good old-fashioned cold war melodrama (people die by the hundreds of millions later in this movie)

Iran Slams Pindostan Over Claim UN Report Proves Tehran’s Guilt for Aramco Attacks
Sputnik News, Feb 17 2020

Iran’s mission to the UN has responded to Pindo allegations citing a UN report about Tehran’s alleged complicity in the Sep 14 2019 attacks on two Toad oil facilities. Last September, a drone and missile attack targeting two major Toad Aramco facilities temporarily wiped out half of the KSA’s oil output, with Pindostan & its vassals almost immediately blaming the acts of sabotage on Iran, even as Yemen’s Houthi militia claimed responsibility. Responding to a recent statement put out by the Pindo mission citing a UNSC report on the crisis in Yemen, the IRI’s UN mission said in a statement:

The media note of the Pindo Mission of Feb 13 represents another disinformation campaign against Iran. Just hours after the attack on Toad oil facilities on Sep 14 2019, Pindostan baselessly attributed it to Iran, but has failed so far to present any shred of evidence. Now, it clutches to every straw to seemingly prove its allegation. The latest example is its resort to the recent report by the Panel of Experts on Yemen. But nothing in that report validates the Pindo allegation, which has already been rejected by Iran.

Late last week, the Pindo mission to the UN reiterated Faschingstein’s oft-repeated allegation that Tehran was responsible for the Aramco attack, writing:

The recently released report by the UNSC Yemen panel of experts confirms the truth that the Houthis could not have launched such an attack, reinforcing the conclusion of FUKUS + Germany that Iran bears responsibility.

The Pindo mission urged the report’s findings to be used to renew the UN arms embargo against Iran in October, claiming the lifting of the restrictions would be “a matter of vital concern for the international community.” In its report, released last week, the Yemen panel, which consisted of experts from Canada, Germany, Morocco, Pindostan and the UK, suggested that the Houthis were “unlikely to be responsible” for the September attacks on the Toad Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurays, given the suspected range characteristics of the drones and missiles at the Yemeni militia’s disposal. At the same time, the panel did admit:

Throughout most of 2019, the Houthi forces continued and intensified their aerial attacks on Toad Arabia … in addition to the previously known weapon systems, they used a new type of Delta-design uncrewed aerial vehicle and a new model of land attack cruise missile.

The panel also admitted that “other attacks using the same weapons” as those used in the Aramco attacks “do seem to have been launched from Yemen” on other occasions. The panel said that it “did not believe that those comparatively sophisticated weapons systems were developed and manufactured in Yemen. Other attacks using the same weapons do seem to have been launched from Yemen. With regard to Iran, the report stated that the Houthis were known to “receive political and military support from the IRI, though the scale of such support is unknown.” The panel also noted that based on the remnants of drone engine components retrieved from the scene of the Aramco strikes, it was “unclear” whether the engine components were similar to an Iranian-made design, or were a Chinese design. In its response to the Pindo mission regarding the Yemen panel report, Iran’s UN mission said:

Pindostan’s military adventurism, the massive build-up of Pindo forces in the area, and the unprecedented flow of sophisticated Pindo weaponry to its regional vassals and partners, are the main sources of instability and insecurity in the Persian Gulf. Therefore, instead of accusing others, Pindostan must put an end to all its divisive policies and destabilising activities in the region.

Accusing Faschingstein of violating UNSCR 2231 on the Iran nuclear deal and of pressuring other UN members to do the same, the mission suggested that its latest comment on the drone attacks was “yet another desperate attempt to undermine implementation” of the nuclear deal. On Sep 14 2019, drone and missile attacks targeting two Toad oil facilities temporarily knocked out about half of the country’s oil output. Pindostan and several of its vassals almost immediately accused Iran of complicity, with Pompeo blaming the IRI just hours later, before any sort of investigation was begun. Iran denied the charges. Yemen’s Houthis, who have launched dozens of drone and missile attacks against targets in Toad Arabia over the years, claimed responsibility and accused anyone who doubted them of “cowardice.”

Pindostan Paving Way to Deploy Intermediate and Short-Range Missiles in Europe and Asia – Lavrov, Feb 17 2020

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated after visiting the Munich Security Conference that Pindostan is laying the groundwork to deploy missiles previously banned by the INF accord in Europe, in Asia and on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Moscow earlier called on Pindostan to avoid deploying the missiles near Russia’s borders after Faschingstein left the INF Treaty, stressing it would lead to the “degradation” of the global arms control system.

Geopolitical conflicts overshadow Vanuatu election
John Braddock, WSWS, Feb 17 2020

With elections scheduled for Mar 19, the Pacific Island state of Vanuatu will be at the centre of regional tensions as the imperialist powers including Pindostan, Japan and ANZ seek to assert their dominance over the country as part of the deepening economic, diplomatic and military confrontation with China. The election campaign in the tiny nation, which lies 2,000 km east of Australia and has a population of just 270,000, starts on Mar 2. It is the first since a major constitutional crisis in 2015. PM Charlot Salwai, who is seeking re-election, formed a coalition in the wake of a snap poll called after half the previous government was jailed for corruption. A court ruled that the accused had either given or received payments designed to influence MPs in their capacity as public officials. Salwai’s Reunification of Movements for Change party has survived a full four-year term in office, the first after a decade of unstable coalitions. In a sign of ongoing volatility, however, Salwai is facing a charge of perjury, along with several other high-profile defendants. Radio NZ reported on Feb 5 that they will appear in court later this month on charges relating to corruption and bribery, aiding and abetting, conflict of interest and perjury. The case stems from a controversial move by the government to introduce parliamentary secretaries, paid positions that the Supreme Court has ruled “void and of no effect.” The opposition called for a criminal investigation into what it deemed were corrupt political appointments. Salwai’s spokesperson said the case was a “political ploy” and would not affect his campaign. According to Radio NZ, Salwai’s party is likely to again form the core of the new coalition. This is despite claims that his last government has not met the expectations of the people, including promises of 400 new public service jobs. A 10% increase to the minimum wage in September brought it to just $1.59/hr. Sections of the working class have threatened strike action, including by parliamentary staff seeking a 25% pay rise. Immediately on the agenda will be the Pacific Islands Forum, which Vanuatu hosts in August. Last year’s PIF in Tuvalu was all but derailed over bitter conflicts around climate change and the refusal of Australian PM Morrison to agree to place limits on coal production. Writing in the Guardian following that event, Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu warned:

Vanuatu has a message for Australia. We ask that Australia prepares well ahead of the next forum meeting in 2020 and comes to the table ready to make real, tangible commitments on climate change.

Projections forecast an increase in the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones, such Cyclone Pam which hit Vanuatu in 2015, causing damage equivalent to over 64% of GDP. Regenvanu declared that if Canberra is not prepared to help Pacific nations address the existential climate crisis, it needs to decide if it wants “a seat at the table or not.” Vanuatu is also closely involved in the escalating geopolitical tensions across the Pacific as the Trump administration and its vassals including ANZ intensify preparations for war with China. Last week, an Australian naval ship docked at a Chinese-built wharf in Vanuatu’s northern town of Luganville for a three-day visit. The wharf was previously the subject of an alarmist Australian media beat-up. Citing unnamed “intelligence and security” sources, the SMH reported in Apr 2018 that China had pressured Vanuatu to build a permanent military facility and that it was “a globally significant move that could see the rising superpower sail warships on Australia’s doorstep.” The Vanuatu government vehemently denied the claims. Regenvanu criticised the Australian media’s “paranoia” and declared Vanuatu a non-aligned country, saying:

We are not interested in any sort of military base in our country.

As part of its Pacific “Step Up” policy, Canberra has upgraded its military operations involving Vanuatu. The recent ship visit is just the latest in a series of Australian navy deployments. Australia’s Defence Force has also increased its engagements with Vanuatu’s Police Force, alongside training and exercises. Official visits by Morrison to Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands in 2019, and another by Foreign Minister Marise Payne, were the first by an Australian PM to Canberra’s supposed Pacific “family” in more than a decade. According to the Melbourne Age on Feb 1, Japan has recently intervened in the Pacific to combat Beijing’s growing influence. Japan spent $1.1b on aid and infrastructure projects from 2011–2017, ranking third after Australia ($7.5b) and New Zealand ($1.5b). China came fourth with $1.28b, but in 2017 Beijing increased its Pacific commitments to $4.78b, prompting alarm in both Canberra and Faschingstein. Director of Japan’s ministry of foreign Affairs Maya Hamada told the Age that Tokyo’s Pacific engagement is “supporting the rule of law, freedom of navigation and pursuit of peace and prosperity,” including opposition to “attempts to change the status quo.” The language echoes that used by Faschingstein to invoke its dominance in the Pacific in the period following its victory in WW2. Vanuatu is a major recipient of foreign aid. China’s contribution, at $99.65m, is Beijing’s largest to any single Pacific country, exceeding that from Australia ($53.91m) and Japan ($29.97m) combined. Private Chinese investment, including an 86-hectare apartment and shopping centre development near the capital Port Vila, is also “booming,” according to the ABC.

The EU’s new Pacific ambassador Sujiro Seam meanwhile presented his credentials in Port Vila in January, declaring that the EU wants a closer relationship with Vanuatu, covering more than aid and including “gradual integration in the global economy and deepening political dialogue.” Across the region, the issue of so-called “Chinese interference” is playing out in domestic politics, promoting nationalism, xenophobia and racism and boosting the broader war preparations against Beijing. A scandal erupted in Vanuatu last year over a murky episode in which six Chinese nationals were detained on the premises of a Chinese company with large government contracts. Without access to Vanuatu courts, they were escorted to a waiting aircraft by Chinese and Vanuatu police and deported. Four of the six detainees had earlier successfully applied for Vanuatu citizenship. The Vanuatu Daily Post sharply criticised the government’s handling of the affair and the secrecy surrounding it, claiming Beijing had “convinced Vanuatu to enforce Chinese law within its own borders.” A Daily Post editorial last July accused Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat, who had given the go-ahead for the operation, of being complicit in illegal acts that had seen citizenship rights stripped away. In November, Dan McGarry, a Canadian citizen and media director for the Daily Post, was denied his work visa renewal. McGarry, who has lived in Vanuatu for 16 years, was unable to board a plane to return from a media freedom conference in Brisbane. The reporter claimed the Vanuatu government was seeking to silence his newspaper’s critical reporting about Chinese “influence.” The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the ban denying him re-entry was unlawful.

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