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U.S. President, Donald Trump has made a direct appeal to the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia, urging them to make peace. The Trump administration is working to score what it hopes to be another foreign policy win, this time by encouraging leaders from Kosovo and Serbia to sign a Peace Agreement in a ceremony that could take place at the White House.
This demand from Trump came by the end of 2018, after Kosovo Government decision on raising taxes on Serbian, Bosnia and Herzegovina products to 100 percent and the decision to create the army.
The above-mentioned Government announced the new tariffs on November 21, two weeks after it decided to slap a 10 percent tax on goods from the two neighbouring states, drawing angry reactions from Belgrade and Sarajevo and calls from the European Union to revoke the measures. The move came a day after Interpol’s general assembly, for a third time, voted not to approve membership for Kosovo, the result of what the U.S. Embassy in Pristina said was “a campaign, led by Serbia, to pressure countries to oppose Kosovo’s bid.”
Official data showed that Kosovo imported some 400 million euros ($456 million) in products a year from Serbia and about 81 million euros ($92 million) in goods from Bosnia. Both these countries are complaining of huge losses since the entry into force of tax decisions.
In this regard, on the Kosovo Government decision on taxing goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there was also a statement by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini. The High Representative underlined that the decision of the Kosovo Government to increase the tax on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 100% only complicates the situation further and does not bring any solution to people’s problems or to Kosovo’s aspirations for its present and its future. She said that such measures do not help to build good neighbourly relations and needs to be revoked. But Kosovo Government made it clear that this decision will not change until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence.
However, the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia increased more after Kosovo MPs voted to create a 5,000-strong standing army, a week after Serbia’s premier suggested the move could provoke military intervention by Belgrade. Legislation to transform the lightly armed Kosovo Security Force, which was created mainly for crisis response, civil defence and removal of ordnance from the 1990s conflict, into an army was approved by 107 deputies in the 120-seat assembly. Eleven minority Serb deputies boycotted the vote. Kosovo’s constitution mandates the creation of a national army but no action was taken for years while Pristina sought, in vain, to obtain the approval of Kosovo Serbs.
Seeing latest tensions, Trump sent letters to both, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Serb President Aleksandar Vucic, asking they accelerate negotiations in an effort to resolve their impasse.
In the letter posted on Thaçi’s official page on December 18, Trump says, “Failure to capitalize on this unique opportunity would be a tragic setback, as another chance for a comprehensive peace is unlikely to occur again soon.
“The United States has invested heavily in the success of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign state,” the letter said.
Ongoing Trump said that the U.S. stands ready to assist and that he is looking forward to hosting the two presidents in the White House “to celebrate what would be a historic accord.”
Bringing the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia together for a White House ceremony would be seen as a major accomplishment.
One expert welcomed the increased U.S. attention on the Kosovo-Serbia issue, particularly in the context of the larger Balkans framework.
“The rising tensions between Serbia and Kosovo — and the way in which Serbia and Russia are working together to foment instability in neighbouring Bosnia – pose a real threat to regional peace,” said Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and advisor to Foreign Policy for America.
“Obviously, offering the White House as a setting is offering a big carrot, but if the administration can use that carrot to achieve a genuine peace between Serbia and Kosovo, including recognition of Kosovo by Belgrade, that would be a significant step forward.”
As known, since Serbia and Kosovo fought a bloody war that ended in 1999, relations have remained tense. Serbia never recognised Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008. The independence has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including the United States and most EU members. However, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Russia, China and five EU members take the same stance.
Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have been engaged in years-long EU-backed talks, lead by Mogherini, to seal a permanent peace deal, which would open the path to eventual membership of the European Union for both countries. Prospects of a deal seemed to rise in August last year when Thaçi and Vucic appeared together at a conference in Austria. But the leaders also raised the possibility of changing borders, which provoked strong opposition in Kosovo and split Western powers.
Kosovo Government has established a negotiating team for talks to dampen President Thaçi’s role in this process, following his idea of territorial defiance, an idea that is not supported by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and the Government of Kosovo.
Now it’s left to be seen if Trump will succeed to convince Kosovo President and Serbia President to sign a Peace Agreement after last developments, such as changing borders, decision on taxes and creation of Kosovo Forced Army.
Senior US Prosecutor Robert Mueller is due to release the latest findings of an official investigation into alleged Russian interference that has potentially influence the very heart of the current American government, the US Department of Justice can confirm.
The deadline is quickly counting down for the Mueller Special Counsel to explain to Washington new charges brought against Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for the 2016 Trump administration election campaign and inform the New York Justice Department the recommended sentence for Michael Cohen, a former adviser of Trump, following a deal allegedly brokered between Cohen and the special counsel to cooperate on the investigation.
Earlier this year, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, along with several forms of fraud, and lying to Congress about plans by Trump’s companies to build a complex in Moscow. He is due to be sentenced next Friday by a New York Judge for these charges.
A week after that, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Adviser to the Trump Administration, is due to be sentenced for lying about meeting with the Russian Ambassador in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Around the same time, George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser of the Trump campaign, has been released from his 14-day prison sentence for lying to the authorities about his contact with Russia in 2016, he is also due to serve around 200 hours of community service.
So far, the only individual to be fully convicted by the Mueller investigation in relation to Russian collusion is Paul Manafort, who was convicted of failing to report the possession of a foreign bank account, conspiring to obstruct justice and multiple counts of fraud. Manafort also allegedly lied to the special counsel about lobbying work for Pro-Russian politicians in Europe, which was unregistered.
However, the new developments in the investigation, due to be released in the coming weeks, could see fresh links between inner-circle Trump campaign members and their links to both the Wiki-leak democratic party email hacks and the alleged Russian social media trolling and hacking scandals.
Previously, Roger Stone, a political adviser and long-time ally of Trump, was offered a plea by the counsel to cooperate with the investigation on his ties to Wiki-Leaks founder Julien Assange and the democratic party email leaks to the website, but has since decline the plea and is now awaiting charges for his collusion if there are any to be levelled.
The next few weeks will prove to be a decisive time for the Mueller investigation, and as always, the special counsel has had to navigate its way around a political minefield where the very administration that commissioned them is trying everything in their power to justify hindering and silencing proceedings. President Trump has made it very clear through his various official press briefings, and his exceptionally active twitter account that if he was given the option at any point, he would call off the investigation, with Trump condemning Mueller’s alleged ‘conflict of interest’ on Twitter today. While it is entirely possible that the special counsel may have much more damning information against the Trump administration and its allies, what to release and at what time may be vital in ensuring the President, and his newly nominated Chief of Justice and vocal critic of the special counsel’s handling of the investigation, William Barr, do not take any knee-jerk precautions to the findings, which may explain the tentative nature of the past years press releases.
The next few weeks may see the first substantive indictments against Campaign allies Cohen and Manafort and the first detailed findings of Russian collusion, and the possible scale of corruption and foreign involvement that is the price America has paid for “Draining the Swamp”.
As Donald Trump addressed the media over this years midterm elections results, an argument broke out between the president and CNN’s Jim Acosta. When questioned about his racial scaremongering over the migrant caravan, Trump responded with his usual ‘fake news’ spiel then labelled Acosta as a‘rude, terrible person’. Acosta refused to give the microphone back to a female white house staffer which has since been used as an excuse to revoke his White House pass.
In an attempt to justify themselves, the White House have circulated an Infowars doctored video of the incident claiming, he laid his hands on the young woman. Infowars, for those who aren’t aware is a far right conspiracy theory site known primarily for its maverick host Alex Jones. Jones is a Sandy Hook truther who infamously went viral after ranting that the Pentagon has a “gay bomb”, chemicals from which it has allowed to leak into the water supply turning “the friggin’ frogs gay!”. The fact that the White House have showcased this video this shows a clear threat of fascist influence in the White House.
Trumps treatment of the press has long since been compared to that of other fascist regimes. Like Hitler and Mussolini, he clearly shows nothing but contempt for the free press. This is not however, his most overt flirtation with fascism. Trump once retweeted the Islamophobic posts of Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of fascist group Britain First, who has been convicted of hate speech in Northern Ireland. Likewise, after events in Charlottesville led to the murder of socialist organiser Heather Heyer in a cowardly neo-Nazi attack, Trump stated that not all the far right protesters were neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laid the blame for the violence equally on what he called the “alt-left”.
The Trump presidency’s fling with fascism exposes a clear American hypocrisy. Whilst it has long been propagated that the United States is a bastion of liberty and democracy, its historical ties with fascism prove it to be anything but. In response to the threat of communism during the cold war, the US abandoned its ‘principles’ in order to fight the ‘red menace’. In blatant disregard for the constitution, Eisenhower signed into law the Communist Control Act of 1954 which outlawed the communist party and criminalised membership. During the first red scare, the US deported a number of “foreign aliens” they suspected of sedition and additionally during the era of McCarthyism, the US imprisoned numerous communist leaders under the Smith Act.
It is however, in foreign affairs where America’s relationship with Fascism is most flagrant. In Chile, the United Sates supported Pinochet’s coup against democratically elected Marxist – Salvador Allende, leading to the rise of the notorious Caravan of Death. Similarly, in Indonesia American embassy officials gave a list of suspected communists to Fascist death squads who embarked on a genocide of up to 3 million people. In perhaps the most disgusting example, United States intelligence recruited the “Butcher of Lyon” Klaus Barbie, a Gestapo functionary who American forces used to track down and execute Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Donald Trump’s actions are another chapter in a deep seated tradition of fascism within the American establishment. The lack of a communist scapegoat has meant that he has not seen the support previously seen by J Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan who went on similar crusades. However, the threat Trump and his cabal pose to democracy cannot be discounted. If his overt courting of fascism is not successfully challenged then the underlying fascism of the American establishment will no longer remain in the shadows.
In a capitalist world where the warfare and fossil fuel industry marry each other and are ideal for the elite to profit of, there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia proves to be a top customer and provider. Despite the country’s countless human rights abuses in their own country as well as in Yemen and Bahrain, business has carried on as usual. The mysterious disappearance and murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi has once again, fired up the debate of whether countries should continue working with Saudi Arabia.
In 2017, the USA sold $110 billion worth of arms to its Arab ally, the UK sold $1.1 billion and Russia sold $3 billion worth of weapons. In a lot of cases, some of the weapons being sold are illegal to use, transfer or stockpile under international law, for instance, the sale of U.K made cluster bombs and their use in Yemen is a breach of the 2008 Convention of Cluster Munitions (a treaty the U.K is a signee of). Saudi Arabia’s involvement and weapon usage in Yemen has not only intensified the conflict but has been a catalyst to what the United Nations has described as “the worst humanitarian crisis” with between 8,670 to 13,600 people dead, 22 million people displaced, a cholera outbreak as well as a famine caused by the bombing of ports and farming fields. The indiscriminate and ruthless attacks by the KSA has made it difficult for aid to be brought in by aircraft.
The Kingdom’s brutal clampdown in 2011 on anti-government protesters in Bahrain through the use of excessive force and suppression is another example of a lack of regard for human rights.
The stench of human rights abuse doesn’t just stretch to Bahrain and Yemen, it reeks at home too. The Saudi Royal Family rule over their people with nothing but tyranny; from the imprisonment of Safar al Hawali after he attacked the country’s close relation to Israel in a three thousand page book, to the lynching of homosexuals to their involvement in the Khashoggi affair. This has all happened while Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shows the world the illusion of “a progressing Saudi Arabia” with the lift of the women driving ban and the opening of cinemas. To add salt to the injury, the KSA has a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
When confronted with the question of why countries still do business with the Kingdom, many politicians such as Donald Trump have come out with the same answer which is something along the lines of “Saudi Arabia is a key partner in fighting terrorism” however the extreme, twisted and warped version of Islam the Royal Family promote is the backbone of many terrorist groups in the Middle East, including the so-called “Islamic State” and Al-Qaeda (both which have committed attacks on Western soil). In fact an inquiry has gone into investigating allegations of Saudi Arabia financially funding these extremist groups and it seems as if the allegations have rung true because when asked about the inquiry during the Prime Minister’s Questions in UK Parliament, Theresa May responded that the documents contain “information which may be sensitive to the Saudis”.
Surely for any country which wishes to uphold human rights and fight terrorism, this is more than enough evidence to cut all deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, right? Under capitalism its economics over people hence politicians and businessmen completely overlook these atrocities. Luckily for Saudi Arabia, it has good relations with the three biggest competitors (The United States, Russia and China) in the international capitalist free market thus it is not seen as an opposition to them but an ally instead. Why not impose economic sanctions on the country in the same way America did on countries like Cuba, Russia and Venezuela? Those countries were/are opposing competitors to the USA, they are a threat to their position in the capitalist markets. Under capitalism, rivers of blood are allowed to run as long as the cash flows.
So should we, the West continue to shake hands and sign deals with the Kingdom? The answer is no, absolutely not. Their disgraceful human rights record should be enough to discontinue relations with them for any decent human. Will the Saudi’s continue being an ally to Western capitalism? Unfortunately yes and it will continue for a very long time. With the country coming close to scraping the bottom of the oil barrel, these “reforms” brought in by the Crown Prince will open the country up to more foreign businesses and building contracts thus saving it from an economic downfall and putting it one step ahead in staying immune in the international capitalist free market.