neocons

Why the New Silk Roads Terrify Washington

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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greatwarfreda1

Originally published in RT on July 5, 2016

 


Almost six years ago, President Putin proposed to Germany 'the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.'

This idea represented an immense trade emporium uniting Russia and the EU, or, in Putin’s words, “a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of dollars.”

In a nutshell: Eurasia integration.

Washington panicked. The record shows how Putin’s vision – although extremely seductive to German industrialists – was eventually derailed by Washington’s controlled demolition of Ukraine.

Three years ago, in Kazakhstan and then Indonesia, President Xi Jinping expanded on Putin’s vision, proposing One Belt, One Road (OBOR), a.k.a. the New Silk Roads, enhancing the geoeconomic integration of Asia-Pacific via a vast network of highways, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports and fiber-optic cables.

In a nutshell: an even more ambitious version of Eurasia integration, benefiting two-thirds of the world population, economy and trade. The difference is that it now comes with immense financial muscle backing it up, via a Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), and an all-out commercial offensive all across Eurasia, and the official entry of the yuan in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights; that is, the christening of the yuan as a key currency worth holding by every single emerging market central bank.

At the recent G20 in Huangzhou, President Xi clearly demonstrated how OBOR is absolutely central to the Chinese vision of how globalization should proceed. Beijing is betting that the overwhelming majority of nations across Eurasia would rather invest in, and profit from, a “win-win” economic development project than be bogged down in a lose-lose strategic game between the US and China.

And that, for the Empire of Chaos, is absolute anathema. How to possibly accept that China is winning the 21st century / New Great Game in Eurasia by building the New Silk Roads?

And don't forget the Silk Road in Syria

Few in the West have noticed, as reported by RT, that the G20 was preceded by an Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Essentially, that was yet another de facto celebration of Eurasia integration, featuring Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

And that integration plank will soon merge with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union – which in itself is a sort of Russian New Silk Road.

All these roads lead to total connectivity. Take for instance cargo trains that are now regularly linking Guangzhou, the key hub in southeast China, to the logistics center in  Vorsino industrial park near Kaluga. The trip now takes just two weeks – saving no less than a full month if compared with shipping, and around 80 percent of the cost if compared with air cargo.

That’s yet another New Silk Road-style connection between China and Europe via Russia. Still another, vastly more ambitious, will be the high-speed rail expansion of the Transiberian; the Siberian Silk Road.

Then take the closer integration of China and Kazakhstan – which is also a member of the EEU. The duty-free Trans-Eurasia railway is already in effect, from Chongqing in Sichuan across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland all the way to Duisburg in Germany. Beijing and Astana are developing a joint free trade zone at Horgos. And in parallel, a $135 million China-Mongolia Cross-Border Economic Cooperation Zone started to be built last month.

Kazakhstan is even flirting with the ambitious idea of a Eurasian Canal from the Caspian to the Black Sea and then further on to the Mediterranean. Sooner or later Chinese construction companies will come up with a feasibility study.

A virtually invisible Washington agenda in Syria – inbuilt in the Pentagon obsession to not allow any ceasefire to work, or to prevent the fall of its “moderate rebels” in Aleppo – is to break up yet another New Silk Road hub. China has been commercially connected to Syria since the original Silk Road, which snaked through Palmyra and Damascus. Before the Syrian “Arab Spring”, Syrian businessmen were a vital presence in Yiwu, south of Shanghai, the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods in the world, where they would go to buy all sorts of products in bulk to resell in the Levant.

The “American lake”

Neocon/neoliberalcon Washington is totally paralyzed in terms of formulating a response – or at least a counter-proposal – to Eurasia integration. A few solid IQs at least may understand that China’s “threat” to the US is all about economic might. Take Washington’s deep hostility towards the China-driven AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank). Yet no amount of hardcore US lobbying prevented allies such as Germany, Britain, Australia and South Korea from joining in.

Then we had the mad dash to approve TPP – the China-excluding, NATO-on-trade arm of the pivot to Asia that was meant to be the cherry of the mostly flat Obama global economic policy cake. Yet the TPP as it stands is practically dead.

What the current geopolitical juncture spells out is the US Navy willing to go no holds barred to stop China from strategically dominating the Pacific, while TPP is deployed as a weapon to stop China dominating Asia-Pacific economically.

With the pivot to Asia configured as a tool to “deter Chinese aggression”, exceptionalists have graphically demonstrated how they are incapable of admitting the whole game is about post-ideological supply chain geopolitics. The US does not need to contain China; what it needs, badly, is key industrial, financial, commercial connection to crucial nodes across Asia to (re)build its economy.

Those were the days, in March 1949, when MacArthur could gloat, “the Pacific is now an Anglo-Saxon lake”. Even after the end of the Cold War the Pacific was a de facto American lake; the US violated Chinese naval and aerial space at will.

Now instead we have the US Army War College and the whole Think Tankland losing sleep over sophisticated Chinese missiles capable of denying US Navy access to the South China Sea. An American lake? No more.

The heart of the matter is that China has made an outstanding bet on infrastructure building – which translates into first-class connectivity to everyone – as the real global 21st century commons, way more important than “security”. After all a large part of global infrastructure still needs to be built. While China turbo-charges its role as the top global infrastructure exporter – from high-speed rail to low-cost telecom – the “indispensable” nation is stuck with a “pivoting”, perplexed, bloated military obsessed with containment.

Divide and rule those “hostile” rivals

Well, things haven’t changed much since Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski dreaming in the late 1990s of a Chinese fragmentation from within, all the way to Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy, which is no more than futile rhetorical nostalgia about containing Russia, China and Iran.

Thus the basket of attached myths such as “freedom of navigation” – Washington’s euphemism for perennially controlling the sea lanes that constitute China’s supply chain – as well as an apotheosis of“China aggression” incessantly merging with “Russia aggression”; after all, the Eurasia integration-driven Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership must be severed at all costs.

Why? Because US global hegemony must always be perceived as an irremovable force of nature, like death and taxes (Apple in Ireland excluded).

Twenty-four years after the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guide, the same mindset prevails; “Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival…to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and southwest Asia”.

Oops. Now even Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski is terrified. How to contain these bloody silky roads with Pentagon“existential threats” China and Russia right at the heart of the action? Divide and Rule – what else?

For a confused Brzezinski, the US should“fashion a policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.”

Have a pleasant nightmare.

 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Anti-Empire Report #143

fallujahgc2sm From the Keyboard of William Blum
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fallujah

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report February 5, 2016

“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

-Noam Chomsky


Is Bernie Sanders a socialist?

“Self-described socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders? But is he really a socialist? Or is he a “social democrat”, which is what he’d be called in Europe? Or is he a “democratic socialist”, which is the American party he has been a member of (DSA – Democratic Socialists of America)? And does it really matter which one he is? They’re all socialists, are they not?

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:

  • Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.

  • In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.

  • The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.

  • Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned wages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” 

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for such systems and there is indeed much to be said about them. But the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

Eliminating the profit motive in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. The California Senate enshrined this into law in 1994, one which directs that any such income of criminals convicted of serious crimes be placed into a trust fund for the benefit of the victims of their crimes. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary.

The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God?

Pervading all these attitudes, and frequently voiced, is a strong disapproval of greed and selfishness, in glaring contradiction to the reality that greed and selfishness form the official and ideological basis of our system. It’s almost as if no one remembers how the system is supposed to work any more, or they prefer not to dwell on it.

It would appear that, at least on a gut level, Americans have had it up to here with free enterprise. The great irony of it all is that the mass of the American people are not aware that their sundry attitudes constitute an anti-free-enterprise philosophy, and thus tend to go on believing the conventional wisdom that government is the problem, that big government is the biggest problem, and that their salvation cometh from the private sector, thereby feeding directly into pro-free-enterprise ideology.

Thus it is that those activists for social change who believe that American society is faced with problems so daunting that no corporation or entrepreneur is ever going to solve them at a profit carry the burden of convincing the American people that they don’t really believe what they think they believe; and that the public’s complementary mindset – that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done – is equally fallacious, for the government has built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

Activists have to remind the American people of what they’ve already learned but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want more government, or less government; they don’t want biggovernment, or small government; they want government on their side. Period.

Sanders has to clarify his views. What exactly does he mean by “socialism”? What exactly is the role the profit motive will play in his future society”?

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.” 

We should never forget

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis,” reported the Washington Post in 2007, that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.” 

The United States has not paid any compensation to Iraq.

The United States has not made any apology to Iraq.

Foreign policy is even more sensitive a subject in the United States than slavery of the black people and genocide of the Native Americans. The US has apologized for these many times, but virtually never for the crimes of American foreign policy. 

In 2014, George W. Bush, the man most responsible for this holocaust, was living a quiet life in Texas, with a focus on his paintings. “I’m trying to leave something behind”, he said. 

Yes, he has certainly done that – mountains of rubble for one thing; rubble that once was cities and towns. His legacy also includes the charming Islamic State. Ah, but Georgie Boy is an artiste.

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century – the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn’t have time to go after them one by one. We’d have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don’t need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence. – Sam Smith 

On March 2, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

Iraq 2003 was in the 21st century. The pretext was completely trumped up. Senator John Kerry voted for it. Nice moral authority you have there, John.

On the same occasion, concerning Ukraine, President Obama spoke of “the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked”.  Do our leaders have no memory or do they think we’ve all lost ours?

Does Obama avoid prosecuting the Bush-Cheney gang because he wants to have the same rights to commit war crimes? The excuse he gives for his inaction is so lame that if George W. had used it people would not hesitate to laugh. On about five occasions, in reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted the like of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. for mass murder, torture and other war crimes, former law professor Obama has stated: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards.” Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Noam Chomsky has observed: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States. The US is now a full-blown pathological society. There is no other wonder drug to deal with American-exceptionalism-itis.

Notes

  1. Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015
  2. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994
  3. Washington Post, May 5, 2007
  4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 25
  5. New York Times, September 16, 2014
  6. Sam Smith of Maine, formerly of Washington, DC
  7. Reuters, March 3, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.


William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

Planet of Fear

freda freedom fightergc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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freda freedom fighter

Originally published in Information Clearing House on January 19, 2016

 


Facing the gleaming Doha skyline on a Persian Gulf winter carries the merit of a panoramic perspective. Most nations around it are going into melt down and the remaining ones – with the exception of Iran – exhibit neither the political leadership nor the economic and institutional infrastructure to do anything other than to meekly accept whatever tsunami hits their shores. They are nothing but scared spectators.

The Empire of Chaos has enough warmongering hardware pre-positioned within spitting distance to turn the whole of Southwest Asia into ashes – as a gaggle of usual suspects in the Beltway, neocon or neoliberalcon, still can’t find a cure to their itching to "really win the next war" in a sort of exponential Shock and Awe.

Fear reigns supreme. Jim Rickards, the author of Currency Wars, economist and CIA asset, has just released a new book, The Big Drop, with a pretty grim message. For his part Jim Rogers, a.k.a. the "Sage of Singapore", most of the time China-bound informing the Chinese elite where to place their investments, holds on to a nuanced perspective on the West blaming all the current global economy turmoil on China.

According to Rogers, "Yes, China is slowing. But mostly the world is doing so. Japan, one of China’s largest trading partners is officially in recession. Much of Europe is worse. The US stock market was down in 2015 while the Chinese stock market was one of the strongest in the world."

Rogers adds, "things are going to get worse worldwide so everyone will suffer and is to ‘blame’. The original source is the US Federal Reserve and its ludicrous, artificial interest rates caused by massive money printing which the world has copied. Throw in staggering debt increases by the US government [which the world has also copied] and there will soon be hell to pay."

So no wonder apocalyptic war rumors are the new normal – even as old timers boost their case for "only" a "good old-fashioned world war", as if nuclear exchanges wouldn’t be part of the equation. A few sound minds in the Atlanticist axis worry that if Il Duce Trump wins the next US presidential election, that translates into guaranteed bankruptcy for the US, and – what else – war if Il Trumpissimo implements half of what he’s boasting about.

Short all the oil you can

The Davos annual talkfest is about to begin; that’s one of those occasions when the Masters of the Universe – who usually decide everything behind closed doors – send their minions to "debate" the future of their holdings. The current debate centers on whether we are still in the midst of the Third – digitalized – Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things or whether we’re already entering the Fourth.

In the real world though all the cackle is about the age of old-fashioned oil. Which brings us to the myriad effects of the cheap oil strategy deployed by the House of Saud under Washington’s command. 

Persian Gulf traders, off the record, are adamant that there is no longer any real global oil surplus of consequence as all shut-in oil has been dumped on the market based on that Washington command.

Petroleum Intelligence Weekly estimates the surplus is at a maximum 2.2 million a day, plus 600,000 barrels a day coming from Iran later this year. The US consumption of oil – at 19,840,000 barrels a day, 20% of world production – has not increased; it’s the other 80% that have been mostly absorbing the dumped oil.

Some key Persian Gulf traders are adamant that oil should be surging by the second half of 2016. That explains why Russia is not panicking with oil plunging towards $30 a barrel. Moscow is very much aware of the "partners" that are carrying oil market manipulation against Russia, and at the same time is anticipating this won’t last too long.

That explains why Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Oreshkin issued a sort of "keep calm and carry on" message; he expects oil prices to remain in the $40-60 range for at least the next seven years, and Russia can live with that.

The Masters of the Universe – just like the Russians – have realized their oil manipulation cannot last. Hysteria, predictably, took over. That’s why they ordered major Wall Street firms to short oil using cash settlement. Compliant US corporate media was ordered to spin the shortfalls will last forever. The target is to drive down the price of a barrel of oil to $7 if possible.

The original Masters of the Universe strategy would eventually lead to regime change in Russia and the usual oligarch suspects back in the saddle re-conducting the massive looting operation Russia suffered during the 1990s. 

A fearful House of Saud is a mere pawn in this strategy. Assuming the plan would work, the House of Saud under – virtually demented – King Salman, now confined to a room in his Riyadh palace, would also be regime-changed, via Saudi military officers trained in the West and recruited by Western agents. As a bonus, the Islamic Republic of Iran would also collapse, with "moderates" (rebels?) taking control.

So the Masters of the Universe strategy essentially boils down to regime-change in Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, leading to Exceptionalistan-friendly elites/vassals; in sum, the ultimate chapter in the global Resource Wars. Yet what this is yielding so far is the House of Saud having absolutely no clue of what may happen to them; Riyadh royals may think that they are undermining both Iran and Russia, but in the end they may be only accelerating their own demise.

Losing my religion

In Europe, it’s as if we’re back to 1977 when The Stranglers sang No More Heroes. Now, no more heroes and no more ideals. Even as some of European youth’s best and brightest have tried to fight the immense violence of neoliberalism, via alter-globalization, the poorest among the young are now mired in violence and suicidal nihilism – extreme Wahhabism which they've learned online. Yet this has nothing to do with Islam, and it’s not a war of religion, as myriad extreme-right parties across Europe routinely insist. 

All across the spectrum, driven by fear, the toxic mix of political and economic instability continues to spread, leading quite a few insiders to wonder whether both the Fed and the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing don't really know what’s happening.

And that once again feeds the warmongering hordes, for which that "good old-fashioned world war" is the easiest ticket out. Cancel all the old debt; issue loads of new debt; turn ploughshares and iPhones into cannons. And after a little thermonuclear exchange, welcome to full employment and a new (waste)land of opportunity.

It’s in this context that, under the volcano, surfaces an essay by Guido Preparata, an Italian-American political economist now based as a scholar in the Vatican. In The Political Economy of Hyper-Modernity, soon to appear in an anthology published by Palgrave/Macmillan, Preparata offers an account of the last 70 years of US/international monetary dynamics/history by using a single indicator: the overall US balance of payments – which has not been released since 1975.

Yet the most important conclusion in the essay seems to be that "the neoliberal engine, which has had to run mostly on domestic fuel, has shown… appreciable resilience". The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve, "together" managed to erect a "wall of money".

And yet "US technocrats seem to have grown disillusioned with the neoliberal machine". So, "as a momentous alternative, the technocrats have called for some kind of ‘global rebalancing’". The US-led system "seems to be transitioning to a neo-mercantilist regime". And the answer is the TPP (The Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) trade agreements that, together, "will place the United States at the center of an open trade zone representing around two-thirds of global economic output".

This would imply, ultimately, a sort of Make Trade, Not War endgame. So why so much fear? That’s because in the internal battle raging among the Masters of the Universe, the freewheeling neoliberalcons have not yet imprinted the last word. So beware the Falcons of War.

© Strategic Culture Foundation

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Empire of Chaos preparing for more fireworks in 2016

f18 superhornetgc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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f18 superhornet

Originally published in Ron December 24, 2016

 


In his seminal 'Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization,' Bryan Ward-Perkins writes, "Romans before the fall were as certain as we are today that their world would continue forever… They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”
 

The Empire of Chaos, today, is not about complacency. It’s about hubris – and fear. Ever since the start of the Cold War the crucial question has been who would control the great trading networks of Eurasia – or the “heartland”, according to Sir Halford John Mackinder (1861–1947), the father of geopolitics.

We could say that for the Empire of Chaos, the game really started with the CIA-backed coup in Iran in 1953, when the US finally encountered, face to face, that famed Eurasia crisscrossed for centuries by the Silk Road(s), and set out to conquer them all.

Only six decades later, it’s clear there won’t be an American Silk Road in the 21st century, but rather, just like its ancient predecessor, a Chinese one. Beijing’s push for what it calls “One Belt, One Road” is inbuilt in the 21st century conflict between the declining empire and Eurasia integration. Key subplots include perennial NATO expansion and the empire’s obsession in creating a war zone out of the South China Sea.

As the Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership analyses it, the oligarchic elites who really run the Empire of Chaos are bent on the encirclement of Eurasia – considering they may be largely excluded from an integration process based on trade, commerce and advanced communication links.

Beijing and Moscow clearly identify provocation after provocation, coupled with relentless demonization. But they won’t be trapped, as they’re both playing a very long game.

Russian President Vladimir Putin diplomatically insists on treating the West as “partners”. But he knows, and those in the know in China also know, these are not really “partners”. Not after NATO’s 78-day bombing of Belgrade in 1999. Not after the purposeful bombing of the Chinese Embassy. Not after non-stop NATO expansionism. Not after a second Kosovo in the form of an illegal coup in Kiev. Not after the crashing of the oil price by Gulf petrodollar US clients. Not after the Wall Street-engineered crashing of the ruble. Not after US and EU sanctions. Not after the smashing of Chinese A shares by US proxies on Wall Street. Not after non-stop saber rattling in the South China Sea. Not after the shooting down of the Su-24.

It’s only a thread away

A quick rewind to the run-up towards the downing of the Su-24 is enlightening. Obama met Putin. Immediately afterwards Putin met Khamenei. Sultan Erdogan had to be alarmed; a serious Russian-Iranian alliance was graphically announced in Teheran. That was only a day before the downing of the Su-24.

France’s Hollande met Obama. But then Hollande met Putin. Erdogan was under the illusion he fabricated the perfect pretext for a NATO war, to be launched following Article 5 of the NATO Charter. Not by accident failed state Ukraine was the only country to endorse – in haste – the downing of the Su-24. Yet NATO itself recoiled – somewhat in horror; the empire was not ready for nuclear war.

At least not yet. Napoleon knew history turns on a slender thread. As much as Cold War 2.0 remains in effect we were, and will remain, just a thread away from nuclear war.

Whatever happens in the so-called Syrian peace process the proxy war between Washington and Moscow will continue. Hubristic US Think-Tank Land  can’t see it any other way.

For Exceptionalist neocons and neoliberalcons alike, the only digestible endgame is a partition of Syria. The Erdogan system would gobble up the north. Israel would gobble up the oil-rich Golan Heights. And House of Saud proxies would gobble up the eastern desert.

Russia literally bombed all these elaborate plans to ashes because the next step after partition would feature Ankara, Riyadh – and a “leading from behind” Washington – pushing a Jihadi Highway all the way north to the Caucasus as well as Central Asia and Xinjiang (there are already at least 300 Uyghurs fighting for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.) When all else fails, nothing like a Jihadi Highway plunged as a dagger in the body of Eurasia integration.

In the Chinese front, whatever “creative” provocations the Empire of Chaos may come up with, they won’t derail Beijing’s aims in the South China Sea – that vast basin crammed with unexplored oil and gas wealth and prime naval highway to and from China. Beijing is inevitably configuring itself by 2020 as a formidable haiyang qiangguo – a naval power.

Washington may supply $250 million in military “aid” to Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia for the next two years, but that’s mostly irrelevant. Whatever “creative” imperial ideas would have to take into account, for instance, the DF-21D “carrier killer” ballistic missile, with a 2,500 km range and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

On the economic front, Washington-Beijing will remain prime proxy war territory. Washington pushes the TPP – or NATO on trade pivoting to Asia? It’s still a Sisyphean task, because the 12 member nations need to ratify it, not least the US featuring an extremely hostile Congress.

Against this American one-trick pony, Xi Jinping, for his part, is deploying a complex three-pronged strategy; China’s own counterpunch to the TPP, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP); the immensely ambitious “One Belt, One Road”; and the means to finance a tsunami of projects, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – the Chinese counter-punch to the World Bank and the US-Japan-controlled Asian Development Bank (ADB)

For Southeast Asia, for instance, the numbers tell the story. Last year, China was the top ASEAN partner, to the tune of $367 billion. This will grow exponentially with One Belt, One Road – which will absorb $200 billion in Chinese investment up to 2018.

Heart of Darkness – revisited

Prospects for Europe are nothing but bleak. French-Iranian researcher Farhad Khosrokhavar has been one of the few who identified the crux of the problem. A jihadi reserve army across Europe will continue to feed on batallions of excluded youth in poor inner cities. There is no evidence EU neoliberalcons will be fostering sound socio-economic policies to extract these alienated masses from the ghettos, employing new forms of socialization.

So the escape route will continue to be a virus-like version of Salafi-jihadism, sold by wily, PR-savvy profiteers as a symbol of resistance; the only counter-ideology available on the market. Khosrokhavar defined it as the neo-umma – an “effervescent community that never existed historically”, but now openly inviting any young European, Muslim or otherwise, afflicted by an identity crisis.

In parallel, on our way into a full 15 years of the endless neocon war against independent states in the Middle East, the Pentagon will be turbo-charging an unlimited expansion of some of its existing bases – from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan – into “hubs”.

From sub-Saharan Africa to Southwest Asia, expect a hub boom, all of them merrily hosting Special Forces; the operation was described by Pentagon supremo Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter as “essential”“Because we cannot predict the future, these regional nodes – from Moron, Spain to Jalalabad, Afghanistan – will provide forward presence to respond to a range of crises, terrorist and other kinds. These will enable unilateral crisis response, counter-terror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.”

It’s all here: unilateral Exceptionalistan in action against anyone who dares to defy imperial diktats.

From Ukraine to Syria, and all across MENA (Middle East and North Africa), the proxy war between Washington and Moscow, with higher and higher stakes, won’t abate. Imperial despair over the irreversible Chinese ascent also won’t abate. As the New Great Game picks up speed, and Russia supplies Eurasian powers Iran, China and India with missile defense systems beyond anything the West has, get used to the new normal; Cold War 2.0 between Washington and Beijing-Moscow.

I leave you with Joseph Conrad, writing in Heart of Darkness: "There is a taint of death, a flavor or mortality in lies….To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe….We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories…”


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Syriasly

 Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assadgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation October 5, 2015
 

Senior administration officials say the new offensive holds promise and may change the dynamics on the ground.
— The New York Times

Whew…. That’s reassuring. Finally, a Middle East policy you can believe in.

It’s apparently based on a joint Kurdish-Arab army that our side (the USA) is pretending to assemble around the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, near the Turkish border. We’re informed also that American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Thank God we have a functioning HR department over there.

Is it safe to say that the table is now set for World War Three? King Salman of Saudi Arabia is itching to mix it up. Of course, the moment he sends official KSA ground troops in there, he will be eligible to have his oil terminal at Ras Tanura in the Persian Gulf blown up. Imagine what that would do to the S & P index. The Turks, too, are none too happy with their currency imploding and their economy falling apart, and perhaps view a widened war as politically refreshing. And let’s not forget Iran — having concluded the long, torturous negotiations to make America feel better about their nuke program, Iran is eager to put an end to this barbaric (Sunni-flavored) ISIS nonsense. Oh, did I leave out Israel. Probably a good idea since so many people just want to hate on it if the subject even comes up. But suffice it to say they are in the mix, too, with the ability to turn their adversaries into ashtrays, should it come to that.

As the old song goes: someone left the cake out in the rain.

You had to at least admire the forthrightness of Mr. Putin. His economy of motion is breathtaking. He goes to the UN and says: “The situation in Syria is intolerable and we’re going to do something about it,” and a few days later they did. Russia commenced bombing groups that the US had labeled “the moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad. The quandary for the US, of course, as Mr. Putin pointed out at the UN, is that we keep on arming and training “moderate oppositions” to this regime and that regime and abracadabra (to use an old Middle Eastern term-of-art) they break bad on us. They use the Humvee’s we give them to control the landscape and they blow stuff up with the ordnance we give them, and cut off the heads of Americans on video in the rudest and cruelest manner imaginable. So, might we ask ourselves: is there anything to the US’s complaint that Russia is not bombing the right ISIS?

I suspect world opinion is not buying our claim that Bashar al-Assad has to go because he bombed his own citizens and used gas on them. I mean, we say that a lot, but is it actually true? US officials say a lot of things a lot that happen not to be true (e.g. the Federal Reserve’s claim that the US economy is humming.) In fact, we’re in this predicament precisely because we have squandered our credibility. We go into one country after another and destroy the institutions that held these places together, and leave a train of death and chaos behind. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, now Syria.

Maybe we just ought to step aside for a while and see what happens. The Russians could shoot themselves in the foot over there, of course. They did it before in Afghanistan. But that was back in Soviet times, with its clunky leadership. Mr. Putin proved pretty nimble in Georgia. Whatever else you can say about that little war, the region has been stable for years now. They’re not cutting off people’s heads on TV there. Similarly, you don’t hear much about Chechnyans perpetrating terrorist acts anymore.

Ukraine, for all its faults and troubles, was a stable country until the US decided to pull off regime change there. The deposed president Yanukovych was pressed into choosing between NATO and the Russian-backed Eurasian Custom’s Union and he chose wrong. The US pulled a few levers and abracadabra: civil war.

So, Assad still heads a government in Syria. We don’t like him because he is cozy with Iran, and their proxy war machine, Hezbollah. But will eliminating him make the situation any better?

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

“Bomb Iran” plan simply won’t go away

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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bomb-iran

Originally published in RT on July 30, 2015

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Even before the upcoming August recess on Capitol Hill, the dogs of war, unleashed by remote control from Tel Aviv, predictably are trying to tear the Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal to shreds from all sides.

It does not matter that the National Iranian American Council – which happens to be widely respected in Washington itself – has forcefully come out in defense of the deal.  

It does not matter that the Obama administration can count on the combined efforts of the so-called E3 ambassadors (Britain, France and Germany) in Washington, who are exhausting themselves to explain the obvious: This is an international treaty, already approved by the United Nations, and not a parochial squabble decided in Idaho. 

On the other hand, it does matter that the Obama administration has not been forceful enough to defend its strategy as well as the result of such a long and treacherous negotiation.

So there are now two narratives shaping the battle ahead in Washington.

1) Iran is a rogue nation, an existential threat to Israel, and it cannot be trusted. It will breach the deal, so the deal must be rejected to the benefit of… perpetual sanctions, or war.

2) Iran is a rogue nation, it cannot be trusted, but we have all the verification mechanisms in place and as soon as Iran “cheats” – as it will – we launch immediate “snap back” sanctions.

No wonder, under these circumstances, Washington simply cannot be trusted by Tehran.

Who’s really trustworthy?

Now for the other side of the narrative.

On July 18, four days after the deal was signed in Vienna, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei – foreseeing which way the D.C. wind would be blowing – went straight to the point; his intervention delineated the parameters according to which Iran would work to actively debunk a massive propaganda machine that continues to demonize the Islamic Republic even as it touts a victory for Western diplomacy.

The victory in Vienna was in fact for diplomacy tout court – East and West working together.  

© Leonhard Foeger

 

 

Even before his speech, Khamenei had already touched upon the key point when he sent a short message to President Hassan Rouhani a day after the deal.   

This is the money quote: 

“…it is necessary to very carefully study the text that has been prepared, so that it can then move in the legal direction that has been determined for it. Then, in the case of ratification, it is necessary to be on the alert for possible breaches of agreements by the other side and the blocking of its path. You know very well that some of the six governments in the opposite camp are not trustworthy in any way.”

The E3 may not be entirely “trustworthy,” but here, it’s all about business; there’s nothing Britain, France, Germany – and the rest of the EU, for that matter – want more than restarting business with Iran in the energy front and beyond.

The battle in Washington, on the other hand, will be gruesome, even as the Obama administration remains confident the dogs of war don’t have the necessary votes to block the implementation of the deal, as Iranian diplomats confirmed to me in Vienna during the negotiations.

In Tehran, on the other hand, the deal should be approved by the Consultative Assembly with no problems.

The bottom realpolitik line, as defined by Khamenei himself, is that the US/Iran Wall of Mistrust seems destined to remain in place – far beyond the nuclear agreement. Multiple Washington factions, not to mention the Pentagon, continue to regard Iran as a “threat”, a rogue nation, or evil incarnate, while Tehran sees Washington as “the heart of global arrogance”.

So the geopolitical path ahead for Iran – whatever happens after the deal is ratified in both capitals and the package of sanctions starts to unravel by late 2015/early 2016 – is Eurasia integration, as I outlined more here.

That implies closer cooperation – and a three-way strategic partnership – between Iran, Russia and China. And that further implies the “Bomb Iran” dogs of war getting even more bloodthirsty.

 

 

 

 


Pepe Escobar  is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

 

 

 

Iran nuclear deadline: Showdown in Vienna

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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iran

Originally published in Asia Times on June 26, 2015

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This is it? No one knows. As foreign ministers gather in Vienna ahead of the June 30 deadline, an Iranian government source tells Asia Times it’s a “done deal.” For days, there have been no leaks, certainly to prevent hardliners on both sides – Iran and especially the U.S. – from ruining it at five seconds to midnight.

Realistically, all the myriad complex components are not there for a conclusive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. Not yet. Iranian deputy lead negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi said earlier this week that “progress is not as expected.” Both presidents, Obama and Rouhani, badly want it, while both hardcore lobbies — in Washington and Tehran — are keen on derailing it.

Witness an open letter by the usual suspects, some of them former Obama advisers, stating, “the agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability” – which is a flat-out lie; and predicting the deal will “fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement,” which implies they are fully briefed on all the negotiation’s nuances, and they’re not.

Predictably, the open letter was published by the neocon-infested and rabid anti-Iran WINEP think tank; signatories include disgraced former Iraq and Afghanistan surge schemer Gen. David Petraeus and Dennis Ross – who never “negotiated” anything that didn’t put Israel’s interests ahead of the US.

Bets can be made that the June 30 deadline won’t hold; this may go on until the end of next week at least. As a nail-biting finish that is not – yet – a finish, it’s unrivalled. Especially for global businesses – not least the energy industry – who are getting ready for a tectonic geopolitical shift; Iran finally “rehabilitated” in the West (yes, because with the East it’s always been business as usual.)

It’s a gas, gas, gas

It’s no surprise Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had to lay down Iran’s red lines ahead of June 30. After all, the April 2 Lausanne “package” which is the basis for the current negotiations leading to a possible final Vienna deal is deliberately hazy – and subject to conflicting interpretations, especially over the timing for sanctions to be totally lifted.

Khamenei insists sanctions by the UN and the US should be lifted as soon as a deal is signed; Washington will never agree, as the State Department insists this is first of all about IAEA “verification”, then easing of sanctions.

The same applies for Tehran not accepting to be restricted on nuclear research and development for ten years. Even Russia and China agree Iran must comply with “verification” – under the framework of a civilian nuclear program.

The point is not the Supreme Leader is plying a D.O.A. deal. The point is Khamenei, for complex internal purposes, must keep potentially unruly ultra-conservatives and hardliners on board. And because the Lausanne package’s rhetoric is deliberately pliable, he can play along with the red lines – always emphasizing Iran’s “heroic,” or “brave and faithful” negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The fact also remains that no one knows which will be the language on the final deal – until a detailed written agreement is endorsed by the Iranian Parliament and the US Congress. So for the moment, we’re in Nietzsche territory; there are no facts, only interpretations.

But what the business world is salivating for, are facts. Every energy major has its eyes set on Tehran, discussing post-sanctions serious business. Italy’s ENI has been talking. Same for Shell. Same for BP (although they don’t acknowledge it.) In the case of Shell there’s the matter of the $2 billion it owes to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) – unpaid because of sanctions.

Iran holds at least 30 million barrels of oil in storage. So will there be an oil flood in the weeks to come (with the Chinese buying everything)? It depends on what sanctions are to be immediately lifted. And this means oil prices falling – which is something Russia and Saudi Arabia, considering the recent meeting in St. Petersburg between Putin and the House of Saud, are not exactly keen on at the moment.

It will be a slow process. According to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, Iran is ready to increase production by around one million barrels a day after sanctions are lifted. Currently, Iran produces around 2.7 million barrels a day and exports 1 million. Realistically, Iran may add 600,000 barrels a day by the end of 2017. Further than that, it needs a lot of infrastructure investment.

Same for the gas industry. At the World Gas Conference earlier this month in Paris, NIOC’s Azizollah Ramezani said Iran will increase production from 800 million to 1.2 billion cubic meters a day up to 2020. But for that to happen, it needs at least $100 billion in investment from European energy majors. It’s all there, tantalizingly, on the horizon, a Chinese-style “win-win” for both Iran and Europe. But first, the showdown in Vienna.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

And the winner of the Jihad World Cup is…

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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isis-1.si

Originally published in RT on June 6, 2015

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The US-assembled coalition of the willing that – supposedly – is fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh across “Syraq” met in Paris this week. In theory, they’d examine what to do next after the loss of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria.

The script, though, came straight from the Surrealist Manifesto.

The US State Department’s number two, Tony Blinken, swore Washington does not doubt its “winning” strategy. He insisted that the “winning” strategy has killed at least 10,000 fake Caliphate jihadists. A chorus of CIA spooks was forced to raise their eyebrows.

Blinken also insisted on “progress”; he might have confused the issue with the FBI nailing FIFA bigwigs. The coalition, predictably, supported Baghdad – with plenty of rhetoric and a vague promise of more weapons, and extolled the government to be more inclusive towards Sunni tribes.

No one addressed the fact that it is a Ba’athist support base among Sunnis – call them, Donald Rumsfeld-style, “remnants” of the Saddam regime – that has ensured the fake Caliphate’s success in Anbar province. And that’s what prevents Baghdad from being more inclusive.

The coalition, also predictably, barely mentioned Syria. There is absolutely no ideological/religious difference between Jabhat al-Nusra – al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria – and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And yet Qatar and Turkey are totally in bed with al-Nusra, while suggesting they are opposing the fake Caliphate.

The fiction remains that the coalition is supporting remaining “moderate rebels” of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). There are no “moderate” rebels left; they all migrated to al-Nusra or ISIS/ISIL/Daesh because that’s where the action is – from tons of weapons to actual military prowess on the ground.

And then there’s Jaish al-Fatah – the Army of Conquest; a fabulous newspeak concoction that veils the fact the “progressive” West – in tandem with the proverbial Gulf petro-monarchy vassals – showers al-Nusra with weapons and cash. The Army of Conquest is in effect a hazy collective of takfiri outfits which include Jabhat al-Nusra; whatever “alliances” exist among them dissolve non-stop in the desert sands.

It gets nastier when we know that Doha – via al-Jazeera Arabic – now poses as an official sponsor of al-Nusra, inviting their leaders on air, and trying hard to erect a (virtually non-existent) barrier between al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. In one of these interviews, al-Nusra made it clear; the West won’t be attacked, al-Qaeda-style, as long as their outfit keeps being weaponized and showered with US dollars and euros. Their “mission” in Syria remains regime change; exactly what Doha, Ankara, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and – for that matter – Washington want.

Al-Qaeda as the new normal
Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet linked to a video showing the Turkish spy agency MIT weaponizing al-Qaeda in Syria by the truckload.

And this while Ankara persists in the fiction it is training “moderates” to fight against the fake Caliphate. Nonsense; once again, there are no “moderates” left, only takfiri outfits. The minute the “moderates” cross the Turkey-Syria border, they become takfiri.

Meanwhile ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is steadily advancing towards Aleppo, trying to capture villages northeast of the city. Needless to add, the coalition is just a spectator. What makes it even more absurd is that a series of opposition groups who refuse to be labeled takfiris – like the Syrian Revolutionaries or the Levant Front – but are fighting along the takfiris, have asked the Pentagon to bomb the Caliph’s goons, to no avail.

So while the Pentagon complains of running out of targets and at the same time is incapable of bombing jihadi columns in the open desert, and while the suits talk in Paris, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is about to conquer an extremely strategic area from northern Aleppo all the way to the Turkish border.

If that happens, everyone – from Assad’s troops to supposedly “moderate” rebels – will be cut off.

One “moderate” outfit, the al-Izz Front, is about to exit the coalition. Their leader, Mustafa Sijari, made an extraordinary claim; he allegedly was ordered by the Pentagon to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and forget about Damascus. Assuming this is true, that’s yet another proof the Pentagon is acting like a bystander – as in let Arabs kill Arabs, whichever way they want and whatever they believe in.

As for Washington’s “strategy”, there’s no strategy; the foreign policy advisers of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration are a joke.

Pro-administration factions in the Beltway argue Washington cannot alienate Tehran by attacking Damascus, because the US needs Iranian support – via an array of Shi’ite militias – to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Iraq. And yet, in Syria, the US counts on those elusive “moderates” not only to fight the fake Caliphate but also to inflict harm on Damascus.

One can already start counting the multiple permutations of blowback out of this murky scenario. The Empire of Chaos excels in fomenting – what else – chaos; as for the resulting destruction, it’s up to the locals to bear the burden, while the Empire watches in the sidelines.

It’s always important to remember sectarian tribal militias at loose in Iraq – and then, years later, in Syria -, that was a direct consequence of the Made in USA “policy” of Divide and Rule, set in motion after the initial destruction of the Iraqi state.

The bottom line: chaos will continue to prevail. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh will keep advancing in Syria, immune to Pentagon firepower; but may be effectively counter-attacked in Iraq, thanks to Shi’ite militias, and not Pentagon firepower. This is what the State Department defines as a “winning strategy.”


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Why the US is Finally Talking to Russia

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Nulandistan

Originally published in Sputnik on May 19, 2015

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So a woman walks into a room… That’s how quite a few jokes usually start. In our case, self-appointed Queen of Nulandistan Victoria “F**k the EU” walks into a room in Moscow to talk to Russian deputy foreign ministers Sergei Ryabkov and Grigory Karasin.

A joke? Oh no; that really happened. Why?

Let’s start with the official reactions. Karasin qualified the talks as "fruitful", while stressing Moscow does not approve of Washington becoming part of the Normandy-style (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) negotiations on Ukraine. Not after the relentless demonization not only of the Kremlin but also of Russia as a whole since the Maidan coup.

Ryabkov, for his part, made it known the current state of the US-Russia relationship remains, well, corrosive.

It’s crucial to remember the Queen of Nulandistan went to Moscow only after meeting with certified Washington vassal President Poroshenko and her own, hand-picked Prime Minister, “Yats”; and that was before accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry on the full regalia State Department trip to Sochi on May 12.

The president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (in the center) during procession of Regional patriotic public organization Immortal Regiment Moscow along the Red Square

The Minsk-2 agreement – the actual product of the Normandy-style negotiations – directly involved Berlin and Paris, who finally saw the realpolitik on the wall and were compelled to divert from Washington’s monomaniac antagonistic approach. 
 

 

Inside the EU, chaos remains on the key subject of sanctions. The Baltics and Poland toe the “Russians are coming!” Cold War 2.0 hysteria line, while the adults in Brussels are represented by Italy, Greece, Spain and Hungary.

So Germany and France are already in deep trouble keeping the messy EU house in order. At the same time Berlin and Paris know nothing the self-described “Don't Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration pulls off will mollify Moscow to abandon its precise red lines.

Watch Those Red Lines

It’s crucial to notice that Crimea does not seem to be on the table anymore; it’s a fait accompli. But then there are those U.S. “military trainers” who have been deployed to western Ukraine only for a “six-month mission” (historical reminder; this is how the Vietnam war started). For Moscow, expansion of this “mission” is an absolute red line. 

And then there’s the ultimate red line; NATO expansion, which remains unabated in the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. That won’t stop; it’s part of NATO’s obsession in solidifying a new Iron Curtain from the Baltics to the Black Sea. 

Thus, beyond all the talking, the next step to watch is whether the Obama administration will really refrain from weaponizing Kiev.

Ukraine for all practical purposes is now a massively indebted failed state turned into an IMF colony. The EU does not want it – although NATO does. For Moscow, the – ghastly – show will only be over when Ukraine, with or without the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, is neutral, and not part of a NATO strategic threat.  

I have examined here the possibility that the Obama administration’s strategic shift towards talking instead of cursing/threatening may signify that the real Masters of the Universe have finally understood the emerging New (Silk) World Order is bound to leave them behind.

President Putin knew that he was heading towards a major confrontation with the US after the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the Georgian adventure, and NATO’s ceaseless expansion violating all those empty promises to Gorbachev. 

The difference is that now – and the Pentagon knows it – Moscow has amassed up to 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons. In the – apocalyptic — event of a war between Russia with NATO, the wet dream of many a US neo-con, these tactical nuclear weapons would knock out every commercial and military airfield of every NATO country in twenty minutes. That would leave no airfield for NATO combined air operations.

And then there’s the S-500 missile defense system, which can protect Russia against any form of Pentagon/NATO nuclear missile retaliation. No US offensive weapon, including Stealth bombers, could get through the S-500 maze, and the Pentagon also knows it.  

Strategy? What Strategy?

The Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski-style strategy has always been to lure Russia into another Afghanistan in Ukraine, leading to a collapse of the Russian economy with the Big Prize being a Western takeover of Russia’s oil and natural gas wealth, and by extension Central Asia’s. Ukrainians would be used as cannon fodder, as were Afghans since the 1980s Arab-Afghan jihad.

Yet the Obama administration overplayed its hand, and realpolitik now spells out the deepening of the Russia-China strategic partnership across the entire Eurasian land mass; Eurasia as a prospective, massive commercial emporium stretching from Beijing to Berlin, or from Shanghai to St. Petersburg and beyond towards Rotterdam and Duisburg.

Without the exceptionalist obsession of some key Beltway factions, none of the elements of Cold War 2.0 would be in play, as Russia is a natural ally of the US in many fronts. That in itself reveals the state of “strategic thinking” by the current US administration.

Moscow, anyway, won’t be caught off-guard by the current, barely disguised, charm offensive, because Russian intelligence knows that may well veil a “Grand Chessboard”-style tactic of two steps back to regroup for a massive advance later.

Moreover, nothing has basically changed other than the original, dissuasive Cold War era MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – doctrine being over.

The US still retains PGS (Prompt Global Strike) capability. Ukraine is just a detail. The real game-changer will happen when Russia is able to seal its whole territory, via the S-500s, against PGS. That will happen sooner than anyone thinks. And that’s why the real Masters of the Universe – via their emissaries – feel compelled to talk.   

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Pentagon’s ‘Long War’ Pits NATO Against China, Russia and Iran

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Sputnik on April 30, 2015

Visit the New Diner News Page for Daily Updates from around the Collapse Blogosphere

                             

 


 

Whatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.

 

As much as US President Barack Obama tried to dismiss it, the Russian sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran is a monumental game-changer. Even with the added gambit of the Iranian military assuring the made in Iran Bavar 373 may be even more efficient than the S-300.

This explains why Jane's Defense Weekly was already saying years ago that Israel could not penetrate Iranian airspace even if it managed to get there. And after the S-300s Iran inevitably will be offered the even more sophisticated S-400s, which are to be delivered to China as well.

The unspoken secret behind these game-changing proceedings actually terrifies Washington warmongers; it spells out a further frontline of Eurasian integration, in the form of an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.

A precious glimpse of what's ahead was offered at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MICS) in mid-April.

Here we had the Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier-General Hussein Dehghan, openly stating that Iran wanted BRICS members China, India, and Russia to jointly oppose NATO's uncontrolled eastward expansion, and characterizing NATO's for all practical purposes offensive missile shield as a threat to their collective security.

We also had Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan emphasizing their military ties are an "overriding priority"; plus Tehran and Moscow stressing they're strategically in synch in their push towards a new multipolar order.

Tearing up the New Iron Curtain 

Washington's Maidan adventure has yielded not only a crystallization of a new Iron Curtain deployed from the Baltics to the Black Sea. This is NATO's visible game. What's not so visible is that the target is not only Russia, but also Iran and China.

The battlefield is now clearly drawn between NATO and Russia/China/Iran. So no wonder they are getting closer. Iran is an observer at the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and is bound to become a member of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) by 2016.

Russia providing S-300 systems to Iran; S-400 systems to China (with new, longer-range guided missiles); and developing the S-500 systems, which are capable of intercepting supersonic targets, for itself, all point to an ultra high-tech counterpunch. And NATO knows it.

This budding military Eurasia integration is a key subplot of the New Great Game that runs parallel to the Chinese-led New Silk Road(s) project.

As a counterpunch to encroachment, it was bound to happen; after all Beijing is confronted by US encroachment via the Asia-Pacific; Russia by encroachment via Eastern Europe; and Iran by encroachment via Southwest Asia.

Washington would also go for encroachment via Central Asia if it had the means (it doesn't, and especially now with the New Silk Roads bound to crisscross Central Asia). 

Eurasian geopolitics hinges on what happens next with Iran. Some selected Washington factions entertain the myth that Tehran may "sell out" to the US — thus ditching its complex Russia/China strategic relationships to the benefit of an expanded US reach in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The Supreme Leader as well as President Rouhani have already made it clear that won't happen. They know Washington trying to seduce Iran away from Russia and turn it into a client state does not mean Washington ever accepting Iran's expanded sphere of influence in Southwest Asia and beyond.

So the multi-vector Russia-China-Iran strategic alliance is a go. Because whatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.

That long and winding road 

And that brings us — inevitably — to GWOT (Global War on Terror). 

The Pentagon and assorted US neo-cons remain deeply embedded in their strategy of actively promoting Sunni-Shi'ite Divide and Rule with the key objective of demonizing Iran. Yemen is just yet another graphic example.  

Only fools would believe that the Houthis in Yemen could get away with mounting a power play right in front of a CIA drone-infested US military base in Djibouti.

Once again, this is all proceeding according to the Divide and Rule playbook. Washington did absolutely nothing to "protect" its Yemeni puppet regime from a Houthi offensive, while immediately afterwards providing all the necessary "leading from behind" for the House of Saud to go bonkers, killing loads of civilians  — all in the name of fighting "Iranian expansion". US corporate media, predictably, has gone completely nuts about it. 

Nothing new under the sun. This was already foreseen way back in 2008 by the RAND Corporation report Unfolding the Future of the Long War.

Yes, this is the good ol' Pentagon Long War as prosecuted against enemies, fabricated or otherwise, all across the "Muslim world".

What RAND prescribed has become the new normal. Washington supports the petrodollar GCC racket whatever happens, always in the interest of containing "Iranian power and influence"; diverts Salafi-jihadi resources toward "targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East," especially in Iraq and Lebanon, hence "cutting back… anti-Western operations"; props up al-Qaeda — and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — GCC sponsors and "empowers" viciously anti-Shi'ite Islamists everywhere to maintain "Western dominance".

The Long War was first formulated in the "axis of evil" era by the Highlands Forum, a relatively obscure, neo-con infested Pentagon think tank. Not accidentally the RAND Corporation is a major "partner".

It gets even juicier when we know that notorious Long War practitioners such as current Pentagon supremo "Ash" Carter, his deputy Robert Work, and Pentagon intelligence chief Mike Vickers are now in charge of the self-described "Don't Do Stupid Stuff" Obama administration's military strategy.

What the Pentagon — with customary hubris — does not see is Moscow and Tehran easily identifying the power play; the US government's hidden agenda of manipulating a "rehabilitated" Iran to sell plenty of oil and gas to the EU, thus undermining Gazprom.

Technically, this would take years to happen — if ever. Geopolitically, it's nothing but a pipe dream. Call it, in fact, a double pipe dream. 

As much as Washington will never "secure" the Middle East with Iran as a vassal state, thus enabling it to transfer key US military assets to NATO with the purpose of facing the Russian "threat", forget about going back to 1990s Russia under disaster capitalism, when the military industrial complex had collapsed and the West was looting Russia's natural resources at will.  

The bottom line: the Pentagon barks, and the Russia/China/Iran strategic caravan goes on.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20150429/1021520970.html#ixzz3YphY3L2N


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

What Game is the House of Saud playing?

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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33.si

Originally published in Russia Today on January 16, 2015

[NOTE: This post is Pepe’s take on the Saudi succession, written just before King Abdullah’s death. ]

The House of Saud now finds itself in times of extreme trouble. Their risky oil price war may eventually backfire. The succession of King Abdullah may turn into a bloodbath. And the American protector may be musing a change of heart.

Let’s start with oil – and some background. As much as US supply has increased by a couple of million barrels a day, enough oil from Iran, Kirkuk in Iraq, Libya and Syria has gone out of production; and that offsets extra US oil on the market. Essentially, the global economy – at least for the moment – is not searching for more oil because of European stagnation/recession and the relative China slowdown.

Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been flooding the market to offset the decrease in Iran exports caused by the US economic war, a.k.a. sanctions. Riyadh, moreover, prevented OPEC from reducing country production quotas. The House of Saud believes it can play the waiting game – as fracked oil, mostly American, is inexorably driven out of the market because it is too expensive. After that, the Saudis believe they will regain market share.

In parallel, the House of Saud is obviously enjoying “punishing” Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Assad in Damascus. Moreover, the House of Saud is absolutely terrified of a nuclear deal essentially between the US and Iran (although that’s still a major “if”) – leading to a long-term détente.

Tehran, though, remains defiant. Russia brushed off the attack because the lower ruble meant state revenues remained unchanged – so there will be no budget deficit. As for oil-thirsty East Asia – including top Saudi customer China – it’s enjoying the bonanza while it lasts.

Oil prices will remain very low for the time being. This week Goldman Sachs lowered their 2015 WTI and Brent Crude forecasts; Brent was slashed from $83.75 a barrel to $50.40, WTI was cut from $73.75 to $47.15 a barrel. Prices per barrel could soon drop as low as $42 and $40.50. But then, there will be an inevitable “U-shaped recovery.”

Nomura bets that oil will be back to $80 a barrel by the end of 2015.

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Punish Russia or bust

US President Barack Obama, in this interview, openly admitted that he wanted “disruptions” in the“price of oil” because he figured Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “enormous difficulty managing it.” So that settles the argument about hurting Russia and US-Saudi collusion, after US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed/endorsed King Abdullah in Jeddah to simultaneously raise oil production and embark on a cut price strategy.

Whether Kerry sold out the US shale gas industry out of ignorance or incompetence – probably both – is irrelevant. What matters is if the House of Saud were ordered to back off, they would have to do it in a flash; the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dominates the Persian Gulf vassals, who can’t even breathe without at least an implicit US green light.

What is way more troubling is that the current bunch in Washington does not seem to be defending US national and industrial interests. If humongous trade deficits based on currency rigging were not enough, now virtually the entire US oil industry runs the risk of being destroyed by an oil price racket. Any sane analyst would interpret it as contrary to US national interests.

Anyway, the Riyadh deal was music for the House of Saud’s ears. Their official policy has always been to slash the development of all potential substitutes for oil, including US shale gas. So why not depress oil prices and keep them there long enough to make investments in shale gas a lunatic proposal?

But there’s a huge problem. The House of Saud simply won’t get enough in oil revenues to support their annual budget with oil at below $90 a barrel. So as much as hurting Iran and Russia may be appealing, hurting their own golden pocketbooks is not.

The long-term outlook spells out higher oil prices. Oil may be replaced in many instances; but there isn’t a replacement – yet – for the internal combustion engine. So whatever OPEC is doing, it is actually preserving demand for oil vs. oil substitutes, and maximizing the return on a limited resource. The bottom-line: yes, this is predatory pricing.

Once again, there’s an immense, crucial, complicating vector. We may have the House of Saud and other Persian Gulf producers flooding the market – but its Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup who are doing the shadow, nasty work via leveraged derivative short futures.

Oil prices are such an opaque racket that only major oil trading banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley have some idea who is buying and who is selling oil futures or derivative contracts – what is called “paper oil.” The non-rules of this multi-billion casino spell out “speculative bubble” – with a little help from those friends at the Gulf oil pumps. With oil futures trading and the two major London and New York exchanges monopolizing oil futures contracts, OPEC really does not control oil prices anymore; Wall Street does. This is the big secret. The House of Saud may entertain the illusion they are in control. They’re not.

U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

That dysfunctional marriage

As if this was not messy enough, the crucial succession of the House of Saud is propelled to the forefront. King Abdullah, 91, was diagnosed with pneumonia, hospitalized in Riyadh on New Year’s Eve, and was breathing with a tube. He may – or may not, this being the secretive House of Saud – have lung cancer. He won’t last long. The fact that he is hailed as a “progressive reformer” tells everything one needs to know about Saudi Arabia. “Freedom of expression”? You must be joking.

So who’ll be next? The first in the line of succession should be Crown Prince Salman, 79, also defense minister. He was governor of Riyadh province for a hefty 48 years. It was this certified falcon who supervised the wealth of private “donations” to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s jihad, in tandem with hardcore Wahhabi preachers. Salman’s sons include the governor of Medina, Prince Faisal. Needless to add, the Salman family controls virtually all of Saudi media.

To get to the Holy Grail Salman must be proven fit. That’s not a given; and on top of it Abdullah, a tough nut to crack, already survived two of his crown princes, Sultan and Nayef. Salman’s prospects look bleak; he has had spinal surgery, a stroke and may be suffering from – how appropriate – dementia.

It also does not bode well that when Salman was promoted to Deputy Defense Minister, soon enough he was shown the door – as he got himself mixed up with Bandar Bush’s atrocious jihadi game in Syria.

Anyway, Salman already has a successor; second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin, former governor of Medina province and then head of Saudi intelligence. Muqrin is very, very close to Abdullah. Muqrin seems to be the last “capable” son of Ibn Saud; “capable” here is a figure of speech. The real problem though starts when Muqrin becomes Crown Prince. Because then the next in line will be picked from the grandsons of Ibn Saud.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Enter the so-called third generation princes – a pretty nasty bunch. Chief among them is none other than Mitab bin Abdullah, 62, the son of the king; cries of nepotism do proceed. Like a warlord, Mitab controls his own posse in the National Guard. Sources told me Riyadh is awash in rumors that Abdullah and Muqrin have made a deal: Abdullah gets Muqrin to become king, and Muqrin makes Mitab crown prince. Once again, this being the “secretive” House of Saud, the Hollywood mantra applies: no one knows anything.

Abdullah’s sons are all over the place; governor of Mecca, deputy governor of Riyadh, deputy foreign minister, president of the Saudi Red Crescent. Same for Salman’s sons. But then there’s Muhammad bin Nayif, son of the late Crown Prince Nayif, who became Interior Minister in 2012, in charge of ultra-sensitive internal security, as in cracking down on virtually anything. He is the top competitor against Mitab among the third-generation princes.

So forget about family “unity” when such juicy loot as an oil hacienda impersonating a whole country is in play. And yet whoever inherits the loot will have to face the abyss, and the same litany of distress; rising unemployment; abysmal inequality; horrendous sectarian divide; jihadism in all its forms – not least the fake Ibrahim Caliphate in “Syraq”, already threatening to march towards Mecca and Medina; the unspeakably medieval Council of Ulemas (the lashing/amputating/beheading-loving bunch); total dependency on oil; unbounded paranoia towards Iran; and a wobbly relationship with His Masters Voice, the US.

When will they call the cavalry?

And it so happens that the real ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington-New York axis are debating exactly the erosion of this relationship; as in the House of Saud having no one to talk to but the “puppets”, from Bush Two minions to Kerry at most on occasion. This analysis contends that any promises made by Kerry over the House of Saud “cooperation” to damage Russia’s economy really mean nothing.

Rumbles from ‘Masters of the Universe’ territory indicate that the CIA sooner or later might move against the House of Saud. In this case the only way for the House of Saud to secure its survival would be to become friendly with none other than Moscow. This exposes once more the House of Saud’s suicidal present course of trying to hurt Russia’s economy.

As everyone is inexorably an outsider when faced with the totally opaque House of Saud, there’s an analytical current that swears they know what they’re doing. Not necessarily. The House of Saud seems to believe that pleasing US neocons will improve their status in Washington. That simply won’t happen. The neocons remain obsessed about the House of Saud helping Pakistan to develop its nuclear missiles; some of them – once again, that’s open to speculation – might even be deployed inside Saudi Arabia for “defensive purposes” against that mythical Iranian “threat.”

Messy? That doesn’t even begin to describe it. But one thing is certain; whatever game Riyadh thinks it’s playing, they’d better start seriously talking to Moscow. But please, don’t send Bandar Bush on another Russian mission.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Obama’s ‘stupid stuff’ legacy

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

chessboard

Originally published in Asia Times on September 2, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

But whether people see what’s happening in Ukraine, and Russia’s aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it’s financing and arming separatists; to what’s happened in Syria – the devastation that [President Bashar al-]Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise – although we’re trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza – part of peoples’ concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a set of different principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people. – President Barack Obama 

Looks like US President Barack Obama made a royal mess of what his mentor Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski taught him.

Dr Zbig always quotes Sir Halford John Mackinder’s three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy; to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals; to keep tributaries pliant and protected; and to keep the barbarians from coming together. 

After dabbling briefly with “leading from behind” – a non-starter – Obama finally went Mackinderesque with his stellar “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine. 

Nevertheless, an always alert former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said “Don’t do Stupid Stuff” isn’t a “foreign policy organizing principle”. Yet “Stupid Stuff” is all that the Obama foreign policy team knows how to do. 

Starting with Obama treating Russia under President Vladimir Putin the way Hillary’s husband treated Russia under vodka container Boris Yeltsin. Then came the decision – without any public debate – to start bombing Iraq all over again. And soon Syria. Bombs Away in Syraq! 

So “protect” Yazidis, yes. Protect Gazans, no. “Protect” Kiev’s bunch of neo-Nazis, fascists and shady oligarchs, yes. Protect Russophones in Eastern Ukraine, no. 

It all started with protecting Irbil – already protected by Sumerian goddess Ishtar for millennia. Then protecting Irbil and Baghdad. Then protecting all “strategic” sites in Iraq. 

Retired General Carter Ham of AFRICOM/”We came, we saw, he died” fame, was adamant that it will be “very difficult” to pull off so much protecting with only a few fighter jets. So drones will be needed. And troops on the ground. 

From protecting ExxonMobil and Chevron to double bombing in Syraq. No wonder the Return of the Living (Neo-Con) Dead are so excited. It’s the Greater Middle East all over again. And guess who will be part of the coalition of the willing to fight the Caliph? Britain, Australia, Turkey, Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council stalwarts Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

Almost the same bunch (five among seven) that enabled the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the first place, from “Assad must go” to “good” and “bad” jihadis, and finally to ISIS (now the Islamic State) configured as the sprawling abode – complete with flush private army – of Caliph Ibrahim. 

And no, there’s no strategy. Hee haw! 

Bye bye petrodollar 
Now let’s see the dividends of “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” as applied to Ukraine. 

Back to the Mackinderesque Dr Zbig. Some vassals – the usual NATO/GCC suspects, but not all of them – may still believe they profit from “security dependence”, while others remain nervously pliant and, in theory, feel “protected” by the Empire of Chaos. 

But then the Empire of Chaos “encouraged” a de facto coup. And gave the green light for the new Kiev mob to do in Eastern Ukraine roughly what Israel does in Gaza. The idea in Ukraine was to bog down Russia in its western borderlands and cut off the economic/trade link between Russia and Germany. Cut Eurasia in half. 

But then Obama launched a Cold War 2.0 that could easily turn hot. He destroyed the relationship with chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany and amplified the strategic embrace between the Bear and the Dragon, with the result that Beijing started paying less attention to the “pivoting to Asia” because now it enjoys even more backing from Moscow. Meanwhile, Moscow further stalls Washington’s advances in Central Asia. 

Sanctions on Russia not only reinforce its internal market but also boost its foreign trade – way beyond European shores. Yet still it was not enough to totally sell out to Wall Street and totally wreck US foreign policy. With aides/advisors like National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who needs enemies? 

Obama’s sanctions hysteria is leading the way to the progressive end of the US dollar as reserve currency, and the end of the petrodollar. 

Witness this – the most important news of these last few months after the Russia-China “gas deal of the century”. 

Obama is accelerating the now uncontrolled collapse of the Empire of Chaos. The new axis of the future – Beijing, Moscow, Berlin – is slowly but surely coming together. There’s nothing “barbarian” about them. And the bulk of the Global South supports them. 

“The old order isn’t holding” – indeed. “The Caliph is evil. So I’m applying more sanctions on Russia.” How’s that for Empire management? Good boy. Now pivot. With yourself. And with no strategy. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

NATO is desperate for war

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THE ROVING EYE

mi-24-helicopter-formation-flightairshowfrance-military-wallpaper-czl

Originally published in Asia Times on August 9, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is desperate; it is itching for a war in battlefield Ukraine at any cost.

Let’s start with Pentagon supremo, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has waxed lyrical over the Russian Bear’s “threat”:

“When you see the build-up of Russian troops and the sophistication of those troops, the training of those troops, the heavy military equipment that’s being put along that border, of course it’s a reality, it’s a threat, it’s a possibility – absolutely.”

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu could not elaborate if it was “threat” or “reality”, absolutely or not, but she saw it all: “We’re not going to guess what’s on Russia’s mind, but we can see what Russia is doing on the ground – and that is of great concern. Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.”

In trademark, minutely precise NATOspeak, Lungescu then added that Russia “most probably” would send troops into eastern Ukraine under the cover of “a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission”. And that settled it.

Hagel and his remote-controlled Romanian minion Lungescu obviously have not read this or simply ignored its detailed explanation by Russian Air Force’s spokesman: the “threat” or “build-up” happens to expire this Friday, the last day of Russian military exercises announced in advance.

Fogh of War gets antsy

Right on cue, NATO secretary-general Anders “Fogh of War” Rasmussen arrived in Kiev practically foaming war in his mouth, ready to lay down the groundwork for NATO’s summit in Wales on September 4 when Ukraine, enthroned as a major non-NATO ally, could be projected to become, in lightning speed, fully NATO-weaponized. Moreover, NATO is about to seriously “build up” in Poland, Romania, the Baltics and even Turkey.

But then all sorts of Khaganate of Nulands (as in Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs) derivatives started to spin out of control. One can imagine the vain Fogh of War vainly trying to regain his composure.

That took some effort as he was presented with the spectacle of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – a certified oligarch dogged by dodgy practices – trying hard to evict the Maidan originals from the square in the center of Kiev; these are the people who late last year started the protests that were later hijacked by the Banderastan (as in Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan)/Right Sector neo-Nazis, the US neo-con masters.

The original Maidan protests – a sort of Occupy Kiev – were against monstrous corruption and for the end of the perennial Ukrainian oligarch dance. What the protesters got was even more corruption; the usual oligarch dance; a failed state under civil war and avowed ethnic cleansing of at least 8 million citizens; and on top of it a failed state on its way to further impoverishment under International Monetary Fund “structural adjustment”. No wonder they won’t leave Maidan.

So Maidan – the remix – has already started even before the arrival of General Winter. Chocolate King Poroshenko must evict them as fast as he can because renewed Kiev protests simply don’t fit the hysterical Western corporate media narrative that “it’s all Putin’s fault”. Most of all, corruption is even nastier than before – now with plenty of neo-Nazi overtones.

With Fogh of War already fuming because “Russia won’t invade”, the pompously named “Secretary” of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, neo-Nazi Andrey Parubiy – who is the most likely candidate for having ordered the hit last month on the MH17 civilian aircraft – decided to step out; a certified rat abandoning a sinking ship move mostly provoked by the fact he did not get an extended ethnic cleansing overdrive in Eastern Ukraine, and had to endure a ceasefire. Poroshenko is not an idiot; after loads of bad PR, he knows his nationwide “support” is evaporating by the minute.

Compounding all this action, a US missile cruiser enters the Black Sea again “to promote peace”. The Kremlin and Russian intel easily see that for what it is.

And then there’s the horrendous refugee crisis building up in eastern Ukraine. This past Tuesday, Moscow during a UN Security Council meeting requested emergency humanitarian measures – predictably in vain. Washington blocked it because Kiev had blocked it (“There is no humanitarian crisis to end”). Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dramatically described the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk as “disastrous”, stressing that Kiev is intensifying military operations.

According to the UN itself, at least 285,000 people have become refugees in eastern Ukraine. Kiev insists the number of internal refugees is “only” 117,000; the UN doubts it. Moscow maintains that a staggering 730,000 Ukrainians have fled into Russia; the UN High Commission for Refugees agrees. Some of these refugees, fleeing Semenivka, in Sloviansk, have detailed Kiev’s use of N-17, an even deadlier version of white phosphorus.

When Ambassador Churkin mentioned Donetsk and Luhansk, he was referring to Kiev’s goons gearing up for a massive attack. They are already shelling the Petrovski neighborhood in Donetsk. Almost half of Luhansk residents have fled, mostly to Russia. Those who stayed behind are mostly old-age pensioners and families with small children.

Humanitarian crisis does not even begin to describe it; there’s no water, electricity, communication, fuel and medicine left in Luhansk. Kiev’s heavy artillery partially destroyed four hospitals and three clinics. Luhansk, in a nutshell, is the Ukrainian Gaza.

In a sinister symmetry, just as it gave a free pass to Israel in Gaza, the Obama administration is giving a free pass to the butchers of Luhansk. And there’s even a diversion. Obama was mulling whether to bomb The Caliph’s Islamic State goons in Iraq, or maybe drop some humanitarian aid. He opted for (perhaps) “limited” bombing and arguably less limited food and water airdrops.

So let’s be clear. For the US government, “there might be a humanitarian catastrophe” in Mount Sinjar in Iraq, involving 40,000 people. As for at least 730,000 eastern Ukrainians, they have the solemn right to be shelled, bombed, air-stricken and turned into refugees.

The new Somalia

Moscow’s red lines are quite explicit: NATO out of Ukraine. Crimea as part of Russia. No US troops anywhere near Russia’s borders. Full protection for the Russian cultural identity of southern and eastern Ukraine.

Yet the – real – humanitarian crisis (which Washington dismisses) is another serious matter entirely. Kiev’s forces are not equipped for prolonged urban warfare. But assuming these forces – a compound of regular military; oligarch-financed terror/death squads; the neo-Nazi-infested “voluntary” Ukrainian national guard; US-trained foreign mercenaries – decide to go for mass carnage to take Donetsk and Luhansk, arguably Moscow will have to consider what NATO types spin as a “limited ground intervention” in Ukraine.

NATO spinsters are foolish enough to believe that if Putin can disguise the intervention as a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, he may be able to sell it to Russian public opinion. In fact Putin has not “invaded” because Russian public opinion does not want it. His popularity is at a staggering 87%. Only an – improbable – Kiev-perpetrated mass carnage would change the equation, and sway Russian public opinion. Considering this is exactly what NATO wants, Fogh of War will be working overtime to force his vassals to bring about such carnage.

Still, considering the latest developments, what facts on the ground point to is the current oligarch dance in Kiev already unraveling – as in this example here. Moscow won’t even have to bother to consider “invading”. Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s slow motion genocide in Eastern Ukraine, as well as his crackdown of Maidan remix in Kiev, will keep getting a free pass. All hail Ukraine as the new Somalia; a fitting Frankenstein created by the exceptionalist Empire of Chaos.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

A chessboard drenched in blood

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar

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THE ROVING EYE

bloody_chessboard-600x338

Originally published in Asia Times on July 23, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

“The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Everyone remembers the Downing Street Memo, which unveiled the Bush/Blair “policy” in the run-up to the 2003 bombing/invasion/occupation of Iraq. The “policy” was to get rid of Saddam Hussein via a lightning war. The justification was “terrorism” and (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which had “disappeared”, mounted in trucks, deep into Syria. Forget about intelligence and facts. 

The tragedy of MH17 – turned, incidentally, into a WMD – might be seen as a warped rerun of imperial policy in Iraq. No need for a memo this time. The “policy” of the Empire of Chaos is clear, and multi-pronged; diversify the “pivot to Asia” by establishing a beachhead in Ukraine to sabotage trade between Europe and Russia; expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to Ukraine; break the Russia-China strategic partnership; prevent by all means the trade/economic integration of Eurasia, from the Russia-Germany partnership to the New Silk Roads converging from China to the Ruhr; keep Europe under US hegemony.

The key reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin did not “invade” Eastern Ukraine – as much as he’s been enticed to by Washington/NATO – to stop a US military adviser-facilitated running slaughter of civilians is that he does not want to antagonize the European Union, Russia’s top trading partner. 

Crucially, Washington’s intervention in Kosovo invoking R2P – Responsibility to Protect – was justified at the time for exactly the same reasons a Russian intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk could be totally justified now. Except that Moscow won’t do it – because the Kremlin is playing a very long game.

The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake. But it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. By now, Russian intel may have already mastered the key facts. Washington’s predictable modus operandi was to shoot from the hip, igniting and in theory winning the spin war, and doubling down by releasing the proverbial army of “top officials” brimming with social media evidence. Moscow will take time to build a meticulous case, and only then lay it out in detail. 

Hegemony lost 
The Big Picture spells out the Empire of Chaos elites as extremely uneasy. Take Dr Zbigniew “The Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, who as a former foreign policy mentor has the ears of the increasingly dejected White House paperboy. Dr Zbig was on CNN this Sunday challenging Europe’s leaders to “stand up to Putin”. He wonders if “Europe wants to become a satellite” and worries about “a moment of decisive significance for the future of the system – of the world system”. 

And it’s all Putin’s fault, of course: “We’re not starting the Cold War. He [Putin] has started it. But he has gotten himself into a horrendous jam. I strongly suspect that a lot of people in Russia, even not far away from him who are worried that Russia’s status in the world is dramatically being undermined, that Russia’s economically beginning to fail, that Russia’s threatened by the prospect of becoming a satellite to China, that Russia’s becoming self-isolated and discredited.” 

Obviously Dr Zbig is blissfully unaware of the finer points of the Russia-China strategic partnership, as well as their concerted voice inside the BRICS, the G-20 and myriad other mechanisms. His trademark Russophobia in the end always gets the better of him. And to think that in his latest book, Strategic Vision (2012), Dr Zbig was in favor of an enlarged “West” annexing Turkey and Russia, with the Empire of Chaos posing as “promoter” and “guarantor” of broader unity in the West, and a “balancer” and “conciliator” between the major powers in the East. A quick look at the record since 2012 – Libya, Syria, Ukraine, encirclement of China – reveals the Empire of Chaos only as fomenter of, what else, chaos. 

Now compare a fearful Dr Zbig with Immanuel Wallerstein – who was a huge influence in my 2007 warped geopolitical travel book Globalistan. In this piece (in Spanish) Wallerstein argues that the Empire of Chaos simply can’t accept its geopolitical decadence – and that’s why it has become so dangerous. Restoring its hegemony in the world-system has become the supreme obsession; and that’s where the whole “policy” that is an essential background to the MH17 tragedy reveals Ukraine as the definitive do or die battleground. 

In Europe, everything hinges on Germany. Especially after the National Security Agency scandal and its ramifications, the key debate raging in Berlin is how to position itself geopolitically bypassing the US. And the answer, as pressed by large swathes of German big business, lies in a strategic partnership with Russia. 

Show me the missile
Slowly, with no hype and no spin, the Russian military are starting to deliver the goods. Here, courtesy of the Vineyard of The Saker blog, is their key presentation so far. As The Saker put it, Russia had – and has – a “20/20 radar vision”, or full spectrum surveillance, on everything going on in Ukraine. And so, arguably, does NATO. What the Russian Ministry of Defense is saying is as important as the clues it is laying out for experts to follow. 

The damaged MH17 starboard jet engine suggests a shape charge from an air-to-air missile – and not a Buk; that’s consistent with the Russian Ministry of Defense presentation graphically highlighting an Ukrainian SU-25 shadowing MH17. Increasingly, the Buk scenario – hysterically peddled by the Empire of Chaos – is being discarded. Not to mention, again, that not a single eyewitness saw the very graphic, thick missile trace that would have been clearly visible had a Buk been used. 

Way beyond the established fact of a Ukrainian SU-25 trailing MH17, plenty of unanswered questions remain, some involving a murky security procedure at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport – where security is operated by ICTS, an Israeli company based in The Netherlands and founded by former officers from the Israeli Shin Bet intel agency. And then there is the unexplained presence of “foreign” advisors in Kiev’s control tower.  

As much as Bashar al-Assad in Syria had absolutely no motive to “gas his own people” – as the hysterical narrative went at the time – the Eastern Ukraine federalists have no motive to down a civilian airliner. And as much as Washington doesn’t give a damn about the current civilian slaughter in Gaza, it doesn’t give a damn about the MH17 civilian deaths; the one and only obsession is to force Europeans to sanction Russia to death. Translation: break up Europe-Russia commercial and geopolitical integration. 

One week before the MH17 tragedy, the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies was already sounding the alarm concerning the Empire of Chaos’s “policy” and its refusal to “adhere to the principles and norms of international law and the rules and spirit of the existing system of international relations”. 

Moscow, in building its case on the MH17 tragedy, will bide its time to debunk Kiev’s claims and maximize its own credibility. The game now moves to the black boxes and the cockpit voice recorder. Still Ukraine will remain the do or die battlefield – a chessboard drenched in blood. 

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Return of the living (neo-con) dead

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar

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THE ROVING EYE

Nulandistan

Originally published in Asia Times on June 3, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Amid much hysteria, the notion has been widely peddled in the United States that President Obama’s “new” foreign policy doctrine, announced last week at West Point, rejects neo-cons and neo-liberals and is, essentially, post-imperialist and a demonstration of realpolitik.

Not so fast. Although stepping back from the excesses of the Cheney regime – as in bombing whole nations into “democracy” – the “desire to lead” still crystallizes might is right.

Moreover, “exceptionalism” remains the norm. Now not so blatant, but still implemented via a nasty set of tools, from financial warfare to cyber-war, from National Endowment for Democracy-style promotion of “democracy” to Joint Special Operations Command-driven counter-terrorism, drone war and all shades of shadow wars.

In the early 2000s, the model was the physical destruction and occupation of Iraq. In the 2010s the model is the slow-mo destruction, by proxy, of Syria.

And still, those who “conceptualized” the destruction of Iraq keep rearing their Alien-like slimy head. Their icon is of course Robert Kagan – one of the founders of the apocalyptically funereal Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and husband of crypto-Ukrainian hell raiser Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland (thus their dream of Ukraine as the Khaganate of Nulands, or simply Nulandistan.)

Kagan has been devastatingly misguided on everything, as in his 2003 best-seller Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, an eulogy of “benign” Americans standing guard against the “threats” (as in Muslim fundamentalism) emanating from a Hobbesian world way beyond the cozy Kantian precinct inhabited by Europe.

Then, in The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008), the “evil” was not Muslim fundamentalism anymore (too shabby), but the emerging of those vast autocracies, Russia and China, antithetical to Western democracies. But with The World America Made (2012), the paradisiacal shining city on the hill would once again triumph, more than capable to see those autocracies off; after all, the only reliable guarantee of global peace is American exceptionalism.

Kagan still commands the attention even of the otherwise aloof Commander-in-Chief, who avidly consumed The World America Made before his 2012 State of the Union Address, in which he proclaimed “America is back”.

It’s enlightening to flash back to Kagan writing in the Weekly Standard in March 2011, sounding like an awestruck schoolboy praising Obama; “He thoroughly rejected the so-called realist approach, extolled American exceptionalism, spoke of universal values and insisted that American power should be used, when appropriate, on behalf of those values.”

Any similarity with Obama’s “new” foreign policy doctrine is, indeed, intentional.

Catfight at the Singapore corral
Now comes Kagan’s latest opus, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire: What our tired country still owes the world“, with a sorry mess already inbuilt in the title (he’s never read Paul Kennedy after all). History tells us that superpowers do retire because of over-extension – not only military but mostly economic and fiscal, as in facing bankruptcy.

Yet it’s hopeless to expect from Kagan and the neo-con nebula anything other than blindness to the lessons of history – with a special, tragic mention of Shock and Awe, trampling of Geneva Conventions, and institutionalized torture. Their parochial dichotomy is either eternal American global hegemony or outright chaos.

Progressives in the US still try to save the day, frantically calling for a core “restoration” of American economic and democratic health; a rather impossible undertaking when casino capitalism rules and the US is now for all practical purposes an oligarchy. These dreamers actually believe this “restoration” is what Obama has done or is trying to do; and that would project the US once again as a global model – and thus “encourage” democracy everywhere. Sorry to break the news, but for the overwhelming majority of the genuine, fact on the ground “international community”, the notion of the US promoting democracy is now D.O.A.

So under the banner of exceptionalism – versus the competing birth of a Eurasian century – it’s been a fascinating exercise to witness the catfight at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which I described last year as the Spielbergs and Clooneys of the military sphere all locked up in a Star Wars room (actually a ballroom with chandeliers at the Shangri-La Hotel.)

It all started with Shinzo Abe, the militaristic prime minister of that American protectorate, Japan, denouncing “unilateral efforts” to alter the strategic status quo in Asia. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, piled up, saying Asia-Pacific was becoming less stable because of “coercion and provocation” by China. And Pentagon supremo Chuck Hagel also blasted Beijing, accusing it of “destabilizing, unilateral actions” in the South China Sea.

But then Lt Gen Wang Guanzhong, the deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, counterpunched in kind, saying Hagel’s talk was “full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation” and part of “a provocative challenge against China”.

Major General Zhu Chenghu even allowed himself to be condescending (oh, those barbarians … ); “The Americans are making very, very important strategic mistakes right now … If you take China as an enemy, China will absolutely become the enemy of the US.”

Major General Zhu also accused Hagel of hypocrisy; “Whatever the Chinese do is illegal, and whatever the Americans do is right.” Zhu was quick to register Hagel’s own threat, as in “the US will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.” Translation: Don’t mess with the exceptionalist. WE are the international order.

It’s as if everyone was reading from Kagan’s playbook. The difference is that Beijing is not Baghdad, and will not respond to threats by lying down. Instead, it is deploying selective, savvy, tactical moves all across the Western Pacific chessboard. Washington’s Asian network of vassals/clients/protectorates is and will be slowly but surely undermined. And on top of it, Beijing clearly sees that both Hagel and Kerry – who know next to nothing about the complexities of Asia – are clearly panicking.

Those Deng Xiaoping dictum days – from “crossing the river by feeling the stones” to “carry a low profile” – are in the past. Now we’re talking about the imminent number one economic power, already the world’s top trading nation and America’s top creditor.

lovebombs-anthonyfreda-072812Highway to Hillary
Russia – and not the US – is now the key partner or broker in negotiating hardcore international conflicts. The recent flurry of China-Russia energy and trade agreements, an essential part of their strategic partnership; the progressive integration and concerted economic/financial strategy of the BRICS; and even the slow moving process of Latin American integration all point towards a multipolar world.

Which bring us back to Obama’s “new” foreign policy doctrine. Let’s quickly survey the recent record.

Obama only refrained from pursuing his reckless, self-imposed red line and bombing Syria because he was saved (from himself) at the eleventh hour by Russian diplomacy.

The Iran dossier remains vulnerable to relentless pressure by neo-cons/Israel lobby/sectors of the weaponizing industry, with the Obama administration introducing extraneous factors bound to sidestep the negotiation.

Obama’s sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine were not only unlawful; they are peripheral, as astute European Union business leaders quickly recognized.

A simulacrum of withdrawal is being pushed in Afghanistan – to be replaced by all-out shadow war.

And the Obama administration – covertly and not so covertly – has been supporting neo-nazis in Ukraine and jihadists in Syria.

All this is still not enough for the Kagan bunch – the “conceptual” architects of the 9/11 wars, who always wanted Obama to bomb Syria; bomb Iran; start a war with Russia over Crimea; and even, sooner rather than later, bomb China to prevent it from getting back to number one. Hobbesians gone mad – wallowing in their psychotic sense of perennial entitlement – will stop at nothing to prevent the emergence of a multipolar world. It’s Exceptionalist Empire with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as global Robocop, or hell.

Moscow and Beijing, to say the least, are not exactly impressed; rather, they detect desperation. Yet things could – and should – get much nastier, irrespective of imploding Khaganates. Just wait for the Hillary doctrine.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

This Week in Doom

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on 3/16/2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

ze plane

“It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. . .  He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”

― Hunter S. Thompson

Nixon may be gone, but that “dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character” still remains alive and well, and is currently driving American foreign-policy.

Watchers of doom are notorious for scoring at home, but even those of us in the cheap seats recognize when it’s time to spring to our feet in rapt attention. So it was with this past week’s news, chock-full of chewy nuggets of doom. Center stage, we have the United States fomenting conflict with Russia over Crimea and Ukraine, led by a foreign-policy establishment stuffed full of Bush–Cheney–era neocon salts, and featuring nouveau-cowboy John Kerry acting like he’s John McCain’s Secretary of State; news that Russian oligarchs are pulling their money out of Western banks ahead of expected economic sanctions; a renegade, do nothing, neo-Confederate House of Representatives, pledged to do nothing that will aid anybody outside of its paymasters, passing a law requiring Obama to enforce federal marijuana laws in states which have decriminalized the green (previously held “tenther” scruples and advocacy for “states rights” be damned);  and, oh yes, the missing Malaysian plane, of which the absence of news hasn’t prevented wall to wall cable news coverage, thus providing proof that in the absence of information, people will just make news up.

As of this writing, residents of the Crimea are heading to polls to vote a plebiscite about whether to join Russia, or to remain an independent state loosely affiliated with Ukraine. Since Crimeans are ethnic Russians, and the fact is that Russia’s Black Sea naval bases aren’t going anywhere, the result seems foregone. When Crimea becomes a Russian protectorate, the neocons screeching like howler monkeys inside the Obama administration (where they’ve been safely salted away since the Cheney administration) will gnash their teeth, utter dark oaths, and contrive to keep the United States and Russia on the kind of collision course unseen since the end of the Cold War. The stresses will occasion a new round of demands for high-tech weapons systems, unnecessary arms and airplanes, and high-tech geeks to run them, all of which will swell the profits of arms manufacturers.

Which is exactly the point.

 Let’s be clear: assistant secretary of state for European affairs Victoria Nuland (she of “Fuck the EU” fame,  remained in place along with Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and CIA apparatchik John Brennan. Nuland’s husband,  former Reagan administration official Robert Kagan, (himself an architect the Project for the New American Century, or PNAC),  was the first to call for destabilization of unwelcome regimes in Iraq.  That Obama has allowed such neocon cockroaches to fatten themselves in the foreign-policy apparatus of his administration may prove to be the most unwelcome and  far-reaching accomplishment of his administration.  Robert Parry has recently talked about this:

The crisis in Ukraine apparently caught the President off-guard, even though elements of the U.S. government were stoking the fires of political unrest on Russia’s border. Assistant Secretary Nuland was openly advocating for Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and literally passing out cookies to anti-government protesters.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (essentially a three-decade-old neocon-controlled slush fund that pours money into “democracy building” or destabilization campaigns depending on your point of view), was running 65 projects in Ukraine. Last September, NED’s president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and expressed hope that “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, even as Obama leaned on Putin to avert more wars in the Middle East, the U.S. government was seeking to embarrass and undermine Putin at home. Not surprisingly, this double-dealing has provoked the Russian government’s suspicion and confusion, made worse because the latest U.S. media swagger in support of the coup regime in Kiev has forced Obama to puff out his own chest and do some breast-beating at Putin’s expense.

. . . which led to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who in 2002 voted as a senator for the United States to invade Iraq on the basis of Dick Cheney’s hand selected, cherry picked evidence, to utter this bon mot, which may itself in the fullness of time resonate as much as Neville Chamberlain’s, “peace is at hand:”

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.”

Hilarity ensued.


(Remember the fall of the Berlin wall and the promised peace dividend? This “nuclear mafia,” this nexus of arms manufacturers, lobbyists, and general officers have claimed it for themselves and for the priorities of the Deep State.  By fomenting eternal war, they have commandeered the surplus of a nation, perverted the sense of domestic priorities, and presented a bill which is, in a literal sense, being paid for with the rapid disappearance of the middle class in this country,  and with it the “American way of life”.)  Well done, plutocrats.

We’re told that

Crimea’s referendum Sunday has been loudly condemned as illegitimate by much of the international community. As heavily armed forces apparently under Russian command have effectively taken control of the peninsula, the vote to join Russia has been widely criticized as a mere formality.

If you check up on Zerohedge, they will tell you that the Russian oligarchs, smart cookies that they are, already pulled their money out of Western banks to avoid the coming currency freeze and credit stranglehold that western sanctions will likely entail.

The Financial Times reported:

Russian companies are pulling billions out of western banks, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze, according to bankers in Moscow.

Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US. VTB has also cancelled a planned US investor summit next month, according to bankers.

The flight comes as last-ditch diplomatic talks between Russia’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state to resolve the tensions in Ukraine ended without an agreement.

ZH notes that the likely outcome of such sanctions will be to force China and Russia to engage far more actively in bilateral trade, and to conduct that train their own currencies, or even gold. Apparently it never occurs to those who think that the highest and best good in life is for the S&P 500 close up to realize that a country that is rich in commodities that others want– like natural gas–cares mostly commodity prices are high.

***

And the Tea Party House of Representatives, that gaggle of unmedicated, unrestrained sociopaths busy doing the bidding of the worst human beings on the planet,  managed to interrupt yet another vote repealing the Affordable Care Act in order to pass the “Enforce the Law Act,” a response to the Kenyan Usurper’s so-called “lawlessness.”

Upon the adoption of a resolution of a House of Congress declaring that the President, the head of any department or agency of the United States, or any other officer or employee of the United States has established or implemented a formal or informal policy, practice, or procedure to refrain from enforcing, applying, following, or administering any provision of a Federal statute, rule, regulation, program, policy, or other law in violation of the requirement that the President take care that the laws be faithfully executed under Article II, section 3, clause 5, of the Constitution of the United States, that House is authorized to bring a civil action in accordance with subsection (c), and to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code. A civil action brought pursuant to this subsection may be brought by a single House or both Houses of Congress jointly, if both Houses have adopted such a resolution. 

Apparently DC is an irony free zone, witness the sangfroid around Kerry’s pronouncement. The fact that Obama has not accompanied the bills he had signed with “signing statements” as Bush did, explaining how he would or would not enforce the law he had just signed, regardless of Congress’s intentions apparently means nothing as long as the incumbent is still uncomfortably black.  Harry Reid pronounced this act of legislative vandalism dead on arrival, and as long as Democrats control the Senate,  such bills, the purpose of which is simply to make it easier for sitting Republiconfederates to sue the president, will go nowhere. But this is an election year.

***

And oh yeah, the plane.  As everyone who is not been hidden in a bunker on a Philippine island waiting for the end of World War II already knows, the search for a Malaysia Airline Boeing 777 has now entered its 2nd week. Flight 370 disappeared from radar screens on its announced trajectory from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The airline’s CEO said Sunday the missing  jet took off with its normal allotment of fuel  on board, and without extra fuel that could have extended its range. The plane veered  deliberately and sharply away from its planned course to parts unknown. A search of the expected crash area revealed nothing.

Over the past several days, little of substance has been revealed, and the plane is still missing. In the absence of hard information, cable “news” networks  manufactured coverage by interviewing former pilots, aviation specialists, and those willing to speculate.

Humorist Andy Borowitz had it best:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) — A total absence of actual information about the missing Malaysia flight is not in any way hindering twenty-four-hour coverage of the story, the major cable news networks confirmed today.

“As a news network, we regard a lack of news as a worthy challenge,” the CNN chief Jeff Zucker said. “Our people are doing a heroic job of filling the void with rumor and hearsay.”

A spokesperson for MSNBC, however, scoffed at Mr. Zucker’s assessment that there was no information about the missing plane. “We are receiving tons of erroneous and conflicting reports from authorities every hour, and the instant we get them we pass them on to our viewers,” he said.

Over at Fox, host Sean Hannity expressed confidence in his network’s coverage. “When it comes to broadcasting twenty-four hours a day with no verifiable facts, I wouldn’t trade our experience and expertise for anybody’s,” he said.

Promising that the network was working overtime to generate new unfounded conspiracy theories, Mr. Hannity said, “We’ve put our whole Benghazi team on this.”

Recent events as of this writing focus on investigation into the pilots and flight crew.  The Malaysian government has apparently concluded the light 370 was hijacked.

 

One finds it interesting that while the intelligence arm of the Deep State knows about our Amazon purchases, Google queries, porn searches, completed online forms, and every website and cat meme we retrieve, several trillion dollars of orbiting spyware has gotten them absolutely bupkus about the location of this plane. Or so they want us to believe.

The tinfoil hat types are already speculating that this was a deliberate hijacking, either by Islamic cell ready to wreak havoc upon the United States, or by the Deep State itself, the better to mount a false flag attack in the name of said Islamic caliphate. More proof  that, in the absence of news, people make up their own. A  hijacking, a hostage scenario,  the plane exploded or disintegrated, the plane was blown up by the Mossad/CIA/Al Qaeda,  the plane landed on a small, uncharted island, the plane will be repurposed an enormous flying bomb, alien abduction, a viral marketing campaign for Liam Neeson’s next movie, etc.  And they’re out there in droves on the inter-tubes.

Perhaps someone can riddle me this: there were 239 persons aboard this flight, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of them have cell phones. With every cell phone being its own transponder, why have we not heard from any of the people on this flight?

***

And now, doom fans, some bonus coverage. It is often entertaining to watch the Tea Party contort itself into a variety of yoga poses to escape the consequences of many of their utterances.  Here’s the story of one who instead chose to double down on crazy. The ongoing Republican war on women was evident for all to see over the last several years.  It continues apace, even in areas of the country from which one would expect better sense.  Here is the latest episode of Tea Party family values on display.

New Hampshire State Rep. Kyle Tasker, who is no stranger to controversy, yesterday told WMUR that he would not apologize for posting what some call an explicit graphic online. The graphic, pictured above, seemed to mock women who have suffered at the hands of sexual abuse.

“I didn’t mean that as a joke, it was a t-shirt print I thought was pretty ridiculous that someone would wear that around,” Tasker said.

Tasker is the same remarkable waste of skin who dropped one of the guns he was packing at the start of the committee meeting this past session.

State Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord), a member of the committee, said that he was sitting three seats away from Tasker in the committee room when he heard “a clang” and saw that the gun was on the floor. Shurtleff said Tasker routinely wears two guns in a shoulder holster to legislative meetings.

“I was glad it was his blood that he was giving and not someone else’s,” Shurtleff told The Huffington Post.

Reporters in the committee room confirmed the account. Josh McElveen , a reporter for WMUR posted on Twitter that Tasker had said the blood donation left him “loopy.” Tasker has not returned a call for comment.

The incident comes a year after the Tea Party-controlled House voted to allow guns in the Statehouse and the nearby Legislative Office Building. Shurtleff, a former deputy U.S. marshal, said he has been told that as many as 45 legislators, more than 10 percent of the full 400-member House, carry firearms to sessions.

“There are a couple of other members of our committee, about three or four, who are armed at any time,” Shurtleff said.

Who knew that serving the people of New Hampshire was such risky business?

What gives me pause is the thought, often attributed to Tocqueville, that “In a democracy, the people get the government that they deserve.”

 

***

  Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants and articles on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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Lake Mead Watch

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Inside the Diner

Quote from: K-Dog on Today at 11:37:29 PMQuote from: RE on Today at 02:47:41 PMQuote from: K-Dog on Today at 02:20:51 PMNow you can't miss it.W...

Quote from: RE on Today at 02:47:41 PMQuote from: K-Dog on Today at 02:20:51 PMNow you can't miss it.Will try again later.Right now trying to work out communications with a Ru...

Quote from: K-Dog on Today at 10:18:43 PMIf the odds of one security guard being asleep on the job is one in a thousand, the odds of two being asleep at the same time is one in a million.You could increase the...

Quote from: Surly1 on Today at 03:08:43 PMQuote from: azozeo on Today at 11:03:40 AMThree more woman seek cut of his Jeffrey Epstein’s estateThree victims of Jeffrey Epstein sued the mu...

They took over one smart device from 360 feet away.Countless millions of people use AI assistants such as Siri or Alexa to do everything from make purchases online to control the locks in their smart homes.Just say the command that triggers th...

Recent Facebook Posts

Evacuation orders lifted after Palisades Fire leaves 2 injured and burns at least 40 acres in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Fire Department ordered mandatory evacuations Monday as a fire ripped across a hillside in the affluent Pacific Palisades area,..

3 weeks ago

US troops pelted with rotten fruit and stones as they leave Syria – video

People have thrown rotten fruit and stones at US troops as they left Syria in armed vehicles, with one man appearing to shout: ‘You liars!’..

3 weeks ago

Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law

Corporate America’s Second War With the Rule of Law- Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires..

3 weeks ago

Photos from Rafael Nadal's Spanish wedding show a reception fit for tennis royalty

From Business Insider:

3 weeks ago

The best toothpaste for kids

From Business Insider:

3 weeks ago

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Diner Newz Feeds

  • Surly
  • Agelbert
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  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

[img]https://scontent.forf1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0 [...]

I love that song  [...]

Quote from: azozeo on Today at 04:04:28 AMAshvin [...]

Ashvin's still under his rock.JeRM is no more [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Kicking off with the death of the Marlboro Man.RE[ [...]

Now UP on Global Economic Intersection!http://econ [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Politicians’ Privilege By Cognitive Dissonance     Imagine for a moment you work for a small or medi [...]

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-09http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-08http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects"We need wooden ships, char-crete buildings, bamboo bicycles, moringa furniture, and hemp cloth [...]

"Restoring normal whale activity to the oceans would capture the CO2 equivalent of 2 billion tr [...]

Ukrainian Rhapsody"Our future will be more about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and non-state actors tha [...]

LeBron’s Chinese Troll Mobs"In the 36 hours after James’ delete, a troll mob with bot support sent a flame tsunami at the [...]

Soft Paths to Zero"While reducing emissions should be a priority, it is morally questionable to focus on relative [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

I do have a new post close to finished, but my computer does not like the hotel internet. I can answ [...]

Interesting point! This is related to the falling price of coal and oil. The currency value of these [...]

Let's amend that slightly that to 'correcting the so-called 'growth' of the last [...]

Chinese imports and exports have basically seen zero growth for five years. https://pbs.twimg.com/me [...]

Yeah, when the water heater goes out the day after you just put new tires on one of the cars, etc... [...]

I join the chorus in welcoming you back. Any thoughts on how the shift away from bunker fuel on Janu [...]

@Front Range Mike "Most everyone I know is trying to figure out how to cut back and sell their [...]

RE Steve's comment about "gestures that let us get what we want while allowing the illusio [...]

@Steve, I don't post many comments but thank you for continuing the blog. I found your stuff in [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The effect of urbanization on microclimatic conditions is known as “urban heat islands”. [...]

Forecasting extreme precipitations is one of the main priorities of hydrology in Latin America and t [...]

The objective of this work is the development of an automated and objective identification scheme of [...]