AuthorTopic: 🛢️ The Chess Game of Iranian Sanctions  (Read 685 times)

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🛢️ The Chess Game of Iranian Sanctions
« on: May 08, 2019, 05:48:38 AM »
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.


Iran’s Master Plan To Beat U.S. Sanctions
By Simon Watkins - May 07, 2019, 6:00 PM CDT

One key foreign policy goal of the current U.S. government is to initiate regime change in Iran by crippling its economy to such a degree that popular unrest removes the current power structures in the country, particularly the near-omnipresent IRGC. To this end, the past few weeks have seen the U.S. end all waivers on importing oil from Iran, designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation, and sanction 14 individuals and 17 entities linked to Iran’s shadowy Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research. All of this followed the U.S.’s momentous withdrawal last May from the Iran nuclear deal.

The IRGC believes that its only chance of avoiding this fate is to widen the existing divisions between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) so that it can generate export revenues from Europe, in addition to those it can rely on from the historically sanctions-busting states of Asia. Consequently, the IRGC has come up with a last-ditch strategy to do achieve this, a senior source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry exclusively told earlier this week.

The catalyst for IRGC’s plan will be a detailed announcement in the next few weeks that Iran has awarded production and exploration contracts on five as yet officially undisclosed sub-sections of major oil fields to five Iranian firms connected to the IRGC. One of these, though, the source told, will be a portion of the supergiant Yadavaran site. Only last week, the National Iranian Oil Company announced that its contract with China’s Sinopec to develop the second phase of Yadavaran has been halted. “This was due to China demanding that the Sinopec contract be changed to make Iran liable to pay for all fines up to half  a billion [US] dollars that might be levied on Iran by the US Treasury for any perceived breach of sanctions,” the Iran source told To the U.S., this would mean that funds would flow directly into IRGC coffers from Iranian oil still being sold to Asia and other destinations, either via Iranian tankers or via Iraqi export sources, as has been the arrangement since the last set of international sanctions was increased in 2012. These funds could then be used to fund the terrorist activities of Iran’s military proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, among others, for which the IRGC has just been sanctioned by the US.
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The IRGC still has extensive links with all major sectors of Iran’s economy, including oil, gas, petrochemical, banking, automotive, telecommunications, construction, metals and mining. Just before sanctions were removed from Iran in 2016, testimony to a sub-committee of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs highlighted that the IRGC had significant ownership shares in 27 companies that were publicly traded on the TSE. In just the first year after the nuclear deal was agreed in principle in 2015, understands that nearly 110 agreements worth at least US$80 billion were made with companies owned or controlled by IRGC-related entities. As it stands, according to the Iran source, the IRGC has close connections with at least 200 Iranian businesses.

Despite this, the EU has always been of the opinion that Iran has never broken the terms of the nuclear deal – a view also taken by the CIA, incidentally. At the time of U.S. President Donald Trump’s initial criticism of the nuclear deal last January, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stated: “This is not a bilateral agreement,... so it is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate [it],...The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.” After the U.S. withdrew from the deal last May, the EU invoked the ‘Blocking Statute’ that effectively bans European companies from following the U.S.’s sanctions on Iran. Concomitant with this, Mogherini said that Brussels would not let the nuclear deal with Tehran die, adding that: “We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority.”

Shortly afterwards, the EU – under the leadership of Germany – moved to solve the problem of how to deal with payments accruing from business between the EU and Iran, without incurring the wrath of the U.S. The upshot was the Instrument for Trade and Exchanges (INSTEX), in which three of the original signatories of the nuclear deal - the UK, Germany, and France - created a special purpose vehicle (SPV) along the lines of a clearing house that cut Iran out of the financial loop completely. It would use an accrued credit and debit system to avoid any currency issues. The major problem with this was that no single country wanted to be the home of the vehicle, given the chance of retribution by the U.S., irrespective of the illegality of the new sanctions.

The solution agreed between the originators of the idea was that Iran will be paid in euros deposited in a number of accounts in banks across EU countries for gas, derivatives and petchems that they import, and Iran can withdraw the money in euros, according to the Iran source. In order to keep the EU on the right side of the U.S., two conditions were added. The first was that money could not be withdrawn by any company or individual mentioned in the blacklists held either by the U.S. or the EU in connection with the nuclear deal. Second, there would be EU auditors who monitor the payments, placing an initial total cap of €50 million that Iran could withdraw.
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This could then be raised, depending on whether Iran was abiding by the conditions, to a second phase ceiling of €65 million, and then to the third and final phase of €100 million, but this could be withdrawn multiply up to the total amount in the Iranian accounts. In response, at the end of April, Iran announced the creation of the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), which has been designed in tandem with technical and financial experts from the UK, France, and Germany to dovetail into Europe’s INSTEX system.

In the IRGC’s reckoning, then, the EU has the means and the motive to defy the U.S. and only needs the opportunity catalyst to do so. The IRGC believes that this opportunity catalyst for complete EU defiance lies in what will happen when the U.S. is told of which five firms are involved. The IRGC has been tipped off that it is certain that U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will expand sanctions on Iran to include its gas and petrochemicals products exports as well, according to the Iran source. These, together with oil, account for around 88 percent of all Iran’s export revenues.

“The key point is that the US promised Germany – as the de facto leader of the EU – that in return for the EU going along with the US sanctions on importing Iranian oil, the US would never sanction Iranian gas, which the EU absolutely needs,” the source told “If the US breaks this promise then Germany will view the deal with the US on all Iran sanctions as finished, meaning that Greece and Italy in the first instance will be given the nod to resume oil imports, regardless of the end to their waivers by the US,” he added.
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In either case, he underlined, the IRGC believes it cannot lose. If the EU complies with extended US sanctions then it believes that it will be able to use the economic tumult to tighten its grip over Iran sufficient to take it back to the ‘ideal’ of the Islamic Republic in 1979. If the EU does not comply then Iran will see increased revenues from oil exports to Europe, in addition to those from gas and petchems. The IRGC does not believe that, at this time, the U.S. will launch military action against Iran, unless it closes off the strategically vital oil chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz. This is despite the placement earlier this week of the U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf region.

It is no coincidence that the sowing of such discord between these two power blocs would be in the interests of Russia. “The essence of Russia’s foreign policy under [President Vladimir] Putin is to create chaos amongst vested interests in a country or region into which it can then project itself as an economic and political saviour,” said the Iran source. “The only thing holding Russia back from fully implementing the agreement last year that would turn Iran into a client state was fear of what the US might do to it but the prize of further destabilising the US-Europe relationship now means it is willing to risk it,” he added.

This deal involves Russia giving Iran US$50 billion every year for at least five years. In exchange for this, Iran would give Russia preference in the oil and gas sector and increase military co-operation. In addition, Iran would not be able to expel any Russian firm from any oil and gas field development, and Russia would also have complete say over exactly how much oil is produced from each field, when it is sold, to whom it is sold, and for how much it is sold.

By Simon Watkins for
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Offline UnhingedBecauseLucid

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Re: 🛢️ The Chess Game of Iranian Sanctions
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2019, 05:55:32 PM »
Despite this, the EU has always been of the opinion that Iran has never broken the terms of the nuclear deal – a view also taken by the CIA, incidentally. At the time of U.S. President Donald Trump’s initial criticism of the nuclear deal last January, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stated: “This is not a bilateral agreement,... so it is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate [it],...The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.” After the U.S. withdrew from the deal last May, the EU invoked the ‘Blocking Statute’ that effectively bans European companies from following the U.S.’s sanctions on Iran. Concomitant with this, Mogherini said that Brussels would not let the nuclear deal with Tehran die, adding that: “We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority.

"We are encouraging small and medium size enterprises that aren't publicly traded and wouldn't get destroyed by US unilateral sanction (or even the formation thereof if need be) to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority. "

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🛢️ Tanker Strikes Spell Doomsday Scenario For OPEC
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 04:15:22 AM »

Tanker Strikes Spell Doomsday Scenario For OPEC
By Cyril Widdershoven - Jun 13, 2019, 6:00 PM CDT

An attack by an unknown party on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has put the Arabian/Persian Gulf region on edge.

After the possible Iranian attack on three vessels offshore the Emirati port of Fujairah last month, the current attack could be setting the scene for a direct military confrontation. Two tankers, the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, both filled with petroleum and chemical products, such as methanol, were “suspected to be hit by a torpedo”. This statement was made by Taiwanese company KPC and Front Altair’s owner, Norwegian company Frontline and has also been confirmed by the operator of the Kokua Courageous, Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement, which claimed that the ship was damaged in a "suspected attack."   

The last hours, search and rescue operations have been performed by the US, Iran and others. No direct accusations have been made at present, but indicators point to Iran or Iranian proxies, even as Tehran already has denied any involvement.

The oil market is in a state of shock, and many analysts weren’t expecting an increased military escalation between Iran and its Arab neighbors. After the Fujairah attacks, tensions have eased somewhat, but today’s attacks could end the status quo in the Strait of Hormuz.

After two weeks of media frenzy that the bulls have left the market and that OPEC is struggling to quell the negative sentiment in the market, a new reality could be here very soon. Oil prices surged today, incorporating the increased risk of a regional confrontation that could be threatening the majority of oil and gas supplies heading to Asia.

Related: The Most Crucial Pipeline Of The Middle East?

This time, the targets have been chosen very well, as they don’t involve Saudi or Emirate vessels, but Western tankers filled with petroleum products, such as methanol. Based on current information, the involvement of torpedoes, which suggests a high level of planning by sophisticated culprits, could lead to a military escalation in the ongoing US/Arab-Iranian confrontation. If it’s true that the Kokuka Courageous has been hit twice within three hours, it means that the attack is most probably conducted by a submarine or by under-the-radar moving assets, which points at the involvement of a state-level party, and not a proxy in the region. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is patrolling in and around the Gulf region, has already reacted to the attack, as officials stated.

As the heat is on right now, analysts should start to reassess their current oil market predictions, as geopolitics and regional power struggles have returned to determine the market and oil prices for the foreseeable future. The current price slump, which currently dominates the headlines is focusing only at threats to demand growth, which have not yet materialized, yet little is being written about the ongoing struggle on the supply side to produce the right qualities and volumes the market needs.

While some have realized that the price slump was an overreaction, the geopolitical risk premium was put on the backburner, as many didn’t expect a serious escalation. It now seems that the main OPEC parties, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and others, have their own view of the world. A future offshore conflict will not be fought in the Arabian/Persian Gulf but in new waters. The Gulf of Oman, leading to the Strait of Hormuz, or the Bab El Mandab now seems a more feasible theater of war.

Related: Small Crude Build Sends Oil Lower

The timing of the attack today also could be out of a military strategy playbook.  While OPEC+ is struggling even to decide on a day to meet to discuss the potential roll-over of the existing production cut agreement, Iran threatens to effectively render the JCPOA agreement void. The current tanker attack shows the willingness of a party involved to put exponential pressure to force a breakthrough.

If Iran is the culprit the situation can be expected to escalate very soon. Don’t expect any lenience from Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, as both are already at crash course with Tehran with regards to OPEC strategies, market share and the so-called Shi’a bridge in the Middle East. The current escalation is a situation that entails a doomsday scenario, not only for the region, but also for OPEC’s internal structure. If Iran was actually involved, its position inside of OPEC will significantly deteriorate as no party will be willing to even show any inclination to take an objective or positive view on Iran’s dire situation at present. This attack could become also the litmus test of the Saudi-Russian bromance.  If Iran is involved, Moscow will have to put its cards on the table and choose.

Without a serious in fundamentals or a solution to the US-China trade war, the oil market has changed. Geopolitics matter, especially in the current market situation. Demand is still there, and a serious decline still has to materialize. Supply threats, however, are back again, and not US shale, but conventional regional power politics will dominate the headlines.

By Cyril Widdershoven for
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🛢️ The Truth Behind The Torpedoed Tankers
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2019, 03:33:06 AM »
OP is at least semi-mainstream.  So the CIA narrative is not flying too well here.


The Truth Behind The Torpedoed Tankers
By Editorial Dept - Jun 14, 2019, 1:00 PM CDT

Oil prices have been given a convenient reprieve on the eve of OPEC’s decision as to whether it will extend the supply cuts at a time when demand growth is slowing. Thanks to alleged attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, not only are the speculators once again redirecting their attention from demand and trade wars, but insurance prices are bound to skyrocket and help push oil up for a longer period - even if speculators have a very short attention span for geopolitical provocations.

The Tanker Incident: The Hidden Truths Behind Conflict Escalation

As expected, and despite actual intelligence or evidence of any kind, the Trump administration is squarely blaming Iran, with Israeli media most vociferously jumping on the bandwagon.

Trump’s ‘expert take’ on this can be summed up in a way that no Western world leader would even conceive of doing; not even George W. Bush. As statements of major foreign policy consequences are typically delivered on Twitter during this administration, Trump said it was the government’s “assessment” that Iran was behind the attack. An “assessment”, in this world, means absolutely nothing and is not based on intelligence. It is based purely on political capital.

The fact is that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement either in this attack or in the sabotage of tankers, which was horribly overplayed in the media, last month.

The only truths we have to work with here are the following:

- Early Thursday, a Norwegian-owned tanker and a Japanese-owned vessel underwent apparent attacks while transiting through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman.

- The Norwegian tanker was carrying Qatari ethanol to Taiwan; the Japanese vessel was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

- The Norwegian ship experienced three explosions, while the Japanese ship caught fire.

- Both the US Navy and the Iranian naval forces responded to distress calls from the vessels, while the Iranian naval forces rescued crew members from both.

- The attacks were well-planned and well-coordinated, as well as being extreme precision attacks, clearly designed to cause minimal real damage. They were designed to be highly visible, but not to destroy vessels or cargo, or to take lives.

- The Japanese ship had a hole caused by an unidentified type and make of artillery shell, which was discovered on the ship, according to the ship’s owners. The methanol cargo was not harmed. The ship is not in danger of sinking.

- The Norwegian tanker reported three explosions onboard, and no reports of incoming artillery or torpedoes. A US navy source reported seeing an unexploded limpet mine on the side of the vessel, which could account for the nature of these explosions. Limpet mines are attached magnetically. However, the ship’s owner in the case refutes this account entirely.

In this case, the weaponry tells us nothing. Limpet mines are naval weapons, but anyone can get their hands on them, and in the era of globalization, they change hands many times over. The US has released images it claims proves that Iran was behind what was a mine blast on the Norwegian ship; but, again, the owners of the ship - meaning eyewitnesses - refute this.

Even our deepest sources inside royal circles in Saudi Arabia do not believe that this was a state actor attack perpetrated by Iran. That sentiment, however, will never be made public as it is not in the interests of either Saudi Arabia or the UAE to pin this attack on anyone but Iran or its Houthi allies from Yemen. The Saudis and the UAE have high-level back channels with Iran, as we have mentioned before.

Nor would Iran attack a Japanese ship at exactly the time that the Japanese prime minister was visiting Tehran. There is absolutely no benefit in such an escalation, in such a manner, for Iran.

Always look to the beneficiaries, and not to the media espousing unintelligible statements from world leaders with clear agendas.

It is highly irresponsible of the Trump administration to lay the blame squarely on Iran for these alleged attacks. The media has forgotten conveniently that there is still no conclusive evidence that Iran was involved in last month’s attacks, either.

There are many beneficiaries in this game, from Israel and even Russia to the Saudi-UAE band and the Trump administration. We know without a doubt from our assets in Riyadh that MBS and MBZ are both attempting to escalate tensions without having them escalate to the point of actual conflict. This is a difficult balance to maintain, especially with MBS and his itchy trigger finger, which worries MBZ, his UAE mentor.

But the precision of this attack is what is most telling, which was accomplished with a fair amount of finesse that did no major damage in the end. It was meant to be visible and specifically to escalate tensions.

At least two high-level intelligence consultants for major hedge funds tell us that the nature of the attack, the motives and an assessment of historical precedents would more readily indicate Israeli intelligence involvement, which does not always suggest involvement at the political level.

Both the Mossad and AMAN (Israeli military intelligence) have been masters of sabotage when it comes to Iran. Together with American intelligence, Israeli intelligence has launched a number of sabotage operations aimed at taking down Iran’s nuclear projects, including sabotage of equipment and even through the Stuxnet computer virus. The Mossad has also taken out key Israeli scientists in its sabotage operations.

The Israeli intelligence apparatus is keen to ensure that tensions remain escalated with Iran and that Trump does not become complacent, as he did soon after last month’s attacks on four oil tankers in the same region. Those attacks, for which accusations that Iran was involved have not been proven, were followed by high-level rhetoric coming out of Washington, but then a clear pullback and cool-down when the trade war with China quickly took center stage again. There will be more such attacks if Trump fails to get the world on board with this Iran narrative, though the next round of precision attacks may be different in nature.

Oil speculators are already growing skeptical after the attacks: While oil prices shot up on news of the tanker attacks, by Friday morning they were paring some of those gains on the poor oil demand picture. They are still focusing more on fundamentals, and the trade war with its threat of global recession is still the key factor. But the fact is, if certain forces desire conflict with Iran, they will force it, with or without evidence. It seems fairly easy to get the media on board with this in 2019.
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Not MSM, but Truthier.


Shinzo Abe Japan Iran Hassan Rouhani
Iran   June 13, 2019   

Trump admin aims to kill historic talks and strangle Iran with evidence-free accusations

Hell-bent on isolating and suffocating Iran, the Trump administration derailed Japan’s historic talks by accusing Tehran without any evidence whatsoever of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

By Ben Norton

Since entering office, the Donald Trump administration has been itching for a war on Iran. And it may have found an excuse to justify an escalation of military aggression — or at least kill independent international attempts at diplomacy with Tehran.

On the morning of Thursday, June 13, two oil tankers were allegedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman, just off the coast of Iran. The US government immediately blamed Iran for the incident, without providing any evidence.

The vessels happened to be en route to Japan at precisely the same time that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran. The first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its revolution 40 years ago, Abe was holding a historic meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when the incident took place.

This coincidence did not escape Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who said, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” and reiterated a call for regional dialogue and cooperation.

Prominent Iran expert Trita Parsi noted that the timing of the suspicious attacks suggests that there is fear in Washington that efforts at Iran-Japan diplomacy might succeed in softening the de facto US-led economic blockade of Tehran.

Since Trump illegally sabotaged the international Iran nuclear deal (known officially as the JCPOA) in May 2018, the US government has striven to isolate Iran and suffocate its economy by preventing the country from exporting oil, importing food and medicine, and trading with foreign nations.

The Trump administration has even threatened close ally Japan, the world’s fourth-largest consumer of oil, with secondary sanctions, forcing the country to halt Iranian oil imports.

Concerns that the Trump administration has been fretting about a potential Iranian diplomatic breakthrough with Japan were validated by the US response.

Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo immediately pointed the finger at Tehran, calling the alleged attacks “a threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran.”

Saudi Arabia and its regime media went into overdrive amplifying the Trump administration’s accusations against Iran.

Many Western corporate media outlets, too, lazily echoed the US government’s unsubstantiated claims. The New York Times, for example, published a breaking piece headlined, “Pompeo Says Intelligence Points to Iran in Tanker Attack in Gulf of Oman.”

The Times did concede, however, that “Pompeo did not present any evidence to back up the assessment of Iran’s involvement.”

And several mainstream media outlets actually diverged from their traditional pro-war stances and expressed cautious skepticism about the secretary of state’s unproven accusations.

Surprisingly, CNN, NPR, and The Independent stressed that Pompeo provided no evidence for his claims.

Iran’s Press TV outlet published video of what it said were crew members of one of the tankers who had been saved by an Iranian rescue team.

The Iranian government-backed channel accused the Trump administration of exploiting incidents like this “to wage war.”

Press TV also tweeted photos of one of the tankers hours after the alleged attack, noting that the vessel was unharmed and the fire had been put out.

These facts nevertheless did not stop notorious war hawks and neoconservatives from beating the drum of war.

Fanatical anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel bizarrely described the incident as “an attack on the United States.”

Neoconservative commentator Michael Weiss, who has spent the past eight years pushing for regime change in Syria, implied the alleged attacks were proof that Iran is a “threat.”

Neoconservative Senator Marco Rubio, who has spent the past five months heavily lobbying for US military intervention in Venezuela, quickly turned his attention to Iran. He pointed the finger at the IRGC’s Quds Force, without citing any evidence.

Rubio also berated skeptics, insisting it would not “make sense” for any other actor to carry out the alleged attacks.

The US government has previously blamed Iran for alleged attacks on oil tankers, again without providing any evidence. In May, two Saudi vessels were attacked, and the Trump administration immediately accused Tehran — but in reality this attack was mostly likely carried out by Yemen’s Houthi movement, which governs northern Yemen and has been fighting a defensive war against US-backed Saudi and Emirati forces since March 2015.

Many observers noted how the Trump administration’s unsubstantiated accusations against Iran are eerily reminiscent of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the US government and a compliant corporate press sold lies to the public to justify a war of aggression on Vietnam.

It is certainly possible that Washington could exploit these supposed attacks to justify a war on Iran. But it is just as likely that the Trump administration could hope to use this incident to try to pressure Japan to halt its historic negotiations with Tehran.

Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018, blatantly violating a UN Security Council resolution and sabotaging an international deal that had been negotiated by China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union.

The far-right president has also surrounded himself with anti-Iran hawks, including Pompeo and neoconservative national security adviser John Bolton, who has spent years lobbying for war on Iran.

Trump has made it clear that his goal is to pressure Iran to renegotiate a nuclear deal with the United States, and is using a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Tehran to submit to Washington’s diktat.

On June 13, Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated that he rejected Trump’s offer to discuss a new agreement, stating, “I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with.”

In the meantime, longtime US proxy Saudi Arabia stands to benefit from the escalating aggression. Oil prices immediately spiked in response to the alleged attacks on the tankers, enriching oil producers such as the viciously anti-Iran Saudi monarchy.
Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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