Editor’s Note – As we approach the deadline in the P5+1 talks with Iran, we see their global connections and influence grow. Regardless of the now infamous letter to the Iranians from the Republican Senators, Iran has no intention slowing any of its intentions and goals down.
For years they have been in concert with Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and Cuba, to name just two of many, and as Venezuela turns even further into the Iranian and Cuban sphere of influence, they become increasingly more dangerous to the United States.
Just recently tensions have boile and a former General in the Chavez regime is trumpeting the danger:
The Venezuelan government’s close ties to Cuba and Iran pose a real threat to its sovereignty, and to the security of the hemisphere, retired Brig. Gen. Antonio Rivero, a former insider in the government of Hugo Chávez, told Fox News Latino during a visit to Washington, D.C., this week.
Rivero held high-profile positions under Chávez – from 2003 to 2008, he was the director of the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief agency – until he refused to chant “Socialism, Fatherland or Death,” a pledge emblematic of the Cuban Revolution that was imposed unexpectedly as part of the official military salute. (Exclusive from Fox News Latino, read more here.)
Obama had first imposed sanctions last December when Congress approved the measure on Venezuela accusing Maduro officials of violating protesters rights and was quickly rebuffed by Maduro:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Obama of hypocrisy for enabling the sanctions a day after announcing an effort to normalize relations with Communist-run Cuba, which has been under U.S. trade sanctions for decades.
Then, last Monday, he signed an Executive Order increasing those sanctions by identifying seven individuals in Madura’s government and declaring Venezuela to be a national security threat to the United States:
“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters that Caracas would respond to the U.S. move soon. Mr. Maduro said last week that he wouldn’t “accept” U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. is Venezuela’s top trading partner, and last year Venezuela was the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the U.S. at an average of 733,000 barrels per day — despite a decade long effort by Caracas to reduce its dependence on the U.S. by exporting more oil to China and India. (Read more here at the Washington Times.)
Antonio Rivero also told Fox News Latino that he knew the people named in Obama’s order and that he believes they were not initially “Chavistas”:
He explained that none of the military officers sanctioned by the U.S. had ideological ties to the chavista movement before assuming public offices in the government.
“Many of these officers were initially good professionals, who became victims of the system,” Rivero said, “but were not really part of the hard line of military command. They simply followed orders, betrayed their principals, kissed up to their superiors, and got promoted.”
This raises many puzzling questions, not the least of which is one of Maduro’s accusations that on one hand Obama cozies up to Cuba at a time it chastises one of our biggest trading partners in this hemisphere, especially in oil.
We at SUA certainly are not admirers of Maduro and his socialist ways, nor his close relationship and almost puppet-like obedience to Cuba and Iran, but it appears that Obama’s foreign policies seem to puzzle everyone. However, we do agree that Venezuela is a growing menace.
In response to Obama’s Executive Order, Venezuelan President Madura is flexing his military muscle supplied by the likes of Iran, Russia, and China. The bloc against the USA just grew tighter.
The region is also responding negatively to Obama:
La Paz is striking back at Washington in defense of Caracas, after Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this week signaled his support for Maduro. In a Thursday document the Foreign Ministry expressed its“regret” at Obama’s stance, saying “Bolivia rejects these interventionist actions of the US government to violate the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people. These undemocratic actions of President Barack Obama threaten the peace and security of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Read more here.)
You be the judge:
Venezuela holds massive military maneuvers amid new US sanctions
Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela begins a week and a half of military exercises on Saturday, amid rising tensions with the United States over sanctions imposed on officials accused of an opposition crackdown.
About 80,000 troops were due to take part in the massive display of weaponry, as Caracas shows off its Chinese amphibian weapons, Russian-built missiles and other military hardware.
The exercises will last 10 days and will enlist the participation of 20,000 civilians, in addition to the troops, officials said.
The manuevers come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States, which has clashed repeatedly with the leftist-led South American country over the years.
Relations hit a new low on Monday, when US President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on the regime, calling the oil-rich Venezuela “an extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States.
After Obama made the move, which targeted senior Venezuelan officials for cracking down on the opposition, Caracas angrily recalled its envoy to Washington and ramped up its military preparedness.
The country’s defense minister, General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, said Saturday that the maneuvers, many of which were to be held in the south of Caracas, were meant to prepare soldiers for “their mission, their goal, and with the will to be victorious.”
Other maneuvers will focus on Venezuela’s oil-producing areas, including the Caribbean coast and an oil field some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west of Caracas.
Military officials said they will also test the nation’s air defenses and will ensure that its anti-aircraft systems are ready to be deployed if needed.
President Nicolas Maduro has accused Washington of backing an alleged opposition plot to overthrow him. He is seeking extraordinary powers from the legislature that would allow him to rule by decree.
Maduro’s popularity has sunk in the past year amid an economic crisis, galloping inflation and huge lines outside supermarkets plagued by drastic food shortages.
Elected to succeed his late mentor Hugo Chavez in April 2013, Maduro had obtained one-year-long powers to impose economic laws by decree later that same year.
Communist Cuba rallied behind Maduro this week, pledging “unconditional support” to Caracas. Another ally, Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa, denounced the US sanctions as “grotesque” and a “sick joke.”
Editor’s Note – It amazes us at SUA that people across the land still consider Hillary Rodham Clinton as a viable Presidential candidate anymore. The reasons must follow that too many people are still ill-informed, have willingly suspended disbelief, have a cognitive estrangement with the truth, and/or are so deeply ideological, even her failures do not count.
In fact, even she cannot cite any successes for which she is responsible in her years as Secretary of State or as a Senator from New York. When the New York Times points these issues out, it surely is time for America to take notice, peel the scales from their eyes, and come back to reality.
Today’s abysmal results of her foreign policy efforts on behalf of her boss, Barrack Obama, are telling to say the least. When we look at the current state of Ukraine, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, China, Myanmar, Venezuela, Cuba, and many more corners of the Earth; each display daily a cause of major concern. It is not a good time to be an ally of the United States – we are no longer to be trusted; we are less than a paper tiger.
Failure is the only consistent thing in her resume, going all the way back to the Whitewater scandal when her husband was Attorney General and then Governor of Arkansas and into his first campaign for the Presidency, then through the Travel Office Scandal when he took office, to Benghazi and beyond. Let’s not forget her allegiance and sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood through her assistant Huma Abedin and the Clinton Global Initiative that is supported by these types.
“At this point, what difference does it make?”
Remember, she was the one who chose Christopher Stevens as Ambassador to Libya and watched idly as he and three others died horribly, as well as leaving over 30 other people at risk that day. We must point out one nefarious fact, her only success there was the jailing of a man who made a silly video.
We can cite one major accomplishment, she ranks at the top of the most traveled Secretaries of State ever – all with no positive result. If numbers of countries visited, miles traveled, or fuel burned, were what counted, at least those she is compared against at those levels had a major impact in keeping America’s reputation and influence at a continued high level, most unlike our standing today.
Hillary Clinton Struggles to Define a Legacy in Progress
WASHINGTON — It was a simple question to someone accustomed to much tougher ones: What was her proudest achievement as secretary of state? But for a moment, Hillary Rodham Clinton, appearing recently before a friendly audience at a women’s forum in Manhattan, seemed flustered.
Mrs. Clinton played an energetic role in virtually every foreign policy issue of President Obama’s first term, advocating generally hawkish views internally while using her celebrity to try to restore America’s global standing after the hit it took during the George W. Bush administration.
But her halting answer suggests a problem that Mrs. Clinton could confront as she recounts her record in Mr. Obama’s cabinet before a possible run for president in 2016: Much of what she labored over so conscientiously is either unfinished business or has gone awry in his second term.
From Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the grinding civil war in Syria to the latest impasse in the Middle East peace process, the turbulent world has frustrated Mr. Obama, and is now defying Mrs. Clinton’s attempts to articulate a tangible diplomatic legacy.
“I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race,” Mrs. Clinton finally said at the Women in the World meeting, promising to offer specific examples in a memoir she is writing that is scheduled to be released in June. “I mean, you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton.”
The relay metaphor has become a recurring theme for Mrs. Clinton during this year of speculation about her future. She did her part, it suggests, but the outcome was out of her hands. And so Mrs. Clinton is striking a delicate balance when discussing a job that would be a critical credential in a presidential race.
On the one hand, she wants credit for the parts of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy that have worked, like the pressure campaign against Iran over its nuclear program, which she helped orchestrate and which has pulled Iran to the bargaining table.
On the other, she is subtly distancing herself from the things that have not worked out, like Mr. Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia. She recently likened President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea to actions by Hitler in the 1930s, and posted on Twitter a photograph of herself with members of Pussy Riot, the protest group that is Mr. Putin’s nemesis.
Mrs. Clinton’s Republican opponents, losing no time in trying to define her, note that she gave Russia’s foreign minister the infamous mistranslated red plastic button to reset relations. It said “overcharge,” not “reset.” They have been tireless in raising questions about the deadly attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
While Republicans are likely to make her part of a broad critique of the Obama administration’s approach to national security, Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish views could also be a problem in ensuring the support of liberals in her own party, who are weary of foreign entanglements.
In one sense, though, the cascade of foreign crises that now bedevil Mr. Obama could play to Mrs. Clinton’s advantage. By presenting herself in her book and in any possible campaign as the toughest voice in the room during the great debates over war and peace, she could set herself apart from a president who critics charge has forsworn America’s leadership role in the world.
Mrs. Clinton has scrupulously avoided publicly criticizing Mr. Obama; White House aides said he still called her for advice. And much of the administration’s foreign policy still bears her imprint, like the Iran sanctions and a more confrontational stance toward China, which she pioneered and Mr. Obama has embraced.
But in recent interviews, two dozen current and former administration officials, foreign diplomats, friends and outside analysts described Mrs. Clinton as almost always the advocate of the most aggressive actions considered by Mr. Obama’s national security team — and not just in well-documented cases, like the debate over how many additional American troops to send to Afghanistan or the NATO airstrikes in Libya.
Mrs. Clinton’s advocates — a swelling number in Washington, where people are already looking to the next administration — are quick to cite other cases in which she took more hawkish positions than the White House: arguing for funneling weapons to Syrian rebels and for leaving more troops behind in postwar Iraq, and criticizing the results of a 2011 parliamentary election in Russia.
The criticism of the Russian election led Mr. Putin to accuse her of fomenting unrest, and left some senior Obama aides unhappy. “Some at the White House thought she overstepped,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, who supported her view.
At the same time, Mrs. Clinton’s instincts were curbed by her innate caution, her determination to show loyalty to a rival-turned-boss and her growing pains in the job. Still, dissecting her record yields tantalizing clues about what kind of foreign policy she might pursue as president. “Hillary unbound,” people who worked with her say, would be instinctively less reluctant than Mr. Obama to commit the military to foreign conflicts.
“It’s not that she’s quick to use force, but her basic instincts are governed more by the uses of hard power,” said Dennis B. Ross, a former White House aide who played a behind-the-scenes role in opening secret direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program.
Leon E. Panetta, who forged close ties to Mrs. Clinton as defense secretary and C.I.A. director, said she was a stalwart supporter of the C.I.A.’s activities in Pakistan — read, drone strikes — and an influential voice in advising Mr. Obama to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“The president has made some tough decisions,” Mr. Panetta said. “But it’s been a mixed record, and the concern is, the president defining what America’s role in the world is in the 21st century hasn’t happened.”
“Hopefully, he’ll do it,” Mr. Panetta said, “and certainly, she would.”
The Mideast Peace Process
Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish inclinations were well established in her bitter 2008 Democratic primary campaign against Mr. Obama, when she famously criticized as naïve his willingness to talk to America’s adversaries without preconditions. But when he persuaded her to join his “team of rivals,” she submerged her views and worked hard to establish her loyalty — all of which has added to her problems in promoting her record.
A case in point is the Middle East peace process, in which secretaries of state from Henry A. Kissinger to John Kerry have tried to make their mark. “There’s core-course curriculum, and then there’s extra credit,” said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff. “This is always seen as a core requirement for a secretary of state.”
Mrs. Clinton’s marching orders from the White House were to demand that Israel cease the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a way to lure the Palestinians into talks, and she did so with a fervor that surprised Mr. Obama’s advisers. But they had conceived the strategy, and Mrs. Clinton privately had qualms with it, which proved well founded.
“We did not make it sufficiently clear that this was not a precondition but part of an effort to create an overall atmosphere in which negotiations could succeed,” said George J. Mitchell, the former Middle East envoy who left in 2011 after failing to break the logjam.
Mr. Kerry has tried a different approach to peacemaking, with little to show for it so far. But he seems determined to keep trying, while some veterans of Middle East diplomacy say Mrs. Clinton gave up too easily. In a recent interview with Time magazine, former President Jimmy Carter said that “she took very little action to bring about peace.”
Today, when Mrs. Clinton’s aides talk about the Middle East, they barely mention the Israeli-Palestinian talks, preferring to discuss the cease-fire she brokered in November 2012 between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, where she twisted arms to avoid escalating violence.
Building Pressure on Iran
Mrs. Clinton was more successful in dealing with Iran. As with the Middle East, she was skeptical that Mr. Obama’s initial strategy — reaching out to Iran’s leaders — would work. So when he shifted to sanctions, she was eager to build pressure on what she called a “military dictatorship.”
It was a tough job against long odds, said Tom Donilon, the former national security adviser, because it meant pressing allies in Europe and Asia, huge trading partners of Iran, to agree to steps “that had a real cost.”
Mrs. Clinton delivered her stern message with a smile. In June 2010, the day before the United Nations voted on strict new sanctions against Iran, Mrs. Clinton invited China’s ambassador to Washington, Zhang Yesui, to a hotel bar in Lima, Peru, where both were at a conference.
Drinking pisco sours, the potent local cocktail, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Zhang went over an annex to the Security Council resolution line by line as she tried to clinch Beijing’s agreement to withdraw investments in Iran by Chinese banks and state-owned enterprises.
The sanctions, Mrs. Clinton likes to remind audiences, crippled Iran’s oil exports and currency, setting the stage for the election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as president and for Iran’s renewed interest in diplomacy.
Mr. Obama had first proposed direct talks in a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in 2009. Mrs. Clinton authorized Mr. Ross, then her special adviser, to explore a back channel to the Iranians through the Arab sultanate of Oman.
In January 2011, Mrs. Clinton stopped in Oman on a tour of the Persian Gulf that was notable because she gave a speech, on the eve of the Arab Spring, warning leaders that they risked “sinking in the sand” if they did not reform their societies. Less noticed was her meeting with the sultan, in which he offered to facilitate a meeting with the Iranians.
After some exploratory meetings with a delegation from Tehran, Mrs. Clinton sent two of her top lieutenants, William J. Burns and Jake Sullivan, to Oman for more intensive negotiations. That opened the door to the nuclear talks now underway in Vienna. But what her colleagues remember most is her steadfast conviction that Iran would deal only under duress.
“She was skeptical that it would produce anything, or at least anything quickly, and in a way she was right because it took several years to get to that point,” said Mr. Burns, a deputy secretary of state.
With China, too, Mrs. Clinton set the stage for a more confrontational approach, though that was not the policy she followed at the outset. When she made her first trip as secretary of state to Beijing, she stumbled by suggesting that the United States would not offer lectures on human rights as much as it had in the past.
By 2010, however, she sounded more like the woman who had cut her teeth on the global stage in 1995 with a defiant speech on women’s rights at a United Nations conference in Beijing. Attending a summit meeting in Vietnam, she thrust the United States into a tangled dispute between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea.
The Chinese government was enraged by her meddling, but her actions set a new context for the relationship. By insisting that China adhere to international norms and by shoring up American alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, Mrs. Clinton moved Washington away from the China-centric model favored by previous presidents.
“Secretary Clinton strongly pushed for a 21st-century conversation with China and resisted occasional Chinese efforts to engage in a secretive, 19th-century diplomacy,” said Kurt M. Campbell, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs.
When the State Department proposed sending 2,500 Marines to Australia to underline America’s commitment to Southeast Asia, the Pentagon, Mr. Panetta said, latched on to the idea, because “it fit the new defense strategy we were developing.”
Mrs. Clinton became the most visible and energetic exponent of the president’s “Asia rebalance” — so much so, in fact, that her aides complained to Mr. Donilon at one point that she was not getting enough credit for it. In a lingering sign of Mrs. Clinton’s influence, Mr. Obama will visit the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea next week.
Kim Beazley, Australia’s ambassador to Washington, credits her with reversing a laissez-faire approach to the Pacific Rim that dated from the Nixon administration. “She was metronome perfect,” he said.
A Different Standard
As Mrs. Clinton’s aides shape her legacy, one of their biggest frustrations has been explaining that the most publicized work of her tenure — her emphasis on the rights of women and girls — was not a safe or soft issue, but part of a broader strategy that strengthens national security. Mrs. Clinton may be the only diplomat, they say, who is criticized for being simultaneously too dovish and too hawkish.
“You can’t have it both ways,” said Thomas R. Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is now a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley. “You can’t say that she’s about soft power, women and girls, and hospitals and ribbon cuttings, and simultaneously maintain that all she cares about is drones, missiles, going to war.”
Because of her celebrity and her potential political future, Mrs. Clinton’s advocates say, she is held to a different standard than other secretaries of state. More than ever, they say, the job is defined not by clear victories but by a dogged commitment to the process.
“We have sort of a heroic vision of diplomacy,” said James B. Steinberg, who served as deputy secretary of state. “But it’s really easy to overwrite the traditional role of leader-to-leader diplomacy.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, said, “I think of her as being extraordinarily resourceful within a set of constraints.” She noted, for example, that Mrs. Clinton had to spend three months apologizing for the undiplomatic remarks in the secret cables disclosed by WikiLeaks.
Mrs. Clinton’s memoir will allow her to give her view of WikiLeaks, Benghazi and smaller missteps like the Russia reset button — a stunt she nevertheless liked enough that she later gave one to Mr. McDonough to smooth over friction with the White House over personnel issues.
Mrs. Clinton’s vision of 21st-century diplomacy mirrors what her allies say is a vision of a more engaged America. The question is whether that vision will be appealing to a nation that, after 12 years of war, is weary of foreign adventures. Liberal critics may have no other choice for a candidate.
“Although there will be a good number of folks in the Democratic Party who are uncomfortable with her hawkishness, they will ask themselves, ‘Where else can we go?’ ” said Paul R. Pillar, a former C.I.A. analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University and supports Mr. Obama’s more cautious view of the American role abroad.
Mr. McDonough, one of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers, declares himself a great admirer of Mrs. Clinton. But he was on the other side of the internal debate over providing weapons to the Syrian rebels, and, like his boss, is cautious about the use of American force. However harrowing the conflict, he said, “you have to be disciplined about where you invest this country’s power.”
“We’re leaving an era where the country gave the president a lot of leeway, in terms of resources, in terms of time,” Mr. McDonough said. “It will be a long time before a president has the kind of leeway in this space that President Bush had.”
Make no mistake that Iran is not at a loss for friends globally and very willing RSVP’s from Latin America have signed on to Ahmedinejad’s objectives. The State Department’s diplomacy missions have failed throughout the Middle East and a blind eye is cast upon South America. Sure there are some that have questioned the recent tour by Ahmendinejad to key countries south of us, but no one is questioning just what agreements have been jointly agreed to by Latin leaders. Here are some questions that need to be asked by virtue of what Iran is presently doing that just may point to a larger impressionable circle of friends globally.
Iran has a missile arsenal that includes ballistic systems, anti-cruise ship missiles as well as short-range systems. How is Chavez accommodating the spread of this inventory? Iran also has medium range missiles and the Shabab-3 that can reach Israel and Central Europe, and yes, Venezuela has essentially the same that can reach our shores.
Iran has a multi-staged solid fuel missile, the Sejjil and is slated to have an intercontinental missile by 2015, so can one assume that Iran has shared these technologies with Latin America?
Iran has several para-military groups and deep connections to terror organizations that include the Qods force which is part of the IRGC. Do we understand the range of their footprint beyond the Middle East, North Africa, the Sub-Sahara, and inside Latin America completely?
Iran has three exceptional propaganda outlets that include al-Alam, Press TV, and Hispanic TV. Is it logical to assume Latin America is the target of Iran for acceptance and recruiting?
How much larger will Iran’s alliance grow beyond that of Chavez in Venezuela, Morales of Bolivia, Lukashenko of Belarus, Nasrallah of Lebanon, and al-Basher of Sudan?
The Saudis are in deep consideration of seeking a nuclear weapons program to counter Iran, so will Egypt and Pakistan offer assistance and will the technology spread to allies in Latin America?
Iran has a back-door friendship with Qatar, which has become the fair weather friend of many throughout the Middle East and has been an appeaser of Iran with financial contributions and the flow of the same for Hezbollah and Hamas. Is it no wonder that Qatar has been the tourist and conference destination of world leaders friendly to Iran?
First among the BRIC nations is Brazil, so is it within reason that Obama has been so generous with Brazil with oil grant money for drilling, a feeble effort to win more diplomacy battles with a large oil producer to make an end run around Iran’s Latin America objective?
Moving on, Muqtada al Sadr forced the United States out of Iraq and the the Prime Minister of Iraq signed a pact with Tehran for a new defense package. Iran and Iraq are working to launch a joint military exercise and an early warning defense network against Israel. Iran has also partnered with Shiite militant and terror groups in Iraq that include Sadr’s Promise Day Brigade, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al Haqq.
On another front, Iran is earnestly requesting a transit route through Iraq for weapons transfer pathways to Syria and Lebanon and is requiring Baghdad to join in the military cooperation against Israel. Iraq is much weaker without the United States and may look to Russia and China for weapons assistance in the near future.
While Iran is getting attention on their nuclear weapons program, no one is asking questions about biological or chemical weapons reaching the hands of Hezbollah. Questions must be raised regarding dirty bombs and conventional weapons that Iran is providing to Syria and Lebanon. We must also ask about the status of previously received WMD from Saddam Hussein.
Iran and Venezuela have entered into a defense pact and the Qods and Hezbollah operatives are providing training and recruiting to build cells within Venezuela. The IRGC officers are onsite in Caracas providing full support for an estimated thirty Shabab-3 mid-sized missiles along with cooperating with providing nuclear technology to the Chavez government. Iran has also arranged for un-manned aerial vehicles for Venezuela. Chavez has admitted he has provided testing of uranium deposits in key locations inside Venezuela. As recently as 2009, Chavez signed an agreement with Russia to help build a nuclear reactor and an accompanying village with Iran’s cooperation. Sound familiar?
Iran is a puppet of Russia and Ahmedinejad is the grand marshal of the Kremlin’s call to action. This most recent Latin America tour by Ahmedinejad has advanced the alliance of key South American countries to subscribe to Iran’s and Russia’s thunder. While Hillary Clinton claims success in acquiring Burma as a new global partner, Iran signed up Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua to their circle that already includes Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Belarus and Sudan.
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