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Trump Seeks 'Coalition Of The Willing' Against Iran

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After a somewhat quiet weekend the Trump administration yesterday engaged in another push against Iran.

Monday the Treasury Department sanctioned the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It also sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office! There will be no more Disney Land visits for them.

There is more to come:

The Treasury Secretary will designate Javad Zarif as what? A terrorist? Zarif is quite effective in communicating the Iranian standpoint on Twitter and other social media. Those accounts will now be shut down.

The Trump administration's special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said today that Iran should respond to US diplomacy with diplomacy. Sanctioning Iran's chief diplomat is probably not the way to get there.


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Trump Administration Withholds Information That Could Debunk Russian Interference Claims

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On Tuesday Russia's President Putin again rejected US claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States. Additional statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov provide that there is more information available about alleged Russian cyber issue during the election. He pointed to exchanges between the Russian and US governments that Russia wants published but which the US is withholding.

On Tuesday May 14 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov and with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was Pompeo's first official visit to Russia. Pompeo's meeting with Lavrov was followed by a joined news conference. The statements from both sides touched on the election issue.

The State Department published a full transcript and video of the press conference in English language. The Russian Foreign Ministry provided an official English translation of only Lavrov's part. Both translations differ only slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the opening statements with regard to cyber issues.
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Venezuela - Guaidó Got Snookered

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Yesterday's failed coup attempt in Venezuela significantly hurt the Trump administration's international standing. It delegitimized its Venezuelan clients Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López. After recognizing that their original 'regime change' plan failed (again) the White House starts to beat the war drums.

That wasn't the plan:
The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first challenged Mr. Maduro’s authority more than three months ago, clearly thought the day would unfold differently.
There is no official explanation why the Trump administration believed that the comical coup attempt by Juan Guaidó and his master Leopolo López would work.

There are signs though that the government of President Nicolas Maduro set a trap. Several people in the top echelon of the Venezuelan government gave false promises that they would join the US proxy side. They snookered Guaidó into launching his coup to let him fail.
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Judge Identifies CIA Related Man Who Led The Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain

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A Spanish judge released new information about a raid on the embassy of North Korea in Spain. The leader of the raid was a shady US 'activist' who earlier reports from Spain associated with the CIA.

On March 13 the Spanish newspaper El Pais Spain reported that Spanish authorities identified two CIA related persons who took part in a raid of the North Korean embassy in Madrid. The raid happened on February 22, a few days before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, and seemed designed to influence that event. We asked Who Ordered The CIA To Assault North Korea's Embassy In Spain?
The embassy raid was no normal thievery. There were eight people in the embassy when it was raided at 3:00 PM local time. They were bound, bags were put over their heads and some were interrogated. The thieves left with computer hardware and the cellphones of the personnel.
The Spanish version of the El Pais piece included this detail (machine translated)...
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Netanyahu Asks Arabs to 'Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran'

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The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:

“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now." 

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran...


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Venezuela: US Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

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A day after the US coup attempt in Venezuela the US game plan was already quite obvious:
The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria US special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.
The US is using the pretext of 'delivering humanitarian aid' from Columbia to Venezuela to undermine the government and to establish a supply line for further operations. It is another attempt to pull the military onto the coup plotter's side:
[I]f the trucks do get across, the opposition can present itself as an answer to Venezuela’s chronic suffering, while Mr. Maduro will appear to have lost control of the country’s borders. That could accelerate defections from the ruling party and the military.

Dimitris Pantoulas, a political scientist in Caracas, called the opposition’s aid delivery plan a high-stakes gamble. 
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“This is 99 percent about the military and one percent about the humanitarian aspects,” he said. “The opposition is testing the military’s loyalty, raising their cost of supporting Maduro. Are they with Maduro, or no? Will they reject the aid? If the answer is no, then Maduro’s hours are numbered.”
A New York Times op-ed by a right-wing former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, details the escalation potential:
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Fallout Of Trump's Syria Withdrawal - Why Erdogan Does Not Want To Invade

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President Trump's strategic decision to withdraw US troops from Syria creates some significant fallout. The US and international borg is enraged that Trump ends an occupation that is illegal under international as well as US domestic law. "That's un-American!"

Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis resigned from his position effective February 28. He disagreed with the president's decision. It was the second time in five years that an elected commander in chief had a serious conflict with Mattis' hawkishness. President Obama fired him as Central Command chief for urging a more aggressive Iran policy. Mattis is also extremely hawkish towards Russia and China.

President Trump campaigned on lessening US involvement in wars abroad. He wants to get reelected. He does not need a Secretary of Defense that involves him in more wars that have little to none defined purpose.

Mattis is an ingrained imperialist. He always asked for more money for the military and for more meddling abroad.  One of Mattis' little notice acts as Defense Secretary was a unannounced change in the mission of the Pentagon...
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The 'Integrity Initiative' - A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The 'Russian Threat'

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The British government financed Integrity Initiative is tasked with spreading anti-Russian propaganda and thereby with influencing the public, military and governments of a number of countries. What follows is an contextual analysis of the third batch of the Initiative's internal papers which were dumped by an anonymous Friday.

Christopher Nigel Donnelly (CND) is the co-director of The Institute for Statecraft and founder of its offshoot Integrity Initiative. The Initiative claims to "Defend Democracy Against Disinformation".

The Integrity Initiative does this by planting disinformation about alleged Russian influence through journalists 'clusters' throughout Europe and the United States.

Both, the Institute as well as the Initiative, claim to be independent Non-Government Organizations. Both are financed by the British government, NATO and other state donors.

Among the documents lifted by some anonymous person from the servers of the Institute we find several papers about Donnelly as well as some memos written by him. They show a russophobe mind with a lack of realistic strategic thought.
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British Spies Infiltrated Bernie Sanders' Campaign?

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The Integrity Initiative, a British pseudo-NGO tasked with running anti-Russian propaganda operation, was recently exposed. Further digging into it revealed a much wider operation. It seems to involve a mole British spies inserted into the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Three weeks ago internal budget proposals and member lists of the Integrity Initiative were posted anonymously on some website. We discussed those in detail under the headline: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns:
In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret operation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream. 

We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The 'Russian collusion' smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The 'Integrity Initiative' builds 'cluster' or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.
The leaked papers of the Initiative have since been confirmed as genuine. More relevant details continued to emerge...
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