Pompeo Says US Will 'Crush' Iran With 'Strongest Sanctions in History'

The tension between the two countries has grown notably since U.S. President Trump; this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Monday to impose the "strongest sanctions in history" against Iran if it did not accept a series of demands from the Donald Trump administration, which includes effectively give up nuclear power initiatives and its conventional ballistic missile program.

RELATED: Pompeo Confirmed US Secretary of State, Begins Middle East Trip

Weeks after the Americans pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo spelled out a hardline approach towards the Islamic Republic, potentially setting Washington and Tehran on course for further confrontation.

"The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran," Pompeo said in his first major foreign policy speech since becoming secretary of state.

"These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done," he added.

Pompeo also claimed Iran's policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for some countries such as Syria and Yemen where the U.S. has also sort to extend their influence was unacceptable.

He warned that the United States would "crush" Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to withdraw all forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the U.S. demands. The tension between the two countries has grown notably since U.S. President Trump; this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program, Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

"Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: give up your program," Pompeo said, "Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well," he said, declining to elaborate.

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Polling Stations Close in Venezuela Elections

Most polls have shown that the incumbent president and candidate Maduro leads the vote intention.

Voting centers have closed throughout Venezuela Sunday, the country's National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed Sunday night, after million citizens voted to elect president and members of the regional legislative councils in a festive mood as it has been the case for the past few decades in which more than 20 elections have taken place.

RELATED: What the US Could Learn from Venezuelan Democracy

The polls were due to close at 6:00 p.m. local time but those who are waiting to vote were allowed to continue casting their vote beyond the set time.

President Maduro already cast his vote early Sunday morning in Caracas before giving a speech calling on people to go to vote and rejecting accusations from the United States and its allies that his government is a “dictatorship.”

Henri Falcón, Javier Bertucci and Reinaldo Quijada are the opposition candidates who opted for the democratic way, unlike a faction of the opposition that called for abstention in favor of pushing for more sanctions, a military coup or foreign intervention.

Most polls have shown that the incumbent president and candidate Maduro leads the vote intention. starts with an advantage to win according to the majority of the polls.

Maduro held more than 30 mass events during the electoral campaign in the country’s 23 states where he presented the fundamental lines of the “Plan de la Patria” ot the plan for the homeland 2019-2025, a government project that received thousands of proposals from the Venezuelan people.

In that sense, the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, reiterated that the electoral agency categorically rejects the attempts of interference and sabotage of some governments in the region and assured that the vote will go on in a democratic and fair way.

@telesurenglish As polls open in and people exercise their right to vote within the country, several embassies have already held polls for Venezuelan expats.

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NATO was never a defensive alliance, and its behavior since 1991 shows it

Throughout the Cold War, NATO was advertised as a defensive alliance. That was not really the case then, and certainly hasn’t been since, with NATO engaging in interventions and regime change from Bosnia to Libya.

Though the alliance’s founding document was signed in April 1949, it wasn’t until a year later that the foreign ministers of the 12 member countries sat down in London to give shape to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On May 18, 1950, led by US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, they signed a communique establishing the permanent structures of NATO.

“This business of building for peace is a very grim business, and it has to be worked for day in and day out,” British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin said after the meeting.

How much NATO was really into “building peace” became clear in 1954, after the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union’s new leader Nikita Khrushchev asked to join the alliance. Not only did NATO say no, the alliance invited West Germany to join. The date chosen for the occasion was symbolic: May 9, the tenth anniversary of Nazi capitulation in the Second World War.

@starsandstripes Security experts say Germany's military is virtually undeployable. For example, none of its submarines are operational and only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready. https://www.stripes.com/news/as-germany-prepares-for-nato-crisis-response-role-its-military-readiness-is-abysmal-1.527253 

The USSR saw this as an open provocation, and responded by establishing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, also known as the Warsaw Pact.

After the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991, NATO not only remained in existence but expanded its membership and mission, usurping the role of the UN by openly intervening in Yugoslavia. The alliance’s first military action was in Bosnia (1994-95), followed by an all-out war against the remnant Yugoslavia (1999) and the subsequent occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

 
© Reuters

NATO has also taken part in the US war in Afghanistan since 2001. The alliance did not officially join the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, though many members chose to join George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”

The most overt NATO military action since 1999 was the 2011 intervention in Libya. It unfolded in much the same fashion as the mission creep in Bosnia, only much faster. Within hours of the UN Security Council authorizing the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya on March 19, the US, France, UK and Canada began airstrikes.

NATO officially took over the war on March 31, flying 26,500 sorties during Operation Unified Protector until the death of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in October.

Drive to the East

Though US Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “not one inch eastward” if Germany reunified, the alliance did just that. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were officially admitted into NATO even as alliance warplanes were bombing Yugoslavia in April 1999.

Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia joined in 2002. The last former Warsaw Pact country, Albania, joined in 2009. The alliance has also expanded to include the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, as well as the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, bringing NATO to Russia’s doorstep.

As if that wasn’t enough, NATO pushed further, into Georgia and Ukraine. Believing NATO had his back, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attacked Russian peacekeepers in the disputed region of South Ossetia in 2008. His NATO-trained military was disarmed in six days. NATO has continued to flirt with Georgia since, though the current government in Tbilisi doesn’t appear eager for another war with Russia.

@NATO_MARCO Four NATO ships conducting a port call in Poti, Georgia  https://civil.ge/archives/241621

The phantom menace

The most recent escalation of tensions with Russia began in 2014, after the US-backed regime that took over Ukraine in a February 2014 coup. Alliance troops have since set up bases in the far west of the country, and have been providing weapons, supplies and training to Kiev’s military and neo-Nazi militias to “counter Russian aggression.”

Under the guise of “deterring Russia,” NATO has also established permanent military bases in the Baltic States, Romania and Poland, and conducted a series of massive military drills right on the Russian border. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has condemned the troop buildup, saying in February that Washington is using an “imaginary Russian threat” to ensure its dominance in Europe.

The alliance’s first secretary general (1952-57), Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, reportedly once said NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.”

NATO’s behavior since the 1990s shows not only that it has become an aggressive, expansionist body, but one serving the foreign policy priorities of the US first and foremost. With Europe now contemplating breaking from Washington over Iran, its leaders would do well to keep Ismay’s words in mind.

@Ruptly Tusk on Trump: 'friends like that, who needs enemies?'

 
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Cubans and North Americans Dance together in Washington

The performances of Cuban artists at the Arts From Cuba Festival, which is taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center, in Washington, have been received with a lot of enthusiasm and joy by the large audience that has filled its installations these days.

Cubans and North Americans dance and enjoy together to the beat of “son”, salsa, bolero and other musical genres, sung and performed by outstanding soloists and bands that have performed in the biggest show of its kind in the United States, thus confirmed Alexis Triana, communication director of the Ministry of Culture.

The journalist and cultural promoter is part of the Cuban delegation that is made up of 400 artists from different manifestations, half of them living on the island and the rest settled in other countries and takes part at the event that kicked off on May 8 and will run until next June 3.

In his report from the US capital, Triana invites to see, listen to and feel the joy, with which Cubans and North Americans have welcomed each of the artistic performances of the representatives of the island, via live images, filmed at the John F. Kennedy Center.

The audience's presence is constant, he specifies, to the extent that there’s barely any space for the press. This party reminds me the chorus of a conga from Sancti Spiritus that says “You who told me that Yayabo would not go out anymore, Yayabo is in the street / with its last detail and its unrivalled rhythm / Ah, ah, ah, Yayabo has already left.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Cuba slams U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

Cuba on Wednesday condemned the withdrawal of the United States from a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its "profound rejection of the decision of the United States government to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Nuclear Agreement with Iran and to reimpose sanctions on that country."

The statement added, "The failure to comply with these international commitments violates the rules of coexistence between states and can have serious consequences for the stability and security of the Middle East."

Cuba's government said it was opposed to the application of unilateral coercive economic measures against any country and said it recognized the legitimate right of every country to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Cuba also called on the United Nations Security Council to fulfill its responsibility to preserve international peace and security, and demanded the fulfillment of UN resolution 2231 on the Iranian nuclear issue, which was unanimously approved by the council.

Despite opposition from the other signatories and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the United States will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, a landmark agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and six major powers.

Cuba and Iran established diplomatic ties in 1975. A year later the then-government decided to break them, but they were restored in 1979, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Tehran and Havana maintain cooperation agreements in agriculture, education, engineering, biotechnology and other areas.

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If US scraps Iranian nuclear deal, it ‘could mean war’ – French President Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the US pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran “could mean war.” Trump has until May 12 to either re-certify the deal or dump it, as he has repeatedly threatened.

Scrapping the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran “would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war,” according to an undated quote from Macron provided in the latest Der Spiegel magazine edition. 

However, the worst-case scenario may not in fact materialize, as the French leader said he does not believe that US President Donald Trump is really seeking a military conflict.

 
Pro-government demonstrators wave their national flag during a march in the Iranian city of Qom on January 3, 2018. © Mohammad Ali Marizad

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), branding it the “worst deal ever” and urging parties to “fix” it. Following the recent visit of Macron to the US, Trump boasted that he changed the French President’s stance on the deal, stating that “he is viewing Iran a lot differently than he did before he walked into the Oval Office.”

While France, the UK and Germany, the European signatories to the deal, who had firmly opposed Trump’s attempts to “fix” it, did not join Trump’s drive against it, they seemingly have amended their position. They now want to address “important elements that the deal does not cover,” including Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as its activities in the region.

Tehran, however, maintains that the 2015 agreement is not subject to re-negotiation, as it fully adheres to it. Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, which obliged the country to drastically curb its nuclear activities, has been repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the JCPOA’s implementation. Trump however, argued, that Tehran somehow violated “the spirit” of the deal.

As the deadline for Donald Trump to recertify the deal or withdraw from it approaches (it’s set for May 12), the situation around the JCPOA gets more and more heated. Earlier this week, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu presented a large batch of materials, said to be documents on the Iranian nuclear program, acquired by the country’s intelligence.

READ MORE: ‘Bullying others’: Iranian FM slams US over its handling of nuclear deal

Netanyahu claimed that the documents proved that Tehran has preserved a military nuclear program within the confines of the JCPOA. The premier summarized the intelligence findings as “Iran lied, big time.” Tehran firmly rejected the allegations, calling Netanyahu himself a “broke and infamous liar.”

On Sunday, Iran once again warned the US against breaking the nuclear deal, with President Hassan Rouhani saying that “if the United States leaves the nuclear agreement, you will soon see that they will regret it like never before in history.”

 

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Syria: U.S. increases support for terrorists

The latest chemical attack against civilians has once again served as a new pretext for U.S. to justify a greater intervention against the Arab country, without resigning itself to the continued defeats of the terrorist groups it has armed, trained and organized, and whose greatest percent is made up by contractors, as many elegantly call these mercenaries, and Islamic fundamentalist individuals who give their lives ignoring the manipulation they have been subjected to by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The entire anti-Syrian plot, and eventually anti-Russian, is seasoned with a funding that increases, despite the defeat and withdrawal of many of the aggressors, and having received extensive supplying of US, British and Israeli weapons, including chemical ones, which have been generously paid by the satraps of the Persian Gulf, and Arab League members, which are Arab by their name, rather than by their spirit, as has shown their hypocritical and empty support to the Palestinian people so far.

The United States does not resign itself to the defeat of its protégées at the hands of the Syrian army and the solidarity intervention of the Russian air force, which only participates in actions in rural areas, not in the cities, geared at avoiding what usually happens to the Empire’s army, “collateral damage”.

In this context, the CIA, of a long record of support to terrorists and mercenaries, used once again, as we have stated, the pretext of the chemical attacks, carried out by its hosts, with the support of the US mainstream press, after which the missiles launched by US troops targeted a Syrian airbase in the province of Homs, amid the rhetoric of the Trump Administration telling that preps are underway to intensify their military operations in Syria.

Like in previous episodes of chemical attack charges, the public is being overwhelmed with unverified recordings of agonizing victims, as official reports and corporate press, before any probe and groundless; hold the government of Bashar al Assad and its Iranian and Russian allies responsible of a war crime.

In a matter of minutes, The New York Times and The Washington Post posted articles pinning the blame on the Syrian and Russian governments for the alleged attack. For its part, British newspaper The Guardian declared in an editorial that, “the renewed use of chemical weapons by Syria against its own people over the weekend is shameless and barbaric”.

All this farce takes place shortly after a very painful event for the Empire: because after having used the region of eastern Ghouta for years to cut off supplies to Damascus and to attack unfriendly embassies, such as Russia’s, the Syrian army forced the opposition groups, mainly armed by Israel, to withdraw to other remote spots, but they previously evacuated the hundreds of thousands of locals held hostage by the aggressors.

It’s worth adding that Trump is already devising plans to attack the Syrian army with missiles there, as part of the chemical pretext, unlike what his predecessor, Barack Obama, did in a similar event, also plotted by the CIA, since he did not want to bombard Ghouta in 2013, which earned him furious criticisms until the day he left the White House.

The investigations that have been conducted since then prove that the attack was actually perpetrated by the “rebels” at the service of the U.S., together with the Turkish government that openly supported the aggression against Damascus at that time.

In April 2017, an alleged gas attack was used to justify a significant bombardment with cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield. Similarly, it turned out to be an airstrike targeting facilities used by the “opponents” to collect poisonous gases.

But with Trump, I stress, the hawks that control the cabinet have no problems, and with the head of the National Security  Agency, John Bolton, they should be considering to carry out new actions at the expense of the blood of the Syrian people.

For the moment, as it is actually happening in Iraq, the Empire does not have its hands free for other terrorist actions, such as the immolation of fundamentalist individuals deceived by their own CIA-hired chiefs, not aimed at primarily occupying cities or territories, but at sowing chaos, destruction and uncertainty among citizens.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

 

Ex-Black Panther Released From Prison After 45 Years

Bell was released on Friday after a judge rejected a petition from a police union organization to have his patrol blocked.

Former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army Herman Bell was released from a prison, in upstate New York, after spending 45 years being incarcerated.

RELATED: US: Stephon Clarks' Brother Leads Protest Against Police, Storms Sacramento City Council Meeting

Bell's support group release the following statement upon his release: “We hope that Herman's release will be a source of inspiration for more changes. Herman feels very honored and grateful for all the expressions of trust and support, but out of respect for the feelings of the relatives of the victims, he will not make public statements. We welcome you.”

Bell was released on Friday after a judge rejected a petition from a police union organization, Benevolent Patrol Association, to have his patrol blocked. The ex-activist has mentored thousands of young people during his time in prison and has a record of excellent behavior.

After the decision was made to release the former Black Panther, the New York State Supreme Court was charged to dismiss a lawsuit to stop the action, qualifying that the parole board “did not act irrationally or outside its bounds.”

A police spokesperson told The Intercept that the decision would be appealed.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was among those who wrote to the parole board to urge the commissioners to not release Bell. But weeks before Bell's release, CBS New York ran a public poll on support for the parole board’s decision and ended up with 86 percent of the over 6,000 participants being in favor of the release.

The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, some 160 advocacy groups and organizations as well as the son of one of the slain officer.

The officer's son wrote to the parole board in support of Bell’s freedom and condemned the “media-fueled hysteria” surrounding his release.

Bell was sentenced to 25 years and life in prison for killing two New York City police officers in 1971.

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