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Fake News: The Russian Hacker Story

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Published on Peak Surfer on January 29, 2017

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Discuss this article at the Newz & Multimedia Table inside the Diner

"If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones."

 

 

 

Jazz musician and iconoclast Harry Shearer observes that Donald Trump’s ability to openly lie and then deny he did and then move on to telling the same lie again is “profoundly transactional.

This trait is not new in US presidents, merely less concealed in our era by the RealPolitik that kept it more discrete before. We could go back and find examples from the very first presidency, but let’s just retrace to Franklin Roosevelt who, besides concealing his infidelities, of necessity had to dissemble about wartime secrets, as did Truman and Eisenhower when the wars grew cold. Nixon was profoundly secretive, arrogating to his office a false claim of constitutional authority, that, while it cost him his job, was kept around for his successors to use, more liberally with each administration.

To dissemble lubricates a slippery slope. Nixon was impeached for lying about the Watergate cover-up. Clinton was impeached for dallying with an intern. Mountains of lies invite being tunneled into and mined, and mining tools are getting better all the time. Is it any wonder then, that ‘secret’ lying by Reagan, Clinton, Obama, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and others begat the baldface lying of Drudge, Fox, Trump and the new generation of fake news on steroids?

In the days before Christmas it easily escaped attention — certainly that of the mainstream echo chamber — that the US Lame Duck in Chief signed into law the LDNDAA (Lame Duck's National Defense Authorization Act) which legalized government propaganda — fake news — when deployed for national security against the citizenry of the US. The law gave the government sweeping powers to feed its minions — CNN, ABC, MSNBC — and covertly take down any competing news outlets that might dare to put out an alternative narrative or question the veracity of the fakes. RT Commentator Max Keiser called it a bailout for the bankrupt mainstream press.

If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones.

 

 

 

When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting.

 

— Cicero (Disp Tusc. II, 22)

 

 

[T]he Democrat / Prog coastal elite, hardcore Hillary, PC-and-unicorn crowd are moving through their post-election Kubler-Ross Transect-of-Grief from denial to anger….

 

 

Lately the Democratic Party in the US has adopted its own form of birtherism, which is using the “Russians hacked my homework” excuse for losing the last election. The evidence is flimsy, but that does not stop the handwaving, pompous haranguing, or other forms of smoke and mirrors. Lets look at the evidence.

 

 

According to the Obama spook estate, Russian hackers sent out volleys of phishing emails hoping someone would click. If you have email, you’ve seen this. They tell you that you won something, you qualify for a free trip, there is a bank error in your favor, or you have to upgrade some common piece of software like Java or Flash. Maybe, as in the case of a Russian hacker group that successfully phished Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party for 6 months in 2016, they’ll use un.org as their trojan domain. If you follow the link, they get your credit card info or your password. Maybe the password you are prompted for is the same one you use for gmail. That’s what happened to John Podesta.

He got a suspicious mail, sent it to an aide to look at, the aide thought it was legit and some lucky hackers in Moscow downloaded 60,000 messages from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s gmail account. So what do you do with 60000 messages if there is no money in it? Give it to Wikileaks.

 

 

At least one targeted individual activated links to malware hosted on operational infrastructure of opened attachments containing malware. APT29 delivered malware to the political party's systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.

 

 

 

That was the normal part. Now comes the nasty part. Unnamed “security experts” in the employ of the Democratic National Committee but now cited by the White House and cyberwar apparatchiks within the beltway “believe two Kremlin-connected groups were behind the hack.” Take that apart: Two hyphen connected groups. For Kremlin, substitute Vladimir Putin, because surely nothing in the Kremlin happens unless he directs it (?). So boom: frontpage stories that Putin stole the US election and gave it to Donald Trump, and media cheerleaders go with that because, boy does that boost ad revenues. Soon to be a major motion picture. Saturday Night Live is having a field day.

The two groups were Moscow hackers known to Microsoft as APT (“advanced persistent threat”) 28, a.k.a. Fancy Bear, and APT 29 or Cozy Bear.

“We were shocked to find our names there,” Aleksey Gubarev [who alongside his IT company, has been listed in an FBI report as the cyberlink connecting Trump and Russian hackers, told RT-TV,  saying he had “never met” anyone listed in the report. “Nobody from the intelligence agency contacted me about this story… to verify this information,” he said. Neither did any journalists reach out to him.

The published report is “fake news,” Gubarev said. "I still do not understand why our names [are] there and we do not understand a reason of this report in general." It may not matter.

We are reminded of the Italian Memo. In a story for Vanity Fair in 2006,  Craig Unger recalled:

 

Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year’s Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing—a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.

In his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush let this shoe fall: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” What came next is too horrible to recount, and it continues today, with each U238-mangled baby born in Fallujah. [Footnote: The new US Secretary of Defense is General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who ordered his marine tank corps to put a depleted uranium shell in every house in the city. More than 300,000 DU rounds are estimated to have been fired. The uranium dust in the air turned sunsets green. Birth defects are now much higher than those recorded among survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]

The British government, of course, had learned nothing of the sort, although Tony Blair jumped on the Cheney bandwagon, calling it the “Dossier of Doom.” Within months, polls showed 90 percent of USAnians believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Unger reported:

 

 

On the same day the “mushroom cloud” slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Specifically, the article [planted by White House Aide Scooter Libby] contended that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”

It was a clever hoax. Well, actually, not all that clever. Just repeated often, and loudly, from the bully pulpit. “That was their favorite bureaucratic technique —ruthless relentlessness,” Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell told Vanity Fair. The CIA had a mole inside Saddam’s war cabinet who told them there was no WMD program. The White House told the CIA that it no longer mattered and by the way they were the designated fall guy for the ensuing “intelligence failure.”

Disinformation of this kind was not new and the Italian bit players in the Niger ruse had entered the American political arena twice before. The first was during Reagan’s election campaign when embarrassing “facts” about Billy Carter, the President’s bubba brother, taking slush money from Libyan president Mohamar Khadafi to meet with Yassir Arafat. Never mind that Billy denied it, the news came out the last week in October, just before the election, and by then it was too late to track down the source: an Italian covert agency run by militant anti-Communists that had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world.

In 1981, the same covert network orchestrated a disinformation campaign saying Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing nut who shot Pope John Paul II, had been taking orders from the Soviet KGB and Bulgaria’s secret service. As Unger put it:

 

 

 

In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope’s homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.

When Nixon stepped down in 1974, two individuals ascended to positions of almost unlimited power in the Ford White House. Donald Rumsfeld was the sixth White House chief of staff. Dick Cheney was the seventh. Cheney was House Minority Whip during the Reagan years, Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and later  the Ranking Member of the Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. He became Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under Number 43.

Did Cheney and Rumsfeld pull the Italian strings in Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection? No one is telling. What we know is that stationary stolen from the Niger embassy was used for a forgery and ultimately combined with other papers that were already in Italian secret service archives. A codebook and a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents were delivered to Blair. Among the fakes, embassy stationery was used to forge a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year to Iraq.

 

 

 

The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou — even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou’s signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.
 

* * *

 

Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.


A story by Seymour Hersh for The New Yorker suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney’s hawkish followers. If that was true it backfired. Never underestimate the gullibility of the press.

First Case in point: the fake National Guard documents that cost Dan Rather and Mary Mapes their jobs at CBS News.

Second Case in point: Russian hackers stole my election.

Another point we observe as we follow this thread was how language is used to frame subject. The “mushroom-cloud” and “smoking gun” visuals were so visceral they were repeated by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and became standard NeoCon talking points in the run-up to the Second Gulf War.

 

 

When RT says that President Obama leaves behind a “vast, unaccountable permanent warfare state,” or that levels of economic inequality in the West are “obscene,” or that Trump “terrifies European leaders,” it’s worth asking if it might be Russian disinformation. But it’s also worth asking if it might be true. Distrust but verify.

 

***

With the power to persecute and prosecute journalists, the American government is a dangerous media critic. Judging by the report on RT, it’s also a lousy one.

— Stephen Bates, Lawfare


The Russian hacking story gets reframed to appeal to different echo chambers. For the left wing it assuages the cognitive dissonance that comes when you try to wrap your mind around President… Donald… Trump. Never mind that what is said to have bent the election at the 11th hour was the content of the Podesta emails, not their source. For the right, it’s a chance to blame Obama for the “Cyber Gap” and the anticipation of another wondrous pot of gold at the end of a forthcoming defense authorization rainbow. Of course, neither side questions the veracity of electronic voting machines.

Next week we will look at how the same genetic program that allows us to swallow a yarn like the Russian hacker tale keeps us from doing the right thing about climate change. Later, we will learn how to turn that gene off. In the meantime, the best antidote to fake news is to take yours from as broad a spectrum of opinions as you can find and make your own judgment.

Why the New Silk Roads Terrify Washington

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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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. 

Cold War, today, tomorrow, every day till the end of the world

gc2smFrom the Keyboard of William Blum
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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report October 3, 2016


“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.”

That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?

But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy of condemnation by decent people everywhere – They want to stand in the way of American world domination. The nerve!

The first Cold War performed a lobotomy on Americans, replacing brain matter with anti-communist viral matter, producing more than 70 years of functional national stupidity.

For all of you who missed this fun event there’s good news: Cold War Two is here, as big and as stupid as ever. Russia and Vladimir Putin are repeatedly, and automatically, blamed for all manner of bad things. The story which follows the above Washington Post headline does not even bother to make up something that could pass for evidence of the claim. The newspaper just makes the claim, at the same time pointing out that “the intelligence community is not saying it has ‘definitive proof’ of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so.” But the page-one headline has already served its purpose.

Hillary Clinton in her debate with Donald Trump likewise accused Russia of all kinds of computer hacking. Even Trump, not usually a stickler for accuracy, challenged her to offer something along the lines of evidence. She had nothing to offer.

In any event, this is all a diversion. It’s not hacking per se that bothers the establishment; it’s the revelations of their lies that drives them up the wall. The hack of the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention disclosed a number of embarrassing internal emails, forcing the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

On September 12 we could read in the Post that a well-known physician had called for Clinton to be checked for possible poisons afer her collapse in New York. Said the good doctor: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. With those two all things are possible.”

Numerous other examples could be given here of the Post’s near-juvenile anti-Russian bias. One of the most common subjects has been Crimea. Moscow’s “invasion” of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in February 2014 is repeatedly cited as proof of Moscow’s belligerent and expansionist foreign policy and the need for Washington to once again feed the defense-budget monster. But we’re never reminded that Russia was reacting to a US-supported coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine on Russia’s border and replaced it with a regime in which neo-Nazis, complete with swastikas, feel very much at home. Russia “invaded” to assist Eastern Ukrainians in their resistance to this government, and did not even cross the border inasmuch as Russia already had a military base in Ukraine.

NATO (= USA) has been surrounding Russia for decades. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov captured the exquisite shamelessness of this with his remark of September 27, 2014: “Excuse us for our existence in the middle of your bases.”

By contrast here is US Secretary of State, John Kerry: “NATO is not a threat to anyone. It is a defensive alliance. It is simply meant to provide security. It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.” 

NATO war games in these areas are frequent, almost constant. The encirclement of Russia is about complete except for Georgia and Ukraine. In June, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, shockingly accused NATO of “war-mongering” against Russia. How would the United States react to a Russian coup in Mexico or Canada followed by Russian military exercises in the same area?

Since the end of Cold War One, NATO has been feverishly searching for a reason to justify its existence. Their problem can be summed up with this question: If NATO had never existed what argument could be given now to create it?

The unmitigated arrogance of US policy in Ukraine was best epitomized by the now-famous remark of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, reacting to possible European Union objection to Washington’s role in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU”, she charmingly declared.

Unlike the United States, Russia does not seek world domination, nor even domination of Ukraine, which Moscow could easily accomplish if it wished. Neither did the Soviet Union set out to dominate Eastern Europe post-World War II. It must be remembered that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever; and that the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway.

The Washington Post’s campaign to depict Russia as the enemy is unrelenting. Again, on the 19th, we could read in the paper the following: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.”

Nothing, however, compares with President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (September 24, 2014) where he classified Russia to be one of the three threats to the world along with the Islamic State and ebola.

A war between nuclear-powered United States and nuclear- powered Russia is “unthinkable”. Except that American military men think about it, like Cold-War US General Thomas Power, speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.” 

Responses from the Left to my attacks on radical Islam

It’s not my intention here to resume the heated discussion about my recent articles calling for the destruction of ISIS, which led numerous of my readers to criticize me, some 50 of whom asked to be removed from my mailing list, but I hope that many will find the following summary of their stated or implied objections of interest:

  1. They are religious enough to resent what they detect as my less-than-fervent religious bent.

  2. They refuse to acknowledge any Islamic motivation or context for ISIS, labeling ISIS as no more than US/Israeli/Saudi mercenaries – end of discussion. Or Salafi or Wahhabi sects – not really Islamic, they insist. Islam is thus spared from any contamination.

  3. They resent my not making a clear enough distinction between ISIS and Islam in general, being particularly annoyed by my use of the term “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism”. (I pointed out that the West commonly, and correctly, associated Stern/Irgun terrorism with Jews and IRA terrorism with Catholics.)

    For the record I am condemning those Muslims who engage in suicide bombings, stabbings and other acts of murderous jihad, those who extol and teach the glory and heavenly rewards for such acts, and those who preach that all non-Muslims are infidels and the enemy. In this context it’s no excuse to cite the various acts of horror carried out by the US or the West, particularly when the jihadists’ targets (restaurants, theatres, stores, passersby, etc.) usually have nothing at all to do with Western imperialism.

  4. They are annoyed that I don’t mention the usual list of US atrocities in the Middle East as being responsible for all of radical Islam’s horrors, which are seen as simple retaliation. (See part 3 above.)

  5. They hate US foreign policy even more than I do, a sentiment I hadn’t known was so common, or even possible.

  6. I supported the use of US military force against ISIS and their ilk, a terrible black mark against me inasmuch as such force is regarded by leftists as the original sin and cannot conceivably be used for a good end. But the US “accidental” bombing of Syrian troops September 16, killing and wounding about 160, clearly lends credence to my critics.

The US election

On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.” 

So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.

The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.

“Qualified” is a word one hears often in this campaign. Hillary, we’re told, is eminently so, Donald is outstandingly un-. But what does the word mean in this context? If a candidate doesn’t share your opinion on most of the crucial issues, who cares if she or he is “qualified”? Conversely, if a candidate shares your opinion on most of the crucial issues, should you be concerned that she or he is “unqualified”?

Reason number 39,457 to give up on capitalism

Macy’s, one of the leading department stores in the United States, has announced it is closing 100 of its stores. Just think of all that was involved in creating each of those stores, from design and building to filling it with staff and goods; all soon to be gone, leaving empty shells of buildings, eyesores for the neighborhoods, thousands of lost jobs … all because a certain net-profit goal was not met.

Such a waste. So many empty stores, and at the same time so many unemployed people.

Not far from so many empty houses, and at the same time so many homeless people.

Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore the nation’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend “capitalism”?


Notes

  1. Washington Post, December 3, 2015
  2. Various online sources, see for example Thomas Power’s wikipedia entry
  3. Democracy Now!, June 9, 2016

 


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.

 

The Ongoing Collapse of Turkey’s Secular Democ­racy and… the Backstory to the Attempted Turkish Coup (part 2/3)

Off the keyboard of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on August 19th, 2016

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

 


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (photo courtesy of rene de paula jr)

So where did I leave off in part 1? Oh yeah. Erdoğan and Putin are now BFF-FAW (Best Friends Forever For A While), Erdoğan’s Turkey has quite possibly been helping ISIS unload its oil, the United States / Europe / NATO has purportedly been turning a blind eye to it all, and Turkey is trying to avoid joining its western neighbour for as long as it can before embarking on its journey to the endarkenment. But before I continue from where I left off and address whether or not a local supply of fossil fuels from the north could be enough to sway Erdoğan “from the bad guys to the bad guys,” a little bit of Turkish history is in order. And fortunately, having introduced my Turkish confidant to the Turkish (falafel) joint I frequent, in return I was introduced by him to the work of Turkish writer Efe Aydal, whose writings went a long way in clearing things up for me.

As Aydal explained it in May of 2016, when the AKP first came into power “The American media was calling Erdoğan ‘second Atatürk.'” Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in case you aren’t aware, is sometimes described as Turkey’s George Washington. In the 1920s he became the first president of the country, and upon putting through various political, economic and cultural reforms meant to transform Turkey’s religiously-oriented Ottoman caliphate into a secular, democratic, and modern nation-state, he also went out of his way to make sure that the military would not be answerable to the government. The purpose behind the latter move was to ensure that above all else the military would uphold its mandate of protecting Turkey’s new constitutional principles of secularism. This is why Turkey has had six coups/attempted coups since 1960, the military moving in when it believes that civilian governments are violating its secular principles (although it’s possible that outside interests played some roles in those coups).

On top of that, Atatürk had thousands of new schools built, primary education was made free, taxation on peasants was reduced, the use of Western attire was promoted, and women were given equal civil and political rights. And contrary to what I initially thought, none of this is to say that Atatürk was some kind of Western stooge. Unbeknownst to me, and as my Turkish confidant filled me in, the ANZAC holiday which many Australians and Kiwis celebrate every year was originally in reference to Australia’s and New Zealand’s failed invasion of Constantinople (in what is now Turkey) back in World War I – and which Kiwi mates of mine see as a ridiculous thing to celebrate since ANZAC Day is essentially about glorifying the (attempted) invasion of another country and of sending our young men to needlessly fight and die in a banker’s war. But regardless of all that, it just so happens that the commander of the Turkish army that held back the Aussie and Kiwi minions of British bankers was none other than Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

It’s been nearly a century since Atatürk’s time though, and while Atatürk’s image is currently being paraded around Turkey by the AKP – even though it’s been talking about abandoning the constitution’s tenet of secularism, and so is likely just jumping on the bandwagon because it now needs the support of the secularists after having split with the Gülenists – “democracy” also seems to have become a mostly-empty buzzword as well.


Where the world’s finest go to shine (photo by United Nations Photo)

First off there’s the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who after supporters he was addressing outside his Istanbul residence began chanting for the death penalty to be restored, summarily stated that “We cannot ignore this demand… In democracies whatever the people say has to happen.” Or in other words, mob rules.

(As an aside to that, if Turkey reinstates the death penalty, which it scrapped in 2004 as a condition for eventually gaining admittance to the European Union, its chances for gaining passage onto the Titanic drop to zero. Furthermore, even if Turkey could squeeze its way in onto the lower decks of the EU, admittance to the club pales in comparison to the allure of a new imperial Turkey that could dominate the region. Granted, the EU is Turkey’s biggest trade partner, but with possibility of membership in the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union [EEU – a two-year-old, five-member free trade zone], and with the BRICS consortium a possible trading partner as well, a turn away from the EU may not actually be as bad as it sounds – as far as these things go, that is.)

Moving on in this darlings-of-democracy showcase (which is certainly giving the United States’ Democratic Party a run for its money – to the bottom), next in line is Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania who the mainstream media likes to portray as a “staunch advocate of democracy,” who is then said to have “left Turkey in 1999 just ahead of a treason charge,” but from what I’ve strangely noticed hardly ever seems to get explained any further.

But according to an old BBC article I came across, it turns out that shortly after Gülen left to the United States in 1999 for what he claimed were medical reasons, Turkish television channels broadcast recordings of comments by Gülen “in which he urges his followers in the judiciary and public service to work patiently to take control of the state.” Gülen dismissed the allegations (from the United States) and said his comments were taken out of context. He was tried in absentia in 2000 by Turkey’s then-secular courts, but ultimately cleared in 2008 by Erdoğan’s more Islamic-leaning courts, his acquittal possibly a gesture of gratitude for his support of Erdoğan’s election to prime minister in 2003. Nonetheless, Gülen has remained in self-imposed exile ever since his initial departure.


Apparently not everyone is a fan of Fethullah Gülen
(photo courtesy of SHOTbySUSAN)

To make things even murkier, United States immigration authorities had planned to expel Gülen in 2006, but plans for such were rescinded following a letter of recommendation written to the FBI and the United States Department of Homeland Security by former Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, Graham Fuller (who openly admits to this, and which is part of the public record anyhow).

As it turns out, and as Aydal also states,

In Turkey, the governments come and go, the one thing which doesn’t change is every government had to get the approval of Fethullah Gülen until now. Because he had so much vote potential, if he didn’t approve a party, that party wouldn’t be able to win. When AKP came to lead [in 2003], it was made possible by the Gülen power again.

However, and as Aydal also states, “Something I never expected happened” (which an article in Foreign Policy delved into):

[In 2013] AKP and the Fethullah cult started fighting. And everything you see today in Turkey is the result of that. AKP has the government advantage, but Fethullah has the advantage that it’s backed by USA.

Moreover, and as Aydal put it a couple of months before the attempted coup shenanigans,

[I]n the future AKP will eventually lose. Because ever since they broke the bonds with USA based Fethullah cult, they’re not useful for USA anymore. And they will be replaced by one which is useful. That’s why in recent months the foreign press started attacking him [Erdoğan] and calling him a dictator, whereas they used to hail and love him.

“Love him”? And refer to him as the “second Atatürk”? Well sure, if – and contrary to the wishes of most of the world’s global Muslim population – you sign up as a full supporter of the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and even pen an article for the Wall Street Journal, you’re the United States’ latest BFF-FAW. (Just don’t get too uppity, lest you want to end up like the United States’ former BFF-FAW, Saddam Hussein.)

Regardless, that’s pretty much all changed now. For as Aydal concludes,

You guys have to understand, for Turkey this is HISTORY. It’s the day when USA lost total control over Turkey. I was always wondering how long can Erdoğan resist the Gülen cult, but he actually waged straight-up war. And every party who’s against Gülen is supporting Erdoğan in this.

And not just every party, but many – most – run-of-the-mill Turks. Although Erdoğan is generally a divisive figure, his recent purges of Gülenitsts from judiciaries, police forces, and other government sectors is being praised by Turks of all political stripes, even those who normally oppose him. Post coup, his approval ratings have shot up to 68% from 47% prior to the coup, and a recent rally saw more than two million Turks, of various political persuasions, join together in solidarity. As one attendee put it, “We came together to save our nation from outside forces, so we are here for the love of our country and flag.”

While the west generally sees Erdoğan’s purges as a witch hunt and Erdoğan as little more than an authoritarian, many Turks are frustrated that the West isn’t taking the Gülen network (FETO) seriously. As an article in the Intercept put it, for years Gülentists have been using “clandestine methods to sneak into the military schools” as well as recruit in the police, judicial, and other government agencies. (According to the article’s informant, military pilots who could fly the American-made F-16 fighter jets were the most prized of all.) Anybody who spoke up about what was going on was swiftly punished. And while it was (secular) Kemalists that were the first targets of the Gülen network due to their sought after positions in public offices, Erdoğan’s AKP became the most recent target after the fallout in 2012.

Granted, prior to 2012 the AKP had actually assisted the Gülenist take-over of the judiciary, and so in return had any laws it wanted passed done so. Likewise, the government also turned a blind eye to the Gülenist infiltration of the army. That being so, even though (secular) Kemalists are generally supportive of the purges, they are nonetheless concerned that after Erdoğan is finished with the Gülenists he will set his sights on them and it will be back to the old divisive ways, if not worse. As someone by the name of “actual turk” stated in the comment section of part 1 in this Turkey series, “Erdogan is no angel – he is a scumbag – but this purge is getting rid of an islamic cancer far worse than Erdogan.”

Having said all that, the West has not been all to happy with the outcome of the attempted coup. As the not-conspiracy-oriented Oil Price put it, “European leaders were not too enthusiastic when the attempted coup failed, despite official declarations in support of Erdogan’s government.” Taking it a bit further, others have even stated that “Only when it became clear the coup was in fact smashed President Obama and the ‘NATO allies’ officially proclaimed their ‘support for the democratically elected government’.” The Unites States’ government obviously denies this, and while some simply dismiss the United Statesian government’s retort as “damage control,” it’s perhaps not too hard to imagine who the United States was likely rooting for.

In the meantime, the Erdoğan/AKP government has been vehemently calling for the United States to extradite Gülen back to Turkey so he can face charges of treason (since they see him as the mastermind of the failed coup), but the United States is having no part in this. Following that, Western media sources have repeatedly reported that the United States’ government is demanding evidence of Gülen’s involvement before any judicial process can begin, full stop. But look outside the bubble, and you’ll see it stated that

According to Erdogan, “Documents have been sent to the U.S.” establishing Gulen’s guilt. But the Obama administration remains unmoved, even though Turkey has handed over terrorists to the US in the past without evidence.

And as Erdoğan has also apparently stated (and which I’ve never seen quoted in any Western mainstream media source),

Now I ask, does the West give support to terror or not? Is the West on the side of democracy or on the side of coups and terror? Unfortunately, the West gives support to terror and stands on the side of coups… We have not received the support we were expecting from our friends, neither during nor after the coup attempt.

Like the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” which is perhaps useful when you know which one of them you know better than the other.


Nearly everybody likes a good Ponzi scheme

Anyhow, what has now emerged following Erdoğan’s displeasure with the United States is an ultimatum over the delayed visa-free access for Turks to the European Union. That is, in return for Turkey stemming the flow of illegal migrants to Europe, Turks were to receive a free pass to the land of not-exactly-plenty. But despite Turkey working on its end of the bargain (five of seventy-two demands are still to be met), the visa-free access still eludes Turks, and the recent post-coup crackdowns have added a bit of a sore-spot to the whole thing. But as Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently stated, Turkey could renege on its efforts to hold back said migrants. As Reuters put it,

Asked whether hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey would head to Europe if the EU did not grant Turks visa freedom from October, Çavuşoğlu told Bild: “I don’t want to talk about the worst case scenario – talks with the EU are continuing but it’s clear that we either apply all treaties at the same time or we put them all aside… It can’t be that we implement everything that is good for the EU but that Turkey gets nothing in return.”

To drive the point home even further, Çavuşoğlu has also stated that

We worked very hard to have good relations with Europe for 15 years. If the West one day loses Turkey – whatever our relations with Russia and China – it will be its own fault.”

Working off of a few things I mentioned in part 1, if Turkey’s demands aren’t met, this may very well mean Turkey will turn a blind eye to Syrians and other refugees flooding into Europe, some of which may very well be jihadi-wannabes from neighbouring countries. On the other hand, if Turkey does somehow get its way and its citizens are granted visa-free access to the European Union, the 2.7 million Syrians that Erdoğan plans on granting citizenship to may very well gain a form of access to Europe anyhow – and some of which, again, may be jihadi-wannabes from other countries. So the solution is…?

In other words, the story in Turkey is a whole lot messier than what those of us in the West are being led to believe. And when penultimate control of energy supplies is the hidden agenda, the devil you know is apt to partake in actions contrary to what might be expected. I’ll finish off the story in part 3.

EDIT 29/08/2016: Upon completion of the last part of this Turkish trilogy a few changes were made to better clarify things and improve its overall structure. In part 2 the only significant change was the addition of three paragraphs describing the rather favourable reaction Turks have had to Erdoğan’s purges, why that is so, and what some fear could transpire following said purges.

Let the Games Begin!

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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trump kong v hillzilla

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 1, 2016

 


Hot air balloons may be crashing in Texas, but in Philadelphia last week sainted Hillary, draped in spotless white privilege robes, floated through the glassiest ceiling of all on mighty gusts of saccharine gas. The good wife… the good mother… tireless fighter for the rainbow outcasts and gender martyrs of this patriarch-plagued republic, she pledged both continuity and change to the credulous faithful as history yanked her above the gurgling cesspits of allegation, suspicion, and distrust that lo, these many months, had come to be her natural haunt.

The cameras cut to poor brooding Bernie seated just above the delirious groundlings, frowny-faced, arms crossed, brow beetled beneath his white Corinthian curls, perhaps suffering the effects of cheese-steak poisoning. He’d endorsed Saint Hillary with all the passion of a Seventh Avenue soft goods jobber hawking last-year’s resort-wear, and the next day he would up-and-quit the Democratic Party — as if that was not sending a message to the true believers.

Yet another email maelstrom almost spoiled the gala, this one revealing the strings and levers pulled by the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in violation of the Party fairness charter. She was axed in a New York minute, and the whole country — including the ADD-afflicted news media — dropped the story to behold the awesome ascension of She-Whose-Turn-It-Is. All except the arch-boor Trump who cracked that maybe Russia could find those 20,000 emails missing from I’m-With-Her’s fabled server. The entire nation, including the aforementioned Special Needs news media, actually missed the point of the gag — which was: how lame are the US security agencies if they couldn’t find those emails but Russia could? And how come nobody raised that question?

Julian Assange then appeared, Jacob Marley-like, to warn the minions of Hillary that he had portfolios full of interesting material yet to dump, and would take his sweet time choosing the opportune moment to do it. How Hillary must wish she could send a Navy SEAL team into Ecuador’s London embassy to ventilate that hacker-rat! It will be fun waiting for Julian to make his move, and to see how much Xanax Hillary will require in the meantime. The DNC coronation show will prove to be only temporary relief from the phantoms and revenants of misdeeds past.

The distraction du jour is whether Trump has become an agent of Russia. Notice that this line of intel comes direct from the neo-con central agitprop desk. This unofficial US War Party representing the amalgamated war industries has been busy demonizing Russia throughout the current presidential term. Not all Americans are so easily gulled, though. Those who know history understand, for instance, that the Crimea has been a province of Russia almost continually for hundreds of years — except the brief interval when the ur-Ukrainian Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev one drunken evening gave it away to the then-Soviet region of Ukraine in a fit of sentimentality, assuming it would remain a virtual property of Greater Russia forever. Notice, too, that since Russia annexed it in 2014 (being the site of its only warm water port and major naval stations) not even the US neo-con war party has been able to make a credible case for fighting over it. Instead, they’ve resorted to name-calling: Putin the “thug,” Putin the “worst political gangster in the world.” This is exactly the brand of foreign policy that Hillary will bring to the Oval Office.

Not that Donald Trump offers a coherent alternative. The reasonable suspicion persists that he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground vis-à-vis how the affairs of the world actually work. For him it’s all same as tough-talking the sheet-rocker’s union. Then, of course, Trump had to immediately step in dog-shit by bad-mouthing the mother of an American army hero who-just-happened-to-be of the Mohammedan persuasion. Trump for practical purposes is a child and a reasonable case is not hard to make for denying him presidential power.

And so the great disaster movie of 2016 commences: Godzilla Versus Rodan the Flying Reptile. Which one will survive to completely destroy the sclerotic remains of our nation? The good news is that voters are moving to the Third and Fourth party nominees, Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green) in droves, herds, flocks, porpoise pods, and stampedes. Perhaps both of these relatively sane candidates will show enough polling strength to make it into the Great Debates. Won’t that be fun?


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.

On the Road to United Eurasia

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin xi2

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 5, 2016

 


Whenever President Vladimir Putin stresses Russia’s "all-embracing and strategic partnership" with China, one can hear the proverbial howls of anger emanating from the neocon/neoliberalcon axis in the Beltway.

As he met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijng this past Saturday, Putin even allowed himself an understatement; "To say we have a strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration. Comprehensive means that we work virtually on all major avenues; strategic means that we attach enormous inter-government importance to this work."

Why understatement? Because this really ventures way beyond a stream of business deals.

Deals, of course, matter; in Beijing, China and Russia advanced 58 projects worth $50 billion. These include a $6.2 billion loan from Beijing to build the 770 km-long high-speed railway between Moscow and Kazan and $12 billion in loans to build an LNG plant in the Russian Arctic.

Russian Railways, Russian investment company Sinara Group, China Railway, and Chinese CRRC will also invest in a plant in Russia to build 100 high-speed trains, designed for the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway. The railway inevitably will be connected to the future, $100 billion, high-speed expansion of the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Beijing.

It goes without saying, this is all part of an essential node of the New Silk Roads. And as if this was not enough, in a further, graphic instance of geoeconomic interpolation, Russia and China’s central banks are setting up a yuan clearing mechanism in Russia.

The inter-connectivity bonanza

Putin and Xi met for the 15th time just after Xi concluded a three-nation Eurasia tour – Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – where, alongside Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he explicitly laid down the bridge between the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), as they are officially referred to in China, and the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Not by accident China has now also struck a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – on the way to weaving a broad "China-Europe strategic partnership" in parallel to the development of the SCO.

This already translates into projects such as the Hungary-Serbia railway; the Pupin Bridge on the Danube River in Belgrade; the expansion and upgrading of a power plant in Kostolac; what Beijing calls the China-Europe freight train service (from eastern China to Duisburg in Germany and also Madrid); the Kamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan; and last but not least the massive China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system.

No wonder Xi keeps stressing the "inter-connectivity" theme over and over gain, as economic corridors are being built at breakneck speed, and the China Railway Express all the way to Europe – although not yet on high-speed rail – is already a go.

So there was plenty to talk about at the 16th SCO Council in Tashkent. Plus, the acceleration of full membership to both India and Pakistan; next year will be Iran’s turn.

What this translates to in practice is the amalgamation of the New Silk Roads/OBOR; the Eurasia Economic Union, EEU (as Putin stressed in the St. Petersburg forum); the SCO; financing mechanisms such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and the overarching Russia-China strategic partnership.

No wonder a certain Sultan Erdogan was watching all this in Ankara with trepidation, and decided to make a move. Erdogan’s attempt at a rapprochement with Russia involves not being hopelessly sidelined in this OBOR/EEU/SCO amalgamation. Turkey cannot afford to be alienated from Russia; the Turkish Stream gas pipeline will be essential to consolidate Ankara’s position as a key energy crossroads towards Europe. At the same time, Ankara must imperatively position itself as a key hub in OBOR.

With India and Pakistan, and later Iran, as full members, the SCO will be able, in the medium term, not only to interface with OBOR on all sides (via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, and also the Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar); but also to be the key player in brokering a solution to the Afghan drama, something that the Americans and NATO would never be able to accomplish. Russia and China have always insisted that Afghanistan needs an Asian solution.

Lean, clean and green

Almost simultaneously to the Putin-Xi meeting in Beijing, and also not by accident, the AIIB turbo-charged its operations.

The AIIB started doing business only six months ago, with 57 founding member countries and $100 billion in committed capital.

It’s scheduled to invest $1.2 billion in 2016. Once again with trademark understatement, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said, "the AIIB needs to establish its comparative advantage", profiting from «lessons of developing countries' years of development».

The board approved its first four deals, worth $509 million, with three projects co-financed with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They refer to a slum renovation in Indonesia and highways in Pakistan and Tajikistan. A power grid upgrade in Bangladesh will be solely AIIB financed.

And this is just the beginning. The head of AIIB may be Chinese, Jin Linqun (he has promised a "lean, clean and green" AIIB), but one of the five vice presidents is British, Daniel Alexander. Beijing holds 30% of the initial capital but has only 26% of voting power. India holds 7.5% and Russia 5.9%, followed by Germany and South Korea. This is a real multipolar project.

Almost simultaneously to the AIIB in action, Russia and China’s foreign ministers signed a declaration supporting the role of international law, stressing sovereign equality of states; non-interference into internal affairs; and peaceful resolution of disputes. Considering the recent historical record, not exactly The Empire of Chaos’s cup of tea.

Commenting on Brexit, Boris Titov, the Kremlin’s small business ombudsman, ventured, "it’s not long until a united Eurasia – about 10 years". Considering the slowly but surely interpenetration of OBOR, EEU, SCO, AIIB, the NDB and the solid Russia-China partnership inside the G20, that’s more than feasible.

In Beijing, Putin and Xi did discuss their common position in the upcoming G20, only three months away in China; that’s where the real action is, not the G7. Compare it also with NATO’s upcoming warmongering summit in Warsaw; that’s what the West has to "offer" the global South.

In a nutshell; the option to a united Eurasia is chaos. And there’s no question the Empire of Chaos will stop trying to sow chaos. Expect Beijing ordering 1,000 heavy transport aircraft from Russia and Russian ships possibly spotted sooner or later in the South China Sea to add to those perennial howls of anger in the neocon/neoliberalcon galaxy.


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. 

Hot off Brexit, Vladimir Putin goes to China

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Putin Xi

Originally published in RT on June 24, 2016

 


As the whole planet attempts to digest the implications of Brexit, the real heart of 21st century action once again shifts to Beijing, where President Vladimir Putin on Saturday pays a visit to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Business will include clinching a $6.2 billion high-speed rail deal; increased supply of Russian wheat to China – by building a Trans-Baikal grain terminal; and steps towards deeper military cooperation. They are already cooperating on an engine that will power the new Russia-China airliner.

Everything connected to the Russia-China partnership spells out Eurasia integration. It starts with the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. One Belt, One Road (OBOR), which will progressively interplay with the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU), as Putin emphasized at the St. Petersburg forum. It involves the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); the immediate future of BRICS, including the New Development Bank (NDB); projects to be financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and Russia-China coordination inside the G20.

OBOR and the EEU naturally merge as Eurasia will be slowly but surely fashioned into a massive emporium – an interlocking trade and infrastructure network stretching from Russia’s Far East and the Chinese east coast to Western Europe, including the Middle East and Africa on the way.

Geopolitically, the expansion of OBOR-EEU is Eurasia’s response to the lame duck Obama administration-peddled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes both Russia and China. Xi Jinping has visited Central Asia and Eastern Europe recently – from Serbia to Uzbekistan – selling OBOR. Moscow, considering its influence over Balkan states, will add extra support.

One just needs to look at some numbers to gauge the power of the multi-pronged Chinese offensive. Beijing is rolling out up to $100 billion to the NDB; between $50 billion and $100 billion to the AIIB; $40 billion to the Silk Road Fund; $40 billion to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). These multilateral financial investments will roll out in stages – and can be easily paid out of the yearly surplus in cash of Beijing's myriad current operations.

Additionally, Beijing has as much as a $4 trillion pile of cash to be used at the discretion of Xi and the collective leadership. This is the reality – not the usual US ‘Think Tankland’ blabbering about China’s imminent implosion. Compare it with the Fed printing so many new US dollars, about $60 billion a month, as the US would have a really hard time committing to any possible financial investment (apart from war) in the $100 billion range.

Supply chain geopolitics, anyone?

Beijing and Moscow inevitably would have come to the conclusion that their strategic partnership creates leverage and thus increases its value as it translates into multi-vector supply chain geopolitics.

‘Pipelineistan’ – with those humongous 2014 Siberian deals – is an essential node of the whole package, as Russia will ensure the supply of natural gas to China bypassing the dreaded Strait of Malacca, which Beijing well knows the US Navy could easily block at will. The interpenetration also translates, for instance, into Gazprom offering CNPC a stake in the monster Vankor gas field.

Moscow for its part does not need to rely exclusively on the West for foreign investment – on top of it controlled/sanctioned by Washington. Chinese investment will be key, as under OBOR-EEU synergy, Russia should be well on its way of developing its full potential as a global supplier of energy and agriculture and a privileged transit corridor across the whole of Eurasia.

Russia may even profit from climate change. Few may know that Russia – with permafrost fast retreating – is warming up faster than any other nation. That opens the vista of new fertile soils that could allow poultry and fish to be exported to – where else – China. Not to mention torrential amounts of freshwater. Chinese companies are buying large stakes in Russian fertilizer companies such as Uralkali as well as becoming partners of Singapore-based companies to go all out into food processing in Russia.

Contrary to what US ‘Think Tankland’ never ceases to parrot, the Russia-China strategic partnership goes way beyond a mere supply-demand alliance of convenience. Were the Kremlin to take the fateful decision, Chinese companies could certainly rebuild creaking parts of Russian infrastructure in only a few years.


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. 

Blowback Paris: Exxonomics 102

Seeing Parisgc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Albert Bates

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Publishes on the Peak Surfer on November 13, 2015

PeakSurfer

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"‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.' – George W. Bush, 2006"
 

 

This past week a number of our respected readers took us to task for our post, Exxonomics 101, not because we were wrong (although we were visited by our usual gaggle of climate deniers) but because we had made so many bald statements about US foreign policy without referencing sources.

We wrote:

"That whole shooting match in Syria, driving millions of refugees into Europe, is about whether Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran and a proponent of a gas pipeline from Iran across Kurdistan to the sea, will be deposed by ISIS terrorists trained by CIA in the Colonel Kurtz style of spectacular horror and funded by the Pentagon so that the US could instead build a pipeline to European markets through Syria from Iraq. The Russian Air Force, with a new generation of fighters that can fly circles around anything built by Lockheed Martin, is looking like it will decide that one. It is pulverizing ISIS."


We find our critics' point about undocumented sources valid, so this week we'll dive deeper into the morass which is petropolitics in hopes of speeding the day it will become paleopolitics. This will be about three times longer than our usual post. We could have broken it into three parts – a four semester course in Exxonomics – but we could just visualize our regular readers slipping out for a smoke in the parking lot.

On Friday evening Paris was attacked by a coordinated, well-armed guerrilla group that caused at least 129 deaths and 352 injuries, 99 critical, while losing 8 jihadis. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. As we shall show in this post, direct responsibility for the attack traces back to President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Parenthetically, Sen. Bernie Sanders on September 18 voted against the United States financing, training and arming ISIS by proxy astroturf Syrian "freedom fighters.") The Paris attacks are being called France's worst terrorist attack, but only a day earlier, ISIL attacks on Beirut left 41 dead and 181 injured and in the week before IS is believed to have downed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt with 224 people on board. 

The President of France was quick to link the attacks to its own military action in Syria, calling for stronger efforts at "regime change" to oust Assad. In the Syrian conflict, France is anti-Assad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is pro-Assad. Russia is an ally of Assad. The ISIS targeting has nothing to do with President Bashir Al-Assad. It has to do with confusion.

The Origins of ISIS

In our humble opinion, it should be abundantly clear that the Beltway NeoCons, who were unable to gain much traction for their most wacky ideas with Carter, Bush-I or Bill Clinton, burned rubber with Bush-II, a.k.a. Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice. Yahoooo! Just wait until they meet Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Pushed to the fore during that golden era of unaccountability was the proposition that for Right Wing Christianity to prevail over Fundamentalist Islam in the Battle of Armageddon to come, it will be necessary to fragment the Middle East and to get those Oil Sheiks and Gas Kings who are busy spending petrodollars on military hardware to fight each other.
 

Ronald Reagan meets with future Al Qaeda leaders in the White House

Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.


Last week touched some nerves when we described the US’s 9/11 moment as a new Pearl Harbor,  despite the loss of fewer civilian casualties that day than when GHW Bush galloped through Panama City chasing after one of our assets gone off reservation. Then followed the “smoking gun” Kabuki at the UN Security Council, untold billions in small bills being offloaded from numerous C-130J Super Hercules for delivery to non-state-actors, the downing of Paul Wellstone’s plane, and we’ll anthrax your mailbox if you oppose us on this.

We know, even fellow travelers like James Howard Kunstler just closed their laptops and walked away. If you are allergic to conspiracies, well, sorry. Conspire means to breathe together. If you are willing to stick around, then take a deep breath.

We opined long ago that the YouTube'd kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl was at the behest of the CIA because he was a loudmouth. The orange jumpsuit was a pretty good “tell” that this was not just a ragtag band of rag-head discontents putting a knife to his throat. Now we propose to prove that.

Here are a few more threads:

Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists,  a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials (remember what the anthrax letters looked like). Government officials also confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country.

Similarly, the U.S. falsely blamed Iraq for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks – as shown by a memo from the defense secretary – as one of the main justifications for launching the Iraq war. Even after the 9/11 Commission admitted that there was no connection, Dick Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime, that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties. Top U.S. government officials now admit that the Iraq war was really launched for oil … not 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction (despite previous “lone wolf” claims, many U.S. government officials now say that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror; but Iraq was not the state which backed the hijackers).

In a thorough but very long post by Washington's Blog on September 11, 2015, Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observes:

Iraq’s fate was sealed from the moment we invaded: it has no future as a unitary state. As I pointed out again and again in the early days of the conflict, Iraq is fated to split apart into at least three separate states: the Shi’ite areas around Baghdad and to the south, the Sunni regions to the northwest, and the Kurdish enclave which was itching for independence since well before the US invasion. This was the War Party’s real if unexpressed goal from the very beginning: the atomization of Iraq, and indeed the entire Middle East. Their goal, in short, was chaos – and that is precisely what we are seeing today.

Europe is reeling from the waves of refugees pouring across every border as people from all walks of life flee from the randomized violence wrought by this atomization, set against a background of unsustainable population growth, resource depletion and rapid climate change. In Syria, with a population of little more than Florida, some 250,000 civilians have been killed by the violence brought about by the Western attempt at regime change. And yet there seems to be a disconnect between cause and effect, as a disproportionate amount of money is spent to atomize more while band-aids like border detention centers are erected to further victimize the victims.

"You will find that regime change– whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government Guatemala way back when– these invasions, these– these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences." –– Sen. Bernie Sanders


It seems evident to us, if not to most, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were initiated to the strategy of inflicted chaos some time ago, perhaps during the 2008 transition when Brzezinski was on the Obama foreign policy team, or maybe earlier, when Obama studied under Zbiggy at Columbia. Since 2010 they have extended the plan to other parts of the Empire. Hence Victoria Nuland’s mischief in Kiev — the Balkanization of the Balkins if you will. Puerto Rico wants to become the 51st State but they may have to stand in line behind Estonia.

One of our critics said we were not known as an expert on foreign affairs, but, hey, news flash! We don’t claim to be expert on anything. We are merely opinionated, like Donald Trump or Quentin Tarrentino. Still, it might be worth tracing the evidentiary breadcrumbs we have been following.

The ‘Skittles’ Theory

Brian Whitaker, writing for The Guardian in September, 2003, said the game plan among Washington's hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked. “We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region,” he said.

    ***

They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the [Pentagon] hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr. Mubarak believes that would be bad. The hawks, though, believe it would be good.

For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.
 

    ***

The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ….”
 

    ***

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded.
 

    ***

The leader of the “prominent opinion makers” who wrote it was Richard Perle – now [2003] chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon. Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as under-secretary of policy.
 

    ***

Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav (see US think tanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security.

A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) – a bastion of neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.

The rise of the Islamic State

"At times it can resemble Andy Kaufman in the wrestling ring, taunting Memphis hayseeds that he's from Hollywood, where people use their brains." — Bill Maher on the ISIS threat.

On October 14, 2015, Sophie Shevardnadze interviewed FBI whistleblower Sibel Edwards for the back story on US covert support for ISIS. President Obama had just come out to say the rise of Islamic State was never properly addressed by the U.S. intelligence community. Dangling from the President's puppet strings, Vice-President Biden then stepped to the Press Room podium to scapegoat NATO and its Arab allies, saying it was they who funded jihadists, not the US. (Laughter). This is still the official position. Lets look at the evidence.

 
 


This video from LiveLeak shows an Apache attack helicopter following a huge ISIS convoy of white pickup trucks crossing from Iraq to Syria but instead of attacking is more or less “escorting” it across the border. The key "tell" is not the Apache but the Toyotas. While crossing the desert for 3 days in a very long convoy line, they did not elicit a military response from NATO or the US in spite of 24/7 satellite surveillance.

That still does not pin it on the US. ISIS could be supported by our NATO allies, whom Biden says are the real bad actors here. The Apache might just be supporting evil NATO.

But then, U.S. counter-terror officials launched an investigation into how ISIS got so many of those identical Toyota pickup trucks for their convoys.

The Spectator reported:

The [Toyota] Hilux is light, fast, manoeuvrable and all but indestructible (‘bomb-proof’ might not, in this instance, be a happy usage).  The weapons experts Jane’s claimed for the Hilux a similar significance to the longbows of Agincourt or the Huey choppers of Nam. A US Army Ranger said the Toyota sure ‘kicks the hell out of a Humvee’ (referring to the clumsy and over-sized High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle made by AM General).

    ***

The fact is the Toyotas were supplied by the US government to the Al Nusra Front as ‘non-lethal aid’ then ‘acquired’ by ISIS.


This is how it was outlined by PRI (Public Radio International):

Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks. Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

“Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.

That’s exactly what happened, along with shoulder-fired Manpad ground-to-air missiles, TOW antitank missiles and other fancy smart weapons. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. and its regional allies agreed to increase shipments of weapons and other supplies to help moderate Syrian rebels hold their ground and challenge the intervention of Russia and Iran on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials and their counterparts in the region said.

It now appears that while Russian fighter jets can evade or outrun Manpad missiles, ISIS may have used a Manpad to shoot down a Russian civilian airliner last week, killing more innocent civilians than died in Paris.

Al Nusra Front is literally Al Qaeda. The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom said:

By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.

Here is a part of last month's exchange between Sophie Shevardnadze and Sibel Edwards:

SS: Now, the former CIA chief and the ex-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is looking at at least a 30-year war against ISIS, which is not at all what the White House is telling the public. Is he exaggerating? What’s your estimate?

SE: I would say it’s a very short period; I’m really surprised, because we just talked about the brand change. The war against Al-Qaeda was declared as a “forever war” and it has been expanding. I mean, when the war against Al-Qaeda started, it was supposed to be in Afghanistan, and we started chasing Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Pakistan with all the drone attacks, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the fact that this was going to be a forever war… and now that the brand has changed to ISIS, I’m very surprised that the former FBI director is stamping it with a short-time period. I believe 30 year period is very short, unless that have already in plan other sects or other factions that they are going to declare the “world’s great and most dangerous terrorists”, I would say it’s a very short period of time. We currently are more interested in an ongoing, never-ending, perpetual war, so I would, if you compare it with what we have been characterizing – or our government and the media – Al-Qaeda, I’m surprised that he has put such a short time-stamp on ISIS. Considering the attraction, or the attractiveness, of the brand, because it has the world “Islam” built into it, and let’s just forget Al-Qaeda. I mean, Al-Qaeda was the just the noun, the name – and this case you’re looking at the far-reaching implications. Now you declare that current greatest threatening organization that has the word “Islam” built into it – and I think it’s much more attractive to be used. So, I would say, yeah, it should be forever. I’m surprised it’s 30 years.
 

***

SS: All right, here’s another possible and interesting turn of events – FBI chief James Comey warned terrorists are working on an effort to attack the U.S. very-very soon. Is the U.S. ready to respond?

SE: We have to look at different things and see why this statement was made. Is it based on some sort of facts and real solid intelligence gathered, or is it the fact that… for example, we have had for the TSA, for the flights, the threat level has been really low, and when that goes for a long time, people get antsy, they say “This is really annoying to have all these screens out there and going through them, we haven’t had any terrorist threats really, the level has not been blinking red or even orange, it’s been yellow, let’s go through the rainbow colors” – so, it’s time to re-energize the Americans with the fear of terrorism. We need to have more expenditure for things to put in place, because we can go ahead and increase the threat level within the airports. Let me give you an example. If you look at the stock market and stock prices for all the military-industrial complex-related companies and firms, you will see how they have just gone up tremendously since the brand switch from Al-Qaeda to ISIS, and this is, again, the brand-change I’m referring to, this is when you say “yes, now we can go ahead and produce and sell more to the government and it will spend billions more”. So, the same thing is true for the internal security, fear-mongering factors on the ground in the U.S. It’s time to re-energize that fear, and that is exactly what they are doing. What’s going to follow this is there’s going to be more measures put in place, whether it’s in the airports, or whether it’s the hiring within the FBI, or increasing the number of informants. Those are the things that are going to follow this announcement: “we have to have more expenditure, because of the public consent, because the fear level is going to go up, and therefore those expenditures are going to be justified” – and it is that simple as that.

A quick history refresher on Syria:

  • The U.S. carried out a coup in Syria in 1949. The reason? In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The part crossing Syria stalled in the Syrian parliament.
  •  In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once more agreed to use Arab extremists – including the Muslim Brotherhood –  to effect regime change in Syria. A joint CIA-MI6 operation was launched to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbors, and then to “eliminate” the top figures.
  • The U.S. has been arming the Syrian opposition since 2006, years before the present uprising started.
  • It was the “rebels” – not the Syrian government – who carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria.
  • The CIA plotted to poison the Iraqi leader in 1960.
  • In 1963, the U.S. backed the coup which succeeded in killing the head of Iraq.
  • Until he was toppled by a popular uprising, the US supported the tyrannical rule of the Shah of Iran and supplied his military with the latest in weapons and aircraft.
  • Syria controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Syria controls of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connects pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey.
  • Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.
  • Syria also has oil shale resources with estimated reserves that range as high as 50 billion tons, according to a Syrian government source in 2010.
  • Syria is the key link in the flow of any oil or gas from Iraq or Iran to the Mediterranean and thence to Europe.
  • Because of the sordid role of the US in his country's history, Bashir Al-Assad tilts towards Russia and Iran, and away from the US and Iraq.

The New York Times writes:

President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.

After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
 

    ***

The fluidity of battlefield alliances in Syria means that even mainline rebels often end up fighting alongside the Nusra Front, whose suicide bombers are relied on by other groups to soften up government targets.

“Even the groups that the U.S. has trained tend to show up in the same trenches as the Nusra Front eventually, because they need them and they are fighting the same battles,” Mr. Lund said.
 

    ***

Current and former American officials acknowledge the government’s lack of deep knowledge about the rebels. “We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition is,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and Syria. “Frankly, we don’t have a clue.”

Washington’s Blog wrote in September:

And yet, as the Wall Street Journal,  PBS, CNN, New York Times, Medium, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh and others note, the U.S. and its allies have poured huge amounts of weapons and support to the Syrian Islamic “rebels”. This is in spite of the CIA warning President Obama that arming rebels rarely works.

Washington wants regime change in Syria, so it’s making up a myth of the “moderate Syrian rebel” who hates Assad and ISIS. But they “don’t have a clue” as to whether such a mythical unicorn actually exists (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

Its about Russia

Before the Russian Air Force entered the picture, ISIS had more than tripled the size of its territory in Syria and greatly expanded its territory in Iraq. Q: What does the Russian Air Force call all those stockpiles of expensive new arms and billions of dollar bills that ISIS has sitting on air-dropped, shrink-wrapped pallets all over Syria? A: Target practice. 

Despite US unwillingness to cooperate with Russia in destruction of ISIS and the White House complaining that President Vladimir Putin was targeting its anti-Assad forces, Russia has been cooperating with the US-sponsored, Anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA). Putin said on Friday that FSA had shared their intelligence on ISIS positions and convoys, which were then targeted by Russian airstrikes.

On November 9, 2015, RT-TV interviewed Oxford University's Sharmine Narwani about the conflict between the Russian anti-ISIS offensive and the US military objectives in Syria.

RT: What are the reasons, do you think the [US-Arab] coalition is breaking apart? How can the coalition increase the efficiency of its actions?

US air attack on Kobani, Syria 10/8/14. © Umit Bektas/Reuters

 SN: I see the coalition breaking apart or being redundant for two reasons. One is the lack of common objectives among the 11 actors participating in the coalition, but the other is more in lines with military strategy in fighting any war or conflict, anywhere. We’ve heard this over and over again in the Syrian conflict – you need a coordination of air force and ground power. The US-led coalition does not have this. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is because it entered Syrian air space and violated international law in doing so against the wishes of the Syrian government. So it cannot coordinate with the Syrian government who leads the ground activities, whether it is the Syrian army or various Syrian militias that are pro-government; or Hezbollah – a non-state actor from Lebanon; or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their advisory capacity. The Russians of course do enjoy that relationship, so their airstrikes are not only both valid and legal, but also useful – a coordinated effort to target ISIL and other terrorist organizations.

RT: Do you think the US doesn’t have real intentions to fight ISIS, and that is the main reason of instability of its coalition?

SN: Absolutely. The US-led coalition has failed in attaining goals to defeat ISIS, not just because it cannot lead a coordinated military effort in air, land and sea in Syria, or because it lacks legality, or because the member states of the coalition have diverging interests. But I think the US interest as well has to be called into question. I mean: does the US want to defeat ISIS? I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure there are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna. 


Its About Israel

General Wesley Clark – former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO – said:

It came back to me … a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz.

    ***

In 1991, he was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy – the number 3 position at the Pentagon. And I had gone to see him when I was a 1-Star General commanding the National Training Center.
 

    ***

And I said, “Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” And he said: “Yeah, but not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”


Former U.S. Secretary of Defense – and former 12-year Republican Senator – Chuck Hagel said of the Iraq war in 2007:

People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.

General John Abizaid – the former commander of CENTCOM with responsibility for Iraq – said:

Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil, and we can’t really deny that.

President George W. Bush said in 2005 that keeping Iraqi oil away from the bad guys was a key motive for the Iraq war:

‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.”

The Cheney Energy Task Force Report, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century — a full five months before September 11 — describes how the West is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history because of Peak Oil. It named Saddam Hussain as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommended the use of ‘military intervention’ as a means to fix the US energy crisis.

One of the most telling passages in the document reads:

Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to … the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.

Haaretz reported soon after the Iraq war started in 2003:

The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a “bonus” the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.

The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948.  During the War of Independence [what Jews call the 1948 war to form the state of Israel], the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.
 

    ***

National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month.
 

    ***

In response to rumors about the possible Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this development as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.

Some of the seeds for the current conflict were sewn between 1932 and 1948. As Wikipedia explains:

Mosul-Haifa Pipeline 1935

The Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline (also known as Mediterranean pipeline) was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel). The pipeline was operational in 1935–1948. Its length was about 942 kilometres (585 mi), with a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) (reducing to 10 and 8 inches (250 and 200 mm) in parts), and it took about 10 days for crude oil to travel the full length of the line. The oil arriving in Haifa was distilled in the Haifa refineries, stored in tanks, and then put in tankers for shipment to Europe.

The pipeline was built by the Iraq Petroleum Company between 1932 and 1935, during which period most of the area through which the pipeline passed was under a British mandate approved by the League of Nations. The pipeline was one of two pipelines carrying oil from the Kirkuk oilfield to the Mediterranean coast. The main pipeline split at Haditha with a second line carrying oil to Tripoli, Lebanon, which was then under a French mandate. This line was built primarily to satisfy the demands of the French partner in IPC, Compagnie Française des Pétroles, for a separate line to be built across French mandated territory.

The pipeline and the Haifa refineries were considered strategically important by the British Government, and indeed provided much of the fuel needs of the British and American forces in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.

The pipeline was a target of attacks by Arab gangs during the Great Arab Revolt, and as a result one of the main objectives of a joint British-Jewish Special Night Squads commanded by Captain Orde Wingate was to protect the pipeline against such attacks. Later on, the pipeline was the target of attacks by the Irgun.

In 1948, with the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the official operation of the pipeline ended when the Iraqi Government refused to pump any more oil through it.

Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported in 2014:

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Monday … Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms. Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, on July 22.

International Business Times reported in 2003:

Halliburton [which Dick Cheney was President of] is one of the firms thought by analysts to be in line to make a killing in any clean-up operation after another US-led war on Iraq.

All five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the UK, France, China, Russia and the US — have international oil companies that would benefit from huge windfalls in the event of regime change in Baghdad. The best chance for US firms to make billions would come if Bush installed a pro-US Iraqi opposition member as the head of a new government.

Representatives of foreign oil firms have already met with leaders of the Iraqi opposition. Ahmed Chalabi, the London-based leader of the Iraqi National Congress, said: ‘American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.’

Thomas Harrington, professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, writes:

To read the cold-blooded imperial reasoning in both of these documents—which speak, in the first case, quite openly of the need to destabilize the region so as to reshape Israel’s “strategic environment” and, in the second of the need to dramatically increase the number of US “forward bases” in the region ….

To do so now, after the US’s systematic destruction of Iraq and Libya—two notably oil-rich countries whose delicate ethnic and religious balances were well known to anyone in or out of government with more than passing interest in history— and after carefully calibrated efforts to generate and maintain murderous and civilization-destroying stalemates in Syria and Egypt (something that is easily substantiated despite our media’s deafening silence on the subject), is downright blood-curdling.

And yet, it seems that for even very well-informed analysts, it is beyond the pale to raise the possibility that foreign policy elites in the US and Israel, like all virtually all the ambitious hegemons before them on the world stage, might have quite coldly and consciously fomented open-ended chaos in order to achieve their overlapping strategic objectives in this part of the world.

Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observed:

“[T]he actual purpose [of the Iraq War] was to blow the country to smithereens: to atomize it, and crush it, so that it would never rise again.

“When we invaded and occupied Iraq, we didn’t just militarily defeat Iraq’s armed forces – we dismantled their army, and their police force, along with all the other institutions that held the country together. The educational system was destroyed, and not reconstituted. The infrastructure was pulverized, and never restored. Even the physical hallmarks of a civilized society – roads, bridges, electrical plants, water facilities, museums, schools – were bombed out of existence or else left to fall into disrepair. Along with that, the spiritual and psychological infrastructure that enables a society to function – the bonds of trust, allegiance, and custom – was dissolved, leaving Iraqis to fend for themselves in a war of all against all.

“… What we are witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq is the erasure of an entire country. We can say, with confidence: We came, we saw, we atomized.”

Mass deaths from terrorist attacks are now doubling every 2 years

Washington's Blog asks:

Why? This is the question that inevitably arises in the wake of such an analysis: why deliberately destroy an entire country whose people were civilized while our European ancestors were living in trees?

The people who planned, agitated for, and executed this war are the very same people who have advanced Israeli interests – at America’s expense – at every opportunity. In “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a 1996 document prepared by a gaggle of neocons – Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to “break out” of Israel’s alleged stagnation and undertake a campaign of “regime change” across the Middle East, targeting Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran. With the exception of Iran – and that one’s still cooking on the back burner – this is precisely what has occurred. In 2003, in the immediate wake of our Pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared to a visiting delegation of American members of Congress that these “rogue states” – Iran, Libya, and Syria – would have to be next on the War Party’s target list.

The Washington Post reported in 2010:

The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks.  That is the conclusion of the three-page classified paper produced in February, 2010 by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide "out-of-the-box" analyses on "a full range of analytic issues."

We have Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange to thank for that disclosure. The President, when he is not reading to his daughters, is currently thanking Private Manning for her patriotism by torturing her (solitary confinement without reading material) over possessing expired toothpaste and the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair in her Ft. Leavenworth prison cell.

Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War by Alexander L. George of Stanford University describes how the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.

Terrorism is defined as:

 The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

It seems to us, in our humble, non-expert opinion, that the War on Terror should not continue for generations more, but be brought to a swift end with an FBI raid and trial of the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and on the private residence of Hillary Clinton, whose face is pictured at the top of this post.

NATO Invades Spain

 NATO Spaingc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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NATO Spain

Originally published in SputnikNews on November 6, 2015

 

Fresh from its thunderous humiliation by the Taliban; its “liberation” of Libya for the benefit of militia hell; and while Russia was bombing the hell out of a Salafi-jihadi/”moderate rebel” constellation in Syria, NATO – in search for a “360-degree” response to Russia – resorted to invading… Spain.

And Portugal. And Italy. The whole “central Mediterranean” for that matter. Trident Juncture – the heroic denomination of NATO’s war games – is supposed to last a very long five weeks, involving 36,000 troops, 230 military units, 140 fighter aircraft, more than 60 ships, and Humvees spectacularly bogged down on Portuguese beaches.

Oh yes; it takes a lot of effort to find those elusive, evil tapas of mass destruction (TMDs).

NATO secretary-general, Norwegian figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, ceremonially landed in Zaragoza to “observe” Trident Juncture in person, spinning there were now “many threats to the South of the alliance”. No, he was not talking about himself.  

Stoltenberg was evidently oblivious to pan-European civil society protesting his weaponized Big Brother en masse. In Zaragoza. In Rome. In Sofia. In Montenegro.

An helicopter takes part in the NATO's Trident Juncture Exercice at San Gregorio training ground near Zaragoza on November 4, 2015.

Instead, he advanced that in early December NATO will come up with a new “southern strategy”. Essentially more patrols in the Club Med; deployment of NATO troops in “advisory” roles across Middle East-Northern Africa (MENA); and reinforced, permanent NATO military deployments all over Europe.

Trident Juncture involves what NATO calls “spearhead force”. So may the force be fit to invade not only PIGS but all points Africa as well.

Maybe we should copy DHL?

With Trident Juncture, we have a NATO invasion of some of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy and Spain) – all nasty, pejorative connotations included – essentially designed to reassure NATO’s “eastern allies” that Russia will not be able to invade them.

After all, Admiral John Richardson, the new chief of US Navy operations, had already confirmed the Pentagon is sending extra ships and submarines to deter “Russian adventurism”.

He was echoed by Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander, who invoked perennial “freedom of navigation” to justify an escalation; “As we observe the deployment of more sophisticated [Russian] capabilities with considerable reach it becomes more and more important that we refresh our deterrence.”

So from now on expect a NATO “continuum of deterrence” all across southern Europe. That includes five Global Hawk surveillance drones based in Sicily that will allow non-stop spying across the Mediterranean to MENA.

Predictably, to justify Trident Juncture, Western corporate media turned up the excuse bullhorn to ear-splitting levels – from “wrong-footed US-led alliance” to “tactical surprises” by Russia – while praising NATO’s “biggest modernization since the Cold War”. Gen. Denis Mercier from France spun NATO’s new, multi-layered “deterrence” effort as, "We need to develop a strategy for all kinds of crises, at 360 degrees." Well, a few extra degrees towards the Eastern Mediterranean would pit NATO against Russia – but that’s too risky. Better try to find those tapas. 

 

Proverbially unnamed NATO officials were kept busy anyway spinning that Russia could deploy warships from the Eastern Mediterranean to Libya to “hamper” a NATO “effort” to support a future government of national unity. As if NATO’s “strategy” of creating a wasteland in northern Africa and calling it “victory” would qualify it for nation building.

Trident Juncture is just about – well — tapas. The full dinner takes place at a NATO summit in July 2016 in Russia-demonizing Poland. Europeans are advised to expect lots of brilliant ideas lifted from DHL and Amazon. As NATO’s Mercier indelibly put it, “We should look at what the civilian world does, to DHL and Amazon. How do they improve their logistics?"

Oh, those mysterious Russians

NATO’s cluelessness is a direct consequence of American military perplexity, as reflected in this priceless briefing by Dr. Strangelove, sorry, NATO supremo Gen. Philip Breedlove himself.

In his own words; “We cannot be fully certain of what Russia will do next. We still cannot fully discern Mr. Putin’s intent.”

And that perplexity in itself reflects the Pentagon’s deadly mix of ire and impotence. Take US Army Chief of Staff General Mike Milley, blasting at the Defense One summit in Washington that Russia is “aggressive”; “adversarial to the interests of the United States”; a violator of “the Westphalian order” since 2008 by “invading sovereign nations”; and in sum – fully subscribing to the latest US military doctrine — an existential threat.

Breedlove/hate at least admitted the Pentagon’s perennial obsession with (supposed) Full Spectrum Dominance, projected way beyond  Europe towards MENA and deep into Africa; “Most of the forces we have in Europe are also dual-hatted to Africa Command. While they are stationed in Europe, their focus is on AFRICOM missions on the continent. In this way, EUCOM is supporting across that seam into AFRICOM.”

And yet the number one issue in MENA remains Syria.

The Pentagon is deploying a dozen F-15C Eagle fighters to Turkey’s Incirlik base. The official spin is to “ensure the safety” of “NATO allies”, which should be translated as “protecting” US and other Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO) allied jet fighters from… Russian jet fighters.

Theoretically the F-15Cs will be “escorting” the odd CDO attack planes that bomb ISIS/ISIL/Daesh once in a blue moon. Rubbish; the F-15Cs carry only air-to-air weapons. And their pilots are trained to only shoot down enemy aircraft.

 

The notion that the Pentagon would dare declaring its own no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect a gaggle of “moderate rebels” from Russian and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) bombing is preposterous. What next? “Red” fighters against “Blue” fighters on air-to-air combat? As much as he’s cornered by a neocon-infested Pentagon, Obama is not suicidal. Still, the wondrous plot of two divergent coalitions in Syria – the CDO versus the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq plus Hezbollah) — keeps thickening.

Adding to Pentagon freak out, Russia has sent missile systems to Syria, on top of fighter jets, bombers and helicopters, as Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev told the Komsomolskaya Pravda. As Bondarev and other Russian military officials have kept mum on what sort of missiles, the Pentagon assumes they are the deadly accurate S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Oh dear. Better scrap that Pentagon no-fly zone.

So it’s easy to see why the Pentagon and NATO are so dejected. It’s so much safer to keep looking for those elusive tapas of mass destruction (TMDs). And then go for a deterrence siesta.


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).

Moscow doubles down on Washington

 putin obamagc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin obama

Originally published in Ron October 15, 2015

 


History may eventually decide the ‘New World Order’ started on September 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had a 90-minute face off at the UN in New York.
 

Irrespective of spin – “productive” according to the White House, “tense”according to a source close to the Kremlin – facts on the ground accumulated almost immediately.

Putin did press Obama for the US to join Russia in a real grand coalition bent on smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. The Obama administration, once again, relented. I detailed here what happened next: an earth-shattering game-changer in the ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia, straight out of the Caspian Sea, that caught the acronym fest of US intelligence – not to mention the Pentagon – completely off-guard.

So this was Putin’s first message to Washington, and the Pentagon/NATO combo in particular; your fancy ideas of stationing tactical nuclear weapons or expanding missile defense to Eastern Europe, or even Asia-Pacific, are just a mirage. Our cruise missiles are capable of wreaking real effective havoc; and soon, as this piece argues, there will be more hypersonic, high-precision long-range missiles added to the mix.

Old habits don’t die hard – they remain in a coma forever. The Pentagon’s response to the facts launched from the Caspian Sea was to conduct an airdrop of light weapons to “a select group of vetted leaders and their units,” as in those famously non-existent Syrian “moderate rebels.” The weapons will inevitably be captured by assorted Salafi-jihadi goon outfits in no time.

Then the British government was forced to deny a Murdoch-controlled Sunday Times “report” that British Tornadoes in Syria are now armed with air-to-air missiles to counter potential Russian aerial “attacks.”

And to top it off, the proverbial “military experts” infesting US corporate media started spinning that we are only 30 seconds from World War III.

The Glazyev nuclear plan

A still apoplectic Pentagon will take time to absorb the new military facts on the Syrian ground – and skies. That will add to the utter desperation displayed by the ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington/Wall Street axis – itching to break the China-Russia strategic partnership by all means necessary. Quite a feat when the Pentagon is still fighting World War II, with its weapons, ships and monster aircraft carriers displayed as sitting ducks against Russia’s new batch of missiles.

But then there’s also Putin’s second – silent – message to Washington, which didn’t even have to be delivered in person to Obama. US intel though may have a hint about it, as they closely follow Russian media.

It’s about Sergey Glazyev’s (presidential aide) plan for Russia’s immediate economic future here is a summary of the plan, in Russian. The plan was formally proposed to Russia’s Security Council. Here is a very good summary on how Russia’s Security Council works.

There are at least three absolutely key points in Glazyev’s plan. We may summarize them like this:

1. If the emerging trend of freezing private assets of Russian legal entities and individuals continues, Russia should consider full or a partial moratorium on the servicing of loans and investment from the countries involved in the freezing.

2. The amount of foreign currency assets of the Russian Federation located in the jurisdiction of NATO countries accounts to more than $1.2 trillion, including short-term debt of about $800 billion. Their freeze may be partially offset by retaliation against NATO assets in Russia, which amounts to $1.1 trillion, including over $400 billion long-term. So this threat would be neutralized if Russian monetary authorities organized a timely withdrawal of Russian short-term assets in the US and the EU.

3.  Glazyev is adamant that the Russian Central Bank continues to serve the interests of foreign capital – as in the financial powers in London and New York. He contends that the high interest rates practiced by the Russian Central Bank led Russian oligarchs to borrow more cheaply from the West, making the Russian economy dependent, a debt trap which the West used to slowly squeeze Russia. Then the rigged Western oil and ruble collapse increased the pressure as debt service in ruble cost and interest doubled.

Sergei Glazyev, Presidential Advisor for Regional Economic Integration © Ramil Sitdikov

Sergei Glazyev, Presidential Advisor for Regional Economic Integration © Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti

 

Essentially, once again, a Russian default on a $1 trillion-plus debt to private Western parties remains a possible scenario discussed at the highest level – assuming Washington will persist in its anti-Russia demonization campaign.

 

It’s clear the squeeze Russia is feeling has less to do with sanctions than the grip maintained by Western financial powers over the Russian Central Bank. The Russian Central Bank did create a debt trap by maintaining high interest rates in Russia while the West was lending at low interest rates.

Needless to add, such a default, if it ever happened, would collapse the entire Western financial system.

One should never forget the Big Picture; the Syria/Ukraine/sanctions saga runs in parallel to Russia-China and closer BRICS integration shifting the balance of geopolitical power. For the ‘Masters of the Universe’, this is beyond anathema. Enter, for instance, the use of cash settlement through their Wall Street proxies to raise the A shares of China to hysterical highs and then try to crash their entire stock market by a reverse cash settlement rig as in 1987.

China is moving toward their own SWIFT payment system, not to mention a whole new Chinese-led set of international institutions independent of US control. Russia, for its part, recently passed a bill that would allow the seizing of foreign assets if Russian assets in the West are seized. As Glazyev pointed out, investment in Russia by the West are more or less equivalent to investments of Russia in the West.

The ‘Masters of the Universe’ may keep insisting on using financial weapons of mass destruction. Russia, silently and with a few key facts in the Caspian Sea, is letting them know it’s ready for whatever scenario they can come up with.

A less apocalyptic ending may be healthy. So here’s a popular joke in Moscow nowadays, as told by William Engdahl. Putin is back in the Kremlin after his meeting with Obama in New York. He tells an aide he invited Obama for a game of chess. And then he tells it how it works: “It’s like playing with a pigeon. First it knocks over all the pieces, then it shits on the board and finally struts around like it won.”

 


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).

Open Letter to President Putin

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomFrom the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdom

Published on Dark Ages America on October 17, 2015


Dear Mr. President:

Gaspadin:

I am writing in response to your remark–accurate in the extreme, in my opinion–that members of the American government have mush in their heads instead of brains. Indeed, Mr. Obama has no coherent foreign policy, is basically adrift, and as you have no doubt figured out long ago, is a political and intellectual lightweight. He has no idea at all of what he is doing, and this applies to the majority of American politicians. 

However, what you wrote about the members of the American government also applies to members of the country at large: they have gavno inside their heads; they are a collection of duraki. After all, as a famous American comedian once remarked, our leaders come from the people; they don't originate on Mars. The remarkable thing is that in the US, even the smart ones are dumb, due in large part to our remarkable system of brainwashing. Let me remind you of that hilarious exchange you and Mr. Obama had a while back, regarding American "exceptionalism." Your response to his speech on this topic was to rebuke him, pointing out that regarding oneself as exceptional was a potentially destructive position to take. His response–I told you, he's not very smart–was more exceptionalist propaganda. The problem is that roughly 99.99% of the American public believes this nonsense, that we were chosen by God to lead the world by example. (A bit ironic, considering the fact that that example has not been very exemplary.) There is a knee-jerk reaction in this country, whenever we have a conflict with any other country, that we are good (always innocent) and they are evil, or at the very least misguided. We don't have a great talent for looking within, and the only president who asked us to do that–Jimmy Carter–is regarded by most Americans today as a loser and a fool.

You may well wonder how this nation of "individuals" wound up with a completely uniform ideology. The Australian journalist, John Pilger, tells the story–possibly apocryphal, I have no idea–of a project undertaken by America in the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, and the beginning of a thaw or detente between our two countries. The idea was to invite about two dozen apparatchiki over to the US to view a pluralistic society, "democracy in action." They could go anywhere they wanted, unescorted, and they did: the Senate, the Supreme Court, high schools, newspapers, universities–the works. At the end of the two weeks they all convened at the White House, and the official in charge of the project, beaming with pride, said, "Well?" The response was not exactly what he expected. After an embarrassed silence, one of the Russian officials spoke up:

"How do you do it?" he asked. "To get this extreme degree of conformity of opinion, everyone thinking exactly alike, we in the USSR have to beat our citizens, send them to Siberia, put them in psychiatric hospitals and fill them with drugs, shoot them, and so on. Here, in your country, you achieve the results we can only dream about, and with no coercion at all!"

Anyway, I don't mean to condone your own methods. The assassination of critical Russian journalists under your tenures in office is notorious (Anna Politkovskaya, for example), and forgive me, but I suspect your hands aren't completely clean in these abysmal events. So quite obviously, if you want a free society that allows for real dissent, you've got a ways to go. But Pilger's example, even if it never happened, is true to the spirit of how the United States operates, and to the very low level of citizen awareness of what's really going on in the world. All of which is to say that you might as well pursue your own interests (which you are already doing), and not worry too much about what we say, because all we are doing is pursuing our interests, and it is clear enough to most of the world that American "democracy" is a pretext for the projection of power into every corner of the globe, much of it for the purpose of economic gain.

In any case, it's not very likely that you will be reading this, inasmuch as I am a very minor intellectual figure in the US, not really on the radar screen of public discussion. But if you do happen to run across this, and would like to continue the conversation, I would be glad to do so with a nice samovar of tea from Sochi sitting between us. At the very least, I can assure you that it will be a far more interesting discussion than any you have had, or are likely to have, with virtually any American political figure.

Thank you for listening (if you did). Do svidanya, and vsevo haroshevo.

-Morris Berman

 

©Morris Berman, 2015 


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

The NATO-Russia face off in Syria

Российская боевая авиагруппа на аэродроме "Хмеймим" в Сирииgc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Российская боевая авиагруппа на аэродроме "Хмеймим" в Сирии

© Russian Su-30 aircraft at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov / RIA Novosti

Originally published in Ron October 6, 2015

 


So a Su-30 enters a few hundred meters into Turkish airspace for only two minutes over Hatay province, and returns to Syrian airspace after being warned by a couple of Turkish F-16s.

Then all hell breaks loose as if this was the ultimate pretext for a NATO-Russia war.

NATO, predictably, went out all rhetorical guns blazing. Russia is causing“extreme danger” and should immediately stop bombing those cute“moderate rebels” the coalition of the dodgy opportunists refuses to bomb.

But wait; NATO is actually too busy to go to war. The priority, until at least November, is the epic Trident Juncture 2015; 36,000 troops from 30 states, more than 60 warships, around 200 aircraft, all are seriously practicing how to defend from the proverbial “The Russians are Coming!”

Still, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – he of the former “zero problems with our neighbors” doctrine – actually“warned” Moscow that next time Ankara would respond “militarily”.

Until, of course, he backed down; “What we have received from Russia …is that this was a mistake and that they respect Turkey's borders and this will not happen again.”

The incident could have been easily defused – via military to military communication – without the posturing.

But Ankara – NATO’s eastern flank – is under immense pressure from ‘Exceptionalistan’. It’s no accident Pentagon supremo and notorious neocon Ash Carter “conferred” with Ankara about the incident. Carter of course is the most stellar practitioner of the official Beltway diktat; “By taking military action in Syria against moderate groups’ targets, Russia has escalated the civil war.”

Syria's northern Raqqa province. © Reuters

 

 

 

 

‘Sultan’ Erdogan, right on cue, and straight from Strasbourg (no, he was not campaigning for the European Parliament) doubled down: “Assad has committed state terrorism, and unfortunately you find Russia and Iran defending (him).”

And yet ‘Sultan’ Erdogan won’t go down in history as the catalyst for the much-awaited NATO-Russia Hot War 2.0. At least not yet.

 

Only bomb if we say so

Enter Dr. Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, growling in a FT Op-Ed that Washington should “retaliate” if Moscow does not stop attacking US assets in Syria. “US assets” means CIA-trained “moderate rebels”. And after all, “American credibility” is at stake.

Dr. Zbig – Obama’s prime foreign policy mentor – insists bombing CIA-trained “rebels” accounts for “Russian military incompetence”. And the American counter-attack should be to “disarm” the “Russian naval and air presence.” Now that’s how you go for a NATO-Russia Hot War 2.0.  

Dr. Zbig admitted though that “regional chaos could easily spread northeastward,” and then “both Russia and then China could be adversely affected.” Who cares? What matters is that “American interests and America’s friends…would also suffer.”

This is what passes for prime geopolitical analysis in the ‘Empire of Chaos’.  

‘Sultan’ Erdogan, for his part, remains restless. Moscow has already evaporated his so cherished three-year-old dream of a no-fly zone over northern Syria. There is an actual no-fly zone all over Syria now in effect. But it’s managed by Russia.

And that explains why there’s already full spectrum hysteria for more US Congress sanctions on Russia. How can a no-fly zone be imposed over Syria when Russia got there first?

And it was all going so swimmingly for the ‘Sultan’. Ankara – at the insistence of Washington – had finally thrown open its air bases to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, but as long as this was part of a regime change operation in Damascus. And for that, Ankara would get its no-fly zone.  

Enter ‘The Sultan’s’ recurrent nightmare; the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its sister organization, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

‘The Sultan’ simply cannot accept the PYD advancing to the western bank of the Euphrates to help in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. ‘The Sultan’ wants to “contain” the PYD in Kobani.

The problem is the PYD – supported by the PKK – is the only reliable ‘Empire of Chaos’ ally in Syria. Yet ‘the Sultan’ could not help himself; he got into a war – again – against the PKK. Washington was not exactly amused.

And then there’s the key corridor from the Bab al-Salam border crossing down to Aleppo – controlled by Ankara-supported goon squads. That’s Ankara’s bridge to Aleppo; without it, not the slightest chance of regime change, ever. The fake“Caliphate” was threatening to take over the corridor. So action was imperative.

Russia’s spectacular entry into the war theatre threw all these elaborate plans into disarray. Imagine a complete liberation of northeast Syria as soon as the PYD – with help from PKK fighters – is weaponized enough to smash the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons. And imagine the Russian Air Force providing air cover for such an operation, with extra coordination by the Russia-Syria-Iraq-Iran central in Baghdad.

‘The Sultan’, in desperation, would have to maneuver his F-16s against such an offensive. And then we might really have a NATO-Russia five seconds to midnight scenario – with terrifying consequences. ‘The Sultan’ would blink first. And NATO would collapse into the ignominy it never left – back to its elaborate “Russia is invading” drills.

 

Say hello to my geopolitical jihadi tool

Next steps for the Russian campaign would be to pay close attention to the road linking ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s capital, Al-Raqqah, around which jihadis are fighting for the control of oil and gas in Sha’ir and Jazal. And then there are pockets east of both Homs and Hama, and in al-Qaryatayn. Moscow – slowly, surely, methodically – is getting there.

What the Russian air campaign has already graphically exposed is the whole rotten core myth of the new Jihad International.

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra and assorted Salafi-jihadi goon squads have been kept up and running by a massive financial/logistical/weaponizing “effort” – which includes all sorts of key nodes, from arms factories in Bulgaria and Croatia to transportation routes via Turkey and Jordan.  

As for those Syrian “moderate rebels” – and most of them are not even Syrian, they’re mercenaries – every pebble in the ravaged Sykes-Picot desert sands knows they were trained by the CIA in Jordan. The desert pebbles are also aware that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons have been infiltrated into Syria from Turkey – once again, across Hatay province; and vast swathes of ‘the Sultan’s’ Army and police were into the game.

As for who pays the bills for the lavish weaponizing, talk to the proverbial “pious wealthy donors” – incited by their clerics – in the GCC, the petrodollar arm of NATO. None of these goon squads could possibly thrive for so long without full, multidisciplinary “support” from the usual suspects.

So the hysterical/apoplectic/paroxystic rage enveloping the ‘Empire of Chaos’ betrays the utter failure, once again, of the same old “policy” (remember Afghanistan) of using jihadis as geopolitical tools. Fake “Caliphate” or “rebels”, they are all NATO-GCC’s bitches.

To add insult to injury, a frustrated ‘Sultan’ has also been forced to annex himself to a slightly changing Washington position – which now rules that “Assad must go,” yes, but it may take some time, as part of a yet to be defined “transition”.

‘The Sultan’ will remain a pile of nerves. He does not give a damn about ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Washington now does – sort of. He wants to smash the PYD and the PKK. For Washington, the PYD is a helpful ally. As for Moscow, ‘the Sultan’ better watch his neo-Ottoman step.

‘The Sultan’ simply cannot afford to antagonize ‘The Bear’. Gazprom will expand the Blue Stream pipeline into Turkey. It would be by 3 billion cubic meters; instead it will be by 1 billion cubic meters. According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, it’s due to technical capabilities.

Yet Ankara better get its act together, because even that extension may evaporate if there’s no agreement on the commercial terms of TurkStream, the former Turkish Stream. Ankara is under tremendous pressure from the Obama administration. And ‘the Sultan’ knows very well that without Russia all his elaborate plans to position Turkey as the key energy transit hub from East to West will vanish in Anatolian scrub. In the end, he may even get regime-changed himself.


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).

To Live and Die in Syria

Democracy comes to you - bombergc2smOff the keyboard of Steve Ludlum

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Published on Economic Undertow on October 5, 2015

Democracy comes to you - bomber

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

Nietzsche once said, “when you gaze long into a computer screen the screen also gazes into you.” Maybe he didn’t put it quite that way, but he would have if his timing was better. Attempts to deflect the screen’s unrelenting gaze by deploying ranks of gray squiggles from one side to the other seems hardly worth the effort. They march, nothing changes; the screen is too stupid to reason with … If this is the end, it is boring.

The world’s product at the dawn of the millennium, at the apogee of human development and economic power is banality. “Take it to the limit … ” croons the singer, “one more time.” You have to wonder how ridiculously low that limit is? Whatever minimum is required to gain each of us that fraction of a second’s worth of notoriety the screen has allotted for all but a select few. Democracy in the Modern World gives each man the same right as every other to be a guest on Springer.

What happens when nobody watches? The Russian military just bombed targets in Syria claiming to destroy terrorist bases, instead they murdered unlucky Syrian civilians.

People ask, “Isn’t Syria a long way from the Russia?” The answer is that the Americans are even farther away and that Russians must follow the Americans closely or risk being left behind. “Behind what?” Nobody has a good answer other than Moscow wishes to be a ‘Great Power’ and Great Powers attack other countries, the farther away the better. Because the Americans are engaged in ‘humanitarian bombing’, the Russian are compelled by Christian charity to offer humanitarian assistance as well.

Russia is an ally of the Syrian government, or rather, Syria has been a long-time client- and purchaser of Russian military hardware, all of it paid for with hard-currency proceeds from oil sales. The Russians don’t want to surrender their Syrian trade so they’ve set out to out-bomb the Americans, to murder their own clients and hope for the best.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

 

 

 

 

— Sun Tzu

 

 

 

Looked at from the Russian perspective, bombing appears to be a low-cost activity for everyone except the Syrians, whom nobody cares about. There is little to lose by bombing and potentially some gains. In today’s bereft political economy, any (potential) gain is a good one. Bombing Syria = gambling with house money!

The Russians bomb the Syrians as so many others have bombed before; ‘dehousing them’ as Lord Cherwell, Winston Churchill’s mad-science adviser liked to say. There is never any end to it; today’s bombs is followed by bombings tomorrow and the next day and the next, nothing changes except the death toll. One side wins for a minute then the other side catches up. It never ends, this maddened war of all vs. all.

At least Churchill had a plan. Such things are unfashionable these days, what matters more than anything is attitude and that we have plenty. Americans bomb because we are exceptional, we falter elsewhere but bombing is what we do better than anyone else. The Americans will bomb their mothers if there is a dollar in it. There are British bombing, Canadians, also French … the Turks have bombed and bombed and bombed some more; the Jordanians have bombed, and lost a pilot; so have the Israelis along with Qataris, Bahrainis, Emiratis and Saudis, who in addition, are bombing Yemenis. Those without bombers but with excess populations to squander such as the Iranians and Lebanese are seeding Syrian graveyards with foot soldiers. This is on top of the Syrian government which has been bombing, gassing, torturing and shooting its own citizens for years. Almost at no time since the Vietnam war has there been so much bombing — at such an exorbitant cost — to so little effect.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

 

 

 

 

— Sun Tzu

 

 

 

Causes of Middle Eastern conflicts are complex and structural; they include galloping overpopulation, resource draw, drought and peak oil, the unquestioned belief in efficacy of mechanical military and reformist ideologies that have taken on lives of their own. Much of this is excluded of the conversation, instead there is purposeful ignorance: the bombing process is an end in itself, ratcheting up the violence will solve everything.

 

Four years of ratcheting the violence have reduced Syria to a ruin with mangy, louse-infested extremists scurrying like rats over the countryside. Assad long ago dribbled away whatever writ or political reach he might have had outside of a shrinking circus of deluded/self-interested cronies. Nobody has any idea how to win the war or how to stop it … how or even whom to negotiate with. Assad has become too weak to gain a victory, his exit would only reduce by one … the number of competing gangs of robbers and murderers who have papered themselves over with religion … who are absent any organic political capital.

The governments supplying funds and arms to the contestants — the US, Russia, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran — have so- far kept themselves clear of consequences to their recklessness. So-far … yet, the Syria war spreads to Turkey and to the doorstep of Saudi Arabia; where does it stop? The warrior’s impulse is to expand the scope of the destruction until something important breaks; but everything that matters within Syria is broken already. The absence of strategy taken to its logical conclusion reduces Syria and its neighbors to uninhabitable wasteland; this isn’t policy it is insanity.

Russia Cannot Save Assad.

Russia enters with its handful of airplanes and mercenaries, bluster and threats, as if the problem is a shortage of these things. Moscow accuses the Saudis of waging a price war against the Russian oil business; the real war is to be laid at the Saudis’ feet! According to theory, magic will take place: the Russians will bomb, oil prices will rise and Western Europe will again be dependent upon high-priced Moscow fuel supplies. With the flow of fresh funds, the dilapidated Putin regime will gain a new lease on life.

What the Russian government does not understand is that prices of petroleum have declined because customers everywhere are broke, not because of the Saudis. Broke includes the Europeans, they cannot afford to borrow, as such they cannot afford to buy fuel. There is no rescue for Russia or for Putin either. Killing Syrians does nothing to solve the price problem; bankruptcy propagates stealthily in the background while Russia is on the road to becoming another scummy militant group.

The Russians can die in Syria and spirit Assad out of the country and nothing else. Russia will not win because they do not know themselves; they believe in fairies, in the demeanor of the their dictator, in the efficacy of Sukhoi 24s and vacuum bombs. They do not understand an enemy they dehumanized before they even arrived, reduced them to spots on a map. They cannot win because there is almost nothing left to win … perhaps a neighborhood or two in Damascus and resorts on the coast. Russian outrages cannot exceed what the Syrian army- and security forces have already inflicted on a far greater scale. If nothing else, Assad has been the Kremlin’s most assiduous student in cruelty. Four years of unrelenting combat have bled out Assad’s army; casualties are replaced by Hezbollah militiamen, Shiite Iraqis and Iranians. These mercenaries have nothing in common with Syrians; nor can they can gain anything from whatever transitory success they might win. Despite Hezbollah’s formidable reputation, the group has been modestly effective against their irregular adversaries and only in the territory immediately adjacent to their home bases in Lebanon. The Iranians are despised as carpetbaggers by Assad’s officers. The Russians are riding on the coattails of the Iranians; Like the Americans, British and the rest, the Iranians do not know much about either their allies or enemies and cannot be bothered to care.

The war is of a piece with decline and collapse. Syria’s demise is little different from that of an Alzheimer’s patient, the end is a matter of time. The agony is one unwinding among many others, with more to come; the refugees are the first of many more to come; the counterpoints of the droughts and floods with more to come, the unwinding of foreign exchange- and credit marketplaces … the decay of politics into factionalism, of ‘liberty’ becoming license; all of this and more to come. Syria is what collapse looks like, what our post- Peak Oil ‘World of Less’ will be unless we wake up right away and become lucky.

 

In a sensible world, the fighting would end with negotiations and power sharing. Patrons would withdraw and exiled Syrians would return to rebuild their homes. This is not a sensible world: ending this war requires facing reality about limits and jettisoning defective geopolitical narratives and outdated, malfunctioning ideology. The likely outcome is for fighting to continue to a logical conclusion and impose its own reality. The danger is that nobody can outline the absolute limits to the conflict, there could end in a nuclear exchange or decades of grinding cruelty and destruction spreading from Syria-Middle East to the rest of Asia including Russia, then China, Africa and the rest of the world.

Wars and militants are externalities of our Western lifestyle, no different from air pollution and credit exhaustion: costs are shifted to ‘others’ such as Syrians who have their own costs to shift. Westerers refuse to connect the dots between our toys, our resource waste and our conflicts. When you drive a car, you are funding Islamic militants by way of the agents such as Saudi Arabia that support them. Wars are expensive, combatants need funds, cutting them off by using less fuel puts militants out of business. A ray of hope is the ongoing collapse of oil prices. The price decline since last summer has slashed combatants’ budgets in half. As prices decline further the ability of countries to engage in expensive ‘hobby wars’ will fade. Both Russia and America wobble at the lip of economic ruin, not much more is needed to send them over the edge.

Countries today are saddled with obsolete economic ideology that intends to manage the costs of surpluses. The industrial-capitalist economic system cannot manage shortages: in our new world of less, industrial governments have become obsolete because they are disconnected from reality. Like the militaries they command they do not know themselves. Actual work is left to technicians making use of fossil fuels providing the service platform upon which the ideologues dance. They deny fuel- and other resource constraints; deny climate change, deny the effects of pollution, the contamination of food supply, they deny the loss of habitat and the extinction of millions of plants and animals; the effects of overpopulation on resource provender, credit costs and more. Managers insist that the hair-brained ideas of long dead economists can pull value out of thin air like rabbits out of a hat … out of borrowed money or from the barrel of a gun. Citizens look to the governments with fluttering upward-turned hearts … they see malfunction, murder, incompetence, lies and corruption. Governments repeat errors because they succeeded once upon a time. Fast forward to the present and nobody knows what to do.

We have less in the way of resources, we must learn how to cope. The Syrians are teaching us the consequences of denial. Syria’s cupboard has been stripped bare. The survivors are left to cobble together the political arrangements needed to make do = ‘Conservation by Other Means™’. One way or the other our politics must change, the question is how difficult the transition will be. From here on out there is no growth to allow recovery from wars or other disasters, destroyed countries will remain so, it is important to not destroy in the first place.

 

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.

Putin and Xi rock da house

Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putingc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin

Originally published in Asia Times on September 25, 2015

 


Pope Francis may be the rock star. But once again, the real heart of the action is all about Russia and China — those prime “threats” to Exceptionalistan, according to the Pentagon.

Where’s Benjamin’s Angel of History when we need him? His gaze is now certainly focused on the home of the brave. Francis may have brought the House down in DC, but it’s Xi Jinping who really rocked da house in the West Coast, while Putin gets ready to be crowned the new King of New York. Who’d imagine that the New Great Game in Eurasia could be so fun?

Calling Frank Underwood

Even before Putin talked new world order geopolitical business at the UN, China’s Xi Jinping was talking Silicon Valley business with, well, the whole Silicon Valley elite. It’s all in the photo, delightfully deconstructed by the South China Morning Post.

This is where the action is — much more than in what Xi may have discussed with Obama; cyberspace piracy, spying, new Japanese laws on defense, the environment. China needs top IT to turbo-charge not only the internal market but also key nodes of the New Silk Roads.

Even Facebook was allowed to bow to the Red Emperor. Mark Zuckerberg, in suit and red tie, talked to Xi for less than a minute, in Mandarin, at Microsoft’s campus. Side by side was none other than a smiling Lu Wei – who controls China’s Great Firewall, which blocks, among others, Facebook. As a priceless aside, here’s Internet-alert Lu Wei calling all and sundry to “sail into the future with mutual benefit and win-win.”

Xi and Putin

 

 

Xi and Putin

Barely blinking while he bought 300 Boeings for lunch, Xi’s real howler in the West Coast was his House of Cards gambit.

Referring to Beijing’s massive crackdown on graft, he said, “We have punished tigers and flies … It has nothing to do with power struggles. In this case there is no House of Cards.”

Non-biased China hands all interpret the anti-corruption campaign as essentially a clean up of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so it may continue to rule ad infinitum. It’s the party, stupid. So obviously there’s a “hard rain’s gonna fall” component, because resistance from powerful interest groups is immense.

The irruption of House of Cards was predictable. Much more than a nod to Netflix, this was about China. According to GlobalWebIndex, no less than over 200 million Chinese have been using VPNs to get to Netflix and watch the season 3 of House of Cards on streaming video.

Frank33Millions among these are Beijing residents, comfortably middle class; and that includes a lot of Party heavyweights – such as the head of the anti-corruption committee, Wang Qishan, a huge fan of Frank Underwood. Check out this priceless  Global Times piece showing how House of Cardsheavily draws from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

On top of it, season 2 of House of Cards was already China-intense, featuring cyber-war, the South China Sea and currency manipulation. Sharp Chinese viewers inevitably compared factional fighting in Washington with Beijing’s anti-graft campaign, which, so far, has nailed 80,000 functionaries, at least 90 high-caliber politicians and 30 PLA generals. China Daily didn’t measure its words — stating that House of cards represents a “mirror” of these Chinese functionaries.

Xi knew exactly who his audience was when he invoked US soft power — tremendously popular in China — to send a message. And he also knew that even when the American system is critically eviscerated — as in House of Cards — the fascination quotient of US soft power remains unbeatable. If you can’t beat them, join them. Why not instrumentalize House of Cards as Beijing deploys its own version of The Art of War?

Start spreading the news…

And now, live from New York, it’s Putin The Great.

Last week on Asia Times we saw how if there’s going to be some solution to the Syrian tragedy, it’s all Putin’s fault. (Not) reacting to it, the Obama administration remained mired in its proverbial bewilderment – or perplexity.

Finally, the White House was forced to announce that the coin finally dropped on Obama, and he will talk to Putin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Right on cue, a senior adviser to Bashar al-Assad started spinning that the US and Russia had reached a “tacit agreement” on ending the mess in Syria.

Quick recap. Putin started it all by refusing “Assad must go” as a prerequisite for peace negotiations. Then he turbo-charged the military build up in Latakia; proverbially, once again, neither the Pentagon nor the White House ever saw it coming.

So this is what Putin accomplished even before Obama saw the light and decided to talk:

1) Forget about a Libya-remixed NATO war on Syria. 2) Forget about a Sultan Erdogan-driven no-fly zone over areas controlled by Damascus. 3) Out with the old world order. This is how the emerging new world order should work, and Russia is also driving it.

Putin’s speech on Monday at the UN General Assembly will be about “the joint struggle against terrorism” (as branded by TASS). One should expect abundant apoplexy, much more than perplexity, all across the Washington/New York axis.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, last Sunday on Russian TV, already clarified the themes at the heart of the speech; the unipolar world order, and the absolute necessity of the “joint struggle against terrorism,” which” must be waged without double standards.”

Lavrov was very sharp when referring to” unilateral coercive measures” — and not only as far as Russia is concerned. In his own words:

“Nowadays, you know, our Western partners, primarily, under the influence, perhaps, of American mentality, are losing in general the culture of a dialogue and the culture of achieving diplomatic solutions. The Iranian nuclear program was a bright – and even very bright – exception. In most other cases – in conflicts that continue to flare up in the Middle East, in North Africa – they try to resort to measures of military intervention, as was the case in Iraq and Libya, in violation of UN Security Council decisions, or to resort to sanctions.”

Expect Putin to talk about all of it in detail. But the showstopper will be, predictably, Putin on Syria. In Lavrov’s words:

“We have declared that we will be helping the Syrian leaders, as we help the Iraqi leaders, or the leaders of other countries who are facing the threat of terrorism. And our military-technical cooperation pursues exactly these objectives. Of course, the supplies of arms [by Russia], they have been going on, they are going on [now] and they will continue. Their [supplies] are inevitably accompanied by our specialists that help put the according equipment up, help to train Syrian [military] personnel to handle these weapons and there are absolutely no mysteries and no secrets [in all of this].”

cardsAnd yes, Putin will call the usual suspects — from Turkey to the GCC petrodollar gang — to help Assad “without indoctrinations or double standards” in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And he will demonstrate how the refugee crisis was not created by Assad, but by the fake “Caliphate.” As far as these refugees from the Sykes-Picot-smashed Middle East are concerned, it’s up to the EU to deal with them. In Lavrov’s words:

“Russia has been fulfilling all her obligations under the international conventions. All those who fall under the category of refugees, we take in, and we will take into the Russian Federation, sometimes even going beyond the criteria that is applied. I refer to the refugees from Ukraine, there are about one million [in Russia]. We sympathize with our European neighbors with regard to the problem that they have been facing, and I believe that they will solve it [on their own].”

Last but not least, Putin will make it very clear Russia never again will be fooled into signing dodgy documents such as UNSC Resolution 1973, which legitimized R2P in 2011 via that legendary “no-fly” zone over Libya, with the corollary of NATO bombing the country into a wasteland run by militias. No wonder deranged R2P groupie Samantha Power wants to kick Russia out of the Security Council. Who needs a shoe-banging Khrushchev? Black (Apoplexy) Monday will definitely be a riot.


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).

Tick Tick Tick

60m Rose Putingc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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60m Rose Putin
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation September 28, 2015
 

Did Charlie Rose look like a fucking idiot last night on 60-Minutes, or what, asking Vladimir Putin how he could know for sure that the US was behind the 2014 Ukraine coup against President Viktor Yanukovych? Maybe the idiots are the 60-Minutes producers and fluffers who are supposed to prep Charlie’s questions. Putin seemed startled and amused by this one on Ukraine: how could he know for sure?

Well, gosh, because Ukraine was virtually a province of Russia in one form or another for hundreds of years, and Russia has a potent intelligence service (formerly called the KGB) that had assets and connections threaded through Ukrainian society like the rhizomorphs of the fungus Armillaria solidipes through a conifer forest. Gosh, Charlie, it’s like asking Obama whether the NSA might know what’s going on in Texas.

And so there is Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, having to spell it out for the American clodhopper super-journalist. “We have thousands of contacts with them. We know who and where, and when they met with someone, and who worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which country, and who those instructors were. We know everything.”

The only thing Vlad left out of course was the now-world-famous panicked yelp by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland crying, “Fuck the EU,” when events in Kiev started getting out of hand for US stage-managers. But he probably heard about that, too.

Charlie then voice-overed the following statement: “For the record, the US has denied any involvement in the removal of the Ukrainian leader.” Right. And your call is important us. And your check is in the mail. And they hate us for our freedom.

This bit on Ukraine was only a little more appalling than Charlie’s earlier segment on Syria. Was Putin trying to rescue the Assad government? Charlie asked, in the context of President Obama’s statement years ago that “Assad has to go.”

Putin answered as if he were explaining something that should have been self-evident to a not-very-bright high school freshman: “To remove the legitimate government would create a situation which you can witness in other countries of the region, for instance Libya, where all the state institutions have disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. There’s no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the government structure.”

I guess Charlie and the 60-Minutes production crew hadn’t noticed what had gone on around the Middle East the past fifteen years with America’s program of toppling dictators into the maw of anarchy. Not such great outcomes.

Charlie persisted though, following his script: Was Putin trying to rescue Assad? Vlad had to lay it out for him as if he were introducing Charlie to the game of Animal Lotto: “What do you think about those who support the terrorist organizations only to oust Assad without thinking about what happens to the country after all the state institutions have been demolished…? Look at those who are in control of 60 percent of the territory of Syria.

Meaning ISIS. Al Nusra (formerly al Qaeda in Syria), i.e., groups internationally recognized as terrorist organizations.

Charlie Rose, 60-Minutes — and perhaps by extension US government agencies with an interest in propagandizing — seem to want to put over the story that Russia has involved itself in Syria only to aggrandize its role on in world affairs.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but what sort of stupid fucking idea is this? And are there any non-lobotomized adults left in the USA who can’t see straight through it? The truth is that American policy in Syria (plus Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Somalia, Afghanistan) is an impressive record of failure in terms of the one basic aim that most rational people might agree upon: stabilizing the region in a way that does not leave Islamic jihadi maniacs in charge.

Okay, so now the Russians will do what they can to try to stabilize Syria. They’ve had their failures, too (famously, Afghanistan). But Russian territory adjoins the Islamic lands and they clearly have stake in containing the virus of Islamic extremism near their borders. Is that not obvious?

Charlie made one other extremely dumb statement — he seems to prefer making assertions to asking straight-up questions — to the effect that Russia was misbehaving by deploying troops on its border with Ukraine.

Putin again seemed astonished by this credulous idiocy. The US had troops and nuclear weapons all over Europe, he answered. Did Charlie think that meant the US was attempting to occupy the nations of Europe now? Was it “a crime” for Russia to defend its own border with a neighboring state (formerly a province) that, he implied, the US had deliberately destabilized?

The Putin segment was followed by a sickening session with Donald Trump, a man who now — after a month or so of public exposure — proves incapable of uttering a coherent idea. I wonder what Vladimir Putin makes of this incomparable buffoon. Perhaps that America has gotten what it deserves.

 

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.

Peace in Syria? It’s Putin’s fault

russia syriagc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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russia syria

Originally published in Asia Times on September 18, 2015

 


All one needs to know about the intellectual caliber of the Obama administration is that it is still pondering whether to persist in “ignoring” Russian President Vladimir Putin, or invest in a real partnership to solve the Syrian geopolitical/humanitarian drama. After all, when in doubt between diplomacy or chaos, the Beltway weapon of choice still veers towards the simplistic group think uniting neocons and neoliberalcons: regime change.

 Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad shake hands in Moscow in 2006

 

 

Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad shake hands in Moscow in 2006

And then there’s the non-stop The Russians Are Coming! hysteria — the Cold War 2.0 remix, now switching from the invasion/military occupation of Ukraine to the invasion/military occupation of Syria. The White House — which, same as the Pentagon, does not do irony — actually appealed to the Kremlin to behave in a “more constructive” way side-by-side with the spectacularly inefficient coalition of the dodgy opportunists which is in thesis fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest clarified that when Obama decides that the Sisyphean task of picking up the phone and dialing K for Kremlin is actually in America’s interests, he will do it. The Shakespearean doubt may last days — even as Putin reaffirmed, via Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, he was always open to dialogue.

The White House at least is mulling an offer from Moscow to actually discuss the Russian buildup in Syria via direct military-to-military talks. The Pentagon will do the talking, seeking the “clarity” that so eludes the Obama administration.

Ankara’s double game

Diplomacy, meanwhile, has been hectic. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu went to Sochi to talk Syria – and Ukraine – with the Russians. Ankara’s position remains fossilized; any support for Bashar al-Assad equals more civilian casualties.

They also talked Pipelineistan – as in Turkish Stream; unlike apocalyptic US corporate media reports, the pipeline has not been ditched by Ankara; the problem is Ankara cannot even form a coherent government after the June elections.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s superstar commander Qasem Soleimani also went to Moscow this week to promote Damascus-Moscow cooperation. Wait; he didn’t, because Moscow flatly denied the visit. Soleimani was in Russia actually three months ago. The next important meeting to discuss Syria is actually on Monday, between Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Bogdanov.

A quick recap is essential. The Syrian Arab Spring chapter was sponsored/financed/weaponized mostly by Ankara – totally reversing its previous “zero problems with our neighbors” geopolitical doctrine — with backing by Doha, substantial House of Saud involvement and full led-from-behind support by the Obama White House.

After over four and a half years and immeasurable tragedy, the real face of this “Assad must go” regime change operation is the refugee crisis. Over 2 million out of 4 million Syrians fled to Turkey; Ankara recently released them en masse from holding camps on their way to the Balkans and the Teutonic Promised Land.

So Ankara is right at the center of the largest refugee crisis in Europe in 70 years. And so is Ankara-supporting Washington; ISIS/ISIL/Daesh captured all the weapons delivered with CIA help to that pathetic “Free Syrian Army” – as well as tanks and Humvees from the disjointed US-trained Iraqi Army. Any possible solution for relieving the refugee crisis while fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh must include cutting off Ankara’s myriad direct and indirect forms of “support” for the fake “Caliphate.”

The problem is Ankara is part of the supremely inefficient US coalition. The glaring paradox at least has been identified by some adults in Washington. Yet the Obama administration is still besotted by a dominatrix Ankara playing wag the dog. Team Obama still believes “Assad must go” is responsible not only for the creation of the fake “Caliphate” — an absurdity gleefully repeated by David of Arabia Cameron and General Hollande — but he’s also responsible for the abysmal failure of the US coalition to smash it. It’s actually Ankara that rules what passes for a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, and what Ankara wants to fight is Syrian Kurds or PKK Kurds, not al-Baghdadi’s goons.

Damn, where’s my ground intel?

Meanwhile the Pentagon machine, were they to focus on the “mission,” could shock and awe the “Caliphate” goons on a weekend binge. Yet considering how much they did not learn in Iraq, it’s unlikely the Pentagon has minimally decent ground intel.

It’s all about an over 400 kilometer-long desert strip alongside the Sykes-Picot-in-disarray Syrian-Iraqi border — between al-Baaj in northern Iraq and Rutba near the Jordanian border. Some call it the Iraqi Tora Bora; yes, it does look a bit like Afghanistan, only with more desert.

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh rules over the provinces of Ninive, Dijla, Ifrit and Al-Jazeera in Iraq, Abu Kamal and Deir ez-Zor in Syria, and most of all in Iraqi Furhat, around al-Baaj; that’s where the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh command and control center is located. If some Pentagon analyst took the trouble to contact Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, he would tell him that al-Baghdadi himself is holed up in al-Baaj, along with his two wives. But who’s actually in command for the moment is the emir for Syria and Iraq, Abu Alaa al-Afari.

The US never managed to control these desolate lands – not to mention, previously, Saddam Hussein. Local tribes are extremely hardcore and excel in smuggling. “Caliphate” goons married tribal women and are totally integrated. All Shi’ites are derided as evil heretics, even worse than Christians. Guess who indoctrinated the tribals? Saudi Arabian imams.

Yet the coalition could easily bomb to smithereens five ISIS/ISIL/Daesh special batallions – up to 500 jihadis each, divided by nationality and specialization, and all concentrated locally; GCC and Maghreb nationals assure the protection of the commanders, for instance, while Eastern Europeans and Asians collect the loot, taxes and take care of weapons transportation. The key brigade is the one that “liberated” Mosul; 80% are Iraqis, and they are now fighting in Hassake, in Syria.

There may be up to 125,000 “Caliphate” goons in action, including up to 15,000 foreigners. But the hydra-like heads of the snake are in al-Baaj. Raze it to the ground, and we got Perseus Obama slaying the jihadi medusa.

Instead, we have the pitiful spectacle of four – I repeat, four – US-trained “moderate rebels” left to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria, as admitted by US General Lloyd Austin at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this past Wednesday. Everyone remembers those “rebels” out of a hefty group of 54 who were attacked by Jabhat al-Nusra in July. That is, al-Qaeda in Syria – paraded as “moderate” by neocons and US corporate media — reduced the “moderate rebel” Obama administration chimera (15,000! Well trained and well equipped!) to … well, a chimera.

Aaaaand now, heeere’s Putin

The Obama administration – duly followed by the European minions – simply won’t listen. Already in 2014 former UN-Arab League representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was saying the Russian analysis of the whole Syrian puzzle was right from the beginning.

Now, Nobel peace prize winner and former negotiator Martti Ahtisaari is saying that already in early 2012 a Russian proposal was floated that included Assad stepping out of power after peace negotiations with credible, non-jihadi opposition interlocutors.

What Moscow has done now is to step up the diplomatic game – trying to bridge the gap between Damascus and the credible opposition (not exactly a huge crowd) while cobbling up a real coalition to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; as far as Moscow is concerned, this is a major national security threat, what with jihadis slouching towards “Syraq” from the Volga to the north Caucasus.

And here we find an important distinction; Russia’s national security interests do not necessarily converge with Iran’s national security interests (as in Syria offering a bridge to Hezbollah and also a Mediterranean projection for Iran.)

Still, Moscow’s is the only diplomatic game in town because Washington’s Plan A continues to be regime change, and there’s no coherent “Western” road map which simultaneously guarantees smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh while preventing the catastrophic dismemberment of the Syrian state.

Assad’s position, in detail, is here. Putin’s position, in detail, is here. It’s up to any informed, unbiased observer to draw the necessary conclusions. Meanwhile, the enormity of the refugee crisis is open to scrutiny practically next door to EU headquarters; no summit-addicted Eurocrat even bothered to go there and talk to the asylum seekers.

As it ramps up the diplomatic front, Moscow obviously pays attention to facts on the ground – as in the expanded infrastructure at Latakia’s air base where Russian advisers are stationed. US Think Tankland’s concerted hysteria denouncing the build up “greatly complicates” the US-led coalition campaign do not even qualify as a kindergarten prank.

There won’t be a “direct clash” between coalition F-16s and Russian jets – and the Pentagon knows it. What the Pentagon cannot possibly admit is that the Russian build up necessarily prevents funny ideas such as the coalition pulling a Turk – as in bombing Assad’s forces instead of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And by the way, Ankara’s clout in Washington continues to drop – as in the US not being part of a much-hyped no-fly zone to be established over northern Aleppo.

Turkey and GCC coalition members have been indirectly warned; forget about targeting Russian advisers opposing “moderate rebels” using lethal weapons supplied by Turkey, GCC and the US. “Complicating” the coalition “efforts”, in US Think Tankland newspeak, means one cannot bomb Assad’s forces with impunity. Damn, it’s tough to deliver regime change under so many constraints.

Back to pre-Bismarck?

The EU, meanwhile, pays the price for the regime change obsession, convulsed and torn apart by endless divisions provoked by the refugee crisis coupled with the specter of the eternal recurrence of jihad in the streets – and trains – linking major European capitals. But then, as the EU may desperately want a solution to the tragic Syrian puzzle, we have David of Arabia Cameron and General Hollande getting ready to deliver puny air strikes that will hardly cause “Caliphate” goons to shake in their designer desert boots.

No wonder pan-Europe public opinion is increasingly considering it’s actually the Obama administration which is perpetuating the Syrian tragedy — as long as it sticks to the mirages of regime change, a non-existent “Free Syrian Army,” “moderate rebels” (of the al-Qaeda in Syria kind), not to mention demonizing any support offered by Russia and Iran to Damascus.

Putin could not have been more crystal clear — and adults from Washington to Brussels did get the message; “Without an active participation of the Syrian authorities and the military, it would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and the region as a whole … Without Russia’s support for Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees even bigger.”

So if there’s any chance of a peace deal in Syria, it’s Putin’s fault.

But there’s another possible scenario being actively discussed for the near future. That would be the “surge’ of multiple microstates across the Middle East – as a counterpunch to internecine carnage. So we would have, among others, Allawistan, Kurdistan, Druzistan, Yazidistan, Houthistan – with borders that are already reasonably clear on the ground.

Talk about a 21st century remix of pre-Bismarck Europe princely states. The precedent is what the EU created in the Balkans; the break up of Yugoslavia across religious lines even as the bulk of the population is Slavic.

A Middle Eastern remix would only work if Turkey and Iran would agree to a Kurdistan. It won’t happen. Most Iraqis and Syrians, for their part, have also developed a strong national identity; 70% of Syrians, in a recent poll, oppose the partition of the country (while 82% view ISIS/ISIL/Daesh as a US and/or foreign made concoction.) Yet Syria arguably could still be split in three, depending on where the US-Russia power play will lead. But as we stand, the struggle for a unified, pacified, secular Syria is the only realpolitik game in town.


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).

How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published in Russia Insider on July 24, 2015

A massive overview of all the recent exciting developments on the Eurasian landmass
An alternative to the US-led world order is definitely taking shape and at a lighting pace – giving Washington the creeps


Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations – the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) – whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either.  Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees.They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.”  And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia – a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S.  

And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road

With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician’s hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.

Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.

Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin’s Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington’s imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership.

Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.

If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that’s not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.

Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.”

Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.

The NDB, the BRICS’ response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath.

Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South – all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar.  Given its membership, the NDB’s money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. 

As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho stressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB’s attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aiding in the reconstruction of Syria.

You won’t be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other’s efforts.

At the same time, Russia’s foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.

Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance

On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain U.S. global economic dominance.

The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables.

By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” – a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.

For Beijing – back to a 7% growth rate in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country’s stock markets – it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country’s Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing to modernize and diversify its energy-exploitation-dependent economy. Among other things, its leaders hope that the mix of those developing Silk Roads and the tying together of the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will translate into myriad transportation and construction projects for which the country’s industrial and engineering know-how will prove crucial.

As the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela), the initial stages of this integration process already reach beyond Eurasia.

Meanwhile, the SCO, which began as little more than a security forum, is expanding and moving into the field of economic cooperation. Its countries, especially four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) will rely ever more on the Chinese-driven Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB.

At Ufa, India and Pakistan finalized an upgrading process in which they have moved from observers to members of the SCO. This makes it an alternative G8.

In the meantime, when it comes to embattled Afghanistan, the BRICS nations and the SCO have now called upon “the armed opposition to disarm, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.”

 Translation: within the framework of Afghan national unity, the organization would accept the Taliban as part of a future government. Their hopes, with the integration of the region in mind, would be for a future stable Afghanistan able to absorb more Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Iranian investment, and the construction – finally! – of a long-planned, $10 billion, 1,420-kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that would benefit those energy-hungry new SCO members, Pakistan and India. (They would each receive 42% of the gas, the remaining 16% going to Afghanistan.)

Central Asia is, at the moment, geographic ground zero for the convergence of the economic urges of China, Russia, and India. It was no happenstance that, on his way to Ufa, Prime Minister Modi stopped off in Central Asia.

Like the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Moscow looks forward (as a recent document puts it) to the “interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia” and a “steady, developing, safe common neighborhood” for both Russia and China.

And don’t forget Iran. In early 2016, once economic sanctions are fully lifted, it is expected to join the SCO, turning it into a G9. As its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, made clear recently to Russia’s Channel 1 television, Tehran considers the two countries strategic partners. “Russia,” he said, “has been the most important participant in Iran’s nuclear program and it will continue under the current agreement to be Iran’s major nuclear partner.” The same will, he added, be true when it comes to “oil and gas cooperation,” given the shared interest of those two energy-rich nations in “maintaining stability in global market prices.”

Got Corridor, Will Travel

Across Eurasia, BRICS nations are moving on integration projects. A developing Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor is a typical example. It is now being reconfigured as a multilane highway between India and China. Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are developing a transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Azerbaijan will be connected to the Caspian part of this corridor, while India is planning to use Iran’s southern ports to improve its access to Russia and Central Asia. Now, add in a maritime corridor that will stretch from the Indian city of Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then on to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. And this just scratches the surface of the planning underway.

Years ago, Vladimir Putin suggested that there could be a “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, on the Atlantic to the Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. The EU, under Washington’s thumb, ignored him. Then the Chinese started dreaming about and planning new Silk Roads that would, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, extend from Shanghai to Venice (and then on to Berlin).

Thanks to a set of cross-pollinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, financial systems, and infrastructure projects that, to date, remain largely under Washington’s radar, a free-trade Eurasian heartland is being born. It will someday link China and Russia to Europe, Southwest Asia, and even Africa. It promises to be an astounding development. Keep your eyes, if you can, on the accumulating facts on the ground, even if they are rarely covered in the American media. They represent the New Great – emphasis on that word – Game in Eurasia.

Location, Location, Location

Tehran is now deeply invested in strengthening its connections to this new Eurasia and the man to watch on this score is Ali Akbar Velayati. He is the head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research and senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Velayati stresses that security in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus hinges on the further enhancement of a Beijing-Moscow-Tehran triple entente.

As he knows, geo-strategically Iran is all about location, location, location. That country offers the best access to open seas in the region apart from Russia and is the only obvious east-west/north-south crossroads for trade from the Central Asian “stans.”

Little wonder then that Iran will soon be an SCO member, even as its “partnership” with Russia is certain to evolve. Its energy resources are already crucial to and considered a matter of national security for China and, in the thinking of that country’s leadership, Iran also fulfills a key role as a hub in those Silk Roads they are planning.

That growing web of literal roads, rail lines, and energy pipelines represents Beijing’s response to the Obama administration’s announced “pivot to Asia” and the U.S. Navy’s urge to meddle in the South China Sea. Beijing is choosing to project power via a vast set of infrastructure projects, especially high-speed rail lines that will reach from its eastern seaboard deep into Eurasia. In this fashion, the Chinese-built railway from Urumqi in Xinjiang Province to Almaty in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly someday be extended to Iran and traverse that country on its way to the Persian Gulf.

A New World for Pentagon Planners

At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Vladimir Putin told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Moscow and Beijing had always wanted a genuine partnership with the United States, but were spurned by Washington. Hats off, then, to the “leadership” of the Obama administration. Somehow, it has managed to bring together two former geopolitical rivals, while solidifying their pan-Eurasian grand strategy.

Even the recent deal with Iran in Vienna is unlikely – especially given the war hawks in Congress – to truly end Washington’s 36-year-long Great Wall of Mistrust with Iran. Instead, the odds are that Iran, freed from sanctions, will indeed be absorbed into the Sino-Russian project to integrate Eurasia, which leads us to the spectacle of Washington’s warriors, unable to act effectively, yet screaming like banshees.

NATO’s supreme commander Dr. Strangelove, sorry, American General Philip Breedlove, insists that the West must create a rapid-reaction force – online – to counteract Russia’s “false narratives.”

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims to be seriously considering unilaterally redeploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.

The nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford, recently directly labeled Russia America’s true “existential threat”; Air Force General Paul Selva, nominated to be the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seconded that assessment, using the same phrase and putting Russia, China and Iran, in that order, as more threatening than the Islamic State (ISIS). In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates and a bevy of congressional war hawks simply shout and fume when it comes to both the Iranian deal and the Russians.

In response to the Ukrainian situation and the “threat” of a resurgent Russia (behind which stands a resurgent China), a Washington-centric militarization of Europe is proceeding apace. NATO is now reportedly obsessed with what’s being called “strategy rethink” – as in drawing up detailed futuristic war scenarios on European soil. As economist Michael Hudson has pointed out, even financial politics are becoming militarized and linked to NATO’s new Cold War 2.0.

In its latest National Military Strategy, the Pentagon suggests that the risk of an American war with another nation (as opposed to terror outfits), while low, is “growing” and identifies four nations as “threats”: North Korea, a case apart, and predictably the three nations that form the new Eurasian core: Russia, China, and Iran.

They are depicted in the document as “revisionist states,” openly defying what the Pentagon identifies as “international security and stability”; that is, the distinctly un-level playing field created by globalized, exclusionary, turbo-charged casino capitalism and Washington’s brand of militarism.

The Pentagon, of course, does not do diplomacy. Seemingly unaware of the Vienna negotiations, it continued to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. And that “military option” against Iran is never off the table.

So consider it the Mother of All Blockbusters to watch how the Pentagon and the war hawks in Congress will react to the post-Vienna and – though it was barely noticed in Washington – the post-Ufa environment, especially under a new White House tenant in 2017.

It will be a spectacle. Count on it. Will the next version of Washington try to make it up to “lost” Russia or send in the troops? Will it contain China or the “caliphate” of ISIS? Will it work with Iran to fight ISIS or spurn it? Will it truly pivot to Asia for good and ditch the Middle East or vice-versa? Or might it try to contain Russia, China, and Iran simultaneously or find some way to play them against each other?

In the end, whatever Washington may do, it will certainly reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically, a reality now becoming visible across Eurasia. At Ufa, Putin told Xi on the record: “Combining efforts, no doubt we [Russia and China] will overcome all the problems before us.”

Read “efforts” as new Silk Roads, that Eurasian Economic Union, the growing BRICS block, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, those China-based banks, and all the rest of what adds up to the beginning of a new integration of significant parts of the Eurasian land mass. As for Washington, fly like an eagle? Try instead: scream like a banshee.


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).

Historic Iran Nuke Deal a Huge Win for Everyone

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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iran deal

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 16, 2015

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


This is it. It is indeed historic. And diplomacy eventually wins. In terms of the New Great Game in Eurasia, and the ongoing tectonic shifts reorganizing Eurasia, this is huge: Iran — supported by Russia and China — has finally, successfully, called the long, winding 12-year-long Atlanticist bluff on its “nuclear weapons.”

And this only happened because the Obama administration needed 1) a lone foreign policy success, and 2) a go at trying to influence at least laterally the onset of the new Eurasia-centered geopolitical order.

So here it is – the 159-page, as detailed as possible, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); the actual P5+1/Iran nuclear deal.

As Iranian diplomats have stressed, the JCPOA will be presented to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which will then adopt a resolution within 7 to 10 days making it an official international document.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has described the deal — significantly — as a very Chinese “win-win” solution. But not perfect; “I believe this is a historic moment. We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody but is what we could accomplish. Today could have been the end of hope, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”

Zarif also had to stress — correctly — this was a long-sought solution for an “unnecessary crisis”; the politicization — essentially by the US — of a scientific, technical dossier.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Steinmeier, for his part, was euphoric; “A historic day! We leave 35 years of speechlessness + more than 12 years of a dangerous conflict behind us.”

Looking ahead, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted now there can be “a focus on shared challenges” – referring to the real fight that NATO, and Iran, should pursue together; against the fake Caliphate of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, whose ideological matrix is intolerant Wahhabism and whose attacks are directed against both Shi’ites and westerners.

Right on cue, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the deal will contribute to fighting terrorism in the Middle East, not to mention “assisting in strengthening global and regional security, global nuclear non-proliferation” and — perhaps wishful thinking? — “the creation in the Middle East of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed the deal “fully corresponds” with Russia’s negotiating points. The fact is no deal would have been possible without extensive Russian involvement — and the Obama administration knows it (but cannot admit it publicly).

The real problem started when Lavrov added that Moscow expects the cancellation of Washington’s missile defense plans, after the Iran deal proves that Tehran is not, and won’t be, a nuclear “threat.”

There’s the rub. The Pentagon simply won’t cancel an essential part of its Full Spectrum Dominance military doctrine simply because of mere “diplomacy.”

Every security analyst not blinded by ideology knows that missile defense was never about Iran, but about Russia. The Pentagon’s new military review still states — not by accident — major Eurasian players Iran, China and Russia as “threats” to U.S. national security.

Now from the brighter side on Iran-Russia relations. Trade is bound to increase, especially in nanotechnology, machinery parts and agriculture. And on the all-pervasive energy front, Iran will indeed compete with Russia in major markets such as Turkey and soon Western Europe, but there’s plenty of leeway for Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to coordinate their market share. NIOC executive Mohsen Qamsari advances that Iran will prioritize exporting to Asia, and will try to regain the at least 42% of the European market share that it had before sanctions.

Compared to so many uplifting perspectives, Washington’s reaction was quite pedestrian. US President Barack Obama preferred to stress — correctly — that every pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon has been cut off. And he vowed to veto any legislation in the US Congress that blocks the deal. When I was in Vienna last week I had surefire confirmation — from a European source — that the Obama administration feels confident it has the votes it needs in Capitol Hill.

And what about all that oil?

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy at the IAEA and currently Director of the Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), hailed the deal as “the most significant multilateral nuclear agreement in two decades – the last such agreement was the 1996 nuclear test ban treaty.” Rauf even advanced that the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize should go to US Secretary of State Jon Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif.

Rebuilding trust between the US and Iran, though, will be a long and winding road.

Tehran agreed to a 15-year moratorium on enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent; this means it has agreed to reduce its enrichment capacity by two-thirds. Only Natanz will conduct enrichment; and Fordo, additionally, won’t store fissile material.

Iran agreed to store no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium — a 96% reduction compared to current levels. The Arak reactor will be reconfigured, and won’t be used to produce plutonium. The spent fuel will be handled by an international team.

The IAEA and Iran signed a roadmap in Tehran also this Tuesday; that was already decided last week in Vienna. By December 15, all past and present outstanding issues — that amount to 12 items — should be clarified, and the IAEA will deliver a final assessment. IAEA access to the Parchin military site — always a very contentious issue — is part of a separate arrangement.

One of the major sticking points these last few days in Vienna was solved — with Tehran allowing UN inspectors to visit virtually any site. But it may object to a particular visit. A Joint Commission — the P5+1 + Iran — will be able to override any objections with a simple majority vote. After that Iran has three days to comply — in case it loses the vote. There won’t be American inspectors — shades of the run-up towards the war on Iraq; only from countries with diplomatic relations with Iran.

So implementation of the deal will take at least the next five months. Sanctions will be lifted only by early 2016.

What’s certain is that Iran will become a magnet for foreign investment. Major western and Asian multinationals are already positioned to start cracking this practically virgin market with over 70 million people, including a very well educated middle class. There will be a boom in sectors such as consumer electronics, the auto industry and hospitality and leisure.

And then there’s, once again, oil. Iran has as much as a whopping 50 million barrels of oil stored at sea — and that’s about ready to hit the global market. The purchaser of choice will be, inevitably, China — as the West remains mired in recession. Iran’s first order of work is to regain lost market share to Persian Gulf producers. Yet the trend is for oil prices to go down – so Iran cannot count on much profit in the short to medium term.

 

Now for a real war on terror?

The conventional arms embargo on Iran essentially stays, for five years. That’s absurd, compared to Israel and the House of Saud arming themselves to their teeth.

Last May the US Congress approved a $1.9 billion arms sale to Israel. That includes 50 BLU-113 bunker-buster bombs — to do what? Bomb Natanz? — and 3,000 Hellfire missiles. As for Saudi Arabia, according to SIPRI, the House of Saud spent a whopping $80 billion on weapons last year; more than nuclear powers France or Britain. The House of Saud is waging an — illegal — war on Yemen.

Qatar is not far behind. It clinched an $11 billion deal to buy Apache helicopters and Javelin and Patriot air defense systems, and is bound to buy loads of F-15 fighters.

Trita Parsi, president of the National American-Iranian Council, went straight to the point; “Saudi Arabia spends 13 times more money on its defense than Iran does. But somehow Iran, and not Saudi Arabia, is seen by the US as the potential aggressor.”

So, whatever happens, expect tough days ahead. Two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Zarif told a small group of independent journalists in Vienna, including this correspondent, that the negotiations would be a success because the US and Iran had agreed on “no humiliation of one another.”

He stressed he paid “a high domestic price for not blaming the Americans,” and he praised Kerry as “a reasonable man.” But he was wary of the US establishment, which to a great extent, according to his best information, was dead set against the lifting of sanctions.

Zarif also praised the Russian idea that after a deal, it will be time to form a real counter-terrorism coalition, featuring Americans, Iranians, Russians, Chinese and Europeans — even as Putin and Obama had agreed to work together on “regional issues.” And Iranian diplomacy was giving signs that the Obama administration had finally understood that the alternative to Assad in Syria was ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, not the “Free” Syrian Army.

That degree of collaboration, post-Wall of Mistrust, remains to be seen. Then it will be possible to clearly evaluate whether the Obama administration has made a major strategic decision, and whether “normalizing” its relation with Iran involves much more than meets the eye.

 


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).

BRICS/SCO sow panic in Exceptionalistan

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Originally published in RT on July 13, 2015

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


As austerity-ravaged Europe watches its undemocratic “institutions” grapple with the Greek tragedy, and the US backtracks on a fair nuclear deal with Iran, geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting in the Urals.

Can you feel an inchoate multipolar world? Well, just look right here at the BRICS 2015 Ufa declaration. The EU is hardly featured in the BRICS declaration and not by accident.

Forget about the dead on arrival G7. This – the joint BRICS/SCO summit – is the real deal in 2015. Russia’s diplomatic masterstroke was to merge two summits – BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – with a third, informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). 

After all, some nations with leaders present in Ufa are members of at least one of these organizations. But the absolute key point is that getting BRICS, SCO and EEU leaders in one place packs a graphic punch about the emergence of a coordinated, Eurasia-wide, and in some aspects worldwide drive towards a more equitable world order not dictated by exceptionalists.

And then there’s Iran. President Rouhani met President Putin in Ufa to discuss a formidable range of topics. Not least the coming acceptance of Iran as a member of the SCO, assuming there is a deal in Vienna and after UN sanctions are lifted. 
Right on cue, and also not by accident, US President Barack Obama issued marching orders to Secretary of State John Kerry to backtrack from some positions the entire Iran/P5+1 diplomatic corps was already taking for granted – as a top Iranian negotiator confirmed to me in Vienna.

So here’s the not-so-veiled message to Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif: Iran will be “punished” for getting too close to Moscow.

Have strategy, will travel


Only Russia is a member of all three organizations – BRICS, SCO and EEU. Russia and China are key members of two – BRICS and SCO. The Russia-driven EEU is slowly but surely merging with the China-driven New Silk Roads. The key structural framework is the ever-solidifying Russia-China strategic partnership.

As the Pentagon remains self-absorbed in its 2002-concocted Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, Russia and China counterpunch with full spectrum cooperation on politics, economics, finance, diplomacy and defense.

The endgame – which will be the apex of the current New Great Game in Eurasia – is a new global geopolitical structure anchored on Eurasian integration. Thus the importance of Iran: no matter what happens in Vienna, Iran is the vital hub/node in Eurasia.

The road has been long for the SCO. I remember when Euro-bureaucrats only a few years ago dismissed it as a mere talk shop. What started as a security forum to integrate the Central Asian “stans” so they would not be ravaged by terrorism and extremism evolved into a serious economic/political organization.

So now the SCO is starting to add to, and draw upon, the BRICS’s ever expanding economic cooperation, which features two essential pillars: the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB). As for the EEU, it is also indirectly linked to China, as part of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

This will all translate in the next few years into a complex maze of economic and trade/commerce networks traversing Eurasia. Call it the road map of the myriad New Silk Road(s).

Faster! Dust up our war plans!

Here’s just a sample of what has been decided in Ufa: Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping actively discussed, face-to-face, interlinks in the New Silk Road(s); India will become a full member of the SCO next year; Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was appointed chairman of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), which will finance infrastructure projects not only in the five BRICS countries, but in other developing nations as well. And all that based in their own currencies, bypassing the US dollar.

The NDB has the potential to accumulate as much as $400 billion in capital, according to bank head KV Kamath. The parent capital is $100 billion.

Currency swaps are the way to go. It already applies to Russia and China on trade in futures, and Putin has dubbed its expansion to other nations as “interesting.”

A strategy for BRICS economic partnership has been devised that “touches upon the responsibility of different ministers and requires high-level coordination,” according to Russia’s Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, which means in essence easier trade between BRICS nations.

Both the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB are headquartered in China. However, they won’t compete with each other; they will add to and complement one another.

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) signed a memorandum of understanding with the other BRICS. Significantly, China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Company) are key partners.

Russia will lift restrictions on Chinese banks working in Russia, accelerating Beijing’s drive to invest in all sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia proposed a roadmap for investment cooperation. Crucially, that includes the possibility of an energy association, according to Putin, as well as an international energy research center.

The subject of energy brings us to Greece. Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline – yet another diplomatic/energy counterpunch after the EU scored a proverbial own goal by scotching the South Stream – will be linked to Greece.

No wonder that elicited panic in Exceptionalistan. What if Syriza’s “flirting with Moscow” becomes a strategic shift, thus causing NATO’s eastern flank to fall to pieces?

It doesn’t matter that Russia wants a strong EU – and the EU won’t be strong without Greece, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized in Ufa.

So what does NATO propose to seduce anyone across Eurasia away from all the frantic BRICS, SCO and EEU politico/economic activity? Nothing less than an obsession with a “strategy rethink.” In other words, detailed “secret” scenarios for a war on European soil.

That’s all one needs to know about who wants what in the new, emerging geopolitical order.


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).

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