Pistachio Wars – The Link Between California’s Drought, Iranian Sanctions & The Israel Lobby

Here is a preview of a fascinating upcoming documentary which explains the link, and an article on Max Blumenthal’s blog, The Gray Zone, which goes into more detail:

A Reminder Why the UK And US Are Pursuing Assange

The UDA and UVF In England & Scotland During The Troubles

Interesting piece on the ‘Writing The Troubles‘ website by James Bright on the activities of the UVF and UDA in Scotland and England during the Troubles:

https://writingthetroublesweb.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/paramilitary-loyalism-in-england-and-scotland/

The Best Read On Trump-Russia Collusion

This piece, by Max Frenkel, the former executive editor of the NYTimes, strikes me as the best read yet on the issue of Trump-Russia collusion:

Collusion — or a lack of it — turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers. There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.

Run down the known facts about the communications between Russians and the Trump campaign and their deal reveals itself. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, Russians also reminded the Trump family of their helpful cooperation with his past financial ventures. Perhaps, also, they articulated their resentment of Mrs. Clinton for her challenge as secretary of state to the legitimacy of Mr. Putin’s own election. But no such speculation is needed to perceive the obvious bargain reached during the campaign of 2016.

Early on, emissaries of the Russian oligarchs sent word of their readiness to help embarrass and undermine the Clinton candidacy. And in June 2016, the Russians lured the Trumpites to a meeting in Trump Tower with a promise of “dirt” against Mrs. Clinton only to use the meeting to harp on their hunger for sanctions relief. As the Trump family openly acknowledged, the Russians spoke at that meeting of a desire to again allow Americans to adopt Russian children. Since the adoptions were halted to retaliate against the American sanctions, it required no dictionary to interpret the oligarchs’ meaning: “dirt” for sanctions relief.

That relief and a warm new relationship with Russia were then freely discussed in public and in private. There was even an effort to concoct a grand diplomatic bargain by which the Russians would be allowed to legalize their seizure of the Ukrainian Crimea. Michael Cohen and other Trump advisers promoted the idea of letting the Russians “lease” the seized territory for up to 100 years so as to sanitize the reciprocal lifting of the sanctions that Mr. Obama had imposed to punish the land grab.

Sanction relief seems to have been discussed in some of the other secret contacts between Trump operatives and Russians. We know that Michael Flynn lied to the F.B.I. when he denied discussing sanction relief with the Russian ambassador.

As Robert Mueller surely discovered in tracking down these dealings, the promise of policy changes was not in itself illegal. Candidates routinely promise policy changes, often with foreign governments. (Move the embassy in Israel, anyone?)

So why all the secrecy and lying? Candidate Trump made no secret of his intention to forge a warm relationship with the Kremlin. But pledges of sanctions relief and other specific moves while not yet in office were unseemly at best and clearly offensive to the American convention that we have only one president at a time. Mr. Flynn especially had to lie because though already in transition to power he was directly undermining Mr. Obama’s still active and punitive diplomacy against Mr. Putin.

Mr. Flynn, remember, was deemed so helpful to the Mueller investigation that the special counsel pleaded to have him spared any time in jail. He was “colluding” all right, but with legal policy promises, not apparently with election sabotage. And true to the campaign minuet, despite great resistance in Congress, President Trump has watered down the sanctions and otherwise appeased Russian interests, even at the expense of America’s allies. Call it the art of the deal.

Max Frankel was the executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994.

Bernadette McAliskey On 1968

‘Morning Star’ Review Of ‘I, Dolours’….

I didn’t realise The Morning Star still existed but apparently it does. Here is a review of ‘I, Dolours‘, it published this week.

Birmingham Bombers To Be Named – ‘With IRA Permission’

The report below, carried in The Guardian this morning – updated last night – has interesting implications, if it is true.

The reference to ‘the current head of the IRA’ will be taken to mean that the Provisional IRA still exists, while the claim that ‘Witness O’ has been given permission to name the Birmingham bombers begs the obvious question: why not name the perpetrators in other violent incidents?

(Needless to say The Irish Times has avoided asking, much less answering such awkward questions. The Major lives on!)

Whether this claim from ‘Witness O’ is true or not remains to be seen but in the meantime here is the text of the report, written by Frances Perraudin.

A convicted IRA bomber known as Witness O has named four men he says were responsible for the Birmingham pub bombings, telling the inquest he had been given permission to do so by the current head of the IRA in Dublin.

Twenty-one people were killed and more than 200 injured when bombs were detonated in two city centre pubs – the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town – on the evening of 21 November 1974.

Giving evidence in court on Friday, the anonymous former IRA volunteer said he had been told by the head of the IRA six months ago in Dublin that he could name those he knew were involved.

Speaking over a secure videolink, he named the officer commanding the Birmingham IRA at the time as Seamus McLoughlin, who he said was the person responsible for selecting the targets. He said he gave McLoughlin’s name to two police detectives days after the bombings while he was serving time in HMP Winson Green, but heard nothing more.

He said Mick Murray was one of the bombers. Murray, who died in 1999, was one of two men named by the former Labour MP Chris Mullin in an article in the London Review of Books published in February.

Asked about James Gavin, who was also named by Mullin and died in 2002, he replied: “Well, he was [involved], I met him in Dublin and he said he was.”

Witness O was asked if Michael Hayes was in the bombing team. He said he was, but added, in apparent reference to the Good Friday agreement: “But he can’t be arrested. There is nobody going to be charged with this atrocity. The British government have signed an agreement with the IRA.”

He said that two other men he knew as Dublin Dave and Socks had also been involved, but that he did not know either man’s real name.

Witness O was also asked about the role of Michael Patrick Reilly – a man who has previously been alleged to be a perpetrator – but was unable to confirm his identity.

The inquest into the deaths was opened in November 1974, but was adjourned to allow for a criminal investigation. In 1975, six men – who became known as the Birmingham Six – were convicted for the bombings but were acquitted 16 years later in 1991.

Murray was tried alongside the Birmingham Six and convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions. Gavin was also tried alongside the Birmingham Six and convicted of the possession of explosives.

Murray, Gavin, McLoughlin and Hayes were named in 1990 in the Granada Television documentary drama Who Bombed Birmingham?.

Fresh inquests into the deaths were ordered in 2016 but were delayed by disputes over whether the hearings should examine who might be responsible for the bombings.

In January 2018, the high court overturned a ruling by the coroner Sir Peter Thornton that alleged perpetrators would not fall within the framework of the inquest. Thornton appealed against that decision the following July and the court of appeal ruled in his favour in September.

Speaking outside court on Friday, Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the Tavern in the Town, said: “Witness O has today named the bombers involved in the Birmingham pub bombings.

“I have a letter from David Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands police, that says this is an ongoing live investigation – as such we expect action. [We expect] information as a matter of urgency now as to what is going to happen, what, where and when.”

Speaking via videolink from Dublin on Thursday, the former IRA intelligence chief Kieran Conway said he knew the names of those who were responsible for the bombings but would not name them. He described the attacks as an IRA operation that went badly wrong and said the public outrage caused by the bombings had nearly destroyed the group.

Conway, who is a criminal defence solicitor in Ireland and was convicted of handling explosives in Derry in the 1970s, was asked if he thought the attacks constituted murder. He replied: “No, I don’t agree. I believe it was an IRA operation that went wrong.”

“Had the IRA deliberately targeted that pub with the intention of killing civilians then that would have been murder, yes. But in the circumstances, as I have been told, I don’t accept that it was murder,” he said. “I say that it was an IRA operation that went badly wrong.”

Asked how he would have described the deaths, he said: “I understand perfectly that this is unacceptable to the British people but I would categorise them as accidental.”

After the attacks, an internal IRA court of inquiry, convened in Ireland, cleared those involved in the bombings, Conway said, with IRA chiefs agreeing that the atrocity was down to the delay in calling in the coded warning because the chosen phone box was out of order.

Conway said that at the time of the bombings IRA operations in England were carried out by active service units autonomous of the organisation’s command in Ireland, who were picking bombing targets themselves. Civilian targets were “strictly and loudly forbidden”, he said.