The US will send 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden announced in a hastily scheduled speech on Wednesday, after Germany said it would start delivering its Leopard MBTs to the government in Kiev.
The speech was announced on Wednesday morning as a last-minute addition to the White House schedule.
Calling the Abrams the “most capable tanks in the world,” Biden noted they are complicated to operate and maintain and as such Washington will also provide “parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield.”
Biden insisted the tanks were a “defensive” weapon and not a threat to Russia, while praising Ukraine as “fighting for freedom” and pointing out the announcement coincided with President Vladimir Zelensky’s birthday.
Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would send 14 of its own Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine and allow other EU and NATO countries to do the same with theirs. “We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally,” Scholz said in a statement.
Poland had pushed for sending the Leopards to Kiev as part of an “international coalition,” but the move required Berlin’s approval. German officials signaled last week that the US would need to commit to sending the Abrams tanks first.
The US military has reportedly been reluctant, considering the gas-guzzling, turbine-powered Abrams too difficult to operate and maintain and too heavy for Ukrainian infrastructure.
According to Biden, the US and its allies have provided Ukraine over 3,000 armored vehicles and over 8,000 artillery pieces so far. Moscow has warned the West that such deliveries only prolonged the conflict and risked drawing the West into direct confrontation.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington has described the rumored delivery of US tanks to Kiev as “another blatant provocation” by the “real aggressor” in the conflict, adding that they will “no doubt be destroyed” along with other hardware that NATO has poured into Ukraine over the past year.
UK Young Adults Worry They Can’t Afford Family – Survey
Individuals aged 16-25 are more unhappy and less confident than at any point since the Prince’s Trust began measuring
Nearly half (45%) of young adults aged 16 to 25 in the UK fear they will never make enough money to support a family, according to a report from the Prince’s Trust charity published Monday. The figure increases to 53% among young people from more modest backgrounds.
Their concern seems to have affected long-term planning, with only 36% of respondents telling the charity their biggest goal was having a family. Much more popular, with 64% of the responses, was achieving financial security. Another 43% picked good mental health as their primary goal.
As for how to achieve that goal, 70% of respondents said having a job that provides financial stability was good for their mental health, and 59% said merely being employed no matter the salary improved their mental state.
The biggest worry for the age group, named by 57% of respondents, was the cost-of-living crisis. Another 34% cited the looming recession – predicted by a growing majority of economic experts worldwide – as their chief concern.
General happiness and confidence among this age group were at lower levels than any time since the Trust began polling amid the financial crisis of 2008. While 70% of young people said they are “determined to achieve their goals in life,” 36% of low-income respondents expressed worry they were going to “fail in life,” and almost half (46%) said economic uncertainty made them feel “hopeless” about the future. That number climbed to 55% among low-income youth.
Mental health issues have become the norm, with 45% reporting having experienced a mental health problem at some point. Some 56% reported being anxious most or all of the time and 62% said they were always or often stressed.
UK Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, Jonathan Townsend, described the survey results as “a warning sign that, post pandemic, young people’s wellbeing has not recovered.” Referring to the age group as the “Class of Covid,” he remarked that “economic uncertainty is having a profound impact on their wellbeing and confidence in achieving their aspirations for the future.”
Original Source: rt.com
Labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard As Terrorists Will Hinder the Fight Against Actual Terrorism
The damning designation is becoming a political club to batter undesirable countries with
The European Parliament is urging the EU to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, a move which the UK may follow.
An amendment was voted into the European Parliament’s annual foreign-policy report, calling for the EU and its member states to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. The vote passed with 598 in favor to nine votes against, with 31 abstentions, in what is a non-binding amendment, meaning that the EU does not have to act on it, but will likely have to deal with mounting pressure to do so.
The stated reason for the damning designation is the Guard Corps’ alleged “terrorist activity, the repression of protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia.” The UK is also preparing to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist group, with broadly the same justifications. However, one of London’s key reasons for resolving to do so has clearly been connected to Iran’s execution of its former deputy defense minister Alireza Akbari, who was convicted of spying for Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6. The UK government, in its official condemnations of the death sentence handed to Akbari, undermined the professionalism of Iran’s judiciary and omitted his conviction in an apparent attempt to frame him as a political martyr. London has also introduced 30 new sanctions against Tehran as a response.
The first problem with designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, if the UK and the EU end up doing so, is that they will be applying the terrorist label to an official wing of the Iranian state’s armed forces. This would also include the Quds Force, which deals with foreign military and intelligence ventures, in addition to the volunteer paramilitary force known as the Basij. One of the reasons why the designation of a country’s armed forces as a terrorist group is so problematic is because it then opens up the floor to counter-measures from enemy states.
This weakens the very term ‘terrorism’ as a hyperpolarized tool with which to batter an enemy. This tool is then significantly devalued in its originally intended use – to designate actual terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) or Al-Qaeda as common international threats.
Although the United Nations has no clear definition of terrorism, leaving this matter up to individual states to decide, it does routinely express concern over how certain definitions can impact human rights. The EU and UK’s definitions are very vague, yet share common themes in that they focus on non-state actors, which is an unspoken rule when it comes to defining what a terrorist group is. A terrorist organization, like Al-Qaeda or IS, cannot be accepted as a state for this reason, even if they manage to set up a state-like structure. At this moment, sanctions on the Taliban are still in place in Afghanistan, and at the United Nations the Taliban’s proposed representative has not been permitted to represent Kabul’s Islamic Emirate.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is, however, a longstanding member state of the United Nations, as a state it also has certain rights and characteristics. Under former US President Donald Trump the IRGC was designated as a terrorist organization by the US government, yet the legality of this has come into question, along with Washington’s maximum-pressure sanctions campaign that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Iran, as well as Iraq, have both issued arrest warrants for Donald Trump and a number of others who participated in the extrajudicial assassination of Iran’s highest-ranking General, Qassem Soleimani. General Soleimani was killed without any legal precedence, after having helped build the ground force that helped defeat the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The EU and UK, in joining their US ally and defining the IRGC as a terrorist organization, would also go a step further than the West did during the Cold War, with their politicized slander of the Soviet Union. In the 1980’s the idea in the West emerged that Moscow was engaged in a form of state terrorism, whereby the USSR supported a worldwide network that was aimed at destabilizing Western democracies; this ‘terror network theory‘ was popularized after having captured the imaginations of figures within the Reagan administration. Never did the West take the step, however, of designating the Soviet military as a terrorist organization.
Interestingly, the primary focus since September 11, 2001, in the post-Cold War setting, has been combating international Islamic fundamentalist militant groups, as opposed to secular groups during the Cold War. The well-known policy position held under the UK’s former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was that “we do not negotiate with terrorists,” a position that came about during Britain’s conflict with the IRA. Interestingly enough, Margaret Thatcher’s government openly backed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, against its then-communist government. They would later go on to form both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda – two groups two which George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair would then apply the policy of not talking to terrorists during the so-called “war on terror.”
The problem now is that as the world heads into the territory of a second Cold War, a reality that is further developing by the day, the grounds are being laid for an even more extreme partisan take on serious issues like terrorism. The term ‘terrorism’ has always been politicized, but attaching it to the armed forces of internationally recognised states creates a new problem for any international coordination on fighting groups like Al-Qaeda.
This issue of who is and isn’t a terrorist has been developing for some time, with most debate recently focusing on the different political and military factions of the Palestinians. Western governments support the idea that a two-State solution must be reached to end the Palestine-Israel conflict, which should result in the formation of two democratic states side-by-side. However the EU, the UK and the US all consider every single Palestinian political party other than the mainstream branch of Fatah to be a terrorist organization, meaning that there can be no democratic outcome other than what the West desires, which puts a ‘soft lock’ on actual democracy.
In addition to this, designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization will have the effect opposite to its ostensible goals. It will make the Middle East less stable, not more so, and will also fail to punish Iran in any substantive way. Even with the imposition of new sanctions by the West, adding to the US-led maximum-pressure campaign, Tehran has been able to increase its oil and gas exports to a record high since the sanctions began. The West would be better off engaging with Tehran to come to an agreement and settle their differences, a step that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently attempting to take in a more mature manner than its Western allies. If the UK and the EU do go through with this decision, they should understand that everything they accuse Iran of doing can be pointed out about them also, except the West’s covert backing of what can be described as terrorist groups exceeds anything Iran does.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Original Article: rt.com
Russia May Be Linked to Stockholm Koran Burning – Finnish FM
Moscow has slammed the suggestion as “disgusting”
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has claimed that Russia may have been behind the public burning of Korans in Stockholm, Sweden last week. He added that the stunt could have been orchestrated to derail the country’s bid to join NATO.
On January 21, Rasmus Paludan, an anti-Islam activist and leader of a minor Danish far-right party, Stram Kurs (Hard Line), set the Muslim holy book on fire outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Ankara strongly protested the action, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying on Monday that Sweden could no longer rely on T?rkiye’s support for its accession to the US-led military bloc.
On Friday, Paludan burned copies of the Koran in front of a mosque, the Turkish Embassy, and the Russian Consulate in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Speaking to Finnish TV channel Yle on Saturday, Haavisto floated the idea that Russia could be linked to the book burning. “This matter is under investigation. Various ties in the activist’s circle have been uncovered,” Haavisto said. “I cannot say with certainty … But we have been shown a concept of how to act in order to inflict maximum damage [to the NATO membership bid].”
The Russian Foreign Ministry harshly condemned the Koran burning. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday that Haavisto’s suggestion that Moscow may have been responsible for the incident was “disgusting to watch.”
Finland and Sweden ditched their longstanding policies of non-alignment and jointly applied to join NATO last year, citing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Original Post: rt.com
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