New Candidate Stirs France’s Presidential Race

Emmanuel Macron, the former French Economy Minister, has announced that he will run for the 2017 presidential election in France as a centrist candidate. Although Macron,38, was a member of the French Socialist Party until 2009, the former civil servant and investment banker pushed business friendly reforms that sought to liberalize the labor market and deregulate protected professions such pharmacists and bus and taxi drivers. France’s current President Francois Hollande leads the Socialist Party but has disappointed many of his voters by supporting neoliberal economic policy and military aggression in Libya, Mali, and Syria. Holland, who has record low poll numbers, has placed France in an official “state of emergency” after the November 2015 attacks, which has been extended four times and remains in place to this day. The extreme-right French politician Marine Le Pen expressed joy at the victory of Trump in the U.S election, and her own prospects of winning the presidential election in 2017 have steadily improved. Marcon’s bid for the centrist position is a strategy that could draw voters who wish to stop the extreme right and who are disappointed by the performance of the ruling center-left Socialist Party.

US Imposes New Sanctions on Syria and Iran

U.S House of Representatives renewed sanctions on Iran yesterday for an additional ten years, as well as imposed new sanctions on Syria. The vote passed 419 to one in favor of extending the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which was first adopted in 1996 and is set to expire at 2016. The bill must still be passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama to become law. The bill passed despite the U.S-Iran nuclear deal which promised to ease sanctions on Iran, and despite a lack of evidence that Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program. The bill is also important because it adds sanctions on Syria, which could target companies and governments that render assistance to the Syrian government, thereby increasing the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters such as Russia. Journalist Rania Khalek spoke to the Real News in September about how US and EU sanctions are already having a devastating effect on Syria “punishing ordinary civilians and crippling aid work”.
 
Ballot Measures in Four States Passed in Favor of 28th Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
 
Four states passed ballot measures during the presidential election that call for an amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision. In California and 52 percent of voters passed state-wide referendum for the passage of a 28th amendment that would overturn the court ruling that undermined campaign funding limits. In Washington 64 percent approved of a measure that calls for an amendment that would declare that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as individuals do. Washington is the 18th state to make such a declaration. Ohio and Wisconsin passed a variety of local referenda calling for similar constitutional amendments. This brings the total number of communities that have passed resolutions or referenda that call for a 28th amendment for reversing Citizens United or abolishing constitutional rights for corporations to over 900. The efforts are supported by Move to Amend, a national grassroots movement that was created to overturn Citizens United.
Chuck Schumer is Elected Senate Minority Leader, Replacing Harry Reid
 
Democrats voted today to name Charles Schumer of New York as their new minority leader in the US Senate. Schumer thus takes the place of Harry Reid, who is retiring from a post he held since 2015. Shortly after his election, Schumer named Senator Bernie Sanders as part of the Senate Democratic leadership team, even though Sanders is officially still an independent. Schumer went on to promise a “bigger, bolder, sharper-edged economic message” because Americans “felt that the economy was rigged against them in many places and that the government was too beholden to big money and special interests.” Schumer is considered to belong to be politically centrist and has long enjoyed very close relations with Wall Street. Financial institutions are his largest donors. Republican reelected Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the Senate Majority Leader.
Peru’s Health Care Workers Begin Indefinite Strike
 
Peru’s National Health Workers Federation announced an indefinite strike beginning today to pressure the government to increase health care spending and improve the working conditions of the country’s health care workers. The federation represents over 100,000 health workers throughout Peru. Unions complain that 18,000 health workers are on subcontracts and that many hospitals lack basic supplies. President Kuczynski, who is a former Wall Street Banker and World Bank official, was elected last June and has taken a more neoliberal approach to the economy than his predecessor.
 

Missile Strikes Resume in Syria After Four Week Long Pause

The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation posted footage yesterday of the apparent launching of “Kalibr and Bastion” cruise missiles against what it refers to as “terrorists’ objects” in Syria.  This resumption in hostilities follows an apparent four week pause in airstrikes by the Russian Federation in eastern Aleppo.

Russia and Syria have been accused of launching heavy strikes and destroying two hospitals in eastern Aleppo soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump completed their first official telephone call since the November 8 elections.

Russia rejected the claims on the basis that no strikes have occurred in eastern Aleppo in the past 28 days. Major General Igor Konashenkov stated that reports from,

“Al Jazeera, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and similar sources about an alleged bombing by Russian Aerospace Forces’ jets of a ‘third hospital over 24 hours’ in Aleppo are simply a lie.”

Russia and the Syrian Government have been accused of war crimes in Syria including the use of collective punishment, disproportionate force, targeting civilian infrastructure, and bombing of medical facilities, and market places.

Russians Accuse ‘Rebel Alliance’ of ‘Chemical Attack’

On Monday the Russian Ministry of Defence accused rebels in eastern Aleppo of using chemical weapons against the Syrian Army.

30 soldiers were reportedly caught up in the chlorine gas attack and the Russian Federation called upon the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ‘urgently’ send a mission to Aleppo to investigate.

The rebel alliance, ISIS and the Syrian government have all been accused of using chemical weapons throughout this conflict.  

In 2013 the Syrian government was accused of launching a chemical attack in Ghouti. The U.S. and U.K. governments attempted to use the attack to push for a massive aerial bombardment of Syria. A deal brokered by the Russian Federation, whereby the Syrian government gave up its known supply chemical weapons, along with a vote against the war in the UK parliament, resulted in a reversal of policies by the two governments.

Veteran journalist Seymour Hersh would later claim in an investigative article that the evidence at the time actually pointed towards rebel groups as the culprits of the attacks, having been supplied the chemical materials by their Turkish patrons. This claim was seconded by members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who challenged the U.S. government to provide evidence to substantiate their claims.

Europe’s far-right celebrates Trump victory

Far-right individuals, groups and political parties throughout Europe have been celebrating the victory of Donald J. Trump in the U.S. presidential elections. The third largest party in Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, issued a video statement in which its spokesperson, Ilias Kasidiaris, stated that Trump’s electoral success was:

“a victory for the forces which oppose globalization, are fighting illegal migration and are in favour of clean ethnic states, in favour of self-sufficiency in the national economy”

Geert Wilders, the anti-Muslim leader of the right-wing nationalist Dutch Freedom Party, called Trump’s victory “an enormous incentive (sic) [for] all of us freedom and patriotic loving people”. This sentiment was echoed by billionaire investor and right-wing nationalist President of Hungary, Victor Oban who called Trumps’ success “a historic event, in which Western civilization appears to successfully break free from the confines of an ideology [liberal non-democracy]”. Oban is also quoted by Russia Today as saying, “We are living in the days where what we call liberal non-democracy – in which we lived for the past 20 years – ends, and we can return to real democracy”. Marie Le Pen, the French leader of the far-right National Front declared in a press conference that Americans “have reject[ed] the status quo” and hailed what she celebrated as “a great movement across the world” represented by Donald Trump’s victory and the UK referendum on British exit (Brexit) from the European Union.

Former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, was also strongly supportive of Mr Trump. In a radio interview on talkRadio in which he referred to Obama as a “loathsome creature” he stated that, “however imperfect [Donald Trump] may be, and my goodness he is…he loves our country [and] this is a big opportunity, we can now do our first trade deal with the United States of America”.  Nigel Farage, who actually campaigned for Trump, is known for his hostility towards immigrants and Muslims and campaigned heavily for a Brexit over many years.

 

Austerity Combined With Nativist Anti-immigrant Policies Fuels Resurgent Far-Right in Europe

Although the National Front has never won a national election, the far-right nationalist French party has long set the tone for an increasingly hostile environment for Muslims, immigrants, Roma and refugees in France. Both main parties in France, the centre-right Republicans and centre-left Socialist Party have participated in scapegoating migrants, refugees and French Muslims by espousing bigoted rhetoric and pushing Islamophobic laws and regulations.  The concept of laïcité (secularism) has been used to justify criminalizing ‘Muslim’ dress in public places and has contributed to an every increasingly more violent environment for Muslims. This has particularly worsened since the terrorist attacks committed by Islamist militants in France in January and November  2015.

However, the situation in France also reflects a wider trend throughout Europe and the U.S.  In the 2012 report Pedlars of Hate: the violent impact of the European far right, Executive Director of the Institute of Race Relations, Liz Feket, wrote quite prophetically that;

“Today it is the assault on multiculturalism (by centre-right leaders like Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy) which, combined with debates on national identity and core values, foment and encourage fascist and ultra-nationalist tendencies on the ground”…As Europe’s politicians and civil servants embrace the age of austerity and the hope of its citizens for full employment, decent living standards and greater security is eroded, the attraction of extremist parties offering simplistic messages and scapegoats for anger and disillusionment will increase…

But if centre-right and centre-left electoral parties respond to that crisis by offering nationalism as the palliative, then far-right extremism will have its ideal breeding ground of ultra-patriotism and nativism” [emphasis added]

The adoption of neoliberal economic policies, the prosecution of the war on terror and the adoption of increasingly nativist and anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric by centre-left and centre-right parties in Europe (and the US), have all been paving the way for a resurgent far-right. This has also been accompanied by the less publicised collaboration between security services and far-right groups within European member states.

Anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant sentiment, along with opposition to the EU and ‘globalisation’ have long been core components of far-right political rhetoric, which has only been gaining in popularity particularly since the most recent financial began in 2008. Anti-Muslim rhetoric in particular has replaced anti-Semitism as the most popular bigotry promoted by far-right groups in Europe. Muslims, immigrants and terrorism are often all treated as indistinguishable and are increasingly viewed as both an external and internal existential threat facing ‘Western Civilization’. Trump’s Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric during the U.S. presidential campaign would not have been lost on nationalistic right-wing politicians in Europe, and more than partially explains their support of him.

Nafeez Ahmed, award winning investigative journalist and founder of the crowdfunded online magazine INSURGE Intelligence, will be interviewed shortly by TRNN on his latest piece “Trump’s dystopia is coming – but it will destroy itself”, as well as his four part investigative report, “Return of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far Right Power”, which describes a resurgent far-right in Europe and its links with the President-elect of the United States of America.