfortable. Jeff Rathke, one of the spokespeople for the State Department, said that they didn’t want it to be an open-ended operation (2).

It is possible to estimate when  storms will end, but no one knows when the ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ will be over. Is the goal destroying the Houthis completely? Or is it to make them surrender? What conditions do they require for surrender? None of these are certain.

This uncertainty raises the likelihood of the expansion of the war and a rising death toll. In any event, it is very difficult to ensure peace in the country by military means because even if the Houthi militants lay down their weapons, the Zaydis will continue to live in the country and the devastation brought by the war will hurt not only the Zaydis of Yemen, but also its Sunni citizens.

The negative outcomes of the Arab Spring suggest that this war will not be successful in bringing peace, justice and stability to Yemen. When Muslims were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, everyone held the Western countries responsible for it,  especially the USA. However, the events that followed  and the current scene in Yemen make it clear that  conflict amongst the Arabs can be as bloody as  conflicts with the Western world.

In other words, the scenarios of  war do not change:

A dictator that treats his country like a family company and runs it with an iron fist; an intimidated, silenced people. A rise of public uproar, an overthrown dictator. Deteriorating  stability and rising ethnic and sectarian differences. The start of a conflict that transforms into an unending war.

The locations and the names change, but the scenario stays the same. But is it always going to be like this? Is this scenario always going to be written with blood and death? A conflict reminiscent of the current situation in the Middle East was seen in Europe 350 years ago. The Thirty Years War and the Eighty Years War, resulting from some Kings favoring  certain sects over others, brought about an enormous change to Europe. After this transformation, one that continued for centuries, sectarian clashes were abandoned and although new kingdoms and dictatorships were formed, eventually the continent found its peace in democracy.

Some analysts believe that the Muslims in the Middle East will follow the same path. This partly results from the misconception that ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and their likes draw their violent ways from Islam. Even though it is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an, many radical Shi’a and Sunni Muslims think that it is a part of their faith that people not from their sects should be killed.

These people, although they do not live by the compassionate, loving and considerate morality commanded by religion, pose as ‘pious’ people.  As a result of this erroneous propaganda, millions of people misunderstand Islam. They even may come to wrongly  think that Islam restricts freedom and liberties, controls thoughts and even encourages bloodshed.  However, Islam is a peaceful religion that gives people the freedom of thought and expression and protects the rights of people. Almighty God explains this in a verse:

There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false gods and has faith in God has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 256)

There are also other verses in Quran that prove that there can be no compulsion in religion: 88/21-22, 109/1-6 and 18/29 in the Holy Qur’an are amongst them.

Be they Zaydi or Sunni, all Muslims in Yemen aim to adopt the beautiful morality God commands and to live and spread the religion the way God teaches us. And no doubt, when people live by the morality God commands, the long-awaited peaceful atmosphere of democracy can be achieved in Yemen. When all Muslims, including those in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey unite, their strength will be a deterrent force to those warmongers willing to start anarchy and conflict at every opportunity.

A very important final thought should be kept in mind: It is not military operations that will bring stability to Yemen, it is more democracy and the belief that Muslims are brothers and sisters.

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science. He may be followed at @Harun_Yahya and


US Navy Pushes Bravado In Latest Black Sea Foray–NO MENTION OF USS DONALD COOK

[SEE:  The Real Buzz About the USS Donald Cook Incident In the Black Sea]

Joint exercises put U.S. Navy at Russia’s doorstep

navy times


The Pacific may be a priority, but the Navy is waving a pretty big flag at Russia’s front door.

The destroyer Jason Dunham entered the Black Sea on April 3 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a series of NATO drills launched more than a year ago. Designed to strengthen security in response to conflict in Ukraine, a number of other ships have participated in the operation, to include the amphibious command ship Mount Whitney, frigate Taylor, cruiser Vella Gulf, and destroyers Truxtun, Donald Cook, Ross, and Cole.

The Army also deployed 750 tanks and thousands of troops to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia “to deter Russian aggression.” Moscow is none too happy with what a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman called “an unprecedentedly dangerous step.”

Meanwhile, the destroyer Porter and cruiser Anzio are running final divisional tactics maneuvers as they draw near Scotland, where they will participate in Joint Warrior, Europe’s largest military exercise — again, designed to deter Russian aggression.

The exercise features 12,000 war fighters from 15 NATO countries and partners, to include roughly 60 warships and submarines, more than 100 aircraft, and nearly 3,000 ground forces. The cruiser Vicksburg, destroyer Donald Cook, dry cargo ship Medgar Evers, and elements from Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48 will also participate.

Because so many wanted to get in the game, rack space is a hot commodity on Anzio. The ship left Norfolk on March 27 with nearly 70 extra crew members from 14 commands. Porter had some extra passengers, as well, but fewer in number since the ship will homeport in Rota, Spain, when the exercise ends.

Homeland Security Stockpiling Lots of “Less Lethal Specialty Munitions”

Are They Arming for Riots Across America? Homeland Stockpiling “Less Lethal Specialty Munitions”


Mac Slavo


One of the biggest stories for years in the alternative media was the mysterious and foreboding purchase by Homeland Security of more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition.

Thanks to coverage on prominent sites like DrudgeReport, the story reached into mainstream media, prompting official spin and downplaying of the purchase.

Now, a new Homeland Security purchase order listed on FedBizOpps  also raises an eyebrow or two, given the heated and divided political and social climate at hand. Just look at what happened in Ferguson…

A request for “less lethal specialty munitions” for use by Homeland Security dated March 23, 2015 reads:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends to solicit responses to Request for Information (RFI) 20082225-JTC for Less Lethal Specialty Munitions (LLSM) for use by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CBP is interested in incorporating commercial and industry practices that support this type of procurement. To accomplish this, CBP intends to make industry a partner in all facets of the acquisition process, specifically by considering existing market capabilities, strengths and weaknesses for the acquisition of this commodity.


Over the course of 9 pages (PDF), the technical requirements call for an arsenal of specialized weaponry for training and deployment against crowds.

On top of a wide range of gas and chemical grenades, rubber bullets and other riot rounds, the purchase calls for “controlled noise and light distraction devices,” including flash bangs which set off a 175 dB sound with 6 – 8 million candelas light bursts in 10 milliseconds.

So why are the Feds prepping to take on crowds?

Officially, the request is put through Customs and Border Patrol, a subset of the Department of Homeland Security, but it is unlikely that the equipment will be used to protect the border and keep out illegal aliens. But the riot gear and crowd control devices have many potential uses.

Perhaps, the equipment for use in instances like last year, when protesters in Murrieta confronted Customs and Border Patrol agents and blocked buses carrying a wave of illegal immigrants from Central America?

The requested equipment includes:

Hand Delivered Pyrotechnic Canisters, including

  • Smoke Canister for Training (Reduced Toxicity)
  • Continuous Discharge Large Smoke Canister (Operations)
  • Continuous Discharge CS Canister
  • Orange Colored Smoke Canister
  • Green Colored Smoke Canister
  • Pocket Tactical Smoke Canister
  • Pocket Tactical CS Canister
  • Three Part Sub-Munitions CS Canister
  • Non-Burning Internal Canister OC Grenade

Non-Pyrotechnic Indoor/Outdoor Use

  • Flameless Expulsion Grenade (OC)
  • Flameless Expulsion Grenade (CS)
  • Flameless Expulsion Grenade (Inert)

Hand Delivered Rubber Ball Grenades

  • Rubber Ball Grenade
  • Rubber Ball Grenade (CS)

40mm Launched Specialty Impact Munitions

  • 40mm Direct Impact Sponge Cartridge
    40mm Direct Impact Sponge Cartridge (OC)
  • 40mm Direct Impact Sponge Cartridge (Marking)
  • 40mm Direct Impact Sponge Cartridge (Inert)
  • 40mm Sponge Training Rounds

Crowd Management Projectile Cartridges

  • 40mm Smokeless Powder Blast (OC)
  • 40mm Smokeless Powder Blast (CS)
  • 40mm Long Range Canister (CS)
  • 40mm Long Range Canister (Smoke)
  • 40mm Cartridge Four Part Sub-Munitions (CS)
  • 40mm Cartridge Four Part Sub-Munitions (Smoke)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions (100 Meters)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions (200 Meters)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions (300 Meters)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions OC (100 Meters)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions OC (200 Meters)
  • 40mm Aerial Warning Munitions OC (300 Meters)

Controlled Noise And Light Distraction Devices

  • Distraction Device Compact
  • Distraction Device
  • Distraction Device Reloadable Steel Body
  • Distraction Device Reload
  • Command Initiated Distraction Device Reload
  • Distraction Device Training Fuse
  • Distraction Device Training Body
  • Multiple Detonation Distraction Device
  • Low Profile Distraction Device
  • Command Initiator

Ferret Rounds

  • 40mm Ferret Round (OC Powder)
  • 40mm Ferret Round (OC Liquid)
  • 40mm Ferret Round (CS Powder)
  • 40mm Ferret Round (CS Liquid)
  • 40mm Ferret Round (Inert Powder)

The ferret rounds are designed to penetrate barriers and deliver debilitating or disrupting chemicals:

“The projectile shall be designed to penetrate barriers of glass, particle board, and interior walls. Upon impact of the barrier, the nose cone will rupture and instantaneously deliver the OC liquid on the other side of the barrier. “

The collection of equipment provides a diverse range of toys with which authorities could push back crowds and potentially intimidate free speech as well.

Are there more riots coming? Is widespread civil unrest only a matter of time? Is it related to martial law exercises like Jade Helm 15?

What do the Feds know that we don’t?

They are getting ready… are you?


Related Reading:

The Prepper’s Blueprint: Prepare For Any Disaster

If Martial Law Comes to America “Dissidents and Subversives Would Be Rounded Up”

The 17 Elements of Martial Law

Saudis Bombing To Make Yemen Safe For Muslim Brotherhood

[In Yemen, we have Saudi forces bombing in support of pro-govt, Sunni forces, who are mostly Muslim Brotherhood/Islah Party (SEE:  Islah Party Announces Decisive Storm Support), while next-door, in Saudi Arabia, political activities by the Ikhwan/Brotherhood are banned.  Dubai also sent bombers, even though in UAE, we see the Brotherhood members being evicted from the country, all with Saudi support.  Egypt supports “Decisive Storm” to help the Sunni forces (Islah and al Qaeda), even though it has waged war against the Islamists of the Brotherhood.  In Bahrain, activities by Islah/Ikhwan are banned, even though a low-level war there is only kept suppressed by Saudi occupiers.  In Syria and Lebanon, Brotherhood activities of any intensity, or level of violence are acceptable.

We are supporting the Saudi military’s fine-tuning of its Ikhwan/Brotherhood instrument of state terror.  After first deploying the Ikhwan asset in Yemen, in support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Saudis were unable to take control of the Yemen state, because of the Houthi uprising.  Despite deploying a revived “Al Qaeda In Yemen” to justify the US introduction of drone assassinations in Yemen, then utilizing those drones in support of Saudi bombers, along with attacks by the Islamists against the Houthis, the Saudi royals could not quell the local uprising (SEE: Guantanamo and The Saudi Rehabilitation Program Behind AQAP–Intentional, or Major Fowl-UP?). 

Saudi Holiday Camp for Terrorists, a.k.a., “Rehab”

Whenever the Saudis lose control of their monster, bombs and murder are employed to bring the beast back into line.  Whenever things are running smoothly, the Islamist juggernaut is given a free hand to establish the “Caliphate,” as with ISIS in Iraq.  The “Islamic State” runs smoothly on unlimited Petrodollars.  The instant creation of this large terrorist army, riding in convoys of new Mazda and Toyota trucks, many of which were already armed with mounted 50cal. machine guns, can only be explained by Saudi money and Muslim Brotherhood jihadi recruits coming together.]


Yemen terrorists are pawns of power

the Australian

YEMEN is at an extraordinary juncture, but 32-year stalwart President Ali Abdullah Saleh won’t go without a fight and he is using every trick in the book to cling to power. The most problematic trick is his penchant for releasing militant jihadis from prison when his legitimacy with the West is strained.

While the story has not been widely released, local security sources have confirmed that this is just what he did on March 8 when he quietly granted 70 al-Qa’ida suspects their freedom from a political security prison in Sanaa.

In other words, the man whom the US continues to look to for assistance against al-Qa’ida in Yemen has – again – released al-Qa’ida suspects from jail.

There have been dubious “escapes” from prison by al-Qa’ida figures in the past, the most audacious when 23 members walked out of the same high-security prison in February 2006.

Included in this group of 23 were two of the men who now lead al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates recently referred to as “perhaps the most dangerous of all the franchises of al-Qa’ida right now”.

There are other reasons to doubt Saleh’s genuine commitment to combating militant jihadis in Yemen. In 2007, he released convicted USS Cole bombing architect Jamal al-Badawi to house arrest, and pardoned Fahd al-Quso, who was also convicted for the attack. Quso re-emerged in an AQAP video last year, threatening to attack US interests.

This all seems rather counter-intuitive. Why would Saleh release members of a group that actively threatens him, particularly when he has also undermined his local legitimacy by consenting to US airstrikes against them? The answer is that he has built his power on crisis and al-Qa’ida are agents of crisis.

The presence of al-Qa’ida in Yemen ensures that the West will continue to look at the country through a counter-terrorism prism at the exclusion of the other seismic shifts that occur there.

It ensures that the West will argue for “stability” and “orderliness” rather than change through the emergence of a movement that is built on the rejection of the President’s smoke and mirrors.

In so doing, Saleh has read his audience very well and, essentially, got away with murder.

Ten days after releasing the 70 men from prison, he placed snipers armed with Dragunov rifles on the buildings that overlook “Taghair” (Change) Square in Sanaa. Within a few minutes, they killed more than 50 unarmed protesters and injured hundreds more. Footage of the massacre shows the snipers targeted those who used handheld cameras to record the protest. Local sources say that ambulances were barred from entering the area and that government hospitals were told not to assist the injured.

Conscious of the security threat Yemen wields, US President Barack Obama responded to the massacre by saying “those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable”, as if to suggest that Saleh might not really have been behind it.

Gates also tried to avoid commenting on the behaviour of America’s ally when he said:

“I don’t think it’s my place to talk about internal affairs in Yemen.” He later elaborated when he was asked by a journalist: “How dangerous is . . . a post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?”

Gates’s answer articulated the vain hope that Saleh was the man to prevent al-Qa’ida from gaining ground in Yemen. “We’ve had counter-terrorism co-operation with President Saleh and the Yemeni security services,” he said.

“So if that government collapses, or is replaced by one (which) is dramatically more weak, then I think we’d face some additional challenges out of Yemen, there’s no question about it.”

But this is a leap of faith for the US. As a source close to Saleh once told me, the President’s strategy is to “sell al-Qa’ida to the highest bidder”. By sanctioning the release of the 70 prisoners from the political security prison in Sanaa, Saleh has tried to insure himself against becoming obsolete.

For a man who has ruled by creating chaos and confusion among those who might challenge him, releasing people who can show just how dangerous Yemen can be is the sale he was looking for.

Sarah Phillips lectures at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. Her second book, Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, will be published by the Adelphi Series later this year

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Increasing probability for a big European “collision” through Grexit

Increasing probability for a big European “collision” through Grexit

failed revolution

by system failure
As we approach closer to the end of the four-month truce period achieved by the Greek government during the negotiations with the lenders, more signs appear showing that we are heading towards a big “collision” in Europe. As already mentioned in previous article, it is extremely difficult for Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel to find, eventually, a common ground: “No matter how many meetings will be conducted between Tsipras and Merkel, there is no chance that they will meet somewhere in the middle. Chancellors’ moderate stance to Tsipras’ “audacity” is only a tactic retreat against the tactical, resolute move by the Greek government to use the Russian card, and force Obama to make another call to Merkel. There is no chance that they will meet, exactly because they serve conflicting interests. Merkel and the troika of course, represent bankers and lobbyists. Tsipras represents the majority of the people.” (
Currently, there is a major psychological war from both sides through a bombardment of contradictory statements. The big difference now, is that this war is conducted equally from Greece and the European “empire”, while under previous governments in Greece, this tactic was an exclusive monopoly of the European institutions and the IMF.
Starting from the latest article in Telegraph, some sources from the Greek side claimed that the country is ready to default on IMF, in order to be able to pay salaries and pensions. There are also claims that Greece prepares to return to national currency and nationalize banks. (
Some scenarios are already out there about how this will happen, and how the Greek government will take advantage of the Greek Orthodox Easter Holiday next week, to start circulating drachmas (
It appears that, the Greek government is playing the game with the terms of the Germans and the eurocrats, as the Greek officials counterattack through leaking statements that aim to transfer the pressure to the other side. However, these basic moves may be already prepared (, and ready to be applied, if necessary. Therefore, the Greeks may want to make clear that they are not bluffing.
Meanwhile, the repayment of IMF on 9 April is only one day after Tsipras’ visit to Moscow. There is some information according to which, despite that the day of the visit has changed to a month earlier, “… Tsipras will return to Moscow again on 9 May to attend ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the great patriotic war.” ( Everything shows that Moscow sees a great opportunity to exploit the situation, expanding Russia’s geopolitical influence.
As part of 1st April jokes, some websites in Greece had circulated the false information that Tsipras is about to request the participation of Greece in the Eurasian Economic Union! However, such a perspective should not surprise us eventually! The Greek government may choose to show that there is no point to stay in the eurozone under such catastrophic conditions imposed by the lenders. There is no rule that forbids Greece to be part of the EU (not eurozone), while at the same time participate in other country formations, anyway.
Additionally, Greece may start to seek other alternatives. Apart from the BRICS solution, Greece may also turn to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as many countries, even from the hard core of the Western bloc already applied to join. Latest examples, Portugal and Iceland (
All these developments certainly bring further panic to the Western economic oligarchy which sees that the balance could change rapidly in the European battlefield. With these puppets in power, Europe has no chance to compromise with Greece, find a real solution and change course for the benefit of the people. The only perspective for the moment is a big “collision” after the end of the truce period, or, maybe earlier. The battle outcome always depends on how the European people will react …

New world bank order

[It is a good thing that China is there to present an alternative to US financial hegemony. AIIB will provide the pressure relief valve to US/international banker plans to dominate the world through universal enforcement of World Bank austerity standards and financial wars against potential rivals to the West. I pinned the “hope of the world” medal upon China back in 2009, for just those reasons. (SEE: China is the Key to the America’s problems).]

New world bank order

the indian express

Even Taiwan has applied for membership. And the US, under intense criticism for staying out, is now pledging cooperation.

China Bank, China AIIB, AIIB China Bank, BRICS Bank, China world bank, China Asia Bank, Indian Express column, Ie column, Ajay Chhibber column
Written by Ajay Chhibber

The Year of the Ram could be witnessing the first tremors of a tectonic shift in global power structures. Despite US objections, some of its closest allies — Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and South Korea — have signed on to the new Chinese-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Some 45 countries, including Brazil and Russia, have signed up and more may join soon. Even Taiwan has applied for membership. Japan is still holding back and the US, under intense criticism for staying out, is now pledging cooperation.

The BRICS Bank was the first shot across the bow to the established order. Now, the AIIB is an even bigger signal that global economic power is shifting — a majority of the G-20 is backing the bank. As China prepares to take over the presidency of the G-20, there is clear evidence of its global ascendancy.

But these new financial institutions are just the set pieces in a bigger “New Silk Road” strategy, which China is crystallising into the “One Belt One Road” policy. This policy, first announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013 in Kazakhstan, was initially meant for greater cooperation between Central Asia and China’s western provinces. But as Xi laid out at the 2015 Boao Forum, since then, it has evolved into a broader plan for China’s engagement with the world. The belt links China to Europe and to trade and transport corridors across Central Asia and Russia. The road includes maritime links through the Straits of Malacca to the Indian Ocean, Middle East and eastern Africa.

China is signalling that while it has imported technology and capital for over 30 years, since the Deng Xiaoping reforms, it is now ready to turn around and export know-how and capital. China’s “One Belt One Road” project focuses on trade, infrastructure and telecommunications. But it also talks about people-to-people connectivity, cultural exchanges as well as learning from other countries’ development experiences. It emphasises peaceful development and cooperation with existing organisations, such as the Saarc, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and EU, to assuage fears that China is emerging as a global hegemon.

The idea is not just to build infrastructure. Trade facilitation is an important part of the “One Belt One Road” project. Local currency trading will be encouraged and currency swap arrangements will be put in place. China UnionPay cards are already issued and accepted in many countries — the latest is Turkey.

In addition to the $100 billion BRICS Bank and the $100 bn AIIB, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Development Bank and Silk Road Fund ($40 bn) are also being set up. These new institutions are partly a response to the slow pace of reform at the international financial institutions and partly a channel for China to utilise its vast forex reserves. This is in contrast to the oil-rich countries, which mostly rely on existing Western institutions to recycle their vast surpluses.

Badly needed reform of the US- and Europe-dominated IMF to give a greater say to emerging economies is stuck in the US Congress. Ironically, the US does not lose as much because of the proposed reform of the Bretton Woods institutions as European countries, which have bolted to back the AIIB.

Given Asia’s vast infrastructure needs, new financial institutions are badly required. The existing Bretton Woods system no longer has the financial capacity or even up-to-date engineering know-how. Moreover, if Europe can have a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a European Investment Bank, why can’t Asia have an Asian Development Bank and an AIIB working in tandem to meet its financing needs?

How China’s plans unfold will be determined by its dealings with individual countries. In Myanmar, environmental concerns as well as worries about China’s overweening presence led to the cancellation of the Myitsone dam project. In Sri Lanka, political change has put the brakes on several Chinese-backed projects, including the Hambantota port. India will judge China’s intentions based on how it solves the border dispute. The Asean countries will judge China’s peaceful intentions by how it plays its hand in the South China Sea. China has had some success but also several problems with its Africa strategy, including significant anti-Chinese feelings in some countries. Russia may be willing to cede influence to China in Central Asia — but only up to a point. The direction China intends to go is becoming clearer as the scope of its ambitious strategy is unveiled.

India missed its opportunity at the end of the World War to get a bigger stake in the UN Security Council and the Bretton Woods system. Today, with its rising economic clout, India must decide whether it wishes to participate intelligently and constructively inside this new tent or risk being left out and regret it later. The Narendra Modi government moved quickly and correctly to enter the BRICS Bank as a founding member but this game just got much bigger. India must increase its engagement or get left out once again. Waiting for reforms at the Bretton Woods institutions would be like waiting for Godot.

The writer is visiting scholar, Institute for International Economic Policy, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington DC

Resist Saudi and US Aggression In Yemen

A Call to Resist Saudi (and US) Aggression in Yemen

the nation

Saudi protest

Lebanese students protest against Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters) 

Along with civilian suffering, protests against the Saudi assault on Yemen are mounting, and with good reason. Progressives and antiwar groups in the United States, Britain, Arab countries and the rest of the world must oppose the Saudi-led attack on its impoverished neighbor. Operation Decisive Storm is, as the London-based Saudi scholar Madawi al-Rashid has written, the latest stage in an aggressive military interventionist policy in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also, as John Willis points out, a counterrevolutionary offensive.

Already protected by the colossal presence in the Persian Gulf of US air and naval installations, the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owns the world’s largest arsenal (on a per capita basis) of advanced American, British and German arms. It is the largest purchaser of British weapons, and a major customer for leading US military companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics. NATO powers have for many years embraced a guns-for-oil pact with the Kingdom and fellow royal families of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Saudi Arabia, the only modern country named for its ruling dynasty, is an absolute monarchy that is anti-democratic, illiberal and intolerant. Already by March 11 of this year, according to Amnesty International, the Kingdom had executed forty-four people, many of them foreign nationals, often by beheading, and frequently for relatively minor drug-related charges. Sometimes decapitated bodies were hung, crucifixion-style, over busy intersections. The press is heavily censored, peaceful protests are banned and rights advocates face draconian sentences. A liberal blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to public flogging and remains in prison despite an international outcry. Women have the status of minors, unable to drive, travel or otherwise function as adults without the supervision of their fathers, husbands or sons. As elsewhere in the Gulf, menial jobs are done by migrant workers, who in many cases are little more than indentured laborers.

Mindful of the arms-for-oil bargain, Western powers overlook deplorable human rights violations for the sake of a more than seventy-year-old petro-security complex. In January President Obama led a large, high-powered bipartisan delegation of thirty American politicians to Riyadh to express condolences over the passing of the late King Abdullah and swear allegiance to the new King Salman. The president and other members of the delegation—which included former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, Senators John McCain and Mark Warner, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and CIA director John Brennan—had all visited King Abdullah and members of his government many times before. Other world leaders also paid their respects.

It is customary for the United States, other North Atlantic powers and, through them, the United Nations Security Council to defer to Saudi concerns in Yemen. American drone assassinations, in particular, have been rationalized in terms of ensuring Saudi security. It follows that the United States is augmenting the current Saudi-led campaign with logistical and intelligence support, including live surveillance feeds from unmanned drones.

Saudi Arabia has meddled incessantly in Yemeni politics since at least the 1960s. All the Gulf monarchies opposed the revolutionary movement then against British colonialism and the sultans it supported in what was then South Yemen. The Saudis financially backed restoration of the Zaydi imam, who had been overthrown in 1962 by republican officers backed by forces from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt. When revolutionaries came to power in what became the People’s Democratic Republic in the South and secular republican officers prevailed in the North, the Saudi government and various princes paid stipends to friendly clients in both parts of Yemen as a way of influencing domestic politics. The radically anti-Socialist Islamist party known as Islah was founded in North Yemen with Saudi encouragement by two of the country’s most prominent conservatives, both known for close ties with the Saudi Kingdom: the fanatical Salafi preacher Abd al-Majid al-Zindani and the late sheikh of the Hashid tribal confederation and long-time Speaker of Parliament, Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar.

Saudi Arabia opposed Yemeni unification in 1990, cheered on Southern secessionists during the 1994 civil war and funded Salafi mosques and schools throughout the country. In fact, it was the ostentation of a large Saudi-funded Salafi institute in the town of Dammaj in Saada province that sparked the local Zaydi revivalist movement initially called the “Believing Youth,” but now known as Ansar Allah, or simply the Houthis. The 2004 arrest by then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s men of the movement’s founder, Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and hundreds of his followers who were protesting in Sana sparked the first of six wars between the Saleh regime and Houthis in their Saada homeland. In 2009, Saudi warplanes targeted Houthi strongholds; according to Human Rights Watch, there is “credible evidence” the Saudis used cluster bombs.

The uprisings that began in the winter of 2010-11 in Tunisia and Egypt caused real panic among Gulf royalty. Even more terrifying were the protest demonstrations in Yemen and Bahrain. Saudi tanks easily crushed the 2011 insurrection of the defenseless Shi’a majority against the Sunni al-Khalifa rulers in tiny Bahrain.

Yemen, with a population of about 26 million spread across a vast territory, is a different story. There, the “peaceful youth” movement, comprising college students, Houthi sympathizers, Islah activists, the Southern Hirak and rural tribesmen (who for a long time threw down their arms), persisted in all the major cities and many towns for months on end. Military intervention was not a viable option.

Instead, the GCC negotiated with its erstwhile client Ali Abdullah Saleh to surrender power to his lackluster vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in exchange for a sweet deal that gave Saleh immunity from prosecution for his brutality against peaceful protesters, corruption, nepotism and other crimes. Moreover, it left him at large as leader of his General People’s Congress (GPC), which in turn retained its parliamentary majority. The so-called GCC Initiative, backed by Western powers, specified a hastily arranged one-candidate referendum in 2012 that installed Hadi for a two-year term as transitional president. The GCC, UN special envoy Jamal Benomar and Western donors took it upon themselves to fund, orchestrate and advise a National Dialogue Conference of about 565 delegates, assigned to eleven working groups on a range of issues.

The National Dialogue Conference was a good idea, with the potential to negotiate a consensus among diverse political parties and regional interests while delivering on at least some of the social justice demands of the “peaceful youth.” The objectives of the GCC Initiative, by contrast, were to quell mass popular protests by ushering Saleh from the presidential palace without implementing genuine regime change by holding competitive elections for either the presidency or parliament. The transition period lingered past Hadi’s two-year term and the deadline for completion of the Dialogue, whose members listened to lectures by international experts in the luxury Moevenpick Hotel in the Sana suburbs. Increasingly, Yemenis North and South derided Benomar and Hadi as ineffectual custodians of an inconclusive process. The Southern movement—the Hirak—grew increasingly impatient. The weak economy contracted; abject poverty spread. Saleh deployed billions in ill-gotten gains—as well as some brigades still on his payroll—to disrupt progress. American drone surveillance, and occasional strikes, continued to terrorize certain communities and delegitimize the Hadi administration.

The World Bank, also a party to the GCC Initiative, supplied the straw that broke the camel’s back in August 2014 by pushing Hadi to suspend fuel subsidies vital to farming and micro-transport, two key sources of income for Yemeni households. In response to the imposition of this standard prescription for flailing economies amid circumstances of economic and political collapse, the Houthis staged bread-and-butter protests. These were met with brute force.

As the heretofore ragtag Houthi militia began its march south from Saada on the Saudi border, it encountered resistance only in Amran, seat of the al-Ahmar sheikhs of the Hashid confederation. Houthi forces entered Sana without much bloodshed, as troops ostensibly under Hadi’s command stepped aside and/or soldiers collecting salaries from Saleh paved the way. Hadi’s government had little choice but to resign and escape to Aden, the old Southern capital and his home turf. With the final unraveling of the GCC Initiative, Saudi Arabia’s new king determined to go on the offensive.

Protesting the violence unleashed by Operation Decisive Storm should in no way imply support for the Houthis over other contenders for power in Sana, Aden or the rest of the country. In fact, the Houthis have tortured civilians to crack down on dissent, which is breeding enemies in Sana, and especially beyond the Zaydi heartland. They face strong popular resistance in Ta’iz and especially in Aden and the rest of the South. Rather, antiwar protesters are rallying against the aggressive military intervention for reasons that do not require deep comprehension of the differences between or among Houthis, Hashid, Hadi and Hirak. Here are the basic principles:

Saudi Arabia is an oppressive, reactionary regime historically resistant to progressive movements in Yemen and elsewhere. It is also a linchpin in the US-NATO military industrial complex and the endless war on terror.

This war risks regional escalation and conflagration. Already, autocratic leaders of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan (whose citizens are skeptical) seem to have agreed to join the fight, with Egypt reportedly preparing to send 40,000 ground troops. Arab League leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last weekend ordered the Houthis to surrender and pledged to create a joint Arab military force.

The pretext of the “legitimacy” of the GCC-anointed administration is a figment of hegemonic imagination. Public opinion inside Yemen is kaleidoscopic and mercurial, but few accept this excuse for intervention.

The Sunni versus Shi’a sectarian narrative misrepresents Yemenis’ multiple proclivities for partisan, regional and class-based leadership. If anything, the escalating war pits the billionaire royal elites of the Gulf against the downtrodden of the Peninsula. Bombardments are both terrifying and deadly. Attacks on al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons in Hajjah governorate, a dairy factory near Hodeida and other locations have left dozens of non-combatants dead, according to human rights groups. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, says “the country seems to be on the verge of total collapse.”

Saudi (and Saudi-American) military intervention in Yemen has never worked in the past (see also the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Peace and social justice activists demand unconditional, neutral cessation of hostilities. Let’s take a stand against this war of aggression and American complicity.


Below are the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30, and reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Important implementation details are still subject to negotiation, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We will work to conclude the JCPOA based on these parameters over the coming months.


  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.


  • Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.
  • U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.


  • For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  • For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  • Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  • Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.