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Chinese-Thai Military Cooperation Expanding Yahoo

Tue, 2019-09-17 21:01

Recent news of Bangkok signing a 6.5 billion Thai Baht deal with China to procure a naval landing ship (a landing platform dock or LPD) further illustrates growing ties between Beijing and Bangkok in the sphere of military matters.

The Thai Royal Navy’s only other ship of similar capabilities is the HTMS Angthong, built by Singapore, Bangkok Post reported.

The deal comes in the wake of several other significant arms acquisitions made by Bangkok in recent years including 39 Chinese-built VT-4 main battle tanks (with another batch of 14 being planned), China’s Type-85 armoured personnel carriers and even the nation’s first modern submarine made by China expected to be in service by 2023.

These are more than merely arms deals. The purchasing of sophisticated weapons systems like submarines and ships will require closer military cooperation between Beijing and Bangkok in order to properly train crews, transfer critical knowledge of maintaining the vessels and operate them at sea.

There are also joint Thai-Chinese weapon development programmes such as the DTI-1 multiple rocket launcher system.

The interoperability that is being created between Thai and Chinese armed forces (and arms industries) ensures ample opportunity for joint training exercises and weapon development programmes in the future, several of which have already been organised, with many more on the horizon.

The Myth of Thai Subservience to Washington 

Thailand is often labeled a close “non-NATO ally” of the United States by both the United States itself and many analysts still clinging to Cold War rhetoric.

However, today’s Thailand is a nation that has significantly expanded its cooperation with China and not only in military matters, but across economic spheres as well.

Thailand’s lengthy history of weathering Western colonisation that otherwise consumed its neighbours is a story of adeptly playing great powers against one another and ensuring no single nation held enough power or influence over Thailand to endanger its sovereignty. This is a balancing act that continues today, with Thailand avoiding major confrontations and overdependence on outsiders by attempting to cultivate a diversity of ties with nations abroad.

Thai cooperation with nations like the United States, particularly now, is done cynically and as a means to keep the US from investing too deeply in the disruptive regime-change methods it has aimed at other nations including neighbouring Myanmar but also distant nations like Syria and Libya ravaged by US meddling.

Despite these efforts to appease Washington, the US still backs opposition parties determined to overthrow the current Thai political order and replace it with one openly intent on rolling back progress between Thailand and its growing list of Eurasian partners, especially China.

What little the US has to offer has been reduced to deals bordering bribery, such as offering free military hardware.

A recent deal included Thailand buying discounted, refurbished Stryker armoured vehicles under the condition that the US would provide 40 more for free.

However the Stryker is not a particularly sophisticated weapon system and will do little to bolster fading Thai-US military cooperation and interoperability. The Stryker system will likely be absorbed into Thailand’s own growing domestic defence industry which is already manufacturing wheeled armoured vehicles.

Blurring of Lines between Military and Economic Cooperation 

So far has the balance of power shifted in Asia, that demands by the US for its “allies” to boycott China’s telecom giant Huawei have gone ignored. Thailand, as well as Malaysia and the Philippines, have included Huawei in their efforts to develop national 5G infrastructure.

While something like telecom appears to be more a matter of economics than of national defence, so entwined recently has telecom and information technology become with national security that choosing partners for developing telecom infrastructure really is a matter of defence.

How far will this peripheral cooperation go? The US is still using its control of Thai information space, particularly through Facebook’s primacy across Thai social media, to influence public opinion and sow political instability across Thai society.

The idea of Thailand cooperating further with China to develop domestic social media networks to regain control over this aspect of Thailand’s information space seems plausible. Thai cooperation with Russia for similar reasons has already been openly discussed by Thai policymakers.

A Shifting Global Balance of Power 

Many analysts have tried to reduce growing cooperation between Thailand and China as a temporary trend spurred by the Thai military’s 2014 ousting of a US-backed government and the US decision to reduce ties with Bangkok.

However, Thailand’s pivot eastward is one made with the rest of Southeast Asia and in fact, with much of the non-Western world. It is part of the wider trend away from Western-dominated unilateralism and toward greater mulipolarism. It is also a process that began long before 2014.

The ability for Thailand to move its dependence away from US markets and financial systems dominated by Washington will be key in avoiding more aggressive attempts by the US to coerce Thailand politically or economically in the future as it is nations like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Russia and now even China today.

Thailand is a relatively large Southeast Asian state with ASEAN’s second largest economy. What it does in regards to building military ties with China and strengthening its economic and political resilience against US “soft power” may set trends that are followed by others in ASEAN, opening up opportunities not only for China, but other Eurasian powers like Russia who can fulfill the role of balancing power not only against America’s dominant position in the region, but also against China from acquiring too much power and influence once US primacy collapses.

Expanding Thai-Chinese military cooperation is a sign of the times. It is a sign of US primacy fading, of China’s rise and of a shifting balance of power. It is a time when nations must carefully execute this shift, ensuring the threat the US poses to regional peace and prosperity is reduced but also that China is never tempted with the opportunity to simply replace the US as a regional and global menace.

So far, mulipolarism has shaped China’s policies in a much different manner than those pursued by the US over the past half century. Only time will tell of the success of multipolarism, but it is important to understand that Thai-Chinese cooperation is not a temporary trend. It is a new reality and one that reflects a fundamental shift in geopolitics from the Atlantic consensus to a much more global one.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

John Bolton was to Trump as Grigori Rasputin was to Tsar Nicholas

Tue, 2019-09-17 16:31

Will John Bolton be the downfall of Donald Trump? Is what is now in the news but a prelude to a greater story?

It all depends whether you want to accept the official story of why Trump dismissed his BIG MOUTH national security advisor, President Ousts Bolton Amid Rifts on Foreign Policy, (NYT, 9/11) and the proffered circumstances.

Could it be, as was alleged just over 100 years ago in the Russian Imperial Court, that Rasputin was more in control than the royal family, and in fact “Rasputin was acting as a puppet master over them”? Or is the story here that Donald Trump, supposedly such a great businessman, has just found this out, and does not want it tarnishing his brand?

Shock and Awe

John Bolton is a man with a history and many opinions. With him it is my way or the highway, which at first sight makes him a highly suitable member of Trump’s iconoclastic team.

Bolton is prepared to say, and act upon, what many of Trump’s base actually think about this country or that. These are often people who feel they have been marginalised, whose views are too politically incorrect to be heard. By putting Bolton so close to himself, Trump signalled to his supporters that they were the masters now, however much of an illusion that actually was.

Appointing this loud mouthed warmonger may also have been based on the need to distract attention from what the “real policy” makers in the shadows were doing. He succeeded in continually giving the press a proverbial bone to gnaw on, a colourful distraction from a range of rants and failed policy positions, especially relating to North Korea, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan.

Bolton might be described as a sinister counterpart to British music hall entertainer George Formby, whose cheeky grin and comic persona made everyone think his songs were just a bit naughty, rather than the dark shade of blue they really were, when the words were taken on their own; Or a more recent figure, Imelda Marcos, whose extravagance and hoarding of privilege enabled her husband to present his regime as a show rather than a crime

Bolton would have never made a good lecturer in conflict resolution or cross-cultural negotiations. But that was never the intention. He has served his purpose, the front man who makes what goes on behind seem reasonable by comparison.

Now we are led to believe that Trump understands that Bolton has become a liability. Maybe Trump actually found out that all Bolton wanted was war, and it annoyed him. Or did he know this all along, as his advisers and vetters doubtless did?

Your Problem, My Solution

Every US president wants to be remembered as a dealmaker and a peacemaker, regardless of what they actually do. Ronald Reagan presented himself as the tough guy who would stand up to the Soviets, in contrast to Jimmy “limp dick” Carter, but changed his tune radically by meeting Gorbachev and reversing his previous comments about the Evil Empire.

John Bolton not only said what many Trump supporters think, he took the credit for it. By implication, his views were also those of Trump himself, or he wouldn’t be part of the Administration. But if Bolton strayed too far from the official line Trump could always insulate himself from negative effects by saying that Bolton was an underling who was misbehaving, not a spokesperson Trump himself had appointed.

Trump is standing for re-election, despite dire polling numbers, much worse than those Lyndon Johnson was getting before he withdrew his own re-election bid. Having won against the odds in 2016 by appealing to a particular base, he knows that his best bet is to keep the same marginalised constituency onside, rather than try and appeal to previous opponents or don’t-knows, and whose opposition has only hardened since he took office.

Trump’s tenure has been plagued by witch hunts and lame attempts to start impeachment proceedings. These continue because they make the press and help the Democrats deflect blame for their own incompetence. But Trump’s response has been to take everyone on with an extraordinary string of allegations and smears, which are not designed to win over people who might agree with some of the views of those he attacks.

So if Trump is going to remain in office he will have to claim all the credit for the most outrageous acts of his Administration. It once suited him to be seen as more reasonable than John Bolton, and it wasn’t difficult. Now he can’t afford to do so, if he is going to lead people who feel put upon to the Promised Land where con triumphs over merit.

Trump has to have the biggest and loudest mouth of all, because that is all many of his voters are allowed to have. No one listens to their reasoning, their priorities or their problems. Consequently their only option is to make as much noise as possible, and accuse everyone who doesn’t like it of being corrupt – exactly what Trump himself will have to embody as a candidate.

Kissing Backsides

Trump has failed to Drain the Swamp or make American Great Again. Rather than making his lost constituency a found one, he has done what anyone who has seen his history should have expected – made sure that he, his buddies and a small minority of Americans have got richer, by any means possible, and are now laughing all the way to the bank.

If he wanted to turn statesman now, he couldn’t. The result of the flip flops and inconsistencies in US policy is that almost all countries know it’s foolish to trust the word of Washington. Trump will never be able to make any more big deals, unless they involve selling more weapons to Saudi princes to bomb civilians in Yemen.

It does not matter who he appoints to fill Bolton’s shoes. That person’s credibility will be suspect from the onset, because of all those who have come before. They will also be overshadowed by their boss, who needs exactly the opposite vector: the tough Commander-in-Chief being undermined by his pussy adviser, rather than the statesman being undermined by his hawkish loose cannon.

There is a need to address foreign policy with an open mind. This has not happened in recent years. Practically anyone who accepted any National Security position would be putting his head on the block. Their future career would be tainted by the legacy of the Trump Administration—and how the world became so destabilised on his watch, because he is Trump.

Trump is guilty of many things, but the greatest of all is being himself. The White House and the likes of Pompeo want to present the ousting of Bolton as humdrum and nothing out of the ordinary, as to be expected. However, there is too much of a pattern to both Bolton’s appointment and dismissal for this to wash, like that of the man who gets divorced too many times.

It is not as if Trump got a “pig in the poke” when he first brought Bolton on board. Trump knew that he wanted war with Iran, and supported tearing up nuclear deals and sanctions in the interim.

Trump actively sought a situation where he and his expendable adviser acted as if they were two madmen willing to outdo one another, and blow the world to kingdom come in the process.

Bolton knew what his part was. This is why he has cultivated a reversed image, like an even more notorious National Security Adviser, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. And now Bolton may even publish a book of his plight under the Trump administration.

Kissinger still maintains that he was always trying to restrain Nixon, a madman, rather than being corrupted by him as everyone else around him was. By this, he tries to claim credit for Nixon’s achievements, as the product of “sensible” influence, such as his, whilst implying his crimes were Nixon’s alone, good cop vs. bad cop.

This is exactly what Trump was trying to do to Bolton, so Bolton responded by presenting himself as the sensible part of the partnership. As we are dealing with Trump, this worked. The New York Times has even been moved to declare that “Mr. Bolton spent much of his tenure trying to restrain the president form making what he considered as unwise agreements (deals) with America’s enemies.”

Ultimately this is what has led to Bolton’s downfall – Trump can be as bad as him to pander to his audience, but still claim to be sensible, in his own estimation, because he is doing what Bolton did. Next we will be hearing that Trump wants to nuke his new friends in North Korea, but this must somehow be a gesture of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, because others want to negotiate the US position away, just as Trump himself has done.

Due Process

John Bolton has been sacrificed for the very reason he was appointed. But who can be an effective National Security Policy Advisor in these circumstances? Policy is being dictated by Trump’s attempts to appeal to a base which does not have to be responsible for the consequences, and therefore has no need to listen to advice.

Knowing who has been in policy positions before is an indication of what the President does not want at this time. The likes of Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, HR McMaster etc. Those with abilities will tell Trump and his team what they do not want to hear, and then, out of the job, have the audacity to proclaim publicly “I hate to tell you so but I told you so!” Those with no ability will be cowed into taking direction from Trump, which will be whatever he thinks makes him look good on a given campaign stop.

Obviously the US’s overseas partners need to be aware that an election is coming, and that this will colour what prospective presidents promise. But they have bigger problems of their own, which tend to go without sufficient US attention during election periods, unless the US candidates can make capital out of them for their own reasons, with a domestic audience.

Trump now says the US is “locked and loaded” to take on Iran over the Saudi Arabia oil fire. Iran being a longstanding perceived enemy, this may not be surprising. But the comment, which Trump claims is based on “intelligence” about who was behind the oil facility attack, tells us what is now likely to happen in the Middle East in particular, and also other parts of the world American voters have heard of.

John Bolton wanted to start wars all over the place because he identified certain countries and groups as “America’s enemies”. Trump is dispensing with the formality of working out whom, in the ever-complex Middle Eastern political world, is an enemy and who is not. With Israeli elections coming up it no longer matters who is the advisor and who is “friend or foe”, as the starting short has been fired.

Certain words, like “Iran” and “Muslim”, have existing bad connotations. Now no one is going to explain what certain countries are guilty of, what makes them America’s enemies. Bad word = retaliation, regardless of the issue, regardless of the cause, regardless of the evidence.

We will see fewer proxy interventions. Arming some combatant or other will not solve problems because each has a cause to fight for, which the US would be tacitly approving or condemning by the pattern of its arms sales. The US will threaten and act in its own name, and then ask other NATO countries to join in and pay more of the bill—and spill more of the blood. Then each conflict will be about the US being good, not the US supporting this or the other position or outcome.

Existing operations will no longer be based around fancy ideas like peace, reconstruction or R2P. If peaceful politicians happen to have a bad word associated with them, they will be removed in favour of warmongers who don’t have that word affixed to their names.

In Afghanistan the Taliban will be presented as unstoppable, although they were stopped before, while civilian governments will be called “Muslim”. In Iraq a witch hunt of “Saddamists” will be the solution to a non-existent problem, with anyone who opposes this being branded as “terrorist”.

Bolton has gone because Trump can no longer cope with anyone being worse than him. He made this rod for his own back, and now has to stand on the stump with it sticking out to show he deserves to be re-elected.

Now Bolton has shown him that war can be presented as peace to those who want to hear it, he doesn’t want anyone else getting the “credit” – particularly while Democrats try and present reasoned positions, and appeal to a Middle America which doesn’t want Trump, but isn’t listening to them either.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Will the US Farming Crisis Determine the Next President?

Tue, 2019-09-17 00:55

The American farm sector is undergoing its worst crisis since the 1980’s. Extreme snow and then unusually heavy rainfall across the Midwest farm belt this spring and summer have severely delayed or reduced crop plantings. That comes after several years of falling farm income. A US EPA series of waivers to the oil industry then sharply cut the market for corn ethanol. To make matters worse, in retaliation for Trump Administration tariffs on China goods, China has halted all import of US farm products. All this comes as US farmers struggle with record high debt with bankruptcies spreading. Some compare the situation to the crises of the Great Depression in agriculture. Farm production has long been a major pillar of the US economy and exports. Could this little-noted farm crisis become a factor that could determine if Donald Trump wins or loses re-election in 2020?

The Ethanol Fiasco

At a time when farm income has fallen dramatically over the past several years, the Trump Environmental Protection Administration just dealt a further severe blow to the market for corn used to produce ethanol for E10 fuels. On August 9, the EPA announced that it had approved 31 of its 38 pending small refinery exemptions, allowing the oil refiners to avoid mandatory blending of gasoline with corn ethanol. The approvals were retroactive to 2018, in violation of the Biofuels law, and allowed oil refiners to evade mandatory blending of more than 1 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol, a huge blow to US corn growers.

To make matters worse, the pro-oil Trump EPA, first under Scott Pruitt, a strong backer of the oil industry, and now his successor, Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry, have granted a record number of oil refiner exemptions including to companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil, in direct violation of a law intended to help only small distressed refiners.  The exemptions are to date some four times what was exempted under the Obama administration resulting in a major loss of corn ethanol consumption.

Acting retroactively, the EPA granted the equivalent of over 4 billion gallons of ethanol exemptions for the period 2016 through 2018, equivalent to losing a 1.4 billion bushel corn crop, the entire annual harvest of Minnesota, a major corn state. The US ethanol lobby organizations are demanding the Trump Administration restore that lost ethanol volume as required by law.  Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, an ethanol association, stated, “More biofuel plants are closing their doors with each passing week, and farm families have run out of options. The EPA must take immediate action to restore lost demand under the 2020 biofuel targets and repair the damage from abusive refinery exemptions granted to oil giants like Exxon and Chevron.”

The growing of corn to produce ethanol for blending with gasoline for fuel additive has become a major prop of US agriculture since the Bush Administration proposed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which amended the Clean Air Act, requiring the EPA to mandate annual volumes of biofuel, mostly corn ethanol, to be blended with gasoline fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. The growth of the US ethanol production has been such that today almost 40% of all US corn grown is for ethanol.Most USA gasoline today is E10 with 10% ethanol. Today the USA is the world’s largest corn producer by far, almost doublenumber two, China.

The EPA waivers to the oil industry have dealt a big blow to US corn farmers across the Midwest states, especially Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana. To date the Trump Administration has made several gestures to address the loss of ethanol markets for corn farmers. But the farmers and ethanol associations claim it is far too little. Notably, in Iowa during the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard of 2005, which mandates a certain amount of biofuel added to the fuel supply each year. Many farmers feel betrayed by the EPA.

The White House is now caught between its heavy support to the oil industry, a major campaign donor source, and to the farm belt, the heart of the trump “Make America Great Again” popular support in 2016 and critical to a re-election in 2020.

The ethanol EPA rulings are by no means the only actions farmers see as a negative coming from the White House. The China trade war has also dealt a huge blow to US farm exports.

China trade

Before the Trump China trade disputes, US ethanol producers were optimistic that the China market could be a major growth area as China increased efforts to deal with air pollution. China ethanol imports from the US were rising steadily until early 2018, when the Trump administration escalated its tariff wars and China reacted by targeting the US farm sector, raising ethanol import tariffs by July 2018 to70%. That essentially killed the China ethanol market for US corn farmers and ethanol producers. The US exports are being replaced by those from Brazil, a major producer of ethanol from sugar cane.

But loss of China ethanol exports has been a relatively minor part of the China damage to US agriculture. With pinpoint precision, Beijing has targeted their counter-measures to the Trump trade actions in the politically important US farm sector. Notable is that Xi Jinping spent some months in Iowa in his younger years in an exchange program, and knows the US farm region better than many foreign heads of state.

In early August China’s government reportedly ordered its state purchasing companies to stop imports of all us agriculture products after US President Trump announced he would order added 10% tariffs on another $300 billion in China imports as of September 1. Before that China had already cut imports of US soybeans to ten year lows.

In 2017 before the trade war began in earnest, China imported 19 million tons of US soybeans worth some $12 billion, some 60% of US total soybean production. China was the largest export market for US soybean farmers, a major sector of US farming. Soybean exports to China were the main export for Iowa agriculture. All told US agriculture exports to China before the trade war were estimated at nearly $20 billion. Since 2012 China had been the largest market for US agriculture exports. Now that is all but gone, a staggering blow to US farmers at a time they can ill afford it.

Compounding Problems

The loss of the ethanol market for corn due to the Trump EPA combined with the latest loss of the China agriculture export market would be grave but manageable except for the fact they hit at a time when American farmers are in precarious conditions.  Record rainfall across the farm belt in the US Midwest earlier this season has meant a heavy reduction in both acres planted and yields for especially corn and soybeans.  The government’s USDA estimate of the current US corn crop in “good-to-excellent” condition, as well as for soybeans, is the lowest since 2013.

For various reasons farm net income has dropped dramatically. US wheat prices since 2012 have dropped by some 50%. Corn prices are down by more than 50% since 2013. Net farm income is down in 2019 so far by 35% from its 2013 peak. This is before the impact of the current grain shortfall from flooding and the China and ethanol effects are weighed.

High Debt

Unfortunately, all this hits the American farm family at a time of near record debt. While net farm income has moved lower over much of the past decade, farm debt has risen significantly. The average farm debt as of beginning 2018 had risen to $1.3 million per farm, most long term. The current conjuncture of farm crises is leading to rising bankruptcies. With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates the past two years it is increasingly difficult for farmers to refinance the debt in hopes of better times. The result is rising bankruptcies.Already in 2018 net farm income fell to 12 year lows. This year 2019 is set to be far worse.

It is not surprising that some farmers are beginning to rethink their earlier backing for the Trump presidency. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union noted in a radio interview end of August that it will take “decades” to reverse damage caused by Trump farm and trade policies. China, he added, is now a “lost market” for American farmers because of Trump’s trade war. Johnson added, “Farmers are in a lot of financial stress right now; net farm income is half of what it was six years ago. This is really tough. We’re in a really, really difficult spot right now.”

Ethanol producer Nick Bowdish, CEO of Elite Octane in Atlantic, Iowa, backed Trump in 2016 in part because he supported taking on China. Recently he said, “Since he got himself involved in agricultural policy issues, it has been a complete disappointment to any of us out here in the heartland.” He added in a Newsweek interview, “Where the president went wrong and made a serious misstep was when he made the decision to start destroying the market for agricultural products at home with these refinery waivers.” That he noted hit farmers just when they were being hard hit by the trade war with China, “…and that’s not acceptable.”

It‘s still some four months until the first Presidential primary and the outcome at this point is far from clear. Indications are that most farmers still back Trump, though that is weakening after the latest setbacks from China trade and ethanol. Now there are hints that China is willing to make a deal on soybeans in return for trade concessions from Trump. That might be a needed boost for the Trump farm support if it happens. The first 2020 Presidential primary is in February. It’s in Iowa…

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

The Strange Case of the Burning Saudi Refineries

Mon, 2019-09-16 19:54

The September 2019 attack that cut Saudi Arabia’s oil production by up to 60% and has thrown the world into chaos was not a surprise.  The claim by US Secretary of State that “Iran did it” is no surprise as well.

That Yemen did it, destroyed the world’s largest oil refinery that has the world’s best air defenses, almost, is a surprise.  It is also quite possible that some other “player” is responsible.  Let’s postulate about that a bit, perhaps even delving into the kind of conspiracy theories that, of late, have turned out to be correct over and over.

First of all, Saudi Arabia had recently asked Russia for the S400 air defense system.  Saudi Arabia has spent endless billions on air defenses and, periodically, drones and missiles from Yemen get through.

The same thing happens to Israel as well, which has led that nation to making “under the table” deals with Hamas over and over while the Likudists play out their “goosestepping” militarist roles for Israel’s misled population, one subject to military censorship over everything they read and see.

You see, the S400 is for defense against lots of things, but for Saudi Arabia with highly robust defenses already, the S400 would be used to stave off attacks from stealth aircraft, its specialty.  Of regional players, only Israel has such aircraft.

But then, aren’t Saudi Arabia and Israel good friends, after all, each secretly aided ISIS and al Qaeda for years.  But are they really friends or was this a “marriage of convenience?  For those who read MSM, even those questions will be unfamiliar as the terror pact between those nations has been censored widely.

What might drive things to get to the point where Israel might bomb Saudi Arabia?

Well, Israel is facing an election and a key part of that election is the meltdown Israel is having over its “first couple,” the Netanyahus.

Money dictates politics there as everywhere else and the Adelson family, richest Israelis, have been picking up the political bills for the Netanyahus for years.  That’s over.  The Adelsons now say the Netanyahus are crazy and Miriam Adelson is a psychologist.  This is no small problem as the Adelsons are the biggest political contributors in the US as well.

To get past this, Netanyahu promised to declare most if not all the West Bank as part of Israel, a deal breaker for nations that had, temporarily at least, begun looking at rebuilding relations with Israel, that being Turkey, Saudi Arabia and maybe even Iraq.  That’s all done now.

Then the issue of random and continual bombing of Syria by Israel, bombing attacks supposedly on Iranian troops but too often killing civilians or clearly intended to aid operations of terror groups.

Let us add, by terror groups, we mean groups officially banned in Russia as terror groups, a list you don’t casually get on as in the US.  Russia really hunts down terrorists.

According to reports from the Jerusalem Post, Russia has expressed extreme “concern” of not only Israel’s attacks on Syria but their move to seize the ad hoc Palestinian State on the West Bank and “ethnically cleanse” its Palestinian population, causing an unprecedented humanitarian disaster.

Netanyahu returned from his September 2019 visit to Moscow with his tail between his legs, all reports indicating that he was deeply chastised by Putin.

Then there’s the loss of John Bolton, former presidential advisor who, for the past few decades, has been on the payroll of one Israeli run special interest group or the other, a man many if not most Americans consider the worst presidential advisor ever, one that keeps coming back to life like a zombie.

The answer was simple.  Israel is at the end of the road with Saudi Arabia.  ISIS is defeated and their cooperation in backing ISIS against Syria and Iraq is now an embarrassment.  Saudi Arabia is now seeking peace with Yemen, a disaster for Israel’s regional policy of “keep all wars going.”

Worst still, the UAE and Iran are now openly cooperating in Persian Gulf security.

Thus, when a huge Saudi oil complex was hit over and over in a 9/11 style attack, figuring out who might well have done this is relatively easy.

It doesn’t benefit Iran.  This would be a direct attack on Saudi Arabia and Iran has been winning the political war, not just with the UAE but Russia and the EU as well along with continued support from China.

Iran had no reason to attack.

Yemen is at war with Saudi Arabia and has some capabilities but not these capabilities, not to obliterate the biggest cash producer Saudi Arabia has.  Only one nation in the region has the F35, a plane designed to take out oil facilities.

You see, along with stealth, the F35 has limitations.  If it operates without other aircraft along, like the F15E bomber, the limited bomb load of the F35 is only useful against targets that are vulnerable to smaller weapons, targets like oil refineries.

This proves capability.  I think we have more than proven Israel’s motivation and timing.

We can still claim Yemen did it and Yemen would be happy to take credit except no military expert remotely accepts that Yemen did this.

We do know that, for Iran, there would have been no reason.  Iran was already winning.

We could also look for recent analogues.  Why did Syria turn to poison gas whenever they were in the last stages of crushing areas controlled by terrorists closely tied to Israel?

What are we saying or perhaps not saying here?

Thus, when Russia took 40 members of the White Helmets organization to The Hague to testify to their complicity in staging fake gas attacks on behalf of unnamed Western powers and Israel, when dozens of witnesses, parents of children kidnapped by the White Helmets or doctors threatened by them testified, the press blacked it out.

In the long run, the now two-decade war that involves fake terror events, staged color revolutions and endless political misdeeds, at the center of it all we find Israel and their political allies who hold power in the US, Britain and France due to financial support from sectors tied to Israel, not just lobbyists but criminal groups as well.

Keeping the lid on this is the army of fake think tanks, bribed and blackmailed politicians, press operatives, wholly owned media groups and politicized social media monoliths.

Still, in the end, Israel seems to be circling the drain, more hated than ever, more Isolated and, oddly enough, less and less of a “Jewish state” and more of a “criminal state.”

Proving this point, we need only refer to the statements by Donald Trump of the betrayal of Israel by American Jews, people who put ethics above politics, who put America before a brutal Israeli regime.

Trump calls American Jews “traitors.”  Some simply call them Americans like others.  At one time, Israel was defended by its ability to draw on the holocaust and smears of anti-Semitism when their brutality against their own people was exposed.

Time is now closing in.  Did Israel bomb Saudi Arabia?  Will Israel’s remaining “man in Washington,” Mike Pompeo get the war Israel is asking for, a war where Israel will be destroyed as well?

Wait, who would want Israel destroyed to save himself?  Are the Netanyahus as “crazy” as Shelly and Miriam Adelson claim?

Would they “burn Israel to the ground” to save themselves from prison for corruption charges?  Who benefits if even Israel is destroyed in a war seemingly begun to advance Israel’s interests?

Do understand this, it is necessary to think of the world as being in a “post-nation-state” phase.

When one does that, conspiracies are easier to understand and accept.

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel’s visit to China

Mon, 2019-09-16 12:59

A 3-day visit to China by Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who was accompanied by a sizable delegation, began on 6 September. The visit itself and its outcomes are quite telling and indicative of the ever increasing pace of the radical transformation the current world order is undergoing.

This is Angela Merkel’s 12th official trip to the PRC during her chancellorship. And the penultimate visit occurred only 15 months ago. It is worth highlighting that the Chancellor is viewed as the most important politician among her European counterparts in Beijing and, hence, she is invariably accorded a great degree of attention.

During each such trip Angela Merkel visits yet another key Chinese city in addition to Beijing. This time around, she travelled to Wuhan, an ancient Chinese city that, at present, serves as one of the centers of education and development of the latest technologies, and of German influence on the PRC’s economy.

This latest scheduled visit took place during a period when tensions in the relationship between the leading world power and both China and Germany rose suddenly and at the same time. This has helped put disagreements between Beijing and Berlin on issues in the key economic sphere on the backburner. It is also worth noting that not too long ago these differences in opinion seemed hard to reconcile.

We would like to remind our readers that we are discussing the cooperation between the second and fourth largest economies in the world. Bilateral trade between them has almost reached $200 billion this year, and has tended to increase on a yearly basis, with Germany enjoying a positive trade balance at the end of each of these years (in the order of approximately $20 billion). Notably, this is an unusual trend in comparison to those observed in the case of China’s other trade partners.

Although there is no need for a substantive discussion about the problems plaguing the Sino-American relationship in this article, it will not be superfluous to touch upon the most recent events in relation to the US-German relations, which, by and large, have been deteriorating over quite a number of years.

For instance, the US Senate foreign relations committee’s approval of a bill that would sanction companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, and an event in Poland to mark the 80th anniversary since the start of World War II have taken on a new significance. During the latter, there were once again demands (in the presence of the U.S. Vice President) from Warsaw for Germany to pay out giant compensation to Poland. After all, everyone has their priorities and that of the Eastern European limitrophe (from the times of the Treaty of Versailles) is money.

And although the U.S. Senate rushed to assure Germany that it had nothing to worry about, as any losses incurred due to a (potential) termination of the Nord Stream 2 project would be made up for by American liquefied natural gas, some in the German establishment probably thought: “That’s enough, we’re fed up now.”

The author of the article believes that the key hidden message to the world behind the entire visit to China by Angela Merkel was revealed on its very first day, when she said that Germany was open to Chinese investment and welcomed all PRC companies to invest in the country. Only a few months ago, it was difficult to anticipate such words from the German leadership towards China.

After all, one of the main problems plaguing trade and economic relations between Germany and the PRC was associated with Berlin’s fears that it could lose control over its own businesses during “shopping sprees” of leading Chinese companies in the EU. Germany was especially concerned about firms specializing in the manufacture of high tech products. In addition, the issue that the sale of Chinese goods on the European market leads to dampened prices remains current to this day.

Hence, two years ago the European Union opted to take measures (and notably, this was done at Berlin’s initiative) with the aim of raising tariffs on some Chinese goods and of limiting opportunities to acquire high tech companies.

It is also worth highlighting that the EU and the United State (despite the rising tensions in the trans-Atlantic relationship) recently agreed on measures that prevented the Chinese economy from being granted the “market” status. Beijing was meant to attain this status at the end of the 15-year “transition” period, established by the WTO at the time of PRC’s accession to this organization in 2001.

All of these problems facing the relationship between the PRC and the leader of the European Community bring into question the future of the key Chinese initiative that aims to bring back to life the Great Silk Road (in the form of the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI). The final destination of this route is meant to be Europe (just as 2,000 years ago).

Earlier on in the article, the author has already partially answered the question as to what could have happened during the global chess game to cause the leader of one of its key participants to utter the words quoted above. Still, the statement is too general in nature and for now it is hard to say what will happen next.

The Xinhua News Agency published a short report about what Angel Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping had discussed in addition to their clearly expressed intentions to foster bilateral ties in all the spheres between the two nations. What is notable from this article is that the two leaders used similarly worded statements to talk about pressing political and economic issues facing the world. For instance, words such as “unilateral” and “protectionism” among others were heard during the discussion.

Undoubtedly, these barely hidden, negatively worded statements were a message directed at Washington.

In China, the visit of the German Chancellor in itself, and the recently finished negotiations and their outcomes were viewed in a favorable light. In addition, the geopolitical importance of the trip was noted.

Notably, an editorial in PRC’s official daily newspaper Global Times, entitled “US attempts to woo Europe doomed to fail”, mentioned that the Chancellor of a leading European nation was in China at the very time when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was speaking about the Chinese threat at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Finally, it is impossible not to notice that political opponents of Angela Merkel and the PRC (within Germany and particularly, outside of it) attempted to create the least favorable environment for the visit, discussed in this article. And events happening in Hong Kong in recent months were used to this effect.

However, it must be said that the topic of various “human rights violations” in the PRC is raised every time Angela Merkel heads to Beijing for serious talks. And during each visit she has had to make general statements about the expectation that some universal rights would be adhered to before starting her negotiations.

This time around, a 22-year-old leader of the opposition movement in Hong Kong demanded that China’s high level guest visit the city and get involved in the events happening there. He also reminded her about the similarity between the communist tyranny in GDR (the German Democratic Republic) and the situation in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this local teenager, who once a week causes a litany of problems for the residents of Hong Kong, justifiably (according to current standards) does not seem to know about important stages in Angela Merkel’s life. She was a member of the Free German Youth movement (GDR’s equivalent of the Komsomol organization) during those “terrible times” and had an opportunity to receive a high quality education, which was most likely much better than that received by Hong Kong protesters.

Naturally, the aforementioned appeal was ignored by the German Chancellor. After all, she came to China to discuss issues of great magnitude, and not to respond to clearly provocative actions taken by these rogue youngsters protesting in defense of human rights. Still, the Chancellor did make the customary statement about the need to abide by the rule of law, and to use peaceful means to resolve the conflict in Hong Kong,

It is worth highlighting that this time around, the pressure exerted from all sides by “defenders of human rights” reached unprecedented levels. We can, therefore, only admire the resilience of this middle-aged woman, who is seemingly struggling with worsening health issues as evidenced by the fact that she sat on a chair while listening to national anthems at the airport in Beijing.

At the moment, it is hard to tell what the consequences of the latest move made by the two leading players (out of several) of the global chess game will be. Soon, the next equally important move is expected, when negotiations between its different pair of participants, i.e. the United States and China, resume.

Incidentally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the PRC and the USA to end the ongoing trade war during her most recent visit to China.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Geopolitical Tectonic Plates are Shifting

Mon, 2019-09-16 03:59

With the world on fire in so many places, trying to write an overview can be a daunting task when a book-sized effort is really needed. But our commentaries here can help readers begin to connect the dots as to why this is all happening, what the downside risks are to us, and what options we have to try to approach it better.

I got the idea for the title from comments in General Mattis’ new book, No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy. He holds the position as the most respected person in the Trump administration so far.

“We all know that we’re better than our current politics… Unlike in the past, where we were unified and drew in allies…We are dividing into hostile tribes cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future, instead of rediscovering our common ground and finding solutions,” he said.

France’s Macron also contributed a major comment, that Russian isolation would be Europe’s “Profound Error.” I agree with both of these men, that we are heading into more dangerous waters and time is getting short for being able to make a mid-course correction.

Like the rumblings of miniquakes that seismologists tell us often precede “the big one”, I am feeling tremors below my feet now. The wars of course are at the top of the list, both those that are currently shooting events, and those in the US-Western incubator, ready to replace any that are ended somehow.

The Mideast is a tinder keg whose temperature can go from warn to hot in a day, but we are just one bad event away from a major shooting war there. Admiral Trump’s naval police force for the Persian Gulf is but a token of what he had wanted, with most European allies viewing it as nonsense to send ships there, making it more dangerous.

We have Israel making preemptive attacks on Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in just one week, and of course all for “defensive purposes”. This is something that only Israel can do. If it is tried “on” Israel, then someone gets nuked.

Lebanon has managed to keep its head down during all the Syrian mayhem, having its hands full with Palestinian refugees and a diverse coalition government, which is a monster to control in itself. We recently came close to a war there after the Israeli drone strike on the Hezbollah media office in Beirut killing two Hezbollah people.

Then we waited for Hezbollah’s retaliatory strike that we knew would come. Veterans Today’s analysis of the footage of the double missile strike showed the large diesel tank in the MRAP vehicle going up in a 50-foot diameter fireball which would certainly have caused serious injuries.

The IDF put out a cover story of minor damage, which few believed. Netanyahu did not escalate by initiating more intensive attacks, probably because he did not want a shooting war in the runup to the election. He can always start one after the election.

The admitted IDF drone attacks on Iraq’s anti-terrorist militias using US and Kurdish bases has lit another dangerous fuse. And in Syria, the IDF hit the new Iran anti-terrorism base being built to protect the al-Bakumal border crossing. It is almost ready to be opened and provide transport security for the commerce that hopefully will be soon flowing.

The Venezuelan standoff has not blown up yet, but the US continues its stranglehold on the country, with sanctions that are severely punishing those it says it wants to help. Trump sees nothing wrong with this.

But on a good note in Ukraine, new president Zelenski wants to talk with Putin to solve “the terrible war” in Donbass and restart the Minsk agreements, where “guarantors” France and Germany did nothing to push Kiev to follow through with them before. “Dear Mr. Zelenski, get off the dead horse and get on a new one, if you want to conclude a deal.”

And last, a peek into where the new war might be starting. US Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper gave us the interesting news that chaos in Venezuela, Libya, and the Mideast is not enough. He is looking for greener pastures. At a recent Naval War College event, he called for building more US bases in the Pacific, saying that the Indo-Pacific region was to be “our priority theater”. I do not remember a word of debate on this in Congress or the US media, but the US military industrial complex is jumping for joy.

Sure, China has been building bases in the South China Sea; but the US already had bases there and its Navy sails around as it pleases. But China has good reason to be building their bases – an explanation avoided by corporate media.

China was not a signatory to the medium range missile treaty, which only covered land-based missiles. The US has had floating batteries of medium-range nuclear missiles on its naval ships, which when they are in the strait of Taiwan, can strike deep into China with little warning. In a potential conflict, China needs to keep the US naval ships as far out as possible, as that still leaves the US subs to launch missiles

In addition to these geopolitical developments, economic tectonic plates are also moving. EU growth is in the half percent range, a major long term problem. The US had moderate growth, but we are in a manufacturing recession already, with two quarters of declining production. Consumer spending has been carrying the growth load, but that is subject to change quickly.

The IMF will not say a recession is in sight, but it is concerned that the trade wars could trigger one. I have bigger concerns. With the high debt loads the world economy carries, a major event like a shooting war in the Persian Gulf and the closure of the Hormuz Straights will push oil up to $200 per barrel. That alone could trigger a panic with a bank domino collapse, which most of us have already lived through and remember the ripple effect it had.

The ongoing trade wars have the world economy weakened, as long term planning cannot be done. Trump campaigned on bringing US trade deficits down, and that was popular with those who did not even like him; and he still has a lot of base support for it now.

But the China-US showdown has hidden dangers. By cutting China off from buying US-made smartphone chips, they produced quick pain on those Chinese companies targeted like Huawei. It is now scrambling to rebuild its business model to domestically source critical components for its most successful exports.

Even if an agreement is reached with the US, I fear that US manufacturers have lost their Chinese business forever. Why would anyone want to take the risk with the unipolar power, after watching what it has done?

Russia has been going through a similar process, even having to replace food imports from the EU over its sanctions, despite hurting EU farmers badly. Now that a huge Russian domestic investment has been made for that domestic agricultural expansion, the EU cannot flick the switch and have things go back to the good old days. Putin promised he would not leave Russian producers hanging when the sanctions were removed.

Iran is having similar economic difficulties. The sanctions have hurt, especially the reduction in oil revenue. It is slowing down the economic recovery that it has planned from the JCPOA, but not stopped it. Like Russia, it has had years to domestically produce many of the sanctioned items, due to its strong industrial base with a well-educated and trained work force.

It has made progress in the defense sector, much to the chagrin of the US. But Iran had a duty to protect its people from Israel, which has been threatening Iran with preemptive strikes for two decades. Iran has pumped a lot of domestic capital into projects to make sure that its large pool of technical talent and engineers are employed.

Iran has major development projects in the works, like piping water over long distances to dry areas in its northeast, like the holy city of Mashad, with its huge religious tourism business for the Imam Reza Shrine complex. Small business development has not been overlooked, as those diverse products are not on the sanctions list.

Iran does not stand alone – it has friends. When China signed the recent deal to pump $400+ billion into Iranian energy development over 25 years, that caught my attention, and even more so when China said 70% of that would be “front loaded” into the first five years. I suspect that with the huge investment in Iranian oil and gas infrastructure will come a state-of-the-art missile defense program to keep the crazy Likuds from blowing China’s investments up.

Can the US name anyone that would do such a deal with it, besides buying weapons? How about the EU? Is anyone from the Old World contemplating a similar Silk Road project, say with North and South America? Does anyone have $3 trillion in foreign reserves?

China has them and does not like the current small return, so it is planning to spend a lot of that money on the Silk Road economy and get a much higher long term return.

We are seeing signs of the US-Gulf State Coalition juggernaut cracking. While the US will not be banned from the area, the cash-rich sheiks are looking East now. The UAE and Abu Dhabi have been big investors, with the latter recently signing an $11-billion mega project for the Beijing Daxing International Airport, to be completed in 10 years.

At the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, India’s Modi signed 15 agreements, ranging from defense to energy, and pledged a $1 billion credit line for the Russian Far East. The US has been trying to stop Modi from buying Russian S-400s, but chances of halting that look slim.

Britain is looking at a hard Brexit, which could be a jump off the cliff. It would not help the EU’s struggling economy either, as I have a hard time seeing a Tory party paying anything near a $40 billion divorce bill.

The yellow vests in France remain on the streets; and now the anti-austerity strikes are beginning. If these are rotated through all the unions, the economy will suffer more than a bump in the road. We find the US up to its eyeballs in the Hong Kong protests, once again interfering in another country’s affairs, while seeing it as a terrible thing when others do it to Uncle Sam.

The UK Independent is reporting from unconfirmed sources that Putin told Bibi the airstrikes on Syria had to stop. Bibi had wanted to bring some good news back from Sochi to boost his election prospects, and there was none. Bibi had publicized that he wanted freedom of action to bomb Iranians in Syria. If he had gotten it, I would suspect he would have publicized it to show what a good dealmaker he is.

But on the other hand, leaders sometimes agree not to make public the results of their meetings. If the IDF continues attacks on the Iranian militias, we still may not know.

Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

“Drone Attack” on Saudi Oil – Who Benefits?

Sun, 2019-09-15 17:42

Huge blazes were reported at two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia owned by Aramco. While Saudi authorities refused to assign blame, media outlets like the BBC immediately began insinuating either Yemen’s Houthis or Iran were responsible.

The BBC in its article, “Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes,” would inject toward the top of its article:

Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen have been blamed for previous attacks.

Following an ambiguous and evidence-free description of the supposed attacks, the BBC even included an entire section titled, “Who could be behind the attacks?” dedicated to politically expedient speculation aimed ultimately at Tehran.

The BBC would claim:

Houthi fighters were blamed for drone attacks on the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility last month and on other oil facilities in May.

The Iran-aligned rebel movement is fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Deliberately missing from the BBC’s history lesson are several key facts, leaving readers to draw conclusions that conveniently propel the West’s agenda versus Iran forward.

The US and Saudi Arabia vs. MENA

The war in Yemen was a result of US-backed regime change operations aimed at Yemen – along with Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Egypt – starting in 2011.

Major hostilities began when the client regime installed by the US was ousted from power in 2015. Since then, the US and its Saudi allies have brutalized and ravaged Yemen triggering one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century.

The UN’s own news service in an article titled, “Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN,” would admit:

An estimated 24 million people – close to 80 per cent of the population – need assistance and protection in Yemen, the UN warned on Thursday. With famine threatening hundreds of thousands of lives, humanitarian aid is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions across the country.

The cause of this catastrophe is the deliberate blockading of Yemen. Reuters in its article, “U.N. aid chief appeals for full lifting of Yemen blockade,” would report:

The United Nations appealed on Friday to the Saudi-led military coalition to fully lift its blockade of Yemen, saying up to eight million people were “right on the brink of famine”.

Essentially – the United States – with the largest economy and most powerful military in the world – along with its allies in Riyadh – are attempting to erase an entire nation off the map through bombings, starvation, and disease.

Saudi aggression carried out on behalf of Washington isn’t confined only to its war on Yemen. Saudi Arabia has played a key role in radicalizing, arming, and funding US-backed militants attempting to overthrow the government of Syria as well as extremist groups bent on destabilizing Iraq and even Iran itself.

Likewise, the militants who overran Libya in 2011 were drawn from extremist networks funded for decades by Riyadh. Thus, Saudi Arabia is not merely menacing neighboring Yemen, it is menacing the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and even beyond.

Saudi Arabia the Victim?  

The BBC’s recent article attempting to portray Saudi-Yemeni hostilities as a tit-for-tat conflict rather than Yemen’s desperate struggle for survival is yet another illustration of not only the West’s hypocrisy in terms of upholding or in any way underwriting human rights, but also the Western media’ complicity in advancing this hypocrisy.

Saudi Arabia is no victim.

If the US can predicate the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of its government on deliberately false claims of possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” wouldn’t Yemen and its allies be justified in using any means possible to attack and undermine Saudi Arabia’s fighting capacity as it and its US allies openly carry out a war of aggression unequivocally condemned by the UN itself?

Houthi fighters or Iran would both be well within their rights to strike at the economic engine driving what even the UN has repeatedly declared as an illegal war of aggression waged by Saudi Arabia and its Western sponsors against the nation and people of Yemen.

Unfortunately, provoking such attacks – however justified – is key to US machinations toward igniting an even wider and more destructive regional conflict.

Two Possibilities 

The alleged attacks on Saudi oil facilities mean one of two things.

Either it is indeed retaliation against Saudi Arabia for its criminal activities across the region – showcasing new military capabilities raising the costs for Riyadh to continue down its current foreign policy path – or it was a staged provocation that will be used by the US to station yet more military forces in Saudi Arabia and to ratchet up tensions with both Iran to the east and Yemen’s Houthis to the south.

The recent departure of US National Security Adviser John Bolton led many to believe the US may be changing tack on its foreign policy – particularly toward Iran. However, it was much more likely a means of portraying the US as a “peacemaker” ahead of another round of attempts by the US to escalate tensions with Iran and if at all possible, trigger a wider conflict long sought by US special interests for years.

The US already used recent and highly questionable incidents in the Persian Gulf to justify sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia. The New York Times in its July 2019 article, “U.S. to Send About 500 More Troops to Saudi Arabia,” would report:

The United States is sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia in what is intended as the latest show of force toward Iran, two Defense Department officials said Wednesday. 

The roughly 500 troops are part of a broader tranche of forces sent to the region over the past two months after tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated. 

Since May, a spate of attacks have left six oil tankers damaged in the Gulf of Oman, with Washington accusing Tehran of inciting them. Iranian officials have denied that claim. The downing of an American drone in June by an Iranian surface-to-air missile only heightened tensions, prompting President Trump to approve military strikes against Iran before abruptly pulling back.

With a growing number of US troops in Saudi Arabia, the US will be well positioned to launch offensive attacks against Iran in any future war, as well as carry out defensive operations to protect Saudi Arabia and essential infrastructure from retaliation.

This most recent alleged attack, along with a series of questionable incidents in the Persian Gulf have afforded the US justification – however tenuous – to further build up its military presence along Iran’s peripheries it otherwise would have had to carry out in an openly provocative and unjustified manner.

It was just these sort of provocations that were described for years by US policymakers who sought to “goad” Iran into war with the West.

For example, in a 2009 Brookings Institution paper titled, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran,” US policymakers would openly admit (emphasis added):

…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it.  

However beneficial this campaign of provocations may be for US foreign policy objectives, neither possibility – a provoked reaction from the Houthis or Iran or a staged attack organized by the US – bodes well for those ruling in Riyadh.

For Washington’s allies – the fact that they are just as likely – or more likely – to receive a devastating attack from the US itself than from their actual enemies – all to trigger an even more devastating war they will find themselves in the middle of – is added incentive for nations like Saudi Arabia to take the extended hands of future potential allies like Russia and China, and begin walking down a new and different path.

Only time will tell how far Saudi Arabia is willing to go down its current path, and how much they are willing to risk doing so, before they join the growing list of nations departing from America’s unipolar global order and choosing a more equitable multipolar future.

Whether the US and Saudi Arabia finally provoked genuine attacks from nations they’ve purposefully goaded for years, or staged the attacks themselves, a dangerous course toward war has been set – and a course the rest of the world must now work hard to steer away from.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Georgian Criminal Organizations Are Busy Taking Over Europe

Sun, 2019-09-15 12:59

At the end of March 2017, an agreement on visa-free travel between the European Union and Georgia came into effect for their citizens.  Since it entered into force, overall, more than 300,000 Georgian residents have travelled to EU countries. And according to statistics compiled by the European Union, approximately 70,000 of these people (i.e. more than 20% of the total) have not returned back home after their 3-month stays, i.e. they chose to remain in Europe illegally. Most of the people that did not come back are ordinary Georgian citizens who set their sights on Europe (once the borders were opened) and on respectable salaries there that they could not earn in Georgia in recent years.

According to a report on the impact of visa liberalization on countries of destination published by the European Commission, most Georgian citizens who had chosen to remain in the EU illegally are residing in Germany and Greece.

However, aside from ordinary Georgians that moved to the EU for work purposes, there were thousands of criminals among the immigrants who quickly established local affiliates of Georgian criminal organizations (COs) in Europe. This caused additional problems for European law enforcement agencies two years after the visa free regime with Georgia had come into effect, first and foremost, because of a substantial number of criminals among the Georgian immigrants to the EU.

It is also worth highlighting that even before the agreement between the European Union and Georgia was signed, Europe had already been experiencing problems associated with the growing presence of Georgian COs. Out of all the Western European nations, Greece, France and Spain had been most affected by this influx of criminals. According to France’s Sirasco (Service d’information, de renseignement et d’analyse stratégique sur la criminalité organisée / Department of Information, Intelligence and Strategic Analysis on Organized Crime), Georgian mob groups fairly quickly took over Albanian mafia’s territory. They gained control over the second largest (in size) Greek port in the city of Thessaloniki as well as trade routes for shipping contraband goods that link the Balkans with the nations of Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Subsequently, members of Georgian organized criminal organizations spread their influence at first to Spain, and then to France. From 2008 to 2010 alone, the number of crimes associated with activities of Georgian COs and investigated by the French police or the National Gendarmerie rose by 33% According to police data, in 2010, there were 1,650 Georgian mobsters in France engaged in racketeering and other crimes.

As a result, European law enforcement agencies began to carry out regular raids in a number of EU countries in order to disrupt operations of the Georgian criminal groups.

After the agreement between the EU and Georgia on visa-free travel for their citizens had come into effect, criminal activity of Georgian mobsters increased, as did the intensity of Europol’s battle against these criminals. Consequently, over last year alone, police forces from France, Spain and Greece carried out 18 sweeping special operations aimed against Georgian criminal organizations and arrested more than 100 people in the act.

The European Commission is convinced that Georgian organized crime is a serious issue plaguing the relations between the EU and Georgia. The European Commission has conceded that Georgian mob groups are, at present, described as powerful organizations with a substantial influence in the EU, especially in France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany. Georgian citizenship is commonly associated, along with several other nationalities, with serious and organized criminal activity in Europe. According to the European Commission report, Georgian gangsters are very mobile and primarily involved in organized crime linked to real estate, corruption, document fraud, extortion and racketeering. These groups of criminals pose a serious threat to the EU because their control over black markets is growing gradually, and they are collaborating with other criminal organizations outside of the European Union. Georgian COs are becoming increasingly engaged in laundering of funds earned by other criminal groups in the EU, and are involved in fraudulent schemes in Israel, China and Hong Kong.

As a result, when communicating with members of the Georgian government, high-ranking EU politicians and leaders of European nations have more and more often warned Tbilisi about the unavoidable suspension of the visa free regime if the Georgian leadership fails to resolve the pressing issues and stem the flow of criminals as well as illegal immigrants (including asylum seekers) into the EU.

Having understood that the termination of visa free travel could lead to a political death of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Tbilisi decided to take truly extraordinary measures in order to somehow assuage EU’s concerns. Hence, Georgia deployed special police attachés to the “problem” EU nations so that they could assist local law enforcement agencies in their battle against Georgian criminals. It is also quite noteworthy that there are no cultural or military attachés in Georgia’s embassies in some European nations. However, a police attaché is already there, which is a clear illustration of Tbilisi’s priorities when it comes to their diplomatic efforts in the EU.

These police attachés are, as a rule, experienced members of Georgian law enforcement agencies who can recognize (on account of their prior policing duties) many of their compatriots from criminal organizations. In a number of European nations, especially in Greece, Spain and France, they are involved in numerous special operations, staged recently, that are aimed against Georgian criminal organizations. And such cooperation between law enforcement agencies operating in the EU with a nation that is not a member of the European Union is far from ordinary.

During an interview with Euronews at the end of August, Salome Zourabichvili, the President of Georgia, said that Georgians did not strive to go to Europe but were already Europeans. Well, no one can argue with such a statement, or the fact that Georgia’s criminal organizations established their bases in Europe a long time ago and have been more and more actively exploring opportunities the EU has to offer in recent years.

As previously mentioned in the New Eastern Outlook, it is quite unfortunate that Georgia, a beautiful country with a rich, unique culture and outstanding artists, has in recent years become widely known for its armed conflict against South Ossetia and Abkhazia in August 2008 (which was initiated by political opportunist and war criminal Mikheil Saakashvili), and also for criminal activities of its mob organizations.

Vladimir Odintsov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’.

Will Bolton’s Exit Cause a Change in the US Foreign Policy?

Sun, 2019-09-15 03:59

Although not strictly a foreign affairs minister, John Bolton’s exit from the White House might leave a significant impact on the US foreign policy, for the US foreign policy is typically deeply intertwined with the question of US ‘national security’ and it is the name of ‘national security’ that the US has been overthrowing regimes all over the world ever since the end of the Second World War, and continues to pursue more or less the same policy in the 21st century vis-à-vis countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea. There is hardly any gainsaying that behind the US’ aggressive policy vis-à-vis these countries, particularly Iran, John Bolton’s role was significant and his exit, coming against the increasingly bright prospects of a meting between the US and Iranian leaders, signals a possible breakthrough between the US and Iran over the nuclear deal. This explains why Iranian leadership has welcomed Bolton’s exit and why Israel is only very uneasily trying to digest the exit of their “Trojan horse” from the White House. Indeed, for Iran Bolton’s exit represents a major rupture in the notorious “B-team”, consisting of Bolton, Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudia’s Muhammad bin Salman.

According to reports presented even in the mainstream western media, Bolton’s fundamental disagreement was over Trump’s idea of easing sanctions on Iran as a means to open the path to negotiations. In other words, while Bolton was opposed to easing the US’ “maximum pressures” policy, which was very much his own brainchild, Trump and some of his top officials wanted to experiment and see how far they (the US and Iran) could go to normalise tensions.

While the presence of Mike Pompeo, who is no dove and had in fact laid out 12 demands last year as pre-conditions for Iran to become a “normal country”, might still mean that a hard-line US approach towards Iran will remain intact, there is also no gainsaying that Pompeo’s policy hasn’t worked and none of the 12 demands have really been fulfilled. In addition to it, Pompeo has recently been seen softening his own stance, saying only last week that the US president was ready to engage in talks without any pre-conditions. In other words, with Bolton’s exit have also departed the idea of ‘no talks’ and ‘pre-emptive strikes.’

One significant reason why emphasis on talks has increased is that the US president has yet to win any major trophy in the foreign policy arena to showcase in his re-election bid in 2020. The US president’s foreign policy has been nothing short of a disaster: US relations with China are cold; no major win in Syria; Turkey continues to drift towards Russia; Afghanistan talks are “dead”; Iran remains strong in the face of hardest ever sanctions; and Trump’s forward play vis-à-vis North Korea hasn’t worked either. Trump, therefore, has nothing to show to prove he is a “master negotiator” and a smart “deal maker”, and he will remain empty handed unless, of course, he brings a major change in his foreign policy or actually wins a trophy before the next year elections.

Therefore, if there is one reason why Bolton’s exit might bring a foreign policy change, it is Trump’s imperative of avoiding a defeat—a political objective that Bolton could never be sensitive to. For instance, if Bolton has nothing to lose in a new Middle Eastern war with Iran, this war could be a deeply reckless and, in fact, a politically suicidal thing to happen in Trump’s own scheme of things.

What could equally hurt Trump’s re-election bid is the on-going trade-war with China and the impact it is leaving on the US economy after all. Bolton’s departure coupled with China’s decision to ease down tariffs on some of the US products ahead of up-coming talks indicates some progress towards normalisation, if not a breakthrough at all. For China, Bolton was a nuisance and trouble-maker. As China’s Global Times noted in its report, “Bolton has also never been of any good use to China. And he is clearly one of the players pushing China-US relations to a deep impasse.”

Yet, despite Bolton’s influence and exit, it remains a fact that Trump and Bolton shared ideas on all of the major issues concerning the US. As a matter of fact, Trump was always opposed to the current Iran-nuke deal and he always wanted to ‘firmly deal’ with China. And, he had stated taking steps to this end long before Bolton’s appointment as NSA. Therefore, the question of what how and if things will change at all is still relevant after Bolton’s exit, for while Bolton’s presence left an impact, his was not the only impact. There is a constant ‘Trump factor’ as well and this factor inherently sees Iran and China as ‘enemies’ Hence, the question: what will actually change, if at all, in the US foreign policy?

Given the overwhelming influence of Trump’s own mindset, a major change in the US foreign policy should not be expected. In fact, Pompeo made it clear that a single departure doesn’t and wouldn’t change policy.

However, while the essential policy will mostly remain the same i.e., the US would still want to make a new deal with Iran and make China submit to US economic pressure, what might change is the extent of emphasis put on aggressive steps and hard-line approach to active diplomacy and negotiations and an openness to strike a compromise – all with an eye on the 2020 presidential election. In other words, while the essential policy will remain unchanged, only the way and the tactics to pursue it might change.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Will the IMF, FED, Negative Interest and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

Sat, 2019-09-14 22:24

The IMF, has been instrumental in helping destroying the economy of a myriad of countries, notably, and to start with, the new Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Greece, Ukraine and lately Argentina, to mention just a few. Madame Christine Lagarde, as chief of the IMF had a heavy hand in the annihilation of at least the last three mentioned. She is now taking over the Presidency of the European Central Bank (ECB). There, she expects to complete the job that Mario Draghi had started but was not quite able to finish: Further bleeding the economy of Europe, especially southern Europe into anemia.

Let’s see what we may have in store – to come.

Negative interest, we have it already – it’s the latest banking fraud stealing money from depositors to give to large borrowers. It’s a reverse cross-subsidy, the poor financing the rich. That’s the essence. It’s a new form of moving money from the bottom to the top. Now, a Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage. It provides mortgages to home owners for a negative rate of 0.5%. The bank pays borrowers to take some money off their books. Of course, as usual, only relatively well-off people can become home owners and benefit from this reverse cross-subsidy. It is a token gesture, duping the public at large int believing that they are benefitting from the new banking stint. The bulk of such operations serve large corporations.

The borrower pays back less than the full loan amount. Switzerland may soon go into the direction of Denmark. Bank deposits with the central banks pay negative interest almost everywhere in the western world, except in the US – yet. It’s only a question of time until the average consumer will have to reimburse the banks for their central bank deposit expenses, meaning, the customers are getting negative interest on their deposits. That’s inflation camouflage. A sheer fraud, but all made legal by a system that runs amok, that does not follow any ethics or legal standards. A totally deregulated western private banking system, compliments of the 1990s Clinton Administration, and, of course, his handlers. As Professor Michael Hudson calls it, financial barbarism. We are haplessly enslaved in this aberrant ever more abusive private – fiat money – banking shenaniganism.

RT’s Max Keiser recently interviewed Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker.org. Denninger told Keiser,

 “Negative yielding bond is forced inflationary instrument: you buy it, you’re guaranteed inflation in the amount of a negative yield.” He blasted the tool as plain “theft” by any government that issues these bonds, which is done in an effort to nominally expand a country’s GDP. “If the government is issuing more in sovereign debt their GDP is expanding in nominal terms. If you have negative interest rates on those government bonds, you’re creating excess space for the government to run the fiscal deficit […] in excess of GDP expansion. Nobody in any civilized nation should allow this to happen because it is theft, on the scale of that differential, from everybody in the economy,”

***

To make sure the little saver doesn’t think about depositing his savings under his matrass or in a hole in the ground instead of bringing it to the bank, money will be digitized and cash will disappear. Madame Lagarde has already more than hinted at that, when she gave a pre-departure speech at the IMF – explaining on how she sees the future of monetary banking. The future, according to her, being no more than 15 to 20 years away, is a no-cash society. Just enough time for the elder generations – those that may still feel an instinct of rejection and have some consciousness about personal privacy, those that may resist money digitization – may have died out. The young, up-and-coming age groups may be brainwashed enough to find a cashless society so cool.

Since Madame Lagarde is moving to head the ECB in Frankfurt, it is fair to assume that Europe will be one of the largest test grounds for digitized money, i.e. towards a cashless society. In fact, it is already a test ground – many department stores and other shops in Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland – do no longer accept cash, only electronic money. In Denmark already up of 80% of all monetary transactions are made digitally.

Imagine, for your chewing gum wrapper, pack of cigarette, or candy bar, you swipe a card in front of an electronic eye – and bingo, you have paid, not touching any money – “that’s mega cool!” – That’s what the young people may think, oblivious to leaving a trail of personal data behind, among them their bank account details, their GPS-geared location, what they are shopping, a pattern of data that is in ten years-time expected to amount to about 70,000 points of information about an individual’s characteristics, emotions, preferences, photos, personal contacts… what Cambridge Analytica in the superb documentary “The Great Hack” revealed as already today on average 5,000 points of data per citizen. The system will know you inside out better than you know yourself. And you will be exposed to algorithms that know exactly how to influence every action, every move of yours. Cool!

***

A horrendous trial on how an entire country, India, with the world’s second largest population, may react to demonization, was introduced in 2016 by President Modi, bending to the pressure of the western financial system, with support of the IMF and implementation funding by USAID. It amounted in a disastrous and cruel demonetization, invalidating almost over-night the most popular 100 Rupee (Rs) bank note, replacing it with a 200 Rs note – which in most places, especially in rural towns, where banks are scarce, was not available. Never mind that less than half of the Indian population has a bank account where the bank note exchange transactions had to be carried out.

The sudden disappearance of the most popular bank note – more than 80% of all monetary cash transactions in India took place in 100 Rs notes – was a proxy to digitization of money. Countless people starved to death especially in rural areas, because their 100 Rs were declared worthless and became unacceptable to buy food.

***

The 340,000 citizens of Iceland have already a fully digitized e-ID, now moving towards a mobile ID, i.e. accessible through your smart phone – uniting every possible data that belongs to you, from medical records to insurance policies, all the way to dog, cat and car registrations – you name it. Most say they trust their government and are not unhappy with their divulging their most intimate data. Many have no or little idea, though, to what extent the private sector is involved in setting up such a hermetic countrywide data bank for the government. – Even if the regulator is within then government and you trust your government, how much can you trust the profit-oriented private sector in protecting your data?

The surveillance state that you, among other clandestine intrusions into your privacy, will allow by willy-nilly accepting digitization of money, and eventually digitization of your entire private data, pales Orwell’s imagination of “1984”. Every citizen is registered in every western “security agency’s” electronic data bank – and of course those of the empire and Middle East affiliate, Israel, CIA, NSA, FBI, Mossad – and so on – no escaping anymore.

It just so happens that you, dear citizen, are oblivious to all of what is going on behind your back, since your attention will be captured by massive marketing and directed towards the nefarious machinations of the corporate elite ruled, globalized world, making you an eternal and ever-more intense consumer. You must spend the last penny of your income on trendy stuff, all those fashion things that will be pumped non-stop day-in-day-out into your brain, what’s left of it, by propaganda on television, radio, electronic cartoon-like billboards, internet – and that at every turn you take. And let’s not forget sports events – they increase every year and are the most direct deviation tactic take-over from the Roman Empire.

The most aberrant trends will be cool, like shredded jeans, for which you pay a premium, body-paintings, called tattoos, footballer hair styles, because they are fashionable and your looks are key to fit into a standardized, globalized society that has seized thinking for itself – no more interest in politics, in what your non-democratically elected representatives decide for you. It’s what Noam Chomsky calls the marginalization of the populace.

You are made believe that you are living in a democracy where you can do what you want, shop what you want, watch what you want, and even when the elections or occasional referenda are offered to request your opinions, you are cheated into believing your choice is free. Of course, it is not. It is all programmed. Algorithms drawing on your profile of 70,000 points of information on emotions, desires and dreams, will clandestinely help the ‘system’ to enslave, cheat and master you – and you won’t even notice.

That’s where we are headed, largely thanks to digitalization of money – but not only, because surveillance will also follow all your steps on internet, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp – and many more of those especially created marketing tools, implanted in societies’ social media, that make life and communication so much easier.

And there is more to digital money. Much more. In 2014, the unelected European Commission (EC) has put on its books of regulations, following a similar decree in the US, the rule that an overextended  bankrupt too-big-to-fail private bank will no longer be rescued by the state, by your tax money – which used to be called a “bail-out”. Instead, there will be “bail-ins”, meaning that the bank will seize your deposits, your savings and sanitize itself with money stolen from you. You have no choice, there will be no ‘run on the banks’ – because there is no cash to withdraw. We have seen signs of this when Greece collapsed after 2010, and cash machines spitting out no more than 20 € per day – if at all. For many of Greek citizens – especially the poorer class living from day to day – this meant often cruel starvation.

Bail-ins are little talked about, but they happen already today and ever more so. In 2014, the Austrian bank Hypo Alpe Adria – the Heta Asset Resolution AG, was given green light by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA), to refinance itself by a so-called “haircut” of an average 54%, meaning, stealing 54% of depositors’ money.

But the first and largest “haircut” test took place in Cyprus, when in 2013 the Bank of Cyprus depositors lost about 47.5% in a “haircut” to bail out their bank. Of course, the big sharks were forewarned, so they could withdraw their money in time and transfer it abroad.

It could get worse. The state, tax authority, an institution, a corporation says you owe them money which you deny, possibly for a good reason – but they have access to your bank account and just seize the amount they pretend is their due. You are powerless against these tyrannical monsters and may have to hire expensive legal service to get your stolen money back – if at all. Because the “system” is run by the “system”. And once that level has been reached, a form of Full Spectrum Dominance, a key target of the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century), there is hardly any escaping. That has all happened already, in front of our publicity-blinded eyes, little spoken about, the trend is growing – and this even without necessarily a digitized world.

Is it that the kind of society you want?

***

Then there are the rather prominent gurus who bet on gold and bitcoins to replace the faltering dollar, like a last-ditch solution. None of them is any more viable than the fiat dollar. Gold is highly volatile due to its vulnerability for manipulation – as it is largely controlled bit the BIS (Bank for International Settlement, in Basle, Switzerland, also called the central bank of all central banks, and yes, the same bank that helped the FED finance Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union – so you see where this bank is coming from). It is entirely privately owned and largely controlled by the Rothschild clan. And as an associated side note – few people talk about it, there is more than 100 times more paper gold in circulation than you could ever cash in, if you needed it. It is another one of those bank-invented bubbles that will explode and serve to enrich them when the time is ripe.

Bitcoins, the most prominent of some 3,000 to 4,000 cryptocurrencies flooding the world, is totally unreliable. A year after it was created in 2008 allegedly by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s value in 2009 was US$ 0.08, It gradually rose and eventually jumped in December 2017 briefly above US$ 20,000, but dropped within a year to about US$ 3,500. Today bitcoin is hovering around US$ 9,500 (August / September 2019). Bitcoin – along with other cryptocurrencies – is highly speculative, lends itself to Mafia-type money-laundering and other fraudulent transactions. It is about equivalent to fiat money and certainly inept to be the backing for a monetary system.

And let’s not forget, the latest Facebook initiative – a cryptocurrency, the Libra, to be launched in 2020 out of Geneva, Switzerland – is expected to dominate within a few years 70% to 80% of the international money market. You see, the same clan that has been manipulating and cheating you with the dollar, is now ‘banking’ on you falling for the Facebook currency – as it will be so easy to use your smart phone for any kind of monetary transaction, thus, avoiding traditional predatory banking. Looks like a good thing at the outside – right? – Nope! Its entirely privately owned and run by an unscrupulous mafia that is being set up to continue milking the masses for the benefits of an ever-smaller elite.

There is however a role for blockchain cryptocurrencies, to circumvent private banking, those that are government controlled and regulated. China and Russia are about to launch their government-controlled cryptocurrencies and others – Iran, Venezuela, India – are following in the same steps. But they all ban privately run cryptocurrencies in their countries – and rightly so. A combination of government-regulated blockchain cryptos and public banking, where no private profits are in the fore, but rather the well being of the citizen and the country’s economy, may be a viable solution into a new monetary scheme, protected from the kleptocracy of western banking.

***

Desperation about the dollar losing its world hegemony is growing – and growing fast. To salvage the western fiat monetary system, Madame Lagarde and others are also talking about some kind of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to replace the dollar as a reserve currency, since there is no escaping – the dollar as reserve currency is doomed. The current IMF SDR basket consists of five currencies, the US-dollar (weighing 41.73%), the British Pound (8.02%) the Euro (30.93%), the Japanese Yen (8.33%) and since 2017 the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the world’s largest economy compared by Purchasing Power GDP (10.92%).

At this point thinking of any reshuffling of the SDR basket’s contents is purely speculative. However, it can easily be assumed that the dollar would remain in a very prominent position within the basket, as it should remain the leading hegemon of world economy. Let’s not forget, The US Treasury controls the IMF with an absolute veto, in other words – 100%. It can also be assumed that the Chinese Yuan would either be kicked out altogether or would be given a minor weight in the basket, so to diminish its role. If this was to become the chosen option by the US Treasury, it could and probably might prompt China to withdraw the Yuan from the SDR basket, as the Yuan does no longer need SDR recognition in the world to be considered a primary reserve currency.

Unless this is stealthily done – outside of public sight and in disguise of countries still holding major US-dollar reserves, the world would unlikely accept such an alternative, especially since it is widely known among treasurers of countries around the globe that the Chinese Yuan is rapidly raising to become the key world reserve currency.

As reported by William Engdahl’s analytical essay “Is the Fed Preparing to Topple the US Dollar?” the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, delivered at the recent annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a set of ideas that went into a similar direction, towards a shift away from the dominant role of the US dollar as a reserve currency. Similar to Mme. Lagarde’s earlier remarks about an SDR-type reserve currency, he made it understood that though, the Chinese Yuan, the currency of the key trading nation, may have a role in the basket, it would – for now – not be an important one. He also was clear about the current disturbing and destabilizing imbalance – where a faltering dollar still pretends to hold the hegemonic scepter over the world economy.

Keeping the dollar still in a leading role, while the US economy is declining, was no longer a viable option for an increasingly globalized world economy. Carney was hinting at a multipolar monetary and reserve system for a multipolar globalized world. Similar remarks came from former New York Federal Reserve Bank chief, Bill Dudley. However, Dudley, hinted that for the United States to give up her dollar dominance, the backbone for her world hegemony, may not come voluntarily. Might that lead to a major, maybe armed world conflict?

Much of this is speculation from the western perspective. It is however clear, that there is a tremendous and mounting uneasiness about the western, dollar-based fiat monetary system, backed by nothing, not even by the western economy. You compare this with the Chinese and the Russian Ruble, both backed by gold and – more importantly – by their own economy. It becomes increasingly clear that much of the speculation and efforts by influential central banking figures to save the western monetary Ponzi scheme, maybe just propaganda to calm the minds of western financiers – holding them back from jumping ship.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. After working for over 30 years with the World Bank he penned Implosion, an economic thriller, based on his first-hand experience. Exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.
 

Iranian Noose Around Donald Trump’s Neck

Sat, 2019-09-14 17:59

A number of American media outlets have stated that U.S. President Donald Trump’s standing is not as good as it could be at present. The latest opinion polls conducted in the United States show that his approval rating reached its lowest levels, and that he could be beaten by any of the four Democratic presidential candidates during the upcoming election in a year’s time. There is an opinion that analyses and plans for formulating a foreign policy were in many cases inadequate, which has caused greater concern among Republicans about the presidential election next year.

Donald Trump started his presidency with a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he signed contracts worth as much as $100 billion, and made Saudis promise to buy American arms for another $300 billion. Then, however, U.S. President’s policies failed on a number of occasions on the global arena.

Washington’s plans to crush the Russian economy with the aid of sanctions did not bear fruit, and, as a result, the whole world is currently laughing at them. Even Donald Trump himself has fully grasped the failure of such a policy and suggested inviting Russia back into the G7, which would transform this elite summit into a G8.

In addition, nothing worked with regards to China either although Donald Trump initiated a trade and economic war against this nation. Any financial gains apparently made by the United States were cancelled out by China’s increased tariffs on American goods.

And what of the DPRK, a country that the American President threatened to wipe off the face of the Earth? Currently, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, is suddenly regarded as (based on the statements made by Donald Trump himself) a great leader who one could do business with.

Very little has gone right for Donald Trump with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the United States pointedly and inexplicably withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement on Iran’s nuclear program while at the same time demanding (purely for sport) that Tehran fulfill all the obligations in accordance with this agreement. It is worth reminding our readers that the JCPOA delicately balances interests, obligations and compromises of many nations, which is why it cannot be subdivided into separate sections (for instance, with one binding and another nonbinding part).

Undoubtedly, Donald Trump is a fortunate business man, however, this is clearly not enough to run an enormous nation. The U.S. President did not even express any interest in whether or not sanctions (first imposed against Iran 40 years ago in 1979), which he places great hopes on, had borne any fruit before. At the time the USA first announced sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world power seized all of Iran’s assets, including bank deposits, gold and other property in the amount of $12 billion.  In 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan imposed new sanctions against Iran. However, when they failed to yield desirable results in Washington’s eyes, in 1995, the sanctions were once again expanded to include foreign companies that collaborated with Iran.  After the United States withdrew from the agreement on the nuclear program on 8 May 2018, the unilateral sanctions against Iran yet again tightened.

Aside from unilateral, unlawful and inhumane sanctions the USA imposed against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Washington has pressured other world nations to put an embargo on Iranian exports. This in itself is a clear example of economic terrorism against the people of Iran.

However, despite the harsh sanctions, over this entire period, Iran has achieved a lot of success in all the spheres, including the military one (i.e. by creating its own weapons on par with their American counterparts).

It would be interesting to know how Washington intends to engage with Iran, with its history and diplomatic endeavors spanning thousands of years, and which was a Great Empire at the time when inhabitants of America walked around wearing animal hides. Does Donald Trump really think that all he needs to do is shake his finger at Iran and impose yet another set of barbaric sanctions against this nation for Iranians to simply cave?

It is quite obvious that Donald Trump is trying to use all the means at his disposal to make Tehran breach the non-proliferation treaty, and thereby undermine its collaboration with the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) in order to then have the motive to intervene by military means (something that is condemned in the strongest of terms by the international community and that will threaten the stability of the entire region). Many career diplomats have pointed out the resilience of their Iranian counterparts, and their strict adherence to international laws that govern the sphere of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Russian diplomats, just as many foreign experts and professionals, believe that Iran’s rational behavior would be duly appreciated by all the other signatories of the agreement.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani clearly expressed his opinion on the possibility of renewing negotiations with Washington. Having highlighted that Iran’s strategy is grounded in resistance from within and effective diplomacy, Hassan Rouhani stated that Tehran had never aimed to engage in bilateral negotiations with the USA. He said that numerous proposals to this effect had been made, but Iran had thus far rejected them. Hassan Rouhani affirmed that without resistance from within and effective diplomacy Iran’s path would be hard.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, stated that Iran would “further lower its commitments under the deal” if Europeans failed to protect Iran’s economy from barbaric sanctions imposed on the nation by the United States after the unceremonious withdrawal from the agreement by the Trump administration. After all, in accordance with the JCPOA, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of financial and economic sanctions. The Iranian Minister stated “It is meaningless to continue unilateral commitments to the deal if we don’t enjoy its benefits as promised by the deal’s European parties”. He also ruled out the possibility of renegotiating the JCPOA, and noted that it was perfectly clear for Tehran that it would be impossible to open a Pandora’s box and then close it once again.

With the upcoming presidential election drawing near, Donald Trump really needs to at least achieve some success with regards to Iran. However, it is entirely up to Tehran to act at this point, thanks to Mohammad Javad Zarif’s “iron hand in a velvet glove”. And in the meantime, Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister continues to give Donald Trump, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, master classes in diplomacy.

It would be interesting to see what Donald Trump, who appears to have only the threat of force (which, by the way, the USA currently does not have and is unlikely to have in the future) left in his arsenal, does next with regards to Iran. But the election continues to draw near and something needs to be done. And even now, the Iranian noose around Donald Trump’s neck continues to tighten.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciencesexclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

How Come Lynching hasn’t Gone Anywhere in the US

Sat, 2019-09-14 13:32


It’s nearly impossible to argue these days with Die Zeit, that states that no country comes close to the US with its high percentage of the general population carrying firearms, with more people dying each year from gunshot wounds in America than in any other country of the world, aside from those entangled in some sort of conflict. What’s even worse, statisticians say that those figures keep climbing.

According to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Americans own 40% of all guns in the world, with the US ranking first on the list of countries with high gun ownership rates with a result of 120.5 guns per one hundred people, with the war-ravaged Yemen taking second place with 52.8 guns per 100 people. The study carried out by this scientific body back in 2017 shows that US citizens own some 393 million guns.

So far this year, there’s been 292 mass shooting incidents, including those provoked by family disputes. Those resulted in a total of 1300 individuals getting wounded, with a percentage of those receiving lethal wounds. According to a nonprofit research group known as the Gun Violence Archive, while the total gun deaths in the US have actually declined over time, mass shootings have become deadlier and more frequent, with some of those having a strong emotional impact on the US population.

Time and time again, in Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas and Ohio regular citizens would visit those horror sites to express their sorrow and grief, to leave flowers, candles, and to pray. For weeks those towns hit by mass shooting incidents would be crawling with journalists. After every mass shooting in the United States, Americans and others around the world are confronted with the question of what lies behind this distinctly American horror.

It’s been said that it’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to buy a gun in the United States, as they’re everywhere. It’s said it’s good for your protection. It’s believed that it’s an inalienable right to carry a gun. However, it doesn’t guarantee anything, as you can be shot long before you can pull your gun out. Then again, some people are better shots than others, and if your assault rifle is collecting dust in the attic chances are you won’t get to it in time if your home is being raided.

So far, every mass shooting incident in the US would spark discussions, with some claiming that the gunman was a racist, a psycho that hated Latin Americans, or, as Donald Trump would put it, was mentally unsound.

We would most certainly witness new propositions for gun carrying and storage legislation, demands that anyone who wants to own a gun should be subjected to regular medical examinations. Meanwhile, it’s clear that all of those are completely meaningless, as they won’t change the overall situation. Less than a week after the mass shooting incident in El Paso, a company based in California started selling school backpacks that would provide the level of protection comparable to that of a military grade bulletproof vest. The cost of such a bag wouldn’t exceed 375 dollars per bag. There’s models that won’t be penetrated by a full clip shot from an automatic rifle, but those are twice as expensive. Such gun-violence related businesses thrive all across the US, just like small arms manufacturers do.

Analysts would claim time and again that the rapid spread of white supremacy ideology across the US, together with the growing anti-migrant sentiments are the driving force behind the recent mass shooting incidents. It’s been pointed out that the white men who are driving a surge in white supremacist violence in places like El Paso are sending the same message to nonwhite Americans that their counterparts did in the lynching era: You will never be safe wherever you go.

The term lynching evokes images of the dark times in the American history when black men were dangling from trees, while white racists would pose proudly by their charred bodies. Each lynching sent messages to blacks: Do not register to vote. Do not apply for a white man’s job, according to an essay on the Jim Crow era. It’s worth remembering that the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville in 2017 chanted, “You will not replace us,”and “Jews will not replace us.”

It would seem that the medicine for this social illness would be plain and simple: ban all weapons sales on the public market. Those who are supposed to bear firearms, namely military men, policemen and private security officers would be under close supervision. As for everybody else – no guns are allowed, no matter how proud you are of your history. There’s a reason why security agencies are to be found in most any country of the planet, as there’s professionals who are tasked with seeking criminals and shooting them, if they have no better option in the situation at hand.

The direct effect of a comprehensive gun prohibition legislation can be witnessed in Australia, as Canberra adopted a rather harsh set of rules regulating the sale, possession, and use of firearms back in 1996. Ever since, the number of people dying from gun-wounds in Australia has been decreasing steadily, just like the number of people who bear weapons.

It’s been pointed out that adopting a meaningful gun-control legislation after number of horrendous tragedies should not have been a problem for the US legislators. It was hard to ignore the emotional appeal of the shattered parents who’d come to Washington to plead their case. Yet, even in the wake of Sandy Hook, the US Senate voted down two measures to tighten gun-control laws.

The last major gun-control legislation enacted in the US was the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which included a ban on assault weapons. The prevailing evidence shows that mass-shooting deaths fell during the years when the assault-weapons ban was in place, and then rose after it lapsed.

It goes without saying that nobody is going to ban small weapons sale in the US, as American journalists would point time and again there’s no way to bypass the mighty gun lobby. Aside from super profits they reap from selling weapons, they can use the controversy surrounding mass shooting incidents as a political tool. For instance, all of the MSM sources are convinced that gun manufacturers have nothing to do with the El Paso tragedy, as they prefer to push the blame on Donald Trump that allegedly hates Latin Americans. If the Democrats are to be believed, there would be no such tragedy if Trump wasn’t in office. It’s deliberately omitted that such incidents would occur during the time when Trump’s predecessors were in office, and they were just as lethal and numerous.

It’s clear that no matter who would take the blame for the recent incident, and those that will follow, as long it’s no harder to purchase a gun than to buy a can of coke, those incidents will persist in the US.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”  

Big Data, the Nuclear War on Your Soul

Fri, 2019-09-13 19:44

By the 1990’s the bridge between media, academia and spy agencies had disappeared. Publishing, lecturing, every aspect of journalism or education, eventually to include science, mathematics and engineering as well, had become “political.”

Any individual who strayed became a threat. Every organization, official or ad hoc, had to be penetrated and managed, using programs developed by the FBI under Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s.

Conversely, all “output,” meaning every lecture, every book, every news story, knowing all was “filtered and controlled” was a source of intelligence “backwash” and could reveal not only “intentions” but “patterns of misdirection.”

This was before social media, before facial recognition, before license plate scanners that could check everything from your unpaid fines to medical records.

Despite efforts by privacy advocates and EU regulations, an “industry” now competing with and deeply paralleling the military weapons monoliths has taken shape in the shadows, unseen, unregulated, unaccountable and unstoppable.

In 1975 a film was made that covered the earliest stages of these efforts. From reviewer Roger Ebert:

“’Three Days of the Condor’ is a well-made thriller, tense and involving, and the scary thing, in these months after Watergate, is that it’s all too believable. Conspiracies involving murder by federal agencies used to be found in obscure publications of the far left. Now they’re glossy entertainments starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. How soon we grow used to the most depressing possibilities about our government — and how soon, too, we commercialize on them. Hollywood stars used to play cowboys and generals. Now they’re wiretappers and assassins, or targets.”

Then in 2010, AMC developed a new TV series, one more focused, one more advanced, one quickly squashed when its plotline began to suggest an all to realistic apparatus inside the US capable of planning and executing events such as 9/11. From New York Vulture:

“What would be its next groundbreaking series?

Enter Rubicon, an espionage drama inspired by ’70s conspiracy thrillers—The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, The Conversation, and All the President’s Men are the big influences — with updated post-9/11 anxiety. Created by Jason Horwitch, the series follows Everyman intelligence analyst Will Travers (James Badge Dale) whose investigation into the mysterious death of his mentor David Hadas (Peter Gerety) leads him to discover a shadowy cabal of elites who use data from his employer, private intelligence agency API (the American Policy Institute), to manipulate global events for profit. Rubicon immersed its viewers in an all-too-familiar paranoid environment. Someone is always watching. Danger lurks behind every corner. No one can be trusted.”

Thus it began those many years ago, a stew of reading everything, listening to all followed by benchmarking “patriotism” to where it eventually equated silent compliance and now full complicity in a new process.

Those who speak out are first smeared, often paid for by think tanks or organizations like the ADL, AIPAC or the NRA. Then the stalking begins, online at first but later, if reports are correct, broad electronic harassment.

From there, the lists, “no fly” and “terror watch” and past that, a visit from the FBI.

If that doesn’t work, is it really a fake heart attack or suicide, maybe a plane crash or boating incident like those that took down former Senator John Tower and his family and his employer, Robert Maxwell, reputed master spy and blackmailer “supreme” if reports are to be believed.

There is another area of failure here and that is of the scale of the problem. Terms like “privacy” or even “mind control” are understatements. Terms like “understatement” don’t work either as intrusive technology, phones that measure where we walk, our heart rates while we talk and who we talk to, record what we say and hear…do you see where this is going?

Then the assumption that no one would want this much information or have so little respect for individual privacy is beyond naïve. Worse still, with real discussions of privacy controlled by those who created the problem, the unlimited ability of “big data” to re-engineer human existence and their active efforts to do exactly that will remain out of any public forum.

Here is a basic example from the past. Americans have always looked at public upheavals, such as opposition to the war in Vietnam or the rejection, in 1964 of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater as “extremist,” based on media reporting alone. There is no “feedback loop” other than the media telling us how we think based on their “unbiased observations.”

I think it is safe to say the media has never been unbiased and that their observed and reported public upheavals are, often as not, dictated by darker sources such as those that sent America into a frenzy to destroy Iraq for its notable “non-involvement” in the events of 9/11.

It is safe to say that no media reported “upheaval,” whether to impeach Trump or bomb either Iran or Israel, depending on which way the winds blow as it were, is taken seriously. However, what is taken seriously is the record of abuse that already stands, certainly pointing to so many institutions, media, press, education, government, courts and police. Then again, Americans now fear their own military and have every reason to suspect that it may well turn into an occupation force for us against the US as it no longer has a legitimate role otherwise.

This is not an Orwellian threat, not an alien invasion, not even a holocaust style roundup of influencers, and these are the fears carefully stoked among the public today, don’t come even close to the truth. Let’s look at the “mechanisms” of control.

Imagine a world where there are no real governments, where mysterious “talking points” are delivered to everyone, diplomats, legislators, even national leaders.

The same “talking points,” really that day”s list of official lies and fakery, now reach millions, judges, police officials, but more threatening, “activists” and of course the media, anyone receiving a public paycheck or the thousands who receive secret stipends from “reptile funds” that invigorate the “troll universe.”

The threat today began with a synergy some years ago, the Maxwell and Murdoch empires that ran the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the first mass sale monoliths that combined print and broadcast with intelligence operations, blackmail, assassinations and, if investigative sources are correct, staged acts of terrorism.

We ended up on this road following the mysterious death of Jeffrey Epstein, “suicided” in prison, erased from the media days later while a duped public expected a trial that would open the door to a world of elites whose lives were steeped in ritual abuse and the unimaginable evil that has led to the world we see today.

Yes, there is a vast hunger out there to understand why humanity has descended the evolutionary ladder, where, each decade is worse than the last, more unjust, more intolerant, where the scale of human suffering and debasement reaches unimagined heights.

A puzzled public seeks answers and is fed what they want, custom engineered conspiracy theories based on “big data” profiling of over 500 million “influencers” who, in today’s device ridden world, digest fakery and spew fear and hate.

What is “big data?” Can your television really watch you? Does Google read your Gmail? Is everything you watch or listen to cataloged? Is every search, everything you read analyzed?

If you think this is all, you are mistaken.

They know how long it took to read it and some devices know where your gaze was drawn to on the screen as well. Of course your phone follows you all day, where you go, how long you spend there, who you visit, what you buy, and reports all this not dozens but up to 600 times a day for Android users according to a recent study.

Even that goes further, rapidly spreading facial recognition not only sees who you are but your expressions as well. Software is being developed and quickly distributed that watches how you walk, detects your mood, your health, knows more about you than even you do yourself. Are we all being profiled as potential terrorists?

One half trillion dollars a year, more than is spent on all nuclear weapons, is spent on “big data” collection and analysis that feeds not just commercial interests but, as 2016 proved, political interests as well.

They don’t want to sell you a car, they want to sell you a war or, beyond that, convince you that you can’t live without them even though you will never know who “they” are.

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

When Will the US and Iranian Leaders Meet?

Fri, 2019-09-13 12:59

The key element of the current system of international political, economic and military relations is the ability of the US and Iran to keep the conflict between the two countries from degenerating into direct military confrontation.

Until recently, the Donald Trump Administration had strongly opposed easing sanctions against Iran, instead imposing, somewhat furiously, even more sanctions on that country. In early September alone the US Government introduced economic measures against the country’s space program. The US State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced that the US would deal with the so-called Oil for Terror Network, a group of individuals and organizations through which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is engaged in the illegal, from the American point of view, sale of hydrocarbons.

Iran has recently taken additional steps to cancel the nuclear deal concluded by Tehran with a number of world powers in 2015 by pumping gaseous uranium into more advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges. At the same time, Tehran pointed out that in a situation where both the US and the European participants in the nuclear deal cannot guarantee lifting sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran as per the agreed plan, Iran would be no longer bound by this international agreement on the nuclear energy research restrictions. Moreover Iran emphasized its technical capabilities for enriching uranium to 20% and above. A number of analysts are even confident that Iran will be able to achieve a level of enrichment close to 90% for weapon-grade uranium.

It should be noted that these measures on the part of Iran had been expected for several days. Tehran promised earlier that it would give up parts of its nuclear deal obligations every 60 days until the European powers found a way to compensate Iran for the economic damage from the US sanctions imposed by the US President Donald Trump’s Administration as part of its policy of exerting maximum pressure on Tehran. In July, Iran already exceeded the limits on the uranium reserves envisaged by the deal, and it unilaterally raised the limit on fuel enrichment from 3.67 to 4.5%. Nonetheless, the country has not yet officially withdrawn from the nuclear deal, unlike the United States.

However, President Trump’s decision to dismiss his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, because of strong disagreements with him on many issues, undoubtedly gives hope that the US-Iranian conflict can be mitigated in the near future.

The New York Times alleges Bolton believed his primary goal was to prevent the conclusion of agreements with America’s enemies. And, against this backdrop, the conflict with Iran, according to the former national security advisor’s entourage, was largely related to the position of John Bolton, for whom Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with, and the restoration of the US sanctions against, Tehran were the main achievements of his 18-month-long activity in the White House.

Trump himself once said, half in jest, that “if it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now.” And in this regard, the US President clearly meant the possibility of developments unfavorable for the world not only on the Iranian issue, but also on the possible reconciliation with North Korea due to Bolton’s strong condemnation of North Korean missile tests as a violation of the UN Resolutions and his refusal to join Trump when the US President met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. It was Bolton’s policy as a Washington hawk to influence the US President regarding the White House action against the regime of Nicolas Maduro, providing the US support for the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in every way. Bolton’s negative stance on negotiations with the Taliban and his call on President Trump not to make an agreement with the radical Islamic movement, combating which thousands of US soldiers died in Afghanistan, proved important as well: it resulted in Trump’s refusal to try and reach a peace agreement with them.

The 70-year-old John Bolton is considered one of the heavy-weights of the American conservative foreign policy establishment, adhering to a deep skepticism about international treaties, disbelieving in the effectiveness of international organizations and being confident that military power is an essential component of the US foreign policy. However, these principles of John Bolton often not only contradicted President Trump’s position, but also undermined several of his initiatives to find a peaceful solution to certain conflicts.

It is not surprising therefore that a significant number of the US media responded positively to the removal of the irreconcilable hawk from a key position in the White House, since, as many are emphasizing, he was pushing Trump away from peace and diplomacy.

Amidst these developments, the possibility of personal negotiations between the leaders of the United States and Iran to resolve the conflict and ease the anti-Iranian sanctions regime has become increasingly encouraging over the recent days. The most suitable option is to meet face-to-face on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at the end of September. Still, Washington is emphasizing that whether negotiations will take place or not will largely depends on the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Anyway, what can be discussed and what mutual agreement may be reached in the event of a personal meeting between the two leaders remains questionable.

We must keep in mind that Iran’s position reads as follows: when will the US return to the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, or simply put, to the nuclear deal? Only then, according to Tehran, can we talk about something else. It is one thing to agree to limit a nuclear program that has never actually pursued the goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. It is a completely different thing though when it comes to surrendering one’s influence and missile power. Iran will hardly go for it.

Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’.

Of Paradise Lost and Last Straws

Fri, 2019-09-13 03:00

Although the Bahamas are ruled by a governor-general appointed by Queen Elizabeth, given that many wealthy Americans spend their winters there (served by a year-round population of Afro-Caribbean and mixed descent), one would expect the neighboring United States to fill in for the British Commonwealth when catastrophe hits.

Apparently, however responsibilities were never spelled out: reports on Dorian’s tragic aftermath, including dozens of deaths, leave unanswered the question of which nation was expected to send rescue ships and planes. Not until a week had past did the state of Florida finally begin to deliver supplies by ship and plane, assisted by volunteers as well as the American military and US AID, the media merely noting that ‘conditions’ had made rescue operations ‘difficult’. There was apparently no advance planning for what was widely anticipated to be a massive disaster. Seen on television, the aftermath evoked World War II carpet bombing.

It’s hard to believe, but unlike last year, when it crucified the president for failing to assist the US territory of Puerto Rico, the media was interested in only one thing: a semi-circle drawn by the President on an official weather map to show that Alabama might be one of the American states to be hit. Seizing upon the fact that it is a federal crime to tamper with official maps, it triumphantly held up new evidence for impeachment.

In the end, however, it is the fact that Donald Trump has been systematically enriching himself thanks to the presidency that will force Congress to take meaningful steps toward ‘holding him accountable’, as the saying goes. When Vice President Pence tried to make it seem logical for him to take a 180 mile detour in order to spend the night, with his large ‘footprint’ (i.e., his mandatory security detail) in one of the President’s foreign golf resorts after reassuring Irish officials that the US would have their backs when Brexit happens, an enterprising journalist dug up evidence showing that, since Trump took office, large numbers of Republican legislators have frequented his hotel in Washington, adding to its bottom line.

Coming on the heels of the President’s announcement that he not only would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the 2020 G7, which he will host on a rotational basis, but that he proposed to hold the event at one of his own golf resorts, the press literally sputtered with indignation. The Doral, he emphasized, has the advantage of being ‘really close to the Miami Airport’, and we can imagine heads of state desperately trying to get a good night’s sleep after a day of arduous meetings. (Maybe he plans to close the airport by presidential fiat once the delegates have arrived — making them feel like prisoners).

Never mind. As one advertisement famously shouted: “Wait! There’s More!” Just in time for the Sunday morning talk shows, the President tweeted that he had planned to invite the Afghan Taliban — infamous for sheltering Bin Laden after 9/11! — to meet with him at Camp David, a presidential retreat sanctified by President Clinton’s 2000 meeting with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, at a time when the US really wanted to broker peace in the Middle East. Trump announced that he had cancelled the plan after the Taliban, who control half of Afghanistan, took responsibility for a suicide attack in Kabul. While Trump ‘wondered’ white kind of people would do such a thing, analysts pointed out indignantly that the meeting would have officialized American’s defeat in the seventeen year long war, an intolerable outcome.

Voters, however, continue to appear indifferent to the fact that the US maintains more than eight hundred military bases across the globe, ignoring the rare candidate who condemns our foreign policy, such as Tulsi Gabbard. Even when the Pentagon moves US troops and tanks right up to the border of the other major nuclear power, Bernie Sanders, who declares himself to be a democratic socialist (and thus anti-war), dares not denounce America’s official policy of doing whatever is necessary to remain top dog.

Meanwhile, China nibbles at the US economy, and Russia continues to gather support across the world.

Deena Stryker is a US-born international expert, author and journalist that lived in Eastern and Western Europe and has been writing about the big picture for 50 years. Over the years she penned a number of books, including Russia’s Americans. Her essays can also be found at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

The G7’s Growing Irrelevance

Thu, 2019-09-12 19:02

The Group of Seven (G7), comprised of the “most advanced economies in the world,” includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It emerged in the 1970s. While it exists for supposedly many different and “important” reasons, it has functioned more as a Western-centric economic cartel than any sort of progressive international alliance.

For a relatively short time, the G7 included Russia, and was known then as the G8. But Russia’s inclusion was aimed at forcing Russia, its people and resources under Western domination, not any sort of real effort to cultivate cooperation or inclusion with emerging economies like Russia’s.

When it became clear that Russia was using its membership in the Group to advocate for its own best interests rather than falling into line, it was ousted.

While Russia seeks closer ties with the West to move costly and perhaps even dangerous conflict into the direction of healthy competition if not certain forms of cooperation, the G7’s posture toward Russia and its attempts to frame it across the media illustrates exactly why the Group and the nations that comprise it, are losing their leadership role upon the global stage.

Western Leadership is Dying 

Articles like the Christian Science Monitor’s “Disarray at G-7 summit: Is Western leadership dying, or adapting?,” frame perfectly why there really is no question to whether or not Western leadership is dying. It is, and the West’s inability to face this reality and the underlying reasons for its existence is precisely why it is.

The article claims:

When French President Emmanuel Macron declared it would be “pointless” to try to deliver the traditional final communique at the G-7 summit he hosted last weekend it prompted some to wonder if maybe the organization itself is pointless. 

Leaders of the Group of Seven major economies had been especially riven by conflicting perspectives on global issues from climate change to trade. 

But the larger question behind the doubts about the G-7 is whether a Cold War-era grouping based on common interests and values such as democracy, the rule of law, free markets, and human rights still has a global leadership role to play in the 21st century.

Anyone paying attention to anything members of the G7 are doing and their actions upon the global stage are well aware that “values” like democracy, the rule of law, free markets and human rights were always ever political mechanisms the West hid its otherwise self-serving agenda behind rather than stood for.

In reality, it is the toppling of governments around the globe, the subverting of national sovereignty, the literal invasions and occupations of various nations particularly under deliberately false pretexts, the mafia-style economics, the lopsided and predatory “free trade agreements” and the operation of a multinational, global-spanning network of torture facilities to process opponents of Western interests that defines “Western leadership” in the late 20th and now 21st century.

If the G7 cannot come to grips with the reality that its supposed values are now clearly seen by the world as a canard rather than as its compass, it cannot effectively address why its power and influence is in decline, saying nothing of its waning global leadership.

Moral leadership and a unity of purpose are two fundamentals that have always historically bound nations in pursuit of their endeavors. The G7 functions more like a tropism of perpetual expansion, lacking genuine purpose while hiding behind increasingly transparent “values.”
Does anyone still truly believe Western leadership is predicated upon democracy, the rule of law, free markets and human rights? What evidence is there that suggests this?

An International Order Built on Unraveling Lies

The Christian Science Monitor, in its article attempting to frame the decline of the G7, makes this bold claim regarding Russia’s expulsion from the Group:

Another initiative that to some might fall into the category of realist thinking for today’s world is President Trump’s insistence that Russia be readmitted to what was the G8 – until Moscow’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.  

Russia neither invaded nor annexed Crimea. It’s troops were requested by the sitting government of Crimea to protect the population in the wake of a US-backed coup in Kiev.

This isn’t according Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Russian media. This is according to news reports out of the West’s own media.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, part of the US State Department’s own media network, would note in their 2014 article titled, “Parliament OKs Putin Request To Use Russian Forces In Ukraine,” that the decision to deploy Russian troops to Crimea was made upon a request from Crimea’s own government.

The article would note:

The Russian move comes after Putin’s office said Moscow will not ignore a March 1 request for peacekeeping support made by Serhiy Aksyonov, the pro-Russian prime minister of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Following the request for troops, a referendum was carried out with Crimea’s voting public overwhelmingly voting in favor of the region joining the Russian Federation.

The US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and its military operations against the nations of Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Libya, Nigeria and beyond are all actual examples of real invasions and acts of aggression committed in complete violation of international laws and norms.

Examples of genuine annexation are provided by close G7 allies like Israel who has illegally occupied Syria’s Golan Heights, annexing it in 1981, according to the UN itself.

It is easy to see how Crimea contrasts to these latter examples of Western aggression, invasion, occupation and annexation. It is also easy to see how the G7’s current impetus is based entirely on lies so transparent and hypocritical they have not only eroded the G7’s legitimacy and leadership role internationally, but pose a direct threat to the Group’s future.

Crimea is not the only matter G7 nations are lying about in their search for leverage over emerging global powers like Russia, China and regional blocs in Asia, South America and even Africa, but it is a matter that fully illustrates why the G7 is in decline, as a whole, and among its individual nation-state members.

Kicking and Screaming Doesn’t Delay Decline 

French President Emmanuel Macron during the latest G7 meeting warned, “we are living the end of Western hegemony,” and appeared to suggest the current adversarial posture of the West’s waning global order needed to change in order for it to survive into the future. He also appeared to hint toward rapprochement with Russia.

After failing to fold Russia and China into Washington’s international order, The US attempted to isolate, undermine and eventually overcome the political orders presiding in Moscow and Beijing. This has failed spectacularly and at great cost to the US and its allies. Because of the unsustainable premise Washington’s international order was built on in the first place, and because so much of the “West’s” power and prosperity depends on perpetuating that premise, little can be done to quickly change course and adapt to the new realities of today’s geopolitics.

It is unclear what President Macron would like to see emerge after the fall of Western hegemony, though those in Moscow seem to hope it means cooperation and competition between Europe and Russia rather than sanctions and the perpetual threat of conflict.

For the G7 it likely looks a lot like a world where G7 members must co-exist among emerging global powers rather than presiding above and over them, attempting to determine their future at forums precisely like the G7. It is a world that G7 members must enter, but not by choice.

It is unclear whether or not the US and Europe are prepared to gracefully step into a world like that regardless, or will have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. The state of Ukraine today and the continuation of lies aimed at Russia suggest the latter. Macron’s suggestions of rapprochement with Russia and steps to work with Iran rather than against it alongside the US hint at a capacity to do the former.

What is certain is that even at the G7, the illusion of unassailable Western power is no longer tenable and the inevitability of a fundamental shift in the global balance of power is finally displacing discussion on how the West might “cling” to power a while longer.

Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

A Tense Time for Relations between Japan and South Korea: The GSOMIA and Moon’s Relations with the USA

Thu, 2019-09-12 12:59

On August 22, 2019, South Korea’s National Security Council adopted a resolution to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between South Korea and Japan. According to the Office of the President, the agreement is not “in the country’s national interest,” given that cooperation on security issues between the two countries has undergone “serious changes” as a result of the trade war.

The agreement was signed in 2016, for the purposes of exchanging information on military and social developments in North Korea and on the country’s rocket programme. GSOMIA is a kind of symbol of the two countries’ cooperation on security issues in the face of the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea, and the USA aims to use the agreement as a tool to strengthen the long-standing military cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo.

It is considered that each of the two countries has specific advantages when it comes to collecting information about North Korea, and their cooperation could, in theory, create a powerful synergy. Japan has powerful intelligence technology, including reconnaissance satellites, radar systems and long-range early warning and control aircraft. The information these technologies can provide about North Korea’s submarine bases, rocket bases and ballistic missile submarines is of great value to Seoul. On the other hand, South Korea, at least by its own reckoning, has a great deal of intelligence experience: it obtains information from North Korean defectors, from agents in areas near the border with North Korea, and from listening into and intercepting communications near the military demarcation line.

Ever since it was first signed, the agreement has provoked a great deal of debate and criticism from Korean opposition parties, but it has nevertheless been renewed twice by Moon Jae-in’s government.

The discussions on scrapping the agreement flared up due to the current economic conflict between Seoul and Tokyo. Especially since Japan removed South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners, a move which Seoul sees as a form of unfair economic pressure.

In Tokyo government representatives have stressed that Japan wishes to continue with the agreement for the sake of strengthening bilateral cooperation on security issues and the promotion of regional peace and stability.

On August 20, Kim Sang-jo, Chief Presidential Secretary for Policy, informed journalists that as yet no definite steps have been taken.  On the other hand, the present author is aware of unconfirmed reports that the decision to withdraw from GSOMIA was taken personally by Moon Jae-in behind the back of Kang Kyung-wha, the Foreign Minister, who only found out at a later stage.

In political circles the decision has sparked mixed reactions. Lee Hae-sik, a spokesman for South Korea’s governing Democratic Party (or Toburo), called it “a necessary response to Japan’s arrogant and preposterous measures, which are aimed at dealing a serious blow to the South Korean economy, in breach of the international system of free trade.” Two left-leaning parties, the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace, also expressed support for the move. Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of Liberty Korea, the main opposition party, has expressed fears that the economic conflict, with its roots in historical disagreements between the two countries, will affect security issues: she went so far as to suggest that the current government has moved away from the traditional alliance between South Korea, the USA and Japan towards closer links with North Korea, China and Russia. A representative of the Bareunmirae Party, Choi Do-ja, said that she is disappointed at the frivolous and emotional conduct of the current President Moon Jae-in, and that she feared that even the USA might turn away from South Korea.

On August 23, Shinzo Abe, commenting on Seoul’s refusal to renew the GSOMIA, said that South Korea was continuing to take reciprocal measures, thus damaging the relations of trust between the two countries and infringing the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations. But Tokyo will respond by trying to preserve the relations of cooperation between South Korea, the USA and Japan, despite Seoul’s unhelpful moves.  “We will continue to work closely with the USA in order to ensure regional peace and prosperity, and to protect Japan’s security,” he said before departing for the G7 summit.

Takeshi Iwaya, Japan’s Minister of Defense, also expressed disappointment concerning Seoul’s move, and emphasized that economic disputes should not impinge on security issues.

The Korea Herald, a conservative English-language newspaper, describes the Blue House’s explanations as “insufficient and unconvincing”, and, commenting on the clear damage to security cooperation between the USA, South Korea and Japan, poses a question: “One cannot but ask if the Moon Jae-in administration is determined to treat Japan as an enemy forever… The ruling camp seems to believe that it can rally support for Moon with anti-Japanese measures including the termination of the deal, but the result is a chill in our relations with the USA.”

Several conservative analysts have even described the move by South Korea as an “open rebellion against the US” and an attempt to depart from the role of junior partner to America. Other, similarly-minded commentators have gone so far as to suggest that the government is using the controversy about the agreement to distract attention form more serious scandals involving Moon Jae-in.

It is worth saying a few words about the position of the USA, which sees the GSOMIA as a key element in securing regional cooperation on security issues. Washington has, both directly and indirectly, expressed hopes that South Korea will decide in favor of renewing it. For example, when Jeong Kyeong-doo, the South Korean Defense Minister met his US counterpart, Mark Esper, the latter asked him to renew the agreement. Mark Esper said that the decision would be a setback to Washington’s decade-long efforts to bring together the two main regional alliances, and would reduce its ability to counter the growing influence of North Korea and China in the region.

On August 22, during a telephone conference with Kang Kyung-wha, the South Korean Foreign Minister, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Seoul and Tokyo to continue with the dialogue process and normalize their relations. Mike Pompeo was quite open about his disappointment with Seoul’s decision, which he described as demonstrating a serious misreading of the situation by Moon Jae-in’s government.

On August 26, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus stated on Twitter that the US was deeply disappointed and concerned about Seoul’s decision, as it would make defending South Korea more complicated and increase the risk to U.S. forces.  As conservative South Korean media have pointed out, the word “disappointed” is not often used in diplomatic circles.

US analysts have also been outspoken in their criticism of the decision. Evans Revere, former U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said in an interview: “Years from now, when historians look back on this day, they will probably conclude that the unraveling of the U.S.-centric defense and security architecture in Northeast Asia began with this Korean decision.”. Mr. Revere believes that the main parties to benefit from the decision will be North Korea and China – which has, for many years, been untiring in its opposition to the three-party security alliance. He is also highly critical of Donald Trump, who, he says, clearly does not “appear to see the need for the United States to exercise leadership in the manner of his predecessors”.

As for finding a resolution to the current situation, putting relations between the two countries back on a normal footing and restoring the USA’s traditional leadership role in East Asia would require a change of administration in Seoul and Tokyo, and possibly in Washington as well.

Shin Gi-Wook, an expert on Korean issues at Stanford University, has said that “the Japan-South Korea relationship may not have hit rock bottom, but it could further deteriorate in the coming months”, and Professor William J. Perry has said that ever since Moon Jae-in came to power, Washington has had concerns that the military alliance between the US and South Korea could collapse and that Moon Jae-in might turn to China instead. By the way, hard-line conservatives in both the USA and South Korea, such as Tara O, go so far as to accuse Moon Jae-in of being a crypto-Socialist who either hopes to see his country annexed by North Korea, or wishes to establish a new military alliance, formed of the two Koreas and China.

Seoul’s initial response was to insist that it had worked closely with the USA in considering the question of withdrawing from the agreement, and that the USA had stated that it understood Seoul’s position. As Kim Hyun-chong, deputy to Chung Eui-yong, the Director of South Korea’s National Security Office, has said on a number of occasions, the South Korean government notified senior US officials of its intentions in advance, and the decision “was the result of thorough consultations with the United States.” In an emotional address to media representatives, Kim Hyun-chong described the alliance between the USA and South Korea as a huge tree with deep roots stretching back 66 years based on common values, and said that it was “wrong to assume that the termination of the GSOMIA will reduce our ability to respond to security threats. We have to take the initiative to strengthen our defense capabilities, and we need to build key security capabilities such as military reconnaissance satellites, light aircraft carriers and next generation submarines. In the course of doing so, we need to further strengthen our alliance with the United States, with whom we share the common values of democracy and the market economy.”

The USA does not see things in quite the same way. In an interview with Japanese media, the US Deputy Secretary of State flatly denied the South Korean government’s claims. On the contrary, his message was that South Korean partners had not even tried to talk things through with the US.

Moreover, when on August 26 the US embassy in Seoul retweeted Morgan Ortagus’ statement about the US being “deeply disappointed and concerned,” it provoked an angry reaction from South Korean trolls – sorry, offended patriots – with one of the comments even making an issue of the ambassador’s Japanese ancestry. The Korea Times also recommended US diplomats to “take into account the local realities and circumstances” before publishing ambiguous statements of that kind.

What possible consequences might Seoul’s decision have? According to reports, it has already provoked instability on South Korea’s stock and currency exchanges.

South Korea will have less access to information on security issues. Readers will remember that when the recent North Korean rocket tests took place the Japanese government published its data on the tests before the South Korean military made any reports, and as a result Conservative analysts expressed concern that most of the real information came from Japan and the much trumpeted expertise of South Korea’s intelligence services was greatly exaggerated.

The USA’s relations with South Korea are also getting worse. Moon Jae-in has tried to bring forward the withdrawal of US military command centers from Seoul, but Donald Trump is not short of possible responses. For starters, he could step up trade barriers against the import of cheap South Korean goods, and he could also require south Korea to bear a larger share of the cost of the US military presence in the country. And he could go further – he could even find grounds for imposing sanctions or other forms of economic pressure.

In general, Moon Jae-in has created another “Gordian knot,” and it is still too early to talk about finding a solution. The GSOMIA expires on November 23. If the parties are able to reach an agreement before that date then South Korea may reconsider the decision it has taken. Lee Nak-yeon, South Korea’s Prime Minister, raised that possibility on August 27, in his address to a meeting of government representatives, politicians from the ruling party, and figures from the presidential administration.

However, he also said that in order for that to happen Japan would have to stop exerting economic pressure on South Korea, and he added that in the current circumstances South Korea views the exchange of military information with Japan as inappropriate and inconsistent with its national interest. During a meeting on September 1, before the ceremonial opening of the 15th Korea-Japan Hanmadang Festival in Seoul, Lee Taeho, 2nd Vice Minister of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told his Japanese counterpart, Norikazu Suzuki, that renewing the GSOMIA was not in South Korea’s national interest.

As for the future, all we can do is reach for the popcorn, as the young folk say, and see what happens next.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

A Tense Time for Relations between Japan and South Korea: The GSOMIA and Moon’s Relations with the USA

Thu, 2019-09-12 12:59

On August 22, 2019, South Korea’s National Security Council adopted a resolution to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between South Korea and Japan. According to the Office of the President, the agreement is not “in the country’s national interest,” given that cooperation on security issues between the two countries has undergone “serious changes” as a result of the trade war.

The agreement was signed in 2016, for the purposes of exchanging information on military and social developments in North Korea and on the country’s rocket programme. GSOMIA is a kind of symbol of the two countries’ cooperation on security issues in the face of the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea, and the USA aims to use the agreement as a tool to strengthen the long-standing military cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo.

It is considered that each of the two countries has specific advantages when it comes to collecting information about North Korea, and their cooperation could, in theory, create a powerful synergy. Japan has powerful intelligence technology, including reconnaissance satellites, radar systems and long-range early warning and control aircraft. The information these technologies can provide about North Korea’s submarine bases, rocket bases and ballistic missile submarines is of great value to Seoul. On the other hand, South Korea, at least by its own reckoning, has a great deal of intelligence experience: it obtains information from North Korean defectors, from agents in areas near the border with North Korea, and from listening into and intercepting communications near the military demarcation line.

Ever since it was first signed, the agreement has provoked a great deal of debate and criticism from Korean opposition parties, but it has nevertheless been renewed twice by Moon Jae-in’s government.

The discussions on scrapping the agreement flared up due to the current economic conflict between Seoul and Tokyo. Especially since Japan removed South Korea from its list of preferred trading partners, a move which Seoul sees as a form of unfair economic pressure.

In Tokyo government representatives have stressed that Japan wishes to continue with the agreement for the sake of strengthening bilateral cooperation on security issues and the promotion of regional peace and stability.

On August 20, Kim Sang-jo, Chief Presidential Secretary for Policy, informed journalists that as yet no definite steps have been taken.  On the other hand, the present author is aware of unconfirmed reports that the decision to withdraw from GSOMIA was taken personally by Moon Jae-in behind the back of Kang Kyung-wha, the Foreign Minister, who only found out at a later stage.

In political circles the decision has sparked mixed reactions. Lee Hae-sik, a spokesman for South Korea’s governing Democratic Party (or Toburo), called it “a necessary response to Japan’s arrogant and preposterous measures, which are aimed at dealing a serious blow to the South Korean economy, in breach of the international system of free trade.” Two left-leaning parties, the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace, also expressed support for the move. Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of Liberty Korea, the main opposition party, has expressed fears that the economic conflict, with its roots in historical disagreements between the two countries, will affect security issues: she went so far as to suggest that the current government has moved away from the traditional alliance between South Korea, the USA and Japan towards closer links with North Korea, China and Russia. A representative of the Bareunmirae Party, Choi Do-ja, said that she is disappointed at the frivolous and emotional conduct of the current President Moon Jae-in, and that she feared that even the USA might turn away from South Korea.

On August 23, Shinzo Abe, commenting on Seoul’s refusal to renew the GSOMIA, said that South Korea was continuing to take reciprocal measures, thus damaging the relations of trust between the two countries and infringing the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations. But Tokyo will respond by trying to preserve the relations of cooperation between South Korea, the USA and Japan, despite Seoul’s unhelpful moves.  “We will continue to work closely with the USA in order to ensure regional peace and prosperity, and to protect Japan’s security,” he said before departing for the G7 summit.

Takeshi Iwaya, Japan’s Minister of Defense, also expressed disappointment concerning Seoul’s move, and emphasized that economic disputes should not impinge on security issues.

The Korea Herald, a conservative English-language newspaper, describes the Blue House’s explanations as “insufficient and unconvincing”, and, commenting on the clear damage to security cooperation between the USA, South Korea and Japan, poses a question: “One cannot but ask if the Moon Jae-in administration is determined to treat Japan as an enemy forever… The ruling camp seems to believe that it can rally support for Moon with anti-Japanese measures including the termination of the deal, but the result is a chill in our relations with the USA.”

Several conservative analysts have even described the move by South Korea as an “open rebellion against the US” and an attempt to depart from the role of junior partner to America. Other, similarly-minded commentators have gone so far as to suggest that the government is using the controversy about the agreement to distract attention form more serious scandals involving Moon Jae-in.

It is worth saying a few words about the position of the USA, which sees the GSOMIA as a key element in securing regional cooperation on security issues. Washington has, both directly and indirectly, expressed hopes that South Korea will decide in favor of renewing it. For example, when Jeong Kyeong-doo, the South Korean Defense Minister met his US counterpart, Mark Esper, the latter asked him to renew the agreement. Mark Esper said that the decision would be a setback to Washington’s decade-long efforts to bring together the two main regional alliances, and would reduce its ability to counter the growing influence of North Korea and China in the region.

On August 22, during a telephone conference with Kang Kyung-wha, the South Korean Foreign Minister, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Seoul and Tokyo to continue with the dialogue process and normalize their relations. Mike Pompeo was quite open about his disappointment with Seoul’s decision, which he described as demonstrating a serious misreading of the situation by Moon Jae-in’s government.

On August 26, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus stated on Twitter that the US was deeply disappointed and concerned about Seoul’s decision, as it would make defending South Korea more complicated and increase the risk to U.S. forces.  As conservative South Korean media have pointed out, the word “disappointed” is not often used in diplomatic circles.

US analysts have also been outspoken in their criticism of the decision. Evans Revere, former U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said in an interview: “Years from now, when historians look back on this day, they will probably conclude that the unraveling of the U.S.-centric defense and security architecture in Northeast Asia began with this Korean decision.”. Mr. Revere believes that the main parties to benefit from the decision will be North Korea and China – which has, for many years, been untiring in its opposition to the three-party security alliance. He is also highly critical of Donald Trump, who, he says, clearly does not “appear to see the need for the United States to exercise leadership in the manner of his predecessors”.

As for finding a resolution to the current situation, putting relations between the two countries back on a normal footing and restoring the USA’s traditional leadership role in East Asia would require a change of administration in Seoul and Tokyo, and possibly in Washington as well.

Shin Gi-Wook, an expert on Korean issues at Stanford University, has said that “the Japan-South Korea relationship may not have hit rock bottom, but it could further deteriorate in the coming months”, and Professor William J. Perry has said that ever since Moon Jae-in came to power, Washington has had concerns that the military alliance between the US and South Korea could collapse and that Moon Jae-in might turn to China instead. By the way, hard-line conservatives in both the USA and South Korea, such as Tara O, go so far as to accuse Moon Jae-in of being a crypto-Socialist who either hopes to see his country annexed by North Korea, or wishes to establish a new military alliance, formed of the two Koreas and China.

Seoul’s initial response was to insist that it had worked closely with the USA in considering the question of withdrawing from the agreement, and that the USA had stated that it understood Seoul’s position. As Kim Hyun-chong, deputy to Chung Eui-yong, the Director of South Korea’s National Security Office, has said on a number of occasions, the South Korean government notified senior US officials of its intentions in advance, and the decision “was the result of thorough consultations with the United States.” In an emotional address to media representatives, Kim Hyun-chong described the alliance between the USA and South Korea as a huge tree with deep roots stretching back 66 years based on common values, and said that it was “wrong to assume that the termination of the GSOMIA will reduce our ability to respond to security threats. We have to take the initiative to strengthen our defense capabilities, and we need to build key security capabilities such as military reconnaissance satellites, light aircraft carriers and next generation submarines. In the course of doing so, we need to further strengthen our alliance with the United States, with whom we share the common values of democracy and the market economy.”

The USA does not see things in quite the same way. In an interview with Japanese media, the US Deputy Secretary of State flatly denied the South Korean government’s claims. On the contrary, his message was that South Korean partners had not even tried to talk things through with the US.

Moreover, when on August 26 the US embassy in Seoul retweeted Morgan Ortagus’ statement about the US being “deeply disappointed and concerned,” it provoked an angry reaction from South Korean trolls – sorry, offended patriots – with one of the comments even making an issue of the ambassador’s Japanese ancestry. The Korea Times also recommended US diplomats to “take into account the local realities and circumstances” before publishing ambiguous statements of that kind.

What possible consequences might Seoul’s decision have? According to reports, it has already provoked instability on South Korea’s stock and currency exchanges.

South Korea will have less access to information on security issues. Readers will remember that when the recent North Korean rocket tests took place the Japanese government published its data on the tests before the South Korean military made any reports, and as a result Conservative analysts expressed concern that most of the real information came from Japan and the much trumpeted expertise of South Korea’s intelligence services was greatly exaggerated.

The USA’s relations with South Korea are also getting worse. Moon Jae-in has tried to bring forward the withdrawal of US military command centers from Seoul, but Donald Trump is not short of possible responses. For starters, he could step up trade barriers against the import of cheap South Korean goods, and he could also require south Korea to bear a larger share of the cost of the US military presence in the country. And he could go further – he could even find grounds for imposing sanctions or other forms of economic pressure.

In general, Moon Jae-in has created another “Gordian knot,” and it is still too early to talk about finding a solution. The GSOMIA expires on November 23. If the parties are able to reach an agreement before that date then South Korea may reconsider the decision it has taken. Lee Nak-yeon, South Korea’s Prime Minister, raised that possibility on August 27, in his address to a meeting of government representatives, politicians from the ruling party, and figures from the presidential administration.

However, he also said that in order for that to happen Japan would have to stop exerting economic pressure on South Korea, and he added that in the current circumstances South Korea views the exchange of military information with Japan as inappropriate and inconsistent with its national interest. During a meeting on September 1, before the ceremonial opening of the 15th Korea-Japan Hanmadang Festival in Seoul, Lee Taeho, 2nd Vice Minister of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told his Japanese counterpart, Norikazu Suzuki, that renewing the GSOMIA was not in South Korea’s national interest.

As for the future, all we can do is reach for the popcorn, as the young folk say, and see what happens next.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Oil Tanker Off Syria: Sanctions-Busting or “US-Ego-Busting?”

Thu, 2019-09-12 03:30

An oil tanker has been spotted off the coast of Syria and with that comes the latest news flash. This is hardly news, given the leading export of that region. But it was an IRANIAN oil tanker! Shock horror! Iran is again breaching sanctions it maintains it is not subject to! Is there no limit to its perfidy?

It is true that the US has previously detained the Adrian Darya 1, and that it now appears to have entered the Syrian port of Tartus, which is described as “Russian-controlled”, in violation of assurances Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave that it would not sail to Syria There also appears to be some confusion over whether it has actually delivered any oil, but the fact the tanker was seen off the Syrian coast, when the US had tried its best to prevent it going there, has caused an international outcry.

The US still has never forgiven Iran for conducting a revolution, a well justified one at that, when the State Department didn’t see it coming forty years ago. Revolutions are perfectly alright if the US promotes them, funds them or can anticipate them, highjack them and have a PR and humanitarian response ready. They are only a problem to the US, a country founded by revolution, if the revolutionaries take advantage of an opportunity others did not see – prove themselves better businessmen, in other words.

This is exactly what Iran is doing with its oil. The West wants it, the West claims it needs it. However, more is involved, as the US has bigger concerns about Iran, foremost of which is its alleged non-peaceful nuclear programme.

So Iran has taken to trading nuclear power for oil. It is prepared to make concessions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the ability to sell its oil products to significant markets. This makes sound business sense from an Iranian point of view, regardless of the importance of its domestic nuclear programme.

Iran is not planning to export its nuclear power, or sell nuclear weapons if it has them, but is not going to turn down oil export income when it can use this, Chinese-style, to hold potential enemies economic hostage. It is again taking advantage of an opportunity. Like any other business, it is pushing as far as it can to see what the political market can bear, with increased nuclear capacity, real or perceived, its counter to any objection by its opponents/customers.

So what now?

The tanker was told not to go to Syria, the Foreign Minister promised it would not go, but it has. Are the EU and US going to spell out exactly what their sanctions say, what authority they have and how they are going to be implemented, which they have consistently refused to do when challenged, merely repeating that “sanctions” are whatever the speaker says they are at any given time?

Hence the reason the US has a problem with the Adrian Darya is not that it is delivering oil to Syria, and by implication to its enemies there. It is because it is exposing US hypocrisy once again.

This has long been alleged to be a Russian tactic – wait for the US to compromise itself by acting contrary to its own values, then do the same thing the US just did and ask what it is doing wrong. Now Iran is getting away with the same thing, it puts the web of lies US foreign policy is based on under considerable strain – and other countries might be allowed to get away with doing that, but not Iran, the branded pariah state.

My lies and your lies

What hypocrisy is Iran exposing? This is revealed in one of the details of this story, which most reports only mention in passing, as if there is nothing extraordinary about it.

The tanker is captained by an Indian, not an Iranian. He is not an Iranian government functionary, or he would have Iranian nationality and diplomatic status. He is a merchant seaman doing his job for whoever hires him, as everyone in that profession, like Christopher Columbus, has done for centuries.

Obviously he has been paid by whoever is in charge of this tanker, whether it is the Iranian government, a maritime transport company or an oil company, to take the ship to a certain place carrying a certain agreed load. If he did not agree with the terms of his engagement, he wouldn’t have taken on the job, as the only people who would subsequently employ him would be criminals, who are not the most reliable or transparent of employers.

No one knows how much the captain was paid to take this ship to Syria, if this was even the original intention. But what we do know, because the US has admitted it, is that he was offered millions of dollars to take the ship to a different destination, where the US could seize its cargo.

You don’t offer people less money than they are already getting if you want them to do a special favour. Iran would have known when the tanker set out that any suspicion that is oil was bound for Syria would arouse US interest. It was the UK which detained the firsts ship, but ultimately had to let it go because it had no grounds for doing so, despite US objections. So if the US wanted to stop the ship it could not use legal means, leaving bribery as the best option.

It is highly unlikely that the captain would have been allowed to keep any millions he might have made from being bribed by the US to divert the ship. His employers would have taken the lion’s share, although he would doubtless have been given a consideration. So those employers knew that there were two ways of earning big money from commissioning this tanker: either they could sell the oil to Syria, in alleged defiance of sanctions, or earn more by getting the US to pay them not to do so.

The US complains, rightly, about Somali “pirates”. Yet here it is supporting a system which actively encourages piracy—American made kind. Let’s not forget America’s claim as why it went to war with Britain for the second time in 1812. It too was about the seas and allegations that American ships were being stopped on the high seas. However, that too is what fairy tales are made of.

If the captain had accepted the offered millions of US taxpayer dollars, he would have gained his employers a return on their investment without breaching any sanctions, and won US trust, encouraging further bribery and corruption. By not doing so, he guarantees the original earnings projection, but leaves the door open for future bribery. It is win-win for the ship owners, and would have been regarded as good business if a US company had done it – but it is criminality if Iran does it, simply because Iran is not allowed to be as clever as the US.

Over the limit, under the counter

Say the captain had taken the bribe, and steered the tanker to a US-controlled port. He would hardly have been arrested, as he had voluntarily given up his cargo to the US authorities. The oil itself would also have been cleansed of criminal associations, as no one could have proved that it had been destined for Syria, or terrorists or Russians, if it never reached there.

What would then have happened to the oil? Would the US have held it in a stockpile, or burnt it or thrown it in the sea? Is it not more likely that it would have used the oil, or sold it on to gain a return on its investment?

This opens up a third front in the bribery business. Many US operations are funded by illicit oil and drug sales, made through the ports of client states, at least in terms of the paperwork, such as Georgia It is no coincidence that the biggest of the internal rows of the Saakashvili government was over whether his uncle, or a third party, would control the Kulevi oil terminal, or that Saakashvili was put in charge of Odessa, a major port with a huge oil terminal, after he was spirited out of Georgia and into Ukraine, like many other aspects of the CIA operation in the region.

Oil seized from an Iranian oil tanker is not likely to be officially accounted for, as it has neither been bought on the open market nor become the proceeds of crime, the “crime” having been averted. So ships seized by the US can supply the illicit operations as well as earning money, like drugs and weapons.

Organised supplies would attract different bribery rates – probably smaller, but guaranteed in consequence. This is how groups like Daesh can mount long term operations, via secured supply lines protected by CIA operatives.

It would be no surprise if we suddenly saw a significant increase in oil tankers being “intercepted” by the US, in great victories for democracy, and then discovered the US had chartered them, via the usual suspects who supply the fake end user certificates for the arms deals. This may be the only way the US can recover from its embarrassment at being outsmarted by another Third World nation.

It is the US which insists that Iran’s domestic nuclear programme is a threat. So the US is keeping that issue on the table, and thus giving Iran the opportunity to win oil export concessions.

In this way Iran can hand control of its purported oil smuggling to the US in exchange for regular cash, without the US having to explain why it is dealing officially with Iranian oil. Another win-win situation for Iran, like Iran Contra, but this one works for the US too.

Floating allegiances

Of course organised bribery only works if you can find enough people to bribe and the right people. If you were going to look in any legitimate business to find them, it would be the maritime industry.

The individuals who work in this industry are not inherently corrupt. But the industry has thrived on selling itself to the highest bidder for many years. It knows how to play this game as standard business practice, and those who want to get ahead in it are schooled in its playbook.

The evolution of speedboats has been driven by the drug smuggling industry. The smugglers buy the latest and swiftest models, even subs. They even buy vessels, better ones are developed for the coastguards, then the smugglers want better ones, and on and one it goes.

How can you prove that a boat designer, manufacturer or retailer knew that their client was a drug smuggler? So the speedboat business is funded by the proceeds of crime, when it could not be from government contracts alone.

Larger ships operate the same way. They have bills of lading and inventories, but also unofficial cargo such as the weapons which did not appear on the Lusitania’s cargo list. The sinking of the civilian luxury liner was used as grounds for bringing the Yanks into WW1.

Obviously this contraband is not paid for at the normal rates, and deals have to be made at the highest levels of companies to enable such practices to be introduced – if there is a problem, paths have to be smoothed by people in authority. Ship = smuggling opportunity, and it cannot be otherwise, as they are difficult to stop or search without justification whilst at sea.

None of this has resulted in the maritime industry gaining a negative reputation. Quite the contrary, it is regarded as an important national resource in every country, and few comment on the deals made to support it. Most of it is indeed fully legitimate, so the side deals are not considered too unusual or important, unless a country like Iran is making them.

A certain level of corruption is considered necessary in most areas of life. But only the US and its allies are allowed to take advantage of it. This demonstrates to them that they are at the top of the tree on merit, because they are cleverer than lesser nations.

Only when that perception is challenged by the likes of Iran and North Korea does corruption pose a wider problem. When the US has given these countries the opportunity to challenge them by its own misconduct, it merely amplifies the problem. But the definition of “superpower” is a state which can consistently make sure that its problems are turned into somebody else’s—at least the blamed is fixed.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Oil Tanker Off Syria: Sanctions-Busting or “US-Ego-Busting?”

Thu, 2019-09-12 03:30

An oil tanker has been spotted off the coast of Syria and with that comes the latest news flash. This is hardly news, given the leading export of that region. But it was an IRANIAN oil tanker! Shock horror! Iran is again breaching sanctions it maintains it is not subject to! Is there no limit to its perfidy?

It is true that the US has previously detained the Adrian Darya 1, and that it now appears to have entered the Syrian port of Tartus, which is described as “Russian-controlled”, in violation of assurances Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave that it would not sail to Syria There also appears to be some confusion over whether it has actually delivered any oil, but the fact the tanker was seen off the Syrian coast, when the US had tried its best to prevent it going there, has caused an international outcry.

The US still has never forgiven Iran for conducting a revolution, a well justified one at that, when the State Department didn’t see it coming forty years ago. Revolutions are perfectly alright if the US promotes them, funds them or can anticipate them, highjack them and have a PR and humanitarian response ready. They are only a problem to the US, a country founded by revolution, if the revolutionaries take advantage of an opportunity others did not see – prove themselves better businessmen, in other words.

This is exactly what Iran is doing with its oil. The West wants it, the West claims it needs it. However, more is involved, as the US has bigger concerns about Iran, foremost of which is its alleged non-peaceful nuclear programme.

So Iran has taken to trading nuclear power for oil. It is prepared to make concessions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the ability to sell its oil products to significant markets. This makes sound business sense from an Iranian point of view, regardless of the importance of its domestic nuclear programme.

Iran is not planning to export its nuclear power, or sell nuclear weapons if it has them, but is not going to turn down oil export income when it can use this, Chinese-style, to hold potential enemies economic hostage. It is again taking advantage of an opportunity. Like any other business, it is pushing as far as it can to see what the political market can bear, with increased nuclear capacity, real or perceived, its counter to any objection by its opponents/customers.

So what now?

The tanker was told not to go to Syria, the Foreign Minister promised it would not go, but it has. Are the EU and US going to spell out exactly what their sanctions say, what authority they have and how they are going to be implemented, which they have consistently refused to do when challenged, merely repeating that “sanctions” are whatever the speaker says they are at any given time?

Hence the reason the US has a problem with the Adrian Darya is not that it is delivering oil to Syria, and by implication to its enemies there. It is because it is exposing US hypocrisy once again.

This has long been alleged to be a Russian tactic – wait for the US to compromise itself by acting contrary to its own values, then do the same thing the US just did and ask what it is doing wrong. Now Iran is getting away with the same thing, it puts the web of lies US foreign policy is based on under considerable strain – and other countries might be allowed to get away with doing that, but not Iran, the branded pariah state.

My lies and your lies

What hypocrisy is Iran exposing? This is revealed in one of the details of this story, which most reports only mention in passing, as if there is nothing extraordinary about it.

The tanker is captained by an Indian, not an Iranian. He is not an Iranian government functionary, or he would have Iranian nationality and diplomatic status. He is a merchant seaman doing his job for whoever hires him, as everyone in that profession, like Christopher Columbus, has done for centuries.

Obviously he has been paid by whoever is in charge of this tanker, whether it is the Iranian government, a maritime transport company or an oil company, to take the ship to a certain place carrying a certain agreed load. If he did not agree with the terms of his engagement, he wouldn’t have taken on the job, as the only people who would subsequently employ him would be criminals, who are not the most reliable or transparent of employers.

No one knows how much the captain was paid to take this ship to Syria, if this was even the original intention. But what we do know, because the US has admitted it, is that he was offered millions of dollars to take the ship to a different destination, where the US could seize its cargo.

You don’t offer people less money than they are already getting if you want them to do a special favour. Iran would have known when the tanker set out that any suspicion that is oil was bound for Syria would arouse US interest. It was the UK which detained the firsts ship, but ultimately had to let it go because it had no grounds for doing so, despite US objections. So if the US wanted to stop the ship it could not use legal means, leaving bribery as the best option.

It is highly unlikely that the captain would have been allowed to keep any millions he might have made from being bribed by the US to divert the ship. His employers would have taken the lion’s share, although he would doubtless have been given a consideration. So those employers knew that there were two ways of earning big money from commissioning this tanker: either they could sell the oil to Syria, in alleged defiance of sanctions, or earn more by getting the US to pay them not to do so.

The US complains, rightly, about Somali “pirates”. Yet here it is supporting a system which actively encourages piracy—American made kind. Let’s not forget America’s claim as why it went to war with Britain for the second time in 1812. It too was about the seas and allegations that American ships were being stopped on the high seas. However, that too is what fairy tales are made of.

If the captain had accepted the offered millions of US taxpayer dollars, he would have gained his employers a return on their investment without breaching any sanctions, and won US trust, encouraging further bribery and corruption. By not doing so, he guarantees the original earnings projection, but leaves the door open for future bribery. It is win-win for the ship owners, and would have been regarded as good business if a US company had done it – but it is criminality if Iran does it, simply because Iran is not allowed to be as clever as the US.

Over the limit, under the counter

Say the captain had taken the bribe, and steered the tanker to a US-controlled port. He would hardly have been arrested, as he had voluntarily given up his cargo to the US authorities. The oil itself would also have been cleansed of criminal associations, as no one could have proved that it had been destined for Syria, or terrorists or Russians, if it never reached there.

What would then have happened to the oil? Would the US have held it in a stockpile, or burnt it or thrown it in the sea? Is it not more likely that it would have used the oil, or sold it on to gain a return on its investment?

This opens up a third front in the bribery business. Many US operations are funded by illicit oil and drug sales, made through the ports of client states, at least in terms of the paperwork, such as Georgia It is no coincidence that the biggest of the internal rows of the Saakashvili government was over whether his uncle, or a third party, would control the Kulevi oil terminal, or that Saakashvili was put in charge of Odessa, a major port with a huge oil terminal, after he was spirited out of Georgia and into Ukraine, like many other aspects of the CIA operation in the region.

Oil seized from an Iranian oil tanker is not likely to be officially accounted for, as it has neither been bought on the open market nor become the proceeds of crime, the “crime” having been averted. So ships seized by the US can supply the illicit operations as well as earning money, like drugs and weapons.

Organised supplies would attract different bribery rates – probably smaller, but guaranteed in consequence. This is how groups like Daesh can mount long term operations, via secured supply lines protected by CIA operatives.

It would be no surprise if we suddenly saw a significant increase in oil tankers being “intercepted” by the US, in great victories for democracy, and then discovered the US had chartered them, via the usual suspects who supply the fake end user certificates for the arms deals. This may be the only way the US can recover from its embarrassment at being outsmarted by another Third World nation.

It is the US which insists that Iran’s domestic nuclear programme is a threat. So the US is keeping that issue on the table, and thus giving Iran the opportunity to win oil export concessions.

In this way Iran can hand control of its purported oil smuggling to the US in exchange for regular cash, without the US having to explain why it is dealing officially with Iranian oil. Another win-win situation for Iran, like Iran Contra, but this one works for the US too.

Floating allegiances

Of course organised bribery only works if you can find enough people to bribe and the right people. If you were going to look in any legitimate business to find them, it would be the maritime industry.

The individuals who work in this industry are not inherently corrupt. But the industry has thrived on selling itself to the highest bidder for many years. It knows how to play this game as standard business practice, and those who want to get ahead in it are schooled in its playbook.

The evolution of speedboats has been driven by the drug smuggling industry. The smugglers buy the latest and swiftest models, even subs. They even buy vessels, better ones are developed for the coastguards, then the smugglers want better ones, and on and one it goes.

How can you prove that a boat designer, manufacturer or retailer knew that their client was a drug smuggler? So the speedboat business is funded by the proceeds of crime, when it could not be from government contracts alone.

Larger ships operate the same way. They have bills of lading and inventories, but also unofficial cargo such as the weapons which did not appear on the Lusitania’s cargo list. The sinking of the civilian luxury liner was used as grounds for bringing the Yanks into WW1.

Obviously this contraband is not paid for at the normal rates, and deals have to be made at the highest levels of companies to enable such practices to be introduced – if there is a problem, paths have to be smoothed by people in authority. Ship = smuggling opportunity, and it cannot be otherwise, as they are difficult to stop or search without justification whilst at sea.

None of this has resulted in the maritime industry gaining a negative reputation. Quite the contrary, it is regarded as an important national resource in every country, and few comment on the deals made to support it. Most of it is indeed fully legitimate, so the side deals are not considered too unusual or important, unless a country like Iran is making them.

A certain level of corruption is considered necessary in most areas of life. But only the US and its allies are allowed to take advantage of it. This demonstrates to them that they are at the top of the tree on merit, because they are cleverer than lesser nations.

Only when that perception is challenged by the likes of Iran and North Korea does corruption pose a wider problem. When the US has given these countries the opportunity to challenge them by its own misconduct, it merely amplifies the problem. But the definition of “superpower” is a state which can consistently make sure that its problems are turned into somebody else’s—at least the blamed is fixed.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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