American Resistance To Empire

U.S. playing with fire over South China Sea

China Voice: U.S. playing with fire over South China Sea

Xinhua net

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) — The United States’ attempts to stir trouble in the South China Sea and denigrate China raise doubts on whether the self-proclaimed global peacekeeper is really so keen on quiet waters.

Speaking on his way to Singapore to attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday called for an end to island-building in the South China Sea, urging China and other countries involved to stop militarizing disputes and find a peaceful solution in their competing claims to sovereignty in the area.

Though the land being reclaimed by China is within its sovereign territory, the move is “out of step” with the regional consensus, Carter said. Beijing has repeatedly asserted that China’s work on the islands mostly serves civil purposes as well as meeting the needs of military defense.

This is not the first time the United States has made a fuss over a legitimate sovereign issue within China’s territory.

Washington has never missed an opportunity to talk about the “China threat” when it comes to the South China Sea disputes between countries including China, the Philippines and Vietnam. It tries to pit other countries in the region against China.

Addressing U.S. Navy Academy cadets last week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said China is a destabilizing factor in the South China Sea and the United States should keep peace in the region “as it has for the past 60 years”.

Such remarks — particularly hypocritical given a U.S. anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft’s fly-over of waters off the Nansha Islands last week — are inconducive to ensuring peace and stability in the busy body of water vital to international trade.

Outside meddling on the South China Sea issue will do nothing but sow discord, stoke tension and thus hinder the search for a peaceful solution to the disputes.

Overlooking China’s commitment to peaceful development, the U.S. strategic rebalance toward the Asia Pacific — a euphemism for containing rising powers such as China — only serves Washington’s own agenda of expanding its political and military presence in the region.

In particular, Washington is emboldening Hanoi and Manila, among others, to take a hardline stance against China, putting an amicable solution further beyond reach.

For sure, touting “China fear” in Beijing’s neighborhood suits Washington.

Countries like the Philippines and Vietnam are increasingly looking to the United States for support when confronting China in their territorial claims, although they tend to skip the fact that the United States is not even a relevant party in the South China Sea. Nor do they recall past tranquility in the region, before Washington embarked on its “Pivot to Asia”.

But the United States will not necessarily gain from the disputes.

For one thing, it risks poisoning its ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy and its second-largest trade partner.

Despite some fundamental differences, Beijing and Washington share considerable interests on many major challenges, such as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

There is more — one does not need to be reminded of the benefits of a peaceful neighborhood to any country.

For both China and the United States, stability and security in their vicinity translate to stronger economic and trade links with neighbors, and more cultural and people-to-people exchanges — all of which vital to their economy.

China needs peace and stability in the South China Sea more than any other country. As the country embarks on building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the trade and infrastructure network that will connect China with Southeast Asian nations, Africa and Europe, it is more than willing to turn the South China Sea into a platform for cooperation.

A peaceful region is imperative to the success of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In its own interests and in the interests of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Washington needs to tread carefully on the South China Sea issue, and stop stirring up trouble.

The best way to iron out differences is to let the countries involved solve the disputes on their own, rather than hear proposals by an outside interested party, who claims neutrality but often adopts double standards.

Editor: Luan

Another Shiite Mosque Bombed In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Suicide bomber attack on Shi’ite mosque in Dammam [VIDEO]

international bus. times

People examine the debris after a suicide bomb attack at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh in the eastern province of Gatif, Saudi Arabia(Reuters)


An alleged suicide attack has struck outside a Shi’ite mosque in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia, during Friday prayers on 29 May, one week after the deadly suicide bombing in Qatif that left 21 people dead, including two children.

The Saudi interior ministry confirmed that four people were killed after a car exploded in a parking lot near the Shi’ite Imam al-Hussein mosque in Dammam, close to Qatif. The bomber detonated his explosives after being stopped by security guards. It is unclear if the bomber was among the four.

Pictures showed black smoke billowing into the sky at the entrance of the mosque.

A video posted on social media purportedly showed the moment of the explosion from inside the mosque: 

According to initial reports, the alleged suicide bomber was disguised as a woman and attempted to blow himself up inside the women’s section of the mosque.

The Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for last Friday’s attack that killed 21 people and injured more than 50 others. SITE monitoring group identified the suicide bomber as Abu Ammar al-Najdi.

A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry said the bomber detonated a suicide belt hidden under his clothes inside the mosque causing several people to be “martyred or wounded”.

“Security authorities will spare no effort in the pursuit of all those involved in this terrorist crime,” the official said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

In March 2011, Qatif was the epicentre of Shi’ite demonstrations against what they perceived as decades of discrimination and religious and political repression from the Sunni kingdom.

It was the beginning of an uprising that was met with a crackdown, a wave of arrests, and cases of police allegedly firing on unarmed protesters.

Since then, 27 have been killed and more than 250 imprisoned, according to local Shia leaders and human rights activists in the towns and cities of eastern Saudi Arabia, who fear rising sectarianism fuelled by Riyadh’s war against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

There are 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia, making up 12% of the population, with most living in al-Ahsa and al-Qatif districts in the country’s eastern province, which also contains the bulk of the kingdom’s oil.

The Qatif mosque bombing was the second attack on a Shi’ite place of worship in the Gulf kingdom after the Dalwah attack last November.

Armed Biker Gangs Plan “Draw Mohammad” Contest and Rally In Phoenix, Outside Shooters’ Mosque

Biker Gang Plans Armed Protest For Mohammed Cartoon Contest At AZ MosqueBiker Gang – Bikers from Facebook page of Flash Nelson

Biker Gang Plans Armed Protest For Mohammed Cartoon Contest At AZ Mosque

reverb press

An armed biker gang. A mosque in Arizona. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.  It’s true; there are no more original ideas.

Recipe for disaster? We will see on Friday, May 29, when two biker gang members host what’s being called the Freedom of Speech Rally II outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

I’ll make the popcorn!

 Jon “Scrappy” Ritzheimer and Flash Nelson (who appears to be a woman) plan to hold the event in response to the hate-mongering cartoon contest that was held by anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller (and approximately 99 percent of the police force) on May 3 in Garland, Texas. That Muslim baiting event competition was interrupted by two armed men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were allegedly Islamic State sympathizers. They opened fire outside the venue before being killed by security officers. Geller’s next planned stunt is to plaster the winning cartoon all over D.C buses. What could possibly go wrong?

Ritzheimer says the biker gang is planning a “peaceful protest” (while encouraging attendees to show up armed)  and a “draw Mohammed contest” outside the community center, where the Texas gunmen worshiped. In fact, in the Facebook invitation, organizers urge attendees to take full advantage of their Second Amendment right to carry weapons. So far,163 people have RSVP’d. Ritzheimer staged an anti-Islam protest two weeks ago, which drew little attention, before deciding to host this event; thus it being referred to as ROUND 2.

From the Facebook Event Page:

ROUND 2!!!!!!! This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ. This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad. Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen. This Islamic Community Center is a known place that the 2 terrorist frequented. People are also encouraged to utilize there (sic) second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.
1. Date will be Friday May 29th @ 6:15pm. This is when they normally host a large prayer.
2. Bikers wil (sic) meet at the Denny’s located at 9030 N Black Canyon Hwy Phoenix, AZ 85051@ 5:00pm. Kick Stands up at 6pm.
3. There will be a Muhammad Cartoon Contest and the winner will be announced at the After Party. Participants must show cartoon at the Rally.
4. We will not have food vendors at this event because we don’t want this to turn into a carnival. People can bring snacks and water but please keep the neighborhood clean.
5. There will be an after party starting at 8:30pm at Wild Bills located at 6840 N. 27th Ave Phx, AZ.
Thank you all for your Support. [sic]

They’re meeting at Denny’s. Why is that funny?

In an interview with a reporter from television station KPNX, Ritzheimer defended his event and the T-shirts that will be worn by some of the protesters which re “F**k Islam,”  (Question: How, exactly do you f**k a religion?)

Jon Ritzenheimer flag and tshirt via Facebook
Jon Ritzenheimer wearing his favorite festive t-shirt.  via Facebook

A cursory glance at his Facebook posts show that Ritzheimer is rabidly anti-Muslim. Ritzheimer has posted photos of himself waving an American flag while wearing the controversial T-shirt. He identifies himself as a former Marine and says that he works at Dysfunctional Veterans, which basically looks like a website for angry, bitter assholes, as evidenced by this quote from the KPNX interview:

“I’m a Marine and I am far from politically correct,” Ritzheimer said. “I’m outspoken and I’ve just had it.” Ritzheimer, who is an atheist, said he hopes to push “out the truth about Islam.” “It’s not that some people are out perverting this religion, it’s these guys are following their book as it’s written,” he said.  

OH MY GAWD! Wake up, kook. There are far more “Christians” doing exactly that right now in the U.S. AND they’re actively trying to slip it into our legislation. I’d love to see a demonstration at some Evangelical churches and GOP presidential candidates’ offices. How about it Scrappy and Flash? Jon’s an atheist. This should infuriate him.

Ritzherimer told the reporter that he doesn’t “condone any threats being made to the mosque” during his “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II.” But, of course, there will be guns.

Both Phoenix police and the FBI have been informed of the event, KPNX reported. Phoenix police reportedly refused to comment about what protocols are being implemented.

The president of the mosque where the cartoon contest and rally will be held, Usama Shami, said that he respected the protestors’ right to exercise free speech. However, Shami said the members of the mosque have been told not to engage with Friday’s protestors.

“Everybody has a right to be a bigot. Everybody has a right to be racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot,” Shami stated “They’re not looking for an intellectual discussion. They’re looking to stir up a controversy and we’re not gonna be a part of it.”




“Amnesty” Bean-Counter Blames Yemenis For Saudi-Caused Bombing Deaths

[Does anybody believe that Amnesty bean-counters actually surveyed the bombing survivors in Sanaa? Amnesty, has long provided Western moralists with ammo to pelt the adversaries of America with. US “humanitarian warfare,” sanctions the sanctimonious Saudis, as they ravage all enemies to Wahhabi terror. The Huthis had a right and duty to resist Saudi aggression in all of its forms, especially in regards to the puppet president installed by Western and Saudi State Dept./intelligence. Americans would do no less were situations reversed, being bombed by foreign terrorist governments, with a puppet president installed by force. The Saudis have been bombing Yemen for years, along with CIA Predators, effectively stirring-up anti-Western, anti-Saudi hatred. More Saudi-dropped American bombs will mean more of the same.]

Amnesty International challenges view Saudi air strikes cause most civilian casualties, but says both sides share responsibility for way conflict is being fought

Militia unloading shells
Militia loyal to Yemen’s ousted President Hadi unload shells during clashes with Houthi opponents in in Aden, Yemen, 28 May 2015. Photograph: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have caused the majority of civilian casualties in the nation’s capital Sana’a by firing anti-aircraft munitions that explode after landing in populated areas, a leading human rights watchdog has said in a report published two months into a Saudi-led air war.

Amnesty International said anti-aircraft weapons “were the leading cause of casualties in the capital” in a report released on Thursday, which also blamed the Saudi-led coalition for contributing to the number of civilian casualties by bombing weapons depots near residential areas.

The report’s findings, gleaned from a week-long visit to Sana’a and interviews with hospital staff, challenge the conventional wisdom that the air strikes are the direct cause of the high civilian toll of the conflict. But Amnesty urged both sides to take precautions to avoid civilian casualties and respect international humanitarian law.

The World Health Organisation said that almost 2,000 people have been killed and nearly 8,000 wounded since 19 March. Wednesday was the deadliest day in the campaign, with 80 people killed.

“Sana’a’s residents are caught in a deadly crossfire between the Saudi Arabian-led coalition airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire from the Houthi armed group,” said Lama Fakih, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty. “Both sides have failed to take the necessary precautions to protect civilian lives in violation of the laws of war. Instead they have carried out attacks that have had devastating consequences for the civilian population. For the civilians affected, it doesn’t matter which side is responsible. They pay the same price.”

The Houthi rebels, members of the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam who hail from the northern province of Sa’ada, took control of the capital in a surprise offensive last year and placed the president, Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under house arrest. Hadi later escaped to his stronghold in Aden and fled to Saudi Arabia as the Houthis and their allies bore down on the southern port city. A coalition of mostly Arab Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched air strikes in response to the advance of the Houthis.

The coalition sees the Houthis as proxies of Iran, and are unnerved by the Islamic Republic’s influence in Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and Sana’a.

Doctors in the Yemeni capital told Amnesty that most of the wounded treated in their medical facilities arrived with injuries caused by anti-aircraft weapons, including fragmentation wounds. Saudi air strikes on weapons depots also caused secondary explosions that killed or maimed civilians, Amnesty said. Many military bases in the capital are located close to civilian homes, a deliberate strategy by former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in Arab Spring-style protests and has now allied with the Houthis.

“So far, both sides have displayed a chilling indifference to the deadly impact of their actions on civilians,” Fakih said. “All parties to the conflict can and should take all feasible steps to minimise the risk to civilians.”

Air strikes resumed last week in Yemen after a five-day ceasefire, further worsening humanitarian conditions in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Poverty relief charity Oxfam said on Monday that 16 million Yemenis, or two-thirds of the population, are now without access to a clean water supply and sanitation. Unicef said that as many as 135 children have been killed and 260 injured since the conflict escalated in March.

Serbia will join US-backed Trans-Adriatic Pipeline–“Checkmate” Putin?

southern europeSerbia to join US-backed gas project, seeks diversification from Russia – PM

Serbia will join US-backed Trans-Adriatic Pipeline following Washington’s calls to reduce dependency on Russian gas, the country’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told the Associated Press.

“Regarding energy safety, energy security, we are ready to diversify the sources of gas for Serbia, which is very important for our American friends as well,” Vucic said in an interview to AP in Tirana published on Thursday.

Serbia which has already expressed interest in the Moscow-backed pipeline project says it’s not balancing or choosing sides. The country’s main goal is the European Union and it is firm on its EU path, Vucic said, adding that good relations with Washington were very important on Serbia’s road to joining the EU.

Serbia refused to join Western anti-Russia sanctions while some officials were urging it to choose between Russia and the EU.

“We don’t speak about taking or choosing sides, our side is our path to the EU, our side is (in the interest of) Serbia”, Vucic was cited as saying by AP. He also reminded that he had already voiced this point of view openly to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference.

On the other hand, Belgrade would like to preserve a good relationship with Russia, the prime minister told AP.

United States has been lately persuading Balkan and other countries to join the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which is to bring gas to Europe from Azerbaijan via the Russia-proposed Turkish Stream.

The Turkish Stream will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters, of which 47 billion cubic meters will be delivered to a hub on the Turkish-Greek border. It is replacing the South Stream project which Russia had to suspend in December as the EU blocked its implementation.

The South Stream was supposed to connect underwater Black Sea pipelines with a network in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria as the entry point.

Earlier this month, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said that Belgrade was interested in joining the Turkish Stream pipeline and called on the European Union to support the project.

Will Aleppo become the capital of a new Caliphate?

Will Aleppo become the capital of a new Caliphate?


This once tolerant, secular, multi-confessional nation will soon become home to two of the world’s most violently fanatical statelets

Photo: A Syrian man carries a body after it was removed from the rubble of buildings following a reported barrel bomb attack by government forces on the Qadi Askar district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 20 May (AFP)

Throughout most of its history, Aleppo had been a city-state, or a capital for surrounding territory in what is now North Syria and parts of south Turkey. There are strong indications now that this ancient city may once again assume this role, but this time around in a far more sinister way.

The “mother of all battles” is what a looming showdown in Aleppo is being called, as revitalised Islamist rebel forces fresh from victories in nearby Idlib are preparing to mount an all-out offensive in the next few weeks to seize the remaining part of the city under government control. The stakes couldn’t be any higher – no less than the fate of the Syrian nation hangs in the balance – and the final lines of division might be drawn here.

The plan, drawn up by the insurgency’s three most powerful regional backers – Turkey, Saudi and Qatar – is to overrun the entire northwest of Syria and create a rebel controlled “safe zone,” and through direct military intervention prevent the Syrian regime’s aircraft and missiles from targeting it, thereby essentially setting up a de facto mini state.

To that end, there has been unprecedented cooperation and coordination between those powers who have put aside their rivalries and differences after King Salman of Saudi assumed the throne. This effort has seen them pour enormous financial, logistical and military resources into setting up what is called the “Fatih Army” or the Army of Conquest, and controlling the flow of its battles directly through an operations room in Turkey as well as intelligence officers on the ground. This was given the go ahead by the US, which under pressure from those allies again seems to have flipped its priority in Syria from battling the Islamic State (IS) to regime change.

It is worth mentioning that after almost a year of US-led coalition bombing, IS has continued to expand and grow, and now controls half of Syria and a third of Iraq. US policy here, as many had foreseen, is a confused and muddled disaster.

If the name of the Fatih Army sounds ominous, then its composition is even more disturbing, being made up primarily of al-Qaeda’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as other hardline Salafi jihadist groups like Ahrar el-Sham. This army has already “conquered” most of Idlib province, and is looking to go for Aleppo next.

Apathy meets al-Qaeda advance

That there is global apathy towards an al-Qaeda army  – backed and sponsored by the Western world’s predominant Middle Eastern allies – preparing to take over Aleppo and possibly establish another caliphate similar – albeit hostile – to its neighbouring Islamic State, is very indicative of what the Syrian crisis has come to after four years.

This once tolerant, secular, multicultural and multi-confessional nation with a diverse society and rich heritage will soon become home to two of the world’s most noxious, extremist and violently fanatical statelets. In their wake, all of Syria’s non-Sunni Muslim inhabitants are being ethnically cleansed and displaced. Predictably, this is what happened in Idlib after it fell to the Fatih Army, which saw all of its Christians abandon their homes and flee to government-controlled areas, to little media attention. This will undoubtedly happen in Aleppo too, which has a very large Christian population comprised of various denominations, including ethnic Armenians.

Leaders of the Christian community here have sounded the alarm, and warned that after surviving for countless centuries in one of the first lands inhabited by ancient Christians, their presence here might be coming to a final end. Again, the absence of any media concern about this impending calamity is very telling.

The backers of the insurgency have now dropped any pretence of “moderate” rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime, and have almost completely ditched and sidelined the umbrella opposition in exile which they for so long touted as the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people. In their stead, we now have an al-Qaeda army preparing to “liberate” north Syria.

Gone are all those grand slogans along with the “moderate” rebel groups we have heard so much about in the news, who after all these years proved to be little more than incompetent and corrupt profiteers. Those groups disintegrated, many of their former fighters joining the extremist jihadist groups who also seized their sophisticated US supplied weapons.

This rebel farce of course was well known to us Syrians, but was never a newsworthy item. We’ve always known that the only effective insurgents on the ground were the Islamists and the jihadists, and that the others were there for show, for the camera crews and media consumption. Maintaining this image no longer seems to be a concern however. After failing to convince Nusra to “rebrand” and ditch its ties with al-Qaeda, The Fatih Army was formed as a more palatable and purely cosmetic media-friendly cover name.

Partitioning Syria

This is what the nations who claim to back the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom and a democratic inclusive state have deemed fit to unleash upon us. After failing to topple the Syrian regime for four years and realising there would never be any political compromise that would fit their goals, they have now decided to partition Syria and facilitate its partial takeover by jihadists.

It doesn’t seem that previous lessons have been learned, with Afghanistan being the prime precedent. You simply cannot deal with and hope to control the jihadi proxies that you are using to fulfil your military ambitions. Quite simply those groups don’t play by the rules, and will turn on you the first chance they get and follow their own ideologically motivated agendas. The repercussions of doing so have always been, and will continue to be, extremely dangerous and profound.

Al-Qaeda was first spawned by backing the same sort of Islamists against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The destabilising fallout is still being felt today, with subsequent manifestations becoming even more violent and extreme, culminating in the Islamic State. Let’s not forget that for many months at the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the precursor to what was to form the Islamic State’s Syrian division was an integral part of the Syrian insurgency named, yes you guessed it, Jabhat al-Nusra. When the “bad al-Qaeda” went rogue, the very powers that today back the “good al-Qaeda” started to bomb it, and to little effect. It is now just a question of when, not if, Nusra becomes the “bad guys” and have to be bombed.

Needless to say, the majority of Syrians refuse the partitioning of their nation and its takeover by extremists under any pretexts. But that this pretext should be “freeing them from tyranny and oppression” is yet another sad little irony in the black comedy that is Syria’s conflict.

This is felt especially acutely in Aleppo, whose helpless people have endured years of a deadly stalemated war that has killed many of them and destroyed all they held precious. It now seems they must again dread the day they will be “conquered” and “liberated” as it would likely mean the loss of what little they still have left of their city, and what little hope they still hold for the future.

Exodus of minorities

In all likelihood, Aleppo becoming the capital of yet another caliphate would see the majority of its inhabitants abandoning it in droves, and the complete loss of its religious minorities, hence its unique character and identity.

The people here are bracing themselves for the worst, for a momentous battle ahead. The outcome of this battle is by no means a foregone conclusion though, as Syria’s ambassador to the UN has warned in no uncertain terms that Aleppo is a red line, which once crossed would see the escalation of the conflict to other nations. Whether these words are empty and mere rhetoric remains to be seen and depends largely on what the regime’s prime backer, Iran, decides to do.

This month is a very sensitive time for Iran, as it prepares to sign a historic nuclear agreement while regional tensions are soaring. While the ball is now squarely in its park with regards to Syria, it may choose to delay its move until the picture becomes clearer.

Speculation is rife that along with the nuclear deal, regional issues are being hammered out too. Could it be that Iran would accept the partitioning of Syria as long as it gets to keep a majority Shia and Alawi “protectorate” along the coast? Or is it sticking to its guns and thwarting the planned “mother of all battles” in Aleppo by demanding it be stopped, or threatening a serious escalation if it isn’t? How will the flow of war and proxy showdown in Yemen affect Syria?

The coming weeks will tell, and they will be some of the most difficult the people of Syria and Aleppo have seen yet.

– Edward Dark is MEE’s Aleppo-based columnist and writes under a pseudonym.



Macedonia Caught In East-West Pipeline Tug-Of-War

Macedonia Caught In East-West Pipeline Tug-Of-War

oil price

The tiny Balkan state of Macedonia can now join neighboring Greece as a pawn in the tug-of-war between Moscow and the West on developing alternative routes for delivering Russian gas to its customers in Europe. At least that’s how the Kremlin views the situation.

The country of 2 million, once a part of Yugoslavia, is likely to be part of Russia’s latest plan to build a pipeline in order to ship gas from state-run Gazprom to Europe by bypassing Ukraine and avoid a recurrence of supply disruptions that already have occurred in the past nine years.

Related: Israel Refuses To Pay Old Oil Debt To Iran

Recently, though, Macedonia has faced competing pro- and anti-government demonstrations sparked by a wiretapping scandal said to involve murder and election trickery. This appears to worry Moscow because it may lead to Gruevski’s ouster in favor of a pro-Western prime minister.

Gruevski is on the record as opposing Western sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict, and supports the new Russian pipeline plan, called Turkish Stream, which would carry Gazprom’s fuel through Turkey then the Balkans – probably including Macedonia – to Russia’s European Union customers.

Sergei Lavrov, quoted by the Russian news service Tass, said May 20 that “the Macedonian events are blatantly controlled from the outside” in an effort to persuade Skopje to reject Turkish stream and opt instead for a Western alternative, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), which also runs through Turkey.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, agreed. “I don’t have any hard-line facts, but it’s a logical suspicion,” he told Bloomberg TV when asked about Lavrov’s comments. “If you look at the geography of the region, Macedonia is the best place for constructing the extension of the newest energy infrastructure project in the region, the so-called Turkish Stream.”

Turkish Stream was conceived as a replacement for Russia’s proposed $45 billion South Stream pipeline project, which was abandoned in December because of an EU rule that forbids one entity from owning both the pipeline and the gas it carries through EU territory. Macedonia isn’t in the EU, but Turkish Stream also would transit Greece, which is in the union.

Moscow says it would relinquish its share in segments of the pipeline carrying gas through EU member nations. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered transit fees amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars to cash-poor Greece if it agrees to become a transit point linking the Turkish stretch of the pipeline with Macedonia, then Serbia, then under the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

If Lavrov’s suspicions of Western pressure are even remotely correct, that would put Macedonia in much the same difficult position as Greece. While Moscow is wooing Athens with money, the West is pressing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to opt instead to allow his country to host an extension of TANAP.

TANAP not only would eliminate Ukraine from the equation, but eliminate Russian gas as well. The conduit would ship gas from Azerbaijan – and perhaps even from Turkmenistan on the other side of the Caspian Sea – through Turkey and into Europe.

By Andy Tully Of