TBR News October 14, 2017

Oct 14 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 14, 2017:” The Center of International Studies, paid for and controlled entirely by the CIA, was set up at MIT in 1951 and other such entities followed at major, and some minor, universities and colleges across the country. Most universities terminated their working arrangements with the CIA but not before an entire generation of willing academics sold their services to the CIA. An inspection of an existing list of academics who worked for the CIA reads like a Who’s Who of the academic world.

By 1971, both the CIA and FBI were heavily engaged in domestic surveillance programs in the United States. These programs grew to be so pervasive and oppressive that in 1971, FBI director Hoover, alarmed at the degree and extent of illegal surveillance, balked at extending the cooperation of his agency any further and was instrumental in causing these enormous internal spy operations to collapse, at least insofar as CIA participation was concerned. Without Hoover’s FBI to assist them, the CIA programs began to wither and die and even James Angleton’s program to open, read and copy first class mail, a serious felony, was exposed and Angleton fired in 1976.

The domestic surveillance programs now in place are conducted by more than one agency and, in theory at least, are all-inclusive.

Every citizen of the United States is supposed to possess a Social Security card and the number on this card is the key used to unlock all the areas where sensitive personal information on all citizens is stored. The computer has simplified not only record keeping but also surveillance activities. Everything pertaining to a citizen is kept in computer files and the government, and some private agencies who work with the government, have unlimited and unrestricted access to these computer files.

Birth and death records, highly personal and often potentially embarrassing medical files, bank accounts, criminal files, credit card records that indicate travel and purchases, tax records, ownership of cars, planes, boats and real estate, credit bureau reports, Social Security and other official agency material and dozens of other records that are the sum and total of the population of the United States are all quickly available to interested officialdom through the offices of the computer systems.

It is no longer possible to fly commercially domestically without producing photo identification and all of this data is made available to various agencies via the computer

Even the television set in the living room (or often more interestingly, the bedroom) can be used as a surveillance device. It is a well-known fact that the functions of the AM and FM units found in all television set can be reversed and the set can be used as a transmitter, even when it is turned off.

None of this is done in a secret location in Washington but is accomplished at the subject’s local cable head. It should be noted that this wonderfully Orwellian program only works if the victim is connected to a television cable system, one of the best reasons for using a satellite disk. Contrary to rumor, the set can only be used for audio transmission, not visual, so bedroom activities can only be heard, not seen.

Not even the fax machine is secure because the technology exists, and is used, to have copies of faxed documents sent directly into a federal office at the same time they are being printed out at the recipient’s home or office.

While it is quite true that the American public are constantly subject to observations like ants in a glass ant farm, they should comfort themselves with the knowledge that this is for their own welfare and certainly not a manifestation of a burgeoning police state.”


Table of Contents

  • EU rejects Donald Trump’s attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal, saying it works
  • Earthquake rocks N. California, as burning wildfires kill at least 34
  • Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat
  • Iran nuclear deal: Russia says Trump’s actions are ‘doomed to fail’
  • Russia will re-route Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Denmark tries to block it
  • Hundreds of Turkish officials seek asylum in Germany: report
  • Why a New York Court Case Has Rattled Turkey’s President
  • N. Korea threatens Guam with ‘salvo of missiles’ as US gears up for drills with Seoul
  • U.S. sanctions to complicate, not disrupt, Iran oil trade
  • The Speculative Civil War Novel Comes Home
  • The low-rent bullying of the Zionist ideologue


EU rejects Donald Trump’s attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal, saying it works

The EU’s top diplomat says the US can’t terminate the Iran nuclear agreement because it’s not a “bilateral deal.” European leaders acknowledge Iran poses many problems, but insist they should be handled separately.

October 13, 2017

by Teri Schultz (Brussels)


European diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic, along with the Iran nuclear deal’s other signatories and many of the US president’s own advisers, have failed to convince Donald Trump not to pick apart the agreement.

In Brussels, European Union officials are clearly exasperated with the US leader’s insistence on mixing a myriad of complaints about Iranian behavior with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the six-party accord signed in 2015 which limits Tehran’s ability to enrich uranium to a weapons-grade level.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini did not mince words Friday when lambasting Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance, which she says has been full, and to ask the US Congress to examine ways to add sanctions on Tehran. Mogherini was officially the deal’s mediator when it was concluded in 2015.

“This deal is not a bilateral agreement, this is not an international treaty,” but part of a UN Security Council Resolution, she said tersely after the announcement, “so it is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort.”

“The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one,” she added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later echoed Mogherini in a live televised address. “No president can revoke an international deal. … Iran will continue to honor its commitments under the deal,” Rouhani said. He also warned that “if one day our interests are not served, we will not hesitate even one moment and will respond.”

Germany, France and UK statement

Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May said in a joint statement: “We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

“We stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues in close cooperation with the US and all relevant partners,” they said. ”We look to Iran to engage in constructive dialogue to stop de-stabilising actions and work towards negotiated solutions.”

No deal-breaker

Mogherini and other European officials insist they will continue to observe the agreement, reminding Iran it must do the same.

A high-level EU official speaking on background ahead of the announcement said the bloc agrees with Trump about the dangers of ballistic missiles, terrorism, Iranian-backed militias and what they see as other bad behavior, and believes they should be dealt with, but separately from the nuclear deal.

At least with the current nuclear agreement, Tehran wouldn’t have the warheads for those missiles, the official pointed out.

Now lobbying attention turns to Congress, where European outreach efforts continue, according to the EU official.

“All the other issues of concern that may come up will not be better served if we undo the agreement,” the official explained, “because the agreement takes away a very dangerous risk, not only the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, but also of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, which is something we are now unfortunately seeing in North Korea.”

Lack of accord between US and EU

European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Ellie Geranmayeh says this move “has really been seen in Europe as a terrible betrayal of European allies.” While Europeans are also very concerned about missile proliferation and regional meddling, they want to keep open the channel of diplomatic initiatives. “If this deal starts to unravel,” she told DW, “it’s more likely than not to provoke activities from Iran inside the region that add to the fragility of that region.”

Erik Brattberg, who heads the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program, says that although the EU’s reaction is obviously one of disappointment, the situation doesn’t need to be seen as “catastrophic.”

“While uncertainty about US intentions and its commitment to the JCPOA seem unavoidable in the short term,” Brattberg said, “it is at least preferable to a [complete] unilateral US withdrawal from the agreement from a European perspective.”

Sanctions aimed at Tehran may also sting EU

But things will get worse for European companies that have resumed doing business with Iran if Trump’s impulses are fulfilled. “I think there is a very good chance that US sanctions will be reapplied against Tehran,” predicts Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. Republicans will strongly support renewing the sanctions, he said, and some Democrats may join them.

“European companies should be nervous,” Gardiner told DW. “They are playing with fire by investing in Iran, and could be hit hard by US sanctions. If they wish to do business with the US they would have to comply with American sanctions if they are imposed.”

Geranmayeh warns Gardiner may be right. “My message to the Europeans is, now that Trump has decertified, you better start planning on that contingency much more vigorously than before,” she said, “whether it’s because of a review process by Congress or because, come January, the president decides that he’s not going to renew these waivers.”

With EU foreign ministers meeting Monday to discuss their strategy, she says even if the EU is united behind a position of continuing the agreement, they’d better start coordinating on how far they are willing to go to salvage the deal and how to safeguard their companies from the White House if all else fails.

Shada Islam, director of policy at Friends of Europe, could only shake her head about the developments. “This was a hard-fought deal,” she told DW, adding that its abolishment would be dangerous for the world. “This will empower all those in Iran who don’t want the nuclear agreement – is that what we want?”


Earthquake rocks N. California, as burning wildfires kill at least 34

October 14, 2017


An earthquake has hit Northern California, where wildfires continue to affect the region, bringing the death toll to at least 34. An estimated 5,700 structures have also succumbed to the fast-moving flames.

On Friday afternoon, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake struck California’s Mendocino County, north of Napa County, according to the US Geological Survey.

The quake occurred near Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley, an area in the northwest section of the state, where 34,000 acres have burned up since Sunday, due to the 17 wildfires in the region.

The earthquake was shallow, and was recorded as reaching less than a third of a mile, leading to a reduced impact. The tremor was likely felt from Fort Bragg on the coast of the state, to the Central Valley and down to Cloverdale in Sonoma County, the USGS reported.

The Redwood Valley fire is 10 percent contained as of Friday. This fire alone has killed nine people, and, along with the 25,000-acre Sulphur fire in Lake County, it has led to the evacuation of a total of  8,000 people, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

“Steep inaccessible terrain coupled with critical fuel moistures, and northwest winds will provide challenges for crews working on the fire,” an incident report on the Mendocino County fires released by CalFire read.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano announced at a press conference on Friday that 19 deaths have been recorded in the county due to the wildfires in the North Bay, according to KTVU.

A total of 1,485 missing persons have been reported, with 1,250 of them being located safe, leaving 235 outstanding cases. Officials in the area are still working through issues related to communications, as they try to resolve these figures.

Giordano also added that Alexander Valley in Sonoma County is under mandatory evacuation. He said the Pacific Gas and Electric Company is in the process of restoring power, while AT&T is getting the phone service back into operation.

The fast-spreading flames in northern California started on Sunday night, and the devastation soon began to be felt all throughout the region due to a number of fac

“These are all fires that were in areas that are populated, and 95 percent of the fires in our state are started by people,” Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Tuesday, WGNO reported. Pimlott downplayed chances that lightning could have caused the wildfires.

High winds, the start of fires at night, heavy vegetation that dried out after a hot summer and dry conditions, have been cited as reasons contributing to the widespread fires, WPLG reported.


Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat

October 14, 2017


Global powers, including key US allies, have said they will stand by the Iran nuclear deal which US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear apart.

Mr Trump said on Friday that he would stop signing off on the agreement.

The UK, France and Germany responded that the pact was “in our shared national security interest”. The EU said it was “not up to any single country to terminate” a “working” deal.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the US was “more isolated than ever”.

“Can a president annul a multilateral international treaty on his own?” he asked.

“Apparently he doesn’t know that this agreement is not a bilateral agreement solely between Iran and the United States.”The deal, signed in 2015, is between Iran and six international powers – the UK, the US, Russia, France, Germany, and China. It imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of international sanctions.

In a combative speech on Friday, Mr Trump called Iran a “fanatical regime” and said it had violated the terms of the deal. He accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, and proposed new sanctions.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” he said.

International observers say Iran has been in full compliance with the agreement.

China has not spoken since Mr Trump’s speech but previously called on the US to preserve the deal.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it regretted Mr Trump’s decision but did not expect it to stop the deal being implemented.

What does Trump’s refusal to sign mean?

Congress requires the US president to certify every 90 days that Iran is upholding its part of the agreement. Mr Trump had already recertified twice, but refused to sign a third time ahead of a Sunday deadline. Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to pull out of the nuclear deal by re-imposing sanctions.

  • Trump hands Iran chalice to Congress

Although some advocates of the deal had feared that Mr Trump would withdraw the US entirely, he has instead essentially referred the matter to Congress.

What changes does he want?

Mr Trump is seeking the end to the nuclear deal’s so-called “sunset clauses”, one of which allows for the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme after 2025.

He announced Treasury Department sanctions on Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, which he called the “corrupt personal terror force of Iran’s leader”, and called for restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, which is not covered by the deal.

Last month, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile with a 2,000km (1,200-mile) range. The test was not internationally verified.

The president said that congressional leaders were already drafting amendments that would curb Iran’s ballistic missile development and eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to the country’s nuclear development.

How did other key players respond?

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran was implementing the deal and was subject to “the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime”.

European diplomats warned that any such unilateral changes to the agreement were likely to trigger the deal’s collapse and a return to a nuclear standoff in the Middle East.

In other reaction:

  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Europe and the world “could not afford” to terminate a nuclear deal that was working, “especially now”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron assured Mr Rouhani of France’s commitment to the deal in a phone call and is considering visiting Iran, his office said
  • “This deal lives to fight another day and that’s a good thing,” said UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Mr Trump, who he said had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime”. Saudi Arabia also backed the US president’s “firm strategy”

What has changed?

By Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent

President Trump has recast the list of Middle East threats, with Iran replacing so-called Islamic State (IS) as Enemy Number One.

That world view is shared by his strongest supporters in the region, including Israel and Gulf Arab leaders who have long seen Iran as their primary threat, and a rival with vast sway across the Middle East.

They resented Washington’s focus on the Iran deal during President’s Obama administration. Like President Trump, they want to undo his legacy. The new approach imposes new sanctions but stops short of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group – a step Iran says would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

The urgent question now is whether the new strategy will embolden Iran’s hardliners including the Revolutionary Guards. Like US forces, they’re involved in battles to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria, and may also see a new enemy.

What is the nuclear deal?

Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

It lifted some sanctions that stopped Iran from trading on international markets and selling oil.

The loosening of sanctions is dependent on Iran restricting its nuclear programme. It must curb its uranium stockpile, build no more heavy-water reactors for 15 years and allow inspectors into the country.


Iran nuclear deal: Russia says Trump’s actions are ‘doomed to fail’

Russian foreign ministry says decision to de-certify an international deal runs counter to its spirit

October 13, 2017

by Shehab Kahn

The Independent/UK

Russia’s foreign ministry has warned Donald Trump that his imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran are doomed to fail, saying there is no place for threatening and aggressive rhetoric in international diplomacy.

In a statement, the ministry said Mr Trump’s decision to de-certify an international deal on Iran’s nuclear program would not have a direct impact on implementation of the agreement, but that it ran counter to its spirit.

The ministry said that, whatever the US position, there could be no return to imposing United Nations sanctions on Iran.

Mr Trump has announced that if Congress does not come up with satisfactory changes to the Iran nuclear deal in a “very short” period of time then he is prepared to “terminate” it.

The President said he was “very unhappy with Iran” and that the country “has to behave much differently”.

He did however say he was not withdrawing from the deal but instead has asked Congress to make changes.

Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to put the accord’s previous sanctions back into place, modify them or do nothing. Any decision to re-impose sanctions would automatically kill America’s participation in the deal.

Both defenders of the Iran nuclear deal and critics are likely to be displeased by Mr Trump’s decision.

Those who support the deal believe Mr Trump’s move will damage US credibility in future international negotiations, while opponents think he does not go far enough in unravelling the accord


Russia will re-route Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Denmark tries to block it

October 13, 2017


The Danish parliament is considering a law which could affect the Nord Stream 2 project aimed at supplying Russian gas to the EU market via the Baltic Sea. Russia says it has a backup plan in case of difficulties. According to Danish daily Berlingske, the Nord Stream 2 company has applied to the Danish Energy Agency for a permit to construct within territorial waters. The company, however, has alternative routes for the €10 billion project.

“We are now following the debate in the [Danish – Ed.] parliament. Although we do not know how it ends, any project’s manager would consider alternatives in such situation. We are evaluating continuously,” Nord Stream 2 spokesman Jens Mueller told Berlingske.

The company’s technical director Sergey Serdjukov said this week they are ready to re-route the pipeline, avoiding Danish territorial waters if Copenhagen blocks construction plans.

According to Serdjukov, “everything has been already prepared, and it won’t be very difficult.”

“The distance does not matter. Who cares about a couple of extra kilometers on a 1,200-kilometer long pipeline,” Serdyukov told Russian business daily Vedomosti.

Russian gas giant Gazprom plans to lay the 1,200-kilometer Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea to the German coast near Greifswald, where it would connect to the European gas transport networks.

The new pipeline will be operational by the end of 2019, according to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller.

It is expected to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline, which opened in 2010 and goes under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

In 2015, Gazprom signed a memorandum of intent to cooperate on the new gas pipeline with Germany’s E.ON, Royal Dutch Shell and OMV of Austria.

Critics claim the Gazprom-led project will make Europe more dependent on Russian gas as it bypasses Ukraine as a transit country. Proponents argue it will bring gas prices in Europe down.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday, the EU has no legal means to stop the pipeline that will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany.


Hundreds of Turkish officials seek asylum in Germany: report

Some 600 senior-ranked Turkish officials have sought asylum in Germany since last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, according to a Berlin newspaper. The number highlights the growing uncertainty in the country.

October 14, 2017


Germany’s Funke media group, which includes the Berliner Morgenpost, reported Saturday that the more than 600 asylum applicants comprised 250 persons with Turkish diplomatic passports and 380 with identity papers showing them to be senior Turkish public servants.

Last year’s coup attempt, blamed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, was followed by the arrests of 50,000 people in Turkey and 150,000 sackings and suspensions in the military, public and private sectors.

The Berliner Morgenpost said it had obtained the figures from Germany’s Interior Ministry, which last month said 196 Turks with diplomatic passports had been granted asylum in Germany.

That count did not include members of Turkey’s military, including NATO attaches, who have also sought asylum.

Judicial independence at risk

Strains have emerged in the traditional good relations between Ankara and Berlin over the German government’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers, outrage over Turkey’s prosecution of dozens of detained German citizens, including journalists, and Erdogan’s April referendum to expand his powers.

The Berliner Morgenpost quoted the executive director of the German Association of Judges, Sven Rebehn, as saying that hardly any judicial independence remained in Turkey to exercise controls over Erdogan.

“Thousands of judges and state attorneys have been dismissed and some taken into detention. They have been replaced by government-allied jurists, who are appointed after crash courses,” he said.

“As a result, an effective, constitutional legal control of the Erdogan regime through an independent judiciary is largely inconceivable. It’s to be feared that the Turkish president will continue to dismantle Turkey’s civil society unperturbed.”

Erdogan: EU must make up its mind

In a speech to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Friday, Erdogan demanded that the EU at its Brussels summit next week make a decision on Ankara’s longstanding bid for accession to the 28-nation bloc.

“Still they string us along. But we will be patient. We say: It will be not us, but you who leaves the ring,” Erdogan told his AKP executive.

Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a major trading partner and tourist destination for Germans.


Why a New York Court Case Has Rattled Turkey’s President

October 14, 2017

by Patrick Kingsley and Benjamin Weiser

New York Times

The conversations caught on wiretaps planted by the Turkish police are alleged to show a conspiracy to help Iran skirt American sanctions by trading gold for gas.

The recordings also suggest that the plotters aimed to please one man: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the prime minister of Turkey, now the president.

The Erdogan government has dismissed the telephone recordings as fabrications concocted in 2013 by treasonous adversaries who had infiltrated the Turkish police and judiciary.

But United States prosecutors have taken a different view. They have cited the 2013 Turkish investigation in court papers filed in New York where nine men — including a senior Turkish bank official — have been charged with conspiring to evade American sanctions on Iran.

The sanctions case has strained relations between the United States and Turkey, and drawn repeated condemnation from Mr. Erdogan. He has often raised it with American officials, including in a telephone call with President Trump on Sept. 9. A day earlier, Mr. Erdogan described the indictment as “a step against the Turkish Republic.”

And in recent days, as tensions between the countries grew worse amid a diplomatic dispute over Turkey’s detention of a United States Embassy employee, Turkish officials justified their actions by equating them to the embargo charges in New York.

“You will arrest my bank’s deputy general manager for no reason, and will try another citizen of mine for two years, and want to use him as an informant,” Mr. Erdogan said in speech on Thursday in which he defended the American employee’s arrest.

A close reading, however, of a lengthy summary of the Turkish investigation, which prosecutors have filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan and which includes excerpts from transcripts of the wiretap recordings, suggests that Mr. Erdogan’s objections may involve more than just patriotism. In several of the conversations, the records show, three of the men now charged discuss meeting with Mr. Erdogan and acting, as one puts it, on “the prime minister’s order” to increase Turkish trade.

The excerpts, a copy of which has been translated independently by The New York Times, do not suggest that Mr. Erdogan was aware of any illegal activity, and he is neither named nor referred to in an American indictment filed last month. But they offer evidence that Mr. Erdogan, back in 2013, was meeting regularly with several of the men at the height of their suspected sanctions busting.

One question now is whether one or more of the defendants — two of whom are jailed in New York and scheduled for trial on Nov. 27 — might still plead guilty and cooperate with the United States authorities in the hope of winning leniency in sentencing.

“I’m sure Erdogan worries about that, and I’m sure he worries about what could come out at trial,” said Eric S. Edelman, a former United States ambassador to Turkey. “Either one could be very damaging to him.”

The case currently centers on three men, all of whom knew Mr. Erdogan personally. Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is suspected of having helped the Turkish government bypass United States sanctions on Iranian trade by using gold and other nonmonetary goods to pay for Iranian gas. American prosecutors say that Mr. Zarrab was helped by Zafer Caglayan, then Turkey’s economy minister, and Suleyman Aslan, at the time the chief executive of a state-owned Turkish bank.

Mr. Caglayan and Mr. Aslan are not in custody of either the United States or Turkey; Mr. Zarrab has been jailed in the United States since March 2016, after being arrested during a family trip to Disney World.

Mr. Zarrab has enlisted a team of high-profile lawyers to assist in his defense, among them Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, and Michael B. Mukasey, a former United States attorney general. They have met with Mr. Erdogan and senior Trump administration officials in an effort to resolve the case as a diplomatic matter.

Mr. Zarrab’s lead lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment. Mr. Zarrab has pleaded not guilty.

The case has been largely ignored by the public in the United States. But it has been widely reported and discussed in Ankara, where many of the government’s supporters see it as a continuation of a December 2013 attempt by parts of the Turkish judiciary to unseat Mr. Erdogan’s administration.

At that time, prosecutors in Turkey announced investigations into Turkish officials suspected in several corruption scandals. Mr. Caglayan and two other ministers quickly resigned, and Mr. Aslan and Mr. Zarrab were arrested, in what was the biggest challenge to Mr. Erdogan’s reputation since his party came to power in 2002.

Mr. Erdogan presented the investigations as a de facto coup attempt, mounted by followers of the same Islamist sect — the Gulen movement — that Mr. Erdogan would later say led a failed military putsch in July 2016. Mr. Erdogan’s government quickly shut down the investigations and released Mr. Zarrab and Mr. Aslan. Many of the police officers and prosecutors involved in the cases were later purged from their jobs.

The 2013 allegations, and the wiretaps on which they were based, were denounced as fiction — claims that many Turks found credible because of the Gulen movement’s problematic history. Gulenist prosecutors had been found to have fabricated evidence in earlier trials of secular army officers. (This week, Turkey’s state-run news agency said the American Embassy employee whose detention had fanned tensions had links to one of those prosecutors.)

But four years on, court filings in Manhattan show, these same recordings have become a part of the United States case.

The court records show that Mr. Erdogan’s voice was not captured on any of these particular recordings. But in the fall of 2013, he is referred to frequently by his office in conversations among some of the people suspected of conspiracy.

In June 2013, the Obama administration had closed the loophole that had allowed Turkey to pay for Iranian gas with gold. That fall, two of the alleged conspirators discussed finding an alternative method to evade the sanctions, according to transcripts of the recordings cited in the case.

The method the men are accused of settling on had problematic side effects for the Turkish economy. Since large quantities of gold were no longer being channeled through Turkey, the country’s trade deficit looked set to increase.

Mr. Erdogan was alarmed by this development, according to statements captured by the wiretaps. With local elections looming, Mr. Erdogan may have feared damage to his reputation as a savvy manager of the Turkish economy. According to the recordings, Mr. Erdogan spoke with Messrs. Zarrab, Caglayan and Aslan about the need to restore Turkish export figures to the record high of the previous year.

There is no evidence that Mr. Erdogan demanded or expected this to be achieved through illegal means. But the result he sought had previously been accomplished only through a method that was now outlawed under American sanctions. And the defendants charged in the United States are accused, in part, of returning to a version of the gas-for-gold scheme — a course of action Turkish investigators say the men took after they had spoken with Mr. Erdogan.

In one of the conversations, on Sept. 19, 2013, Mr. Zarrab claimed that he had personally spoken to Mr. Erdogan about the trade deficit, and had assured the leader he would help increase Turkish exports by $4 billion. “We have to do our best to achieve this $4 billion goal,” Mr. Zarrab is quoted as telling the bank chief, Mr. Aslan, “because I promised the prime minister.”

In a separate conversation on the same day, Mr. Zarrab told another associate that a smaller increase would be better than nothing. “Even two billion is important because I will go to meet the prime minister directly,” Mr. Zarrab said, according to the transcript.

In a conversation two weeks later, on Oct. 3, 2013, Mr. Caglayan told Mr. Aslan that Mr. Erdogan had directly demanded an increase in exports. “Turkey needs at least $2 to $4 billion in exports,” Mr. Caglayan said. “Last night we had a two-hour meeting with the prime minister in Istanbul and explained to him that there is a lot of pressure.”

Turkish investigators concluded from another conversation, on Sept. 16, 2013, that Mr. Aslan had spoken to Mr. Erdogan, who told him to “do something, whatever the method” to increase exports. The transcripts do not show that Mr. Erdogan was told how Mr. Zarrab, Mr. Aslan and Mr. Caglayan intended to increase exports — or that Iran was the ultimate beneficiary of Mr. Zarrab’s alleged scheme.

“My reading of the transcripts, as someone who has been covering Turkish politics for 27 years, leads me to say that Erdogan fully understood what was going on,” said Atilla Yesilada, an Istanbul-based consultant at Global Source Partners, an analysis firm, and a political commentator.

Mr. Yesilada acknowledged that nothing in the transcripts showed that the issue of sanctions busting had been brought to Mr. Erdogan’s attention.

Mr. Erdogan himself, however, has spoken publicly in the past about his willingness to break the United States sanctions on Iran.

“When we are approached on that matter — ‘You should obey the sanctions, you should obey’ — we cannot obey,” Mr. Erdogan said in December 2012 at a news conference in Istanbul. “This is strategically important for us.”

Korea threatens Guam with ‘salvo of missiles’ as US gears up for drills with Seoul

October 14, 2017


In a new incendiary statement, Pyongyang promised to fire “a salvo of missiles” at the US territory of Guam, and keep its hands “closer to trigger” amid major US-South Korea drills involving B-1 bombers and a carrier strike group. As Washington and its Asia-Pacific allies prepare for a joint maritime exercise, the North Korean government issued new threats to target the US territory of Guam. The upcoming war games, which involve the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, are set to begin on Monday off the shores of South Korea.

An op-ed published by Pyongyang’s KCNA state news agency said: “We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense including a salvo of missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam, an advance base for invading the DPRK, where key US bases are located.”

“The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to ‘trigger’ for taking the toughest countermeasure,” Kim Kwang Hak, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies

of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said in the op-ed.

Pyongyang’s statement comes as the US deploys additional navy warships to South Korea’s ports. Earlier, the USS Michigan nuclear-capable Ohio-class submarine moored in the South Korean port of Busan, according to the US 7th Fleet.

Next week, the USS Stethem and USS Mustin Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers and the USS Ronald Reagan are expected to join the naval drill scheduled for October 16 to 26 in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea to hone “communications, interoperability, and partnership,” the statement added.

KCNA’s statement also came on the heels of a flyby of two US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force on Tuesday night.

Two B-1Bs took off from Guam and traveled in the vicinity of the Sea of Japan, staging an aerial exercise with Japanese and South Korean combat aircraft in the middle of the night.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged personal insults over the past few months, adding fuel to the mounting tensions. Earlier in September, Trump called Kim “a madman” and “Little Rocket Man,” saying the North Korean leadership “won’t be around much longer.”

North Korea called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard” and “an old psychopath.”

Following a meeting with top US military brass at the White House last week, Trump made headlines with a mysterious comment: “This is the calm before the storm.” He later explained the remark was in reference to potential action against Pyongyang.


U.S. sanctions to complicate, not disrupt, Iran oil trade       

October 13, 2017

by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Julia Payne


LONDON (Reuters) – A looming ramp-up in U.S. sanctions on Tehran will further spook potential buyers of Iranian oil although supplies to Europe will most likely remain uninterrupted, top trading houses told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit this week.

U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to take a major step against the Iran nuclear deal on Friday, marking a more aggressive approach to Iranian activities in the Middle East.

Trump will lay out his plan in a 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT)speech at the White House, the product of weeks of internal discussions between him and his national security team.

Any big increase in sanctions will effectively leave the oil market where it was at the start of this decade, when Washington had a tough stance on Iran while the European Union still allowed trade with Tehran before beefing up sanctions in 2012.

The EU eased sanctions last year as part of a broader nuclear deal, paving the way for Tehran to increase oil trade and attract billions of dollars in investment.

“If the U.S. does decertify the nuclear deal, and raises the tension, then inevitably some people will say, well, maybe that is a business that I shouldn’t be involved in,” said Glencore’s (GLEN.L) global head of oil, Alex Beard.

He said dealing with Iran was complex enough without any new U.S. sanctions because of a lack of dollar clearing, as the global banking system is sensitive to the U.S. view on transacting with Iran.

Glencore and Vitol, the world’s No.2 and No.1 oil trading houses, have resumed dealings with Iran since last year.

The chief executive of Vitol, Ian Taylor, said he expected transactions with Iran to become more complicated although a small number of financial institutions would still facilitate trade.

“If Trump decides not to certify … it will have some impact but I don’t think the Europeans will go with him so probably the impact will be limited,” he said.

Kim Gyo-hyun, CEO of Lotte Chemical (011170.KS), South Korea’s No.2 petrochemical maker, told the summit he did not think oil prices would spike due to tighter sanctions because the world has much larger crude oil stocks than it did in 2012.

“We are not short of oil,” he said.

Jeff Brown, president of energy consultant FGE, said new U.S. sanctions would complicate Iranian oil trade finance under which Tehran could attract loans guaranteed by future oil deliveries.

Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson



The Speculative Civil War Novel Comes Home

October 14 2017

by Brendan C. Byrne

The Intercept

Heavily armed fascists openly organize on the streets of a former Confederate stronghold. Car attacks on protesters are normalized on social media. Berkeley increasingly resembles a battleground. Alex Jones bellows that the latest mass shooting is the beginning of a leftist revolution. It feels like the next Fort Sumter will be livestreamed imminently. As the future-Civil War novel seems to spring to life before our eyes, two recent entries have taken the speculative fiction subgenre mainstream.

Christopher Brown’s “Tropic of Kansas” (Harper Voyager) and Omar El Akkad’s “American War” (Knopf), are polished, ambitious debut novels released by major publishing houses. Both written before November 8, the authors’ attempts to imagine future consequences to then-present political realities have been made less and less speculative by the rolling disaster we live in. While popular stand-ins for political anxiety in recent years have included vampires, zombies, and all-round secular apocalypses, the Second American Civil War seems inescapably terrifying in its specificity. This is not a metaphor capable of being misread.

Until recently, novels on secession have tended to be explicitly racist fever dreams, or slightly more dog-whistley self-published affairs, pushing narratives of heroic violence around right-wing obsessions, such as race war, the abolishment of the Second Amendment, or states’ rights. Propaganda disguised as entertainment, these novels reveled in the collapse of the Union while trying to normalize the idea of secession. Brown and El Akkad, on the other hand, reject the vision of a fractured United States as a tabula rasa for true, right-wing American values. Instead, they emphasize the human and societal costs of asymmetrical warfare, as well as the difficulties of rebuilding.

Tropic of Kansas” takes place in a United States, in which “whole counties depopulated by disappearing futures” have tried, with limited success, to institute “autonomy and local control of land and law.” A federal recolonization, equally unsuccessful, has left pockets of quasi-autonomous territories contested by various for-profit revolutionaries; feral, unofficially deputized militias; and the occasional U.S. government incursion. The result is the titular space — it’s not “a specific place you could draw on a map, and Kansas wasn’t really even a part of it” — where violence is endemic. Militias confiscate guns. An insurgent is hung from a bridge, “naked and carved with a warning that looked like a corporate logo.” It is into this zone that Sig, a young man orphaned by the militarized police state, is deported by self-amused Mounties.

Like Jason Statham raised by wolves, Sig is a mashup of action hero and dharma bum. He instinctively finds the nearest cover no matter the terrain, the weakest spot no matter the enemy. Shorn of anything like an ideology, he wants only to keep moving, to stay just ahead of federal predictive analytics and unceasing domestic drone patrols. Living rough off the post-industrial, climate-blighted land has instilled an inner poise which enables him to produce such koans as, “There is no such thing as an empty lot,” and “… every place was another country once.” Brown, a lawyer and Texan with an interest in conservation in the Anthropocene, intends Sig to be a re-wilding of the American.

As Sig becomes integral to the disparate anti-federal movement, we also follow his de facto foster sister Tania, a government lawyer turned reluctant informer, as she tracks Sig from Minnesota to New Orleans. Tania has been volunteered for this task after internment for yelling abuse at the president, a third-term authoritarian who has turned the East Coast into his own private bunker of the soul after barely surviving an assassination attempt that left the White House a half-charred ruin. “His scars are America’s scars” goes the propaganda.

The disparities between Brown’s timeline — written under the supposed security of the Obama administration — and our own are telling. Although the president still holds rallies and routinely goes “live without a script, talking with seeming authenticity about his plans for change,” he is less huckster-fascist and more like a highly intelligent acceleration of George W. Bush (Flight suit references: check). At times, his administration’s sheer competence is unintentionally amusing, given our ongoing political sketch-comedy hellscape. “People in the opposition claimed the President had personal profit interests in many of his policies, but they could never find hard proof,” one line goes, coming across now as gut-clenchingly naive. Perhaps most unsettling, Brown’s divided America has been reverse-engineered via alternate history. The fracture in history goes at least as far back as a (failed) Iranian hostage crisis and features such highlights as “the Gipper,” and, umm, President Al Haig.

“American War,” similarly composed before Trump’s America was imminent, sees the Second American Civil War kick off in 2074 over the South’s refusal to adhere to the Sustainable Future Act, which outlaws the use of fossil fuels. Following the molding of Southern resistance fighter Sarat Chestnut, “American War” reads less Cassandra than “Tropic.” Instead, El Akkad recreates in the U.S. the societal fracturing it has inaugurated in the Middle East. Children are radicalized by the loss of home, refugee internment, and massacre. (An extensively researched section featuring “enhanced interrogation methods” is extraordinarily painful to read.) This is not done for any kind of authorial pleasure, but rather to show how asymmetrical conflicts can create feedback loops of violence where ideology basically ceases to matter. To hear an American muse, “What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?” is deeply jarring; take away our political naiveté, our self-assured exceptionalism, and our national character looks bare.

Both Brown and El Akkad’s visions now seem possible within our lifetimes, needing neither an alternate reality nor another 60-odd years to become reality. While the reactionary old, white dudes who wrote the secessionist literature of late 20th century believed that their fantasies were also imminent, they seemed deeply insane to the political center. The great-grandpappy of these novels is William Luther Pierce’s novel “The Turner Diaries,” written under the nom de plume Andrew Macdonald. The book features a white supremacist terrorist organization seizing a large chunk of California, which it racially cleanses before nuking D.C. Pierce, a former aide to George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi Party, founded the National Alliance, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has referred to as “explicitly genocidal in its ideology.” His novel aided in the radicalization of and provided an insurgency how-to guide for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. It would also partially inspire the Order, a white-power domestic terrorist organization that aims to transform the Pacific Northwest into a separate white nation.

Bizarrely, Ernest Callenbach’s comparatively soothing “Ecotopia,” which takes the form of a travelogue in a post-hippie, almost-paradise in the Northwest, first appeared in 1975, just before the initial serialization of “The Turner Diaries” in the National Alliance journal, Attack! According to political scientist Michael Barkun, there is no evidence that Pierce was inspired by Callenbach, despite the novels’ similarities — including secessionists accessing nuclear weapons — and the authors’ relationships to Oregon. There has long been a strong secessionist strain running through Cascadia, the bioregion running along the Pacific coast from just above San Francisco to Prince William Sound, Alaska. (Adam Rothstein’s “Cascadian Drone Ballads: An Introduction” is an excellent contemporary sci-fi story on Cascadian secession.)

That the literary world and entertainment industry — especially in the form of HBO’s upcoming “Confederate” — has seized upon secession as a relevant topic shows how far this particular Overton window has shifted. One can only imagine the bumper crop of near-future American political thrillers next year. However, secession in America has often been the tactic of reactionaries, from Jefferson Davis to the Order, and bringing it into the mainstream may have serious negative effects down the road. The Neo-Reactionary movement — think the theory bro version of the “alt-right” — sees an endgame in “Patchwork,” which was dreamed up by Mencius Moldbug, the pen name Curtis Yarvin, who reportedly watched election results at the home of sometime Donald Trump adviser Peter Thiel. “Patchwork” consists of a neo-feudal “global spiderweb of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of sovereign and independent mini-countries, each governed by its own joint-stock corporation without regard to the residents’ opinions.”

In the wake of Charlottesville, noted ethno-nationalist branding manager Richard B. Spencer repeatedly tweeted that the fault for the violence lay with local authorities. This is not just an abdication of responsibility for helping to create the situation that led to the death of Heather Heyer and the brutal assault on DeAndre Harris, among others, but an attempt to leverage it to discredit existing government institutions. While secessionist movements have emerged from the entire spectrum of radical American politics — including the Republic of New Afrika and the Second Vermont Republic — it is worth remembering, as the Trump administration lays its parasitical eggs in the intestines of the federal government, who has the most riding right now on secession: the white dudes who already have the long guns.


The low-rent bullying of the Zionist ideologue

October 12, 2017

by Thomas S. Harrington


Imagine for a moment that you’re talking to an Italian-American about Fascist Italy (1922-1945) and how elements of that destructive and authoritarian ideology are still present in many areas of the Italian body politic.

Then imagine that the friend shuts down the conversation because it makes him or her feel “uncomfortable”. When you ask why, the person explains that though you might not be aware of it, your critique of fascism is really a coded way of expressing a deep and pernicious hatred of all Italians and that, given the harm done to Italians in the past by such Italophobic musings, we really need to stop things right here.

Then imagine that the person makes behind-your-back visits to your direct-work supervisor—in the case of an academic like me, his or her academic dean—to complain about the malign thought-crimes being conjured in your head and the need to enact measures to cut down on the uncomfortable “environment of hate” that these thought-crimes promoted by you are generating for everyone in the community.

I think that if a friend or a colleague acted in this way, we would rightly see them, at the very least, as someone lacking a basic understanding of the implied rules of intellectual exchange, and at the very worst, as a heedless bully.

Amazingly, however, most of us put up with behaviors quite similar to this—or worse yet, we frequently self-censor to avoid the possibility of their onset—when it comes to talking with committed Zionists about Israel and its political and military behaviors.

In case you missed the point in the little story above, it is this: Zionism is a particular political ideology produced in a particular moment of time by a particular faction of a large and diverse ethno-religious group known as the Jews.

For most of the vast and impressive history of this collective it has not existed. It is no more essential, despite what Zionist ideologues ceaselessly tell us today, to the condition of being Jewish than, being a Fascist authoritarian was, or is, to being a true self-respecting Italian.

And despite the enormous social pressure exercised by censorious and bullying people like the ones described in the hypothetical Italian case outlined above, many Jews—indeed, it would seem an ever-increasing percentage of their numbers—do not see their identification with their people’s rich past and present as being coterminous with a blind commitment to the particular, and relatively new, racist ideology that undergirds the operation of the state of Israel today.

No other political interest group that I know in the US regularly demands, through the profligate employment of interpersonal bullying, social and professional slander, and orchestrated campaigns of ostracism, that we accept their particular ideology as per se legitimate and lovable.

Indeed, if anyone else tried to put us in this position, most of us would, quite rightly, either tell them to go to hell or laugh them out of the room.

Isn’t it time we started taking back the right and—if you consider the enormity of Israel’s dependence on US funding and diplomatic cover—the responsibility to treat Zionism for what it is?

What is that?

A passing political current that like all passing political currents is absolutely fair game for revision, critique, and yes, even outright censure, a passing political ideology that is no more congruent with the entirety of the Jewish historical experience than socialism is to the experience of being Swedish, than Francoism to the experience of being Spanish, than the ideological exaltation of invading and bombing foreign countries is to the experience of being an American today.

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