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Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russia-strikes-back-where-it-hurts-american-oil/

Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil

Amid mounting sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy, Putin seems resolved to do the same to Trump’s re-election.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an oil price war that has sent shockwaves around the world, causing the price of oil to tumble and threatening the financial stability, and even viability, of major international oil companies.

On the surface, this conflict appears to be a fight between two of the world’s largest producers of oil over market share. This may, in fact, be the motive driving Saudi Arabia, which reacted to Russia’s refusal to reduce its level of oil production by slashing the price it charged per barrel of oil and threatening to increase its oil production, thereby flooding the global market with cheap oil in an effort to attract customers away from competitors.

Russia’s motives appear to be far different—its target isn’t Saudi Arabia, but rather American shale oil. After absorbing American sanctions that targeted the Russian energy sector, and working with global partners (including Saudi Arabia) to keep oil prices stable by reducing oil production even as the United States increased the amount of shale oil it sold on the world market, Russia had had enough. The advent of the Coronavirus global pandemic had significantly reduced the demand for oil around the world, stressing the American shale producers. Russia had been preparing for the eventuality of oil-based economic warfare with the United States. With U.S. shale producers knocked back on their heels, Russia viewed the time as being ripe to strike back. Russia’s goal is simple: to make American shale oil producers “share the pain”.

The United States has been slapping sanctions on Russia for more than six years, ever since Russia took control (and later annexed) the Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The first sanctions were issued on March 6, 2014, through Executive Order 13660, targeting “persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The most recent round of sanctions was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 18, 2020, by sanctioning Rosneft Trading S.A., a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-owned oil brokerage firm, for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. The U.S. also recently targeted the Russian Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream gas pipeline projects.

Russia had been signaling its displeasure over U.S. sanctions from the very beginning. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries, threatening the “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.” Russia opted to ride out U.S. sanctions, in hopes that there might be a change of administrations following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hoped the U.S. might elect someone whose policies would be more friendly toward Russia, and that once the field of candidates narrowed down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Putin favored Trump.

“Yes, I did,” Putin remarked after the election, during a joint press conference with President Trump following a summit in Helsinki in July 2018. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Putin’s comments only reinforced the opinions of those who embraced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as fact and concluded that Putin had some sort of hold over Trump. Trump’s continuous praise of Putin’s leadership style only reinforced these concerns.

Even before he was inaugurated, Trump singled out Putin’s refusal to respond in kind to President Obama’s levying of sanctions based upon the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump Tweeted. Trump viewed the Obama sanctions as an effort to sabotage any chance of a Trump administration repairing relations with Russia, and interpreted Putin’s refusal to engage, despite being pressured to do so by the Russian Parliament and Foreign Ministry, as a recognition of the same.

This sense of providing political space in the face of domestic pressure worked both ways. In January 2018, Putin tried to shield his relationship with President Trump by calling the release of a list containing some 200 names of persons close to the Russian government by the U.S. Treasury Department as a hostile and “stupid” move.

“Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies,” Putin remarked. “So all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list. What is the point of this? I don’t understand.”

From the Russian perspective, the list highlighted the reality that the U.S. viewed the entire Russian government as an enemy and is a byproduct of the “political paranoia” on the part of U.S. lawmakers. The consequences of this, senior Russian officials warned, “will be toxic and undermine prospects for cooperation for years ahead.”

While President Trump entered office fully intending to “get along with Russia,”  including the possibility of relaxing the Obama-era sanctions, the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, especially as viewed from Congress, has been the strengthening of the Obama sanctions regime. These sanctions, strengthened over time by new measures signed off by Trump, have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, slowing growth and driving away foreign investment.

While Putin continued to show constraint in the face of these mounting sanctions, the recent targeting of Russia’s energy sector represented a bridge too far. When Saudi pressure to cut oil production rates coincided with a global reduction in the demand for oil brought on by the Coronavirus crisis, Russia struck.

The timing of the Russian action is curious, especially given the amount of speculation that there was some sort of personal relationship between Trump and Putin that the Russian leader sought to preserve and carry over into a potential second term. But Putin had, for some time now, been signaling that his patience with Trump had run its course. When speaking to the press in June 2019 about the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Putin noted that “They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” adding that “The current [i.e., Trump] administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”

By launching an oil price war on the eve of the American Presidential campaign season, Putin has sent as strong a signal as possible that he no longer views Trump as an asset, if in fact he ever did. Putin had hoped Trump could usher in positive change in the trajectory of relations between the two nations; this clearly had not happened. Instead, in the words of close Putin ally Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the U.S. was using its considerable energy resources as a political weapon, ushering in an era of “power colonialism” that sought to expand U.S. oil production and market share at the expense of other nations.

From Russia’s perspective, the growth in U.S. oil production—which doubled in output from 2011 until 2019—and the emergence of the U.S. as a net exporter of oil, was directly linked to the suppression of oil export capability in nations such as Venezuela and Iran through the imposition of sanctions. While this could be tolerated when the target was a third party, once the U.S. set its sanctioning practices on Russian energy, the die was cast.

If the goal of the Russian-driven price war is to make U.S. shale companies “share the pain,” they have already succeeded. A similar price war, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the express purpose of suppressing U.S. shale oil production, failed, but only because investors were willing to prop up the stricken shale producers with massive loans and infusion of capital. For shale oil producers, who use an expensive methodology of extraction known as “fracking,” to be economically viable, the breakeven price of oil per barrel needs to be between $40 and $60 dollars. This was the price range the Saudi’s were hoping to sustain when they proposed the cuts in oil production that Russia rejected.

The U.S. shale oil producers, saddled by massive debt and high operational expenses, will suffer greatly in any sustained oil price war. Already, with the price of oil down to below $35 per barrel, there is talk of bankruptcy and massive job layoffs—none of which bode well for Trump in the coming election.

It’s clear that Russia has no intention of backing off anytime soon.  According to the Russian Finance Ministry, said on Russia could weather oil prices of $25-30 per barrel for between six and ten years. One thing is for certain—U.S. shale oil companies cannot.

In a sign that the Trump administration might be waking up to the reality of the predicament it faces, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly met with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov. According to a read out from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed economic sanctions, the Venezuelan economy, and the potential for “trade and investment.” Mnuchin, the Russians noted, emphasized the “importance of orderly energy markets.”

Russia is unlikely to fold anytime soon. As Admiral Josh Painter, a character in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” famously said, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

Russia didn’t enter its current course of action on a whim. Its goals are clearly stated—to defeat U.S. shale oil—and the costs of this effort, both economically and politically (up to and including having Trump lose the 2020 Presidential election) have all been calculated and considered in advance. The Russian Bear can only be toyed with for so long without generating a response. We now know what that response is; when the Empire strikes back, it hits hard.

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The Forgotten Epidemic: Cholera in Yemen – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on March 17, 2020

Five years ago, in March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began bombing Yemen after the Houthis gained control of the capital Sanaa. At the same time, the Obama administration released a statement pledging military and logistical support to the coalition. Since the bombing campaign began, the US-Saudi coalition has targeted vital civilian infrastructure, including water infrastructure.

How the US government deals with disease in one of the poorest places on the planet.

Back at home it is martial law.

https://original.antiwar.com/Dave_DeCamp/2020/03/16/the-forgotten-epidemic-cholera-in-yemen/

As Americans are gripped with fear over the coronavirus, the cholera epidemic quietly continues in Yemen. The disease spreading in Yemen is not some new untreatable virus, but a well-known illness that can be easily prevented with access to clean water, or with a cheap oral vaccine. The outbreak is a direct result of the barbaric US-Saudi siege on the country that started in 2015.

The cholera outbreak started in Yemen in October 2016. The outbreak exploded in 2017 when the country saw over one million cases, the worst cholera epidemic since records started in 1949. In 2019, Yemen experienced the second-worst year, with over 860,000 suspected cases. 2020 is on track to be another bad year, with over 56,000 new suspected cases recorded in the first seven weeks. As of March 8th 2020, the World Health Organization has recorded 2,263,304 cholera cases in Yemen and 3,767 deaths related to the illness since 2017.

The international humanitarian organization Oxfam has warned the rainy season in Yemen will cause a spike in cholera cases, as it has in previous years. The rainy season starts in mid-April and lasts until August.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and death if not treated properly. People catch cholera by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with a person’s feces who has the disease. Treatment for cholera can be as simple as drinking water and taking antibiotics. Countries with compromised water and sewage infrastructure are susceptible to a cholera outbreak.

Five years ago, in March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began bombing Yemen after the Houthis gained control of the capital Sanaa. At the same time, the Obama administration released a statement pledging military and logistical support to the coalition. Since the bombing campaign began, the US-Saudi coalition has targeted vital civilian infrastructure, including water infrastructure.

The Yemen Data Project has compiled all available data on coalition airstrikes on Yemen from March 2015 to January 2020. According to the data, 97 airstrikes directly hit water infrastructure, which includes water tanks, water trucks, wells, water and sewage plants, and water desalination plants. The worst year for hits on water infrastructure was the year the cholera outbreak started, 2016, when 30 bombs hit water targets.

Attacks on water infrastructure are just a small sample of the atrocities committed by the US-Saudi coalition. The coalition has also hit hospitals, schools, farms, fishing boats, houses, and market places. Direct targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the blockade on the country enforced by the US Navy, has created what the UN calls, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The latest report from UNICEF puts the number of Yemeni people in need of humanitarian assistance around 24 million, about 80 percent of the population.

It’s tough to know exactly how many people have died in Yemen since the war started. The Armed Conflict Location & Data Project (ACLED) announced in October 2019 that over 100,000 people had been killed in direct violence during the war, 12,000 of those deaths being civilians.

The UN released a report in April 2019 that said if the conflict ended that year, it would have accounted for 233,000 deaths. The UN breaks these numbers up into 102,000 combat deaths, which reflect the ACLED numbers, and 131,000 deaths due to lack of food, health services, and infrastructure. If the conflict continues through 2022, the UN predicts it will be responsible for 482,000 deaths. In the nightmare scenario that the war is not over until 2030, the UN predicts the war will kill 1.8 million people, the majority of those deaths being children under five.

There have been efforts in Congress to end US support for this genocidal war, but they have all been vetoed by President Trump. In April, Trump vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have ended US involvement in the war, and in June, he vetoed resolutions that would have blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The latest effort to end the war was an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have terminated the flow of US logistics, intelligence, spare plane parts, and other forms of support to Saudi Arabia. In the end, this amendment was gutted from the NDAA, and US support for the war continues.

Most people arguing in favor of supporting the Saudi’s brutal campaign in Yemen cite the Iranian threat. In September 2019, an attack on Saudi oil infrastructure that severely damaged oil output was blamed on Iran, even though the Houthis immediately took credit for it.

Before the September attack, the Houthis had launched similar attacks inside Saudi Arabia, and Houthi drone technology was the subject of much reporting. But these facts were thrown down the memory hole as the hawks in Washington used the attack as justification to increase troop presence in the Middle East and continue support for the war on Yemen. In response, President Trump sent a few thousand troops to Saudi Arabia, showing the world that Saudi oil is far more valuable than Yemeni lives.

The cholera epidemic is just one example of the challenges Yemenis are facing every day. And the war in Yemen is just one example of the dire humanitarian crises created by US imperialism. In the midst of a global pandemic, Washington still maintains crippling sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Iran has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus, and nobody should criticize the response of the Iranian government without recognizing the impact of US sanctions.

In the face of coronavirus, Americans are scared. Schools and businesses are shutting down across the country. People are rushing to the stores to stock up on toilet paper, food, and hand sanitizer. Now would be a good time to stop and think about the people of Yemen who have been dealing with an outbreak of a deadly disease for years. A man-made outbreak, not only exacerbated by but directly caused by US intervention.

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Yemen faces worst cholera outbreak in the world, health ...

 

 

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Which target after Syria?, by Thierry Meyssan

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Turkey has an actual army, has Russian missile systems that would be difficult to defeat and is home to US nukes.

Saudi Arabia it is?

An empire builders work is never done.

https://www.voltairenet.org/article209439.html

by Thierry Meyssan

Events in the “Broader Middle East” since 2001 have followed a relentless logic. The current question is whether the time has come for a new war in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The answer depends in particular on the resumption of hostilities in Libya. It is in this context that the Additional Protocol negotiated by Presidents Erdoğan and Putin to resolve the Idleb crisis must be interpreted.

| Damascus (Syria)

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The initial map of the “reshaping of the Broader Middle East”, published by Colonel Ralph Peters.

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
- In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
- In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

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Robin Wright’s “Reshaping the Broader Middle East” map, published by Robin Wright.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

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With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Translation
Roger Lagassé

 

 

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The Brutal Tragedy of Idlib: Why the U.S. Should Stay out of Syria and Dump NATO | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/brutal-tragedy-idlib-why-us-should-stay-out-syria-and-dump-nato-130247

by Doug Bandow

Washington should encourage the peaceful conclusion of conflicts such as Syria. But maintaining peace at home should remain America’s highest objective.

Syria is attempting to bring its civil war to a bloody end near the northwest city of Idlib. Syrian forces have clashed with Turkey, which invaded its neighbor and created a secure, jihadist-controlled enclave. Russia backed Damascus’ offensive, as Ankara urged NATO to deploy Patriot missiles. The Trump administration faces pressure from war-happy legislators such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is campaigning to impose a no-fly zone in an ongoing civil war.

The United States should stay out of the explosive confrontation. Instead of getting more involved in a civil war now in its tenth year, the Trump administration should bring home America’s troops now illegally occupying Syrian oil fields. And Washington should turn the transatlantic alliance over to the Europeans, ensuring that Americans stay out of any Turkish conflict with Syria and Russia—especially one created by Ankara’s aggression against its neighbor.

Syria dissolved into civil war nearly a decade ago. However, the Assad government has been gradually extending its control over once rebel-held lands. The process is not easy: the regime has been badly weakened by years of fighting and opposition has revived in some areas, such as Daraa, a trigger for the initial civil war. Nevertheless, Damascus recently launched an offensive to reclaim Idlib, a major city swollen with refugees who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Idlib is an extraordinary tragedy, the last insurgent controlled region, in contrast to other areas under Kurdish, Turkish, and American control. With Turkish support the insurgents, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jibhat al-Nusra, and other radical Islamist groups, cut the major M5 highway. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Sham eventually gained control of the city and environs.

Turkey, committed to the overthrow of Syrian president Bashir al-Assad, supported the opposition and warned Damascus off from advancing on Idlib. As part of a cease-fire negotiated through Russia Turkey established a dozen military observation posts and later added additional deployments intended to act as tripwires to discourage Syrian military advance. However, the ceasefire ultimately failed and Damascus recently began large-scale operations against Idlib. Syrian armed action always seemed inevitable: after all, multiple governments in Ankara employed brutal military force against Kurdish separatists.

Damascus quickly made progress, recovering control of the M5. But the fighting displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom headed for Turkey. Most seriously, Syrian or Russian airstrikes (blamed on the first, more likely by the second) killed thirty-three Turkish soldiers. Moscow claimed that the latter were operating with “terrorists” and “terrorist fighting units,” meaning insurgents, which Ankara denied. However, wrote Joseph Trevithick of The Drive: “Turkey, together with its local partners, has been attacking regime ground and air forces for weeks now, including with armed drones, as it seeks to stem the offense in Idlib. The Turkish government has stepped up deliveries of heavier weaponry, including armored vehicles and howitzers, to various Syrian militant groups opposed to Assad, as well.”

Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on Syrian military positions and threatened broader military action to establish a “safe zone.” Ankara already has twice acted, utilizing allied insurgents, to drive Syrian Kurds from the border. Turkey even threatened to attack U.S. personnel operating with Kurdish militias against Islamic State forces.

With the potential for a full-scale armed confrontation and even war between Turkey and Syria backed by Russia, Ankara, a NATO member, called on its allies, including America, for consultations and support. Despite Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sustained campaign to tyrannize his people and separate his country from the West, the allies so far have lined up behind him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced “full solidarity” with Ankara and said the allies were “constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.” The alliance denounced “indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia.”

So far, NATO’s aid means enhancing NATO reconnaissance missions over the border area and considering deployment of Patriot air defense missiles. However, Greece blocked the issuance of a statement backing Ankara. But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Of course, the alliance will act seriously only if Washington agrees. Thus far, the Trump administration has encouraged Ankara. For instance, the State Department declared: “We stand by our NATO ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces. We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.” Washington’s UN Ambassador Kelly Craft said “the United States’ commitment to our NATO ally, Turkey, will not waver. Turkey has our full support to respond in self-defense.”

So far few specifics have been offered. Pentagon spokesman Alyssa Farah explained: “We are exploring ways the United States can work together with Turkey and the international community.” Ideas include increased information sharing, logistical aid, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as maintaining equipment readiness. The special envoy on ISIS, James Jeffrey, recently opined that the president said his administration might provide ammunition.

Washington’s ivory tower warriors, who have pushed for U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war for a decade, have returned to their traditional panacea, a no-fly zone. Argued Graham, who rarely has found a war he did not want others to fight: “The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians. This is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in decades and the brutal aggression of Assad supported by Iran and Russia needs to come to an end.”

Of course, there is much in the world which “should” happen. But only rarely does that justify war. The United States has the strongest military on earth, leading many policymakers to assume that every problem is solvable by bombing, invading, and/or occupying other nations. Yet America’s experience over the last two decades with endless war, often conducted with a humanitarian gloss, has been a little short of disastrous.

Global social engineering, attempting to overcome history, culture, religion, ethnicity, geography, and more, has a wretched record. Conflicts most often turn out worse than predicted. The Iraq war triggered sectarian slaughter, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, spawned al-Qaeda-in-Iraq which became ISIS, and enhanced Iran’s influence.

Washington’s carte blanche to Saudi Arabia enabled the latter’s horrific aggression against Yemen, which has aided al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long the most virulent affiliate of the national organization which staged 9/11. And the Obama administration’s insistence that al-Assad be removed from office discouraged negotiation by both Damascus, which saw little reason to talk, and its critics, who expected U.S. support for its maximalist demands…

the rest here

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A Syrian man receives treatment at a hospital in the town of Afrin, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

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Saudi woman beheaded for practising ‘sorcery’

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2020

Amina bin Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern province of Jawf for “practising witchcraft and sorcery,” the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The post is old. The topic isn’t.
WorldAgence France PresseUpdated: December 12, 2011 05:39 pm IST
Riyadh: A Saudi woman was beheaded on Monday after being convicted of practising sorcery, which is banned in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Amina bin Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern province of Jawf for “practising witchcraft and sorcery,” the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

It is not clear how many women have been executed in the desert-kingdom, but another woman was beheaded in October for killing her husband by setting his house on fire.

The beheading took to 73 the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year.

In September, Amnesty International called on the Muslim kingdom where 140 people were on death row to establish an “immediate moratorium on executions.”

The rights group said Saudi Arabia was one of a minority of states which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution last December calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia executed 27 convicts in 2010, compared to 67 executions announced the year before.

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Huge Debt Got Us Hooked on Petrodollars — and on Saudi Arabia | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on January 22, 2020

Were petrodollars and petrodollar recycling to disappear, it would have a twofold effect on US government finances: a sizable decline in petrodollar recycling would put significant upward pressure on interest rates. The result would be a budget crisis for the US government, as it would have to devote ever-larger amounts of the federal budget to payments on the debt. (The other option would be to have the US central bank monetize the debt by purchasing ever-larger amounts of it to make up for a lack of foreign demand. This would lead to growing price inflation.)

Further, if participants began to exit the petrodollar system (and, say, sell oil in euros instead) demand for dollars would drop, exacerbating any scenarios in which the central bank is monetizing the debt.  This would also generally contribute to greater price inflation, as fewer dollars will be sucked out of the US by foreign holders.

https://mises.org/wire/huge-debt-got-us-hooked-petrodollars-%E2%80%94-and-saudi-arabia

The Iranian regime and the Saudi Arabian regime are longtime enemies, both vying for control of the Persian Gulf region. Part of the conflict stems from religious differences — differences between Shia and Sunni Muslim groups. But much of it stems from mundane desires to establish regional dominance.

For more than forty years, however, Saudi Arabia has had one important ace in the hole in terms of its battle with Iran: the US’s continued support for the Saudi regime.

But why should the US continue to so robustly support this dictatorial regime? Certainly, these close relations can’t be due to any American support for democracy and human rights. The Saudi regime is one of the world’s most illiberal and antidemocratic regimes. Its ruling class has repeatedly been connected to Islamist terrorist groups, with Foreign Policy magazine last year calling Saudi Arabia “the beating heart of Wahhabism — the harsh, absolutist religious creed that helped seed the worldviews of al Qaeda and the Islamic State.”

Saudis behind the Petrodollar

The answer lies in the fact that the Saudi state is at the center of US efforts to maintain the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and to ensure global demand for US debt. The origins of this system go back decades.

By 1974, the US dollar was in a precarious position. In 1971, thanks to profligate spending on both war and domestic welfare programs, the US could no longer maintain a set global price for gold in line with the Bretton Woods system established in 1944. The value of the dollar in relation to gold fell as the supply of dollars increased as a byproduct of growing deficit spending. Foreign governments and investors began to lose faith in the dollar, and both Switzerland and France demanded gold in exchange for their dollars, as stipulated by Bretton Woods. If such demands continued, though, US gold holdings would soon be depleted. Moreover, the dollar was losing value against other currencies. In May of 1971, Germany left the Bretton Woods system and the dollar fell against the Deutsche mark.

In response to these developments, Nixon announced the US would abandon the Bretton Woods system. The dollar began to float against other currencies.

Not surprisingly, devaluing the dollar did not restore confidence in the dollar. Moreover, the US had made no effort to rein in deficit spending. So the US needed to continue to find ways to sell government debt without driving up interest rates. That is, the US needed more buyers for its debt. Motivation for a fix grew even more after 1973, when the first oil shock further exacerbated the deficit-fueled price inflation Americans were enduring.

But by 1974, the enormous flood of dollars from the US into top-oil-exporter Saudi Arabia suggested a solution.

That year, Nixon sent new US Treasury secretary William Simon to Saudi Arabia with a mission. As recounted by Andrea Wong at Bloomberg the goal was to

neutralize crude oil as an economic weapon [against the US] and find a way to persuade a hostile kingdom to finance America’s widening deficit with its newfound petrodollar wealth. …

The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.

From a public finance point of view, this appeared to be a win-win. The Saudis would receive protection from geopolitical enemies, and the US would get a new place to unload large amounts of government debt. Moreover, the Saudis could park their dollars in relatively safe and reliable investments in the United States. This became known as “petrodollar recycling.” By spending on oil, the US — and other oil importers, who were now required to use dollars — was creating new demand for US debt and US dollars.

This dollar agreement wasn’t limited to Saudi Arabia, either. Since Saudi Arabia dominated the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the dollar deal was extended to OPEC overall, which meant that the dollar became the preferred currency for oil purchases worldwide.

This scheme assured the dollar’s place as a currency of immense global importance. This was especially important during the 1970s and early 1980s. After all, up until the early 1980s, OPEC enjoyed a 50 percent market share in the oil trade. Thanks to the second oil shock, however, much of the world began searching for a wide variety of ways to decrease dependency on oil. By the mid 1980s, OPEC’s share had fallen to less than one-third.

Today, Saudi Arabia ranks behind both Russia and the United States in terms of oil production. As of 2019, OPEC’s share remains around 30 percent. This has lessened the role of the petrodollar compared to the heady days of the 1970s. But the importance of the petrodollar is certainly not destroyed.

We can see the ongoing importance of the petrodollar in US foreign policy, which has continued to antagonize and threaten any major oil-exporting state that moves toward ending its reliance on dollars.

As noted by Matthew Hatfield in the Harvard Political Review, it is likely not a mere coincidence that an especially belligerent US foreign policy has been applied to the Iraqi, Libyan, and Iranian regimes. Hatfield writes:

In 2000, Saddam Hussein, then-president of Iraq, announced that Iraq was moving to sell its oil in euros instead of dollars.

Following 9/11, the United States invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam Hussein, and converted Iraqi oil sales back to the U.S. dollar.

This exact pattern was repeated with Muammar Gaddafi when he attempted to create a unified African currency backed by Libyan gold reserves to to sell African oil. Shortly after his announcement, rebels armed by the US government and allies overthrew the dictator and his regime. After his death, the idea that African oil would be sold on something other than the dollar quickly died out.

Other regimes that have called for abandoning the petrodollar include Iran and Venezuela. The US has called for regime change in both these countries.

Oil Exporters Control US Assets

Threats can be leveled in both directions, however. Last year, for example, Saudi Arabia threatened “to sell its oil in currencies other than the dollar” if Washington “passes a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits.” That is, the Saudi regime is aware that it has at least some leverage with the US because of the Saudi position at the center of the petrodollar system.

Saudi Arabia is one of few states that can even feign to call the US’s bluff on matters such as these. As has been made abundantly clear by US policy in recent decades, the US is more than willing to invade foreign countries that run afoul of the petrodollar system.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, however, the kingdom’s position as an Iran antagonist — and as the world’s third-largest oil exporter — means that the US is likely to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Moreover, it is likely that Saudi holdings of US debt and other assets are significant. When the Saudis make threats, this implicitly also “include[s] liquidating the kingdom’s holdings in the United States.” As Bloomberg reported, Saudi Arabia has also

warned it would start selling as much as $750 billion in Treasuries and other assets if Congress passes a bill allowing the kingdom to be held liable in U.S. courts for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

We often hear about how China and Japan hold a lot of US debt, and therefore hold some leverage over the US because of this. (The problem here is that were foreigners to dump US assets, they would drop in price. If US debt drops in price, then the the debt must increase in yield, which means the US must then pay more interest on its debt.) But there is good reason to believe that Saudi Arabia is a major holder as well. It is difficult, however, to keep track of how large these holdings are because the Saudi regime has worked closely with the US regime to keep Saudi purchases of American assets secret. When the US Treasury reports on foreign holders of US debt, Saudi Arabia is folded in with several other nations to hide the precise nature of Saudi purchases. Nevertheless, as Wong contends, the Saudi regime is “one of America’s largest foreign creditors.”

The Problem Grows as US Debt Grows

All else being equal, the US should be growing less dependent on foreign holders of debt. This should especially be true of Saudi and OPEC-held debt since the global role of OPEC and the Saudis has been diminishing in terms of global market share.

But all else isn’t equal, and the US has been piling on ever-larger amounts of debt in recent years. In 2019, for example, the annual deficit topped one trillion. In a past, less profligate age, this sort of debt creation would have been reserved only for wartime or a period of economic depression. Today, however, this immense growth in debt levels makes the US regime more sensitive to changes in demand for US debt, and this has made the US regime ever more reliant on foreign demand for both US debt and US dollars. That is, in order to avoid a crisis, the US must ensure that interest rates remain low and that foreigners want to acquire both US dollars and US debt.

Were petrodollars and petrodollar recycling to disappear, it would have a twofold effect on US government finances: a sizable decline in petrodollar recycling would put significant upward pressure on interest rates. The result would be a budget crisis for the US government, as it would have to devote ever-larger amounts of the federal budget to payments on the debt. (The other option would be to have the US central bank monetize the debt by purchasing ever-larger amounts of it to make up for a lack of foreign demand. This would lead to growing price inflation.)

Further, if participants began to exit the petrodollar system (and, say, sell oil in euros instead) demand for dollars would drop, exacerbating any scenarios in which the central bank is monetizing the debt.  This would also generally contribute to greater price inflation, as fewer dollars will be sucked out of the US by foreign holders.

The result could be ongoing declines in government spending on services, and growing price inflation. The US regime’s ability to finance its debt would decline significantly, and the US would need to pull back on military commitments, pensions, and more. Either that, or keep spending at the same rate and face an inflationary spiral.

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What Currency Has the Highest Purchasing Power?

 

 

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Is Trump ‘Selling’ Our Troops to Saudi Arabia? | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on January 15, 2020

But unfortunately he comes off like a mafia don extorting the hapless shopkeep on the corner.

That is because he is. Trump is not selling troops he is selling protection. Making offers that can’t be refused.

It doesn’t matter you created 9/11.  Help US protect “our” oil. Help US defeat our perceived enemies. Keep supplying US your oil. Or else…

Do US troops realize they are nothing more than “human shields”?

Once again General Smedley Butler is proved correct. War Is A Racket.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/is-trump-selling-our-troops-to-saudi-arabia/

Rep. Amash is right, we’re a republic, not a cheap protection racket in a Scorsese film.

President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Congressman Justin Amash (I-Michigan) is seeing red over a comment President Trump made in an exclusive interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News on Friday.

“We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank,” Trump said.

What Trump was likely trying to convey, however inartfully, is that he is not letting America’s allies take advantage—if they want protection (which is exactly what the expanded U.S. defense presence in Saudi Arabia, announced back in November, is designed to be), then they will have to pay their fair share.

But Amash is right—our men and women are not mercenaries, bought and sold to the highest bidder, nor should they be considered as such. Furthermore, this is what today’s national security zeitgeist has wrought: the idea that Saudi Arabia is an ally (and the only backstop to Iran), so despite all of the billions the kingdom has in oil money, the United States is obligated to help defend it, at any cost (and you better believe, while the Saudis might be footing the bill, we’ll be paying on the back end by putting our people and interests further into harm’s way). Nevertheless, while the uptight denizens of the Blob might have articulated it differently, they likely wouldn’t disagree with the spirit of Trump’s words, nor the program that he was essentially talking about, as reported in The Washington Post two months ago:

Trump authorized a boost to the relatively light U.S. footprint in Saudi Arabia, from an advisory mission that stood around 800 to a force of about 3,000, following the Sept. 14 assault on Saudi oil facilities, which Saudi and U.S. officials said was launched by Iran in an major escalation of regional tensions.

The troops will operate additional assets designed to help the Saudi military guard against Iranian attacks, including four Patriot batteries, a terminal high altitude area defense system, or THAAD air defense system, and two squadrons of fighter jets. Financial responsibility for the deployment has taken on unusual visibility after Trump, who has criticized allies for not contributing enough to shared defense, promised the oil-rich kingdom would pay “100 percent of the cost.”

And the clincher:

Military officials say one important aspect of the deployment is the presence of American forces in more locations across the kingdom. They believe Iran has demonstrated its reluctance to target American personnel, either directly or indirectly, in part because Trump has made clear that would trigger a military response.

So our men and women are not only sent overseas to defend another country, but used as human shields, too?

Again, the difference here from years past is that Trump is taking a hard line, a transactionally hard line. But unfortunately he comes off like a mafia don extorting the hapless shopkeep on the corner. But that’s not our role, and the Saudi royal family is no hapless supplicant—they have plenty of money to splurge on their princes and have caused a lot of trouble in the region, throwing their weight around knowing Washington has had their backs. They might be crying austerity today, but the royal family lives in a kind of opulence the vast majority of the world only sees in Hollywood movies. But they can’t build or maintain a real army to save their lives. So they depend on outsourcing, and we’re the best game in town.

This has been said many times on these pages, but this is what George Washington meant by unhealthy passionate foreign attachments.  It is time to claw back from this toxic relationship, and the first place to start is to transform our current mission of  paternalistic “power projection” to one of “national defense.” Who cares what the House of Saud wants to buy—it’s not what the American taxpayer pays for, and amen to Amash for putting it in such bald terms.

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VIPS MEMO: Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on January 8, 2020

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/01/03/vips-memo-doubling-down-into-yet-another-march-of-folly-this-time-on-iran/

“We write with a sense of urgency suggesting you avoid doubling down on catastrophe,” VIPS tells Donald Trump in its latest memo to the president.

January 3, 2020

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Doubling Down Into Another “March of Folly”?

The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters.

What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.

Cui Bono?

It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon played a huge role in getting George W. Bush to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Usually taciturn, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, warned in August 2002 that “U.S. action against Iraq … could turn the whole region into a cauldron.” Bush paid no heed, prompting Scowcroft to explain in Oct. 2004 to The Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized”; that Sharon has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.)

In Sept. 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, who was Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission, stated publicly in a moment of unusual candor, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.” Zelikow did not explain how Iraq (or Iran), with zero nuclear weapons, would not be deterred from attacking Israel, which had a couple of hundred such weapons.

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The USA Doubles Down On Its Saudi Allegiance | Zero Hedge

Posted by M. C. on January 5, 2020

There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion…

Disagree – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen!, Sudan…

Wait a minute – didn’t SA finance 9/11?

https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/usa-doubles-down-its-saudi-allegiance

 

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now…

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion…

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.

*  *  *

Unlike his adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, Craig’s blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate. Subscriptions to keep Craig’s blog going are gratefully received.

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When in Doubt, Blame Imaginary ‘Isolationism’ | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on January 1, 2020

The argument, such as it is, is that because the U.S. refused to fight a war it was not obligated to fight to defend a state that isn’t actually an ally, it is therefore “isolationist.”

Referring to Saudi Arabia as an “ally” has been commonplace for a long time, but it was never true. The Abqaiq attack forced many U.S. politicians and analysts to acknowledge the truth that the U.S. owed the Saudis nothing.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/when-in-doubt-blame-imaginary-isolationism/

The U.S. has approximately 50,000 military personnel in Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf, and our military is involved in wars in Syria and Yemen, but the headline we get as 2019 ends is this: “US isolationism leaves Middle East on edge as new decade dawns.” That is the headline for a report from The Guardian, but it could easily have come from many other newspapers. There is a congealing consensus that the U.S. is “disengaging” from the region at the same time that our government’s military presence keeps increasing.

There are just a couple small problems with the story they are telling: the Middle East is the last region in the world where one can argue that the U.S. is behaving in an “isolationist” fashion, and the region has been repeatedly destabilized by U.S. interventions big and small for at least the last 30 years. If the region is “on edge,” it is not because of our government’s “isolationism,” because that doesn’t exist. If the region is “on edge,” the heightened tensions and anxieties probably have something to do with the reckless U.S. economic war against Iran, the ongoing U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen, and the continuation of the war in Syria. Pretending that the U.S. is “disengaging” when it is doing just the opposite misinforms readers and distracts us from the real problems with U.S. foreign policy in the region. It treats a hyperactive, excessively involved America as the stable norm that has to be maintained, and it pejoratively casts anything that hawks don’t like as “isolationism.”

The chief piece of evidence for “isolationism” offered in the report is the decision not to go to war over the Abqaiq attack in Saudi Arabia. The argument, such as it is, is that because the U.S. refused to fight a war it was not obligated to fight to defend a state that isn’t actually an ally, it is therefore “isolationist.” The report is not very good if one wants to come away from it being better informed about the world, but it is a useful example of how lazy stereotypes and inaccurate definitions muddle and distort our foreign policy debate. The vocabulary of our foreign policy discourse is so impoverished that correspondents routinely use the wrong words to describe what is going on, and we are all worse off because of it.

Consider this section of the report:

The impact of the US failing to respond to an attack on Saudi oil facilities was that an act of war on a US ally had gone unpunished, and that ally was now willing to talk with the country that Washington had been determined to bring to its knees.

Referring to Saudi Arabia as an “ally” has been commonplace for a long time, but it was never true. The Abqaiq attack forced many U.S. politicians and analysts to acknowledge the truth that the U.S. owed the Saudis nothing. What are the terrible consequences of not rushing to fight for Saudi Arabia? It turns out that it has meant that Saudi Arabia is looking for a way to reduce tensions with their neighbor. That may be undermining the pressure campaign against Iran, but then the pressure campaign is what created the crisis that led to the attacks in the first place, so what exactly is the problem?

If the U.S. had attacked Iran on Saudi Arabia’s behalf earlier this year, the Persian Gulf would be a shooting gallery, the Saudis and the UAE would be getting pummeled with Iranian missiles, and many Americans and Iranians would already be dead in a war that would still be going on. Choosing not to escalate from one attack into a regional war was not a “failure,” and it certainly doesn’t mean that the U.S. is “isolationist.” The absurd framing and inaccurate language used in this report help to obscure America’s overly militarized, extremely meddlesome foreign policy from public view. Reports like this make it that much harder to advance an alternative foreign policy in which the U.S. is not constantly starting or escalating wars in a region where it has few real interests.

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