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Allies Aren’t Friends and Clients Aren’t Allies | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on October 29, 2020

The U.S. needs to cut back the support it provides to reckless clients, and it needs to reevaluate seriously which of its formal allies deserve the protection that our government has promised them.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/allies-arent-friends-and-clients-arent-allies/

Daniel Larison

The U.S. has had so many formal alliances and informal partnerships for so long that many of our political leaders have forgotten the reason why we have allies and partners in the first place. Our government forms alliances with other states because there is supposed to be some mutual benefit to our security and theirs, but over time these alliances have hardened into unquestionable idols that have to be supported whether they serve any useful purpose or not. It is commonplace for presidents and presidential candidates to declare that this or that relationship is “unbreakable,”“eternal,” or “sacred,” but by its nature every alliance has to be breakable, temporary, and open to challenge and criticism.

Many partnerships are of even more questionable value, but they are frequently described as alliances when they are not and there is tremendous political pressure to treat them as if they deserved U.S. protection. The U.S. needs to reassess which relationships are worth preserving, and it needs to remember the reason why we have these relationships. That will mean reducing some commitments and ending others when they have outlived their usefulness.

In modern Washington, D.C., limited security relationships are transmuted into alliances, and alliances are made into sacred cows that must not be threatened no matter what. When Washington and Jefferson warned us against permanent and entangling alliances, these were some of the pitfalls that they hoped the U.S. would avoid, but instead we have spent the last eighty years adding more commitments than we can possibly uphold and conflating our interests with the interests of dozens of other countries all over the world. It has reached a point where many Americans no longer recognize where American interests end and those of other states start, and our leaders tend to treat local and regional threats to minor clients as if they were endangering America’s vital interests.

This leads our government into a series of corrupting arrangements with authoritarian governments in the name of a never-ending “war on terror,” and it commits the U.S. to risk major wars over small rocks in the ocean and indefensible countries on the European frontier. Alliances are supposed to make both the U.S. and our allies safer, but in practice they have sometimes become the excuse for unnecessary interventions that have nothing to do with collective defense. Partnerships that were once considered temporary expedients are absurdly elevated into “crucial” relationships that have to be indulged despite the harm they are doing to U.S. interests.

There is a tendency to sentimentalize our relationships with allies, clients, and partners by claiming them as our “friends.” There are no friendships between states. There may be better or worse relationships, and there may be friendly working relationships between individual leaders, but it isn’t possible for governments to have friends and it is a mistake to think of our ties to other countries in these terms.

Americans have had the luxury of misunderstanding our relationships this way because our country is extraordinarily secure in a way that few others are, but it is a dangerous error to perceive even our closest allies as friends. It blinds us to divergences of interests and prevents us from changing our policies as circumstances require. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are among the many politicians that fall into this bad habit of seeing foreign policy in simple terms of supporting friends and punishing enemies. Sen. Harris summed this up in one of her statements at the vice presidential debate when she said:

Foreign policy: it might sound complicated, but really it’s relationships there – just think about it as relationships. And so we know this, in our personal, professional relationships – you guys keep your word to your friends. Got to be loyal to your friends. People who have stood with you, got to stand with them. You got to know who your adversaries are, and keep them in check.

The U.S. should seek to keep its word when it gives it, but that also means that it must be much more discerning when it makes binding commitments. Other states are not our friends, and we are not theirs, and we should not allow past cooperation to make us feel obliged to do things that make no sense for our security. For example, many supporters of intervention in Libya in 2011 insisted that the U.S. somehow “owed” European allies for their support in Afghanistan, and that was used to make it seem as if refusing to wage a war of choice in North Africa amounted to a betrayal of our “friends” that had fought alongside us elsewhere. In the end, this bad argument prevailed and the U.S. enabled the misguided Anglo-French scheme, and the intervening governments have had reason to regret their involvement ever since. Earlier, the U.S. tried to guilt and browbeat its European allies into backing the illegal and unjust invasion of Iraq by appealing to the role that the U.S. had played in defending western Europe during the Cold War. In both cases, the hawks that sought to manipulate allies with appeals to the past were masking the lousy case for intervention. The skeptics that rejected this emotional blackmail were right not to join these wars, and the leaders that went along with these campaigns later realized the error of their ways.

Today the U.S. is confronted with somewhat different problems. Many of our political leaders and analysts intentionally misrepresent the nature of some of our client relationships to make them seem more important and unquestionable than they are. Catering to the whims of Saudi Arabia is the chief example of this error, but the same goes for U.S. relations with Egypt, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. There are no formal treaties that oblige the U.S. to defend these countries, and they are likewise under no obligation to aid the U.S. These relationships are nothing like our treaty alliances, but they are routinely described and defended in this way. The U.S. has also tended to give these clients blank checks to behave as outrageously and destructively as they want without having to worry about losing Washington’s backing.

The most recent instance of this misrepresentation was Kenneth Pollack’s defense of what he called the Saudi “alliance.” No such alliance exists, and the U.S. owes the Saudis nothing, but you would never know that from reading Pollack’s account. The Saudi relationship is a significant test of our ability to reassess the value of a partnership when it has long since become a liability. So far, with some honorable exceptions in Congress and among the public, the U.S. is failing that test. U.S. and Saudi interests have been diverging for the last decade, and they began quickly moving in opposite directions beginning in 2015 with the accession of Salman as the new king with his reckless son Mohammed in tow.

The peril in talking about allies as friends comes from encouraging more of what Barry Posen has called reckless driving. If clients are wrongly labeled as allies and allies are mistaken for friends, these governments will believe that they can expect U.S. support no matter what. Patrick Porter and Josh Shifrinson call attention to this danger in a recent article:

Equally important, the approach risks undermining international stability by giving U.S. partners ill-placed faith in U.S. commitments. After four years of the Trump administration’s bullying, allies from Canada to Germany to South Korea worry about American reliability and seek a course correction. In pledging fidelity to its “friends,” however, the Biden approach risks going too far in the opposite direction. It could create a false expectation among allies of a restored friendship with Washington without conditions. It could even tempt allies to take U.S. support for granted and behave recklessly.

Permanent alliance structures create perverse incentives for the most reckless members, and the other members of the alliance are then stuck with them because there is no mechanism for expelling the troublemakers. Today Turkey goes out of its way to poke fingers in the eyes of many of its putative allies by stoking conflict in Syria and Karabakh, threatening Greece, and meddling in Libya, but NATO finds itself powerless to discourage this behavior or penalize Turkey for what it has done. There are even some hawks that are urging the the U.S. take the side of Azerbaijan in its offensive in Karabakh because the attack has Turkey’s support, and Turkey is technically an ally. Turkey’s government today is clear proof that allies aren’t friends, and it is showing that even a formal treaty ally can effectively cease to be a real ally with its aggressive and irresponsible policies.

The U.S. needs to cut back the support it provides to reckless clients, and it needs to reevaluate seriously which of its formal allies deserve the protection that our government has promised them. It is long past time that we stopped venerating alliances and client relationships and started looking at them critically. This will become even more important in the coming years, when there will be a concerted effort from Washington to “restore” all of these relationships.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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Israel Isn’t Signing ‘Peace’ Deals — FAIR

Posted by M. C. on September 28, 2020

What “Iran’s regional mayhem” is remains a mystery—it’s a safe bet that it has something to do with being an obstacle to US designs—but it’s remarkable that the “win-win” scenario of this “peace” entails the US government pushing to sell “cutting-edge weapons to the Emirates, including F-35 fighter jets and Reaper drones,” a package that “also includes EA-18G Growler jets — electronic warfare planes.”

The accords cannot plausibly be connected to a peaceful resolution to the Palestine/Israel conflict (and certainly not to a just one).  The agreements do nothing to inhibit Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians, whom Stephens regards as children in need of having their “behavior” “moderat[ed]” by their colonizers and the colonizers’ cohorts.

https://fair.org/home/israel-isnt-signing-peace-deals/

Corporate media outlets such as Forbes (9/11/20), Bloomberg (9/15/20), CNN (9/15/20) and the Washington Post (9/16/20) have described recent accords that normalize Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain as “peace” deals. This is a misleading label to apply to agreements that help cement a belligerent military alliance against Iran, and allow violence against Palestinians, Libyans and Yemenis to continue.

MSNBC aired a segment (MSNBC Live9/11/20) headlined “Trump Announces Peace Deal Between Bahrain and Israel,” during which Washington Post White House bureau chief Philip Rucker referred to the agreement as a “peace accord.” Later, Rucker implied that the term also applied to the Israeli/UAE pact, and claimed that it was a move in the direction of peace across West Asia, saying that “these are rather incremental steps…. This is not an end, of course, to fighting in the Middle East or [the arrival of] peace across the region.”

Yet an article in Foreign Policy (9/14/20)—its use of the phrase “Israel’s Peace Deals” in its headline notwithstanding—points out that Israel’s agreements with the UAE and Bahrain

have also made [President Donald] Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy of economic asphyxiation against Tehran more effective and painful than his predecessor’s sanctions campaign. Increased Arab collaboration with Israel and the United States has helped the latter obstruct clandestine financial channels and escape valves traditionally used by Iranian authorities and institutions to evade US sanctions.

For MSNBC, and for the Post’s Rucker, “peace” means stifling Iran’s economy more effectively. In this regard, it’s not just that the deals aren’t “steps” towards peace; it’s that they are steps toward ratcheting up the grave human suffering that sanctions have inflicted on Iran, including seriously hindering the Iranian population’s access to medical necessities during a pandemic (FAIR.org, 4/8/20).

To the Wall Street Journal editorial board (9/15/20), the UAE and Bahrain making “peace” deals with Israeli is a “win-win” and its “most obvious benefit, besides strategic cooperation against Iran’s regional mayhem, is economic.” What “Iran’s regional mayhem” is remains a mystery—it’s a safe bet that it has something to do with being an obstacle to US designs—but it’s remarkable that the “win-win” scenario of this “peace” entails the US government pushing to sell “cutting-edge weapons to the Emirates, including F-35 fighter jets and Reaper drones,” a package that “also includes EA-18G Growler jets — electronic warfare planes.”

The Trump administration “do[es] not dispute that after years of American refusals to sell F-35s to the Emiratis, the change in position is linked to the diplomatic initiative,” reported the New York Times (9/15/20). Apart from the possibility of using these warplanes to menace Iranians, these weapons can also be deployed in the catastrophic war on Yemen, where the UAE is a major player, and in the devastating proxy war in Libya (In These Times, 8/18/20), where the UAE has also unleashed its jets (New York Times, 9/15/20). Facilitating a military build-up is a most curious exercise in “peace.”

Bahrain is also a party to the US/Saudi aggression against Yemen, which means that, like the UAE, it could be rewarded for formalizing relations with Israel by being allowed to buy more US weapons that it can use against Yemenis.

NYT: The Love Triangle That Spawned Trump’s Mideast Peace Deal

The New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman (9/15/20) compared the White House’s Jared Kushner to a divorce lawyer who discovered that “Mrs. Israel was having an affair with Mr. Emirates, who was fleeing an abusive relationship with Ms. Iran.”

These “peace” agreements are “an honest triumph,” in the eyes of New York Times columnist Bret Stephens (9/14/20), and “the right thing,” according to his op-ed page colleague Thomas Friedman (9/15/20).

However, days after Israel and the UAE agreed to establish full diplomatic relations, the heads of both countries’ spy agencies met to discuss cooperation on “security” (Al Jazeera, 8/18/20). In the language of countries with egregious human rights records like Israel and the UAE, “security” is a euphemism for violent repression. The Israeli/UAE friendship predates the recent accords, but any deepening of their “security” cooperation is unlikely to be good news for Palestinians, Yemenis or Iranians, or for those who live in countries where Iran has alliances, such as Syria and Lebanon. Nor, for that matter, is it likely to benefit people living under the UAE’s dictatorial monarchy. (Less than 12% of the UAE’s residents are considered citizens, with the rest treated as expatriate workers, regardless of whether they were born in the country or not.)

Strengthening Israeli/UAE “security” cooperation could be bad news for Libyans, too, in that Israel is on the same side of the war in that country as the UAE, a conflict that continues because of intervention by these and other outside powers (In These Times8/18/20).

Nor is this increased “security” coordination likely to be good news for Palestinians, Yemenis or Iranians, or those who live in countries where Iran has alliances, such as Syria or Lebanon. Nor, for that matter, is it likely to benefit people living under the UAE’s dictatorial monarchy. (Less than 12% of the UAE’s residents are considered citizens, with the rest treated as expatriate workers, regardless of whether they were born in the country or not.)

In the same vein, the Israel/Bahrain pact may help Bahrain’s reactionary monarchy entrench its power domestically and “crush any resistance to authoritarianism or efforts towards freedom and democracy” for the Bahraini population (Al Jazeera, 9/13/20). 

The Times’ Stephens contended that the Emirati and Bahraini deals with Israel

may be good news for ordinary Palestinians…. It isn’t crazy to think that peace might come from the outside in: from an Arab world that encircles Israel with recognition and partnership rather than enmity, and which thereby shores up Israel’s security while moderating Palestinian behavior. If that’s right — and if states like Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, Sudan and especially Saudi Arabia follow suit — then this summer’s peace deals might finally create the conditions of viable Palestinian statehood.

The accords cannot plausibly be connected to a peaceful resolution to the Palestine/Israel conflict (and certainly not to a just one).  The agreements do nothing to inhibit Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians, whom Stephens regards as children in need of having their “behavior” “moderat[ed]” by their colonizers and the colonizers’ cohorts.

As part of the deal with the UAE, Israel said it would temporarily suspend its plan to formally annex 30% of the West Bank, but made no promise to halt its illegal stealing of Palestinian land through settlement construction. Nor do the normalization deals involve Israel “moderating” its “behavior” by agreeing to stop bombing Gaza, to lift the merciless siege depriving Gaza’s inhabitants of fuel and medical essentials, to cease torturing Palestinians, to end police terror of Palestinian citizens of Israel, or to permit the return of the refugees Israel has ethnically cleansed and is keeping out through force of arms.

Stephens fails to offer any convincing reason that “peace might come” to Israel/Palestine from a deal that fails to address these types of Israeli violence, which are far and away the most deadly and most widespread forms of violence in the conflict. Instead, the UAE and Bahrain are openly blessing Israeli brutality and creating the possibility of it getting even worse by taking out of the equation a tool that could have helped restrain Israel, namely the costs of being boycotted by other states.

Contrary to corporate media assertions, these US-managed agreements between three of its vassal states have little to do with “peace” and everything to do with enabling the smooth execution of despotism, war and a ruthless colonial enterprise.

Gregory Shupak

 

Gregory Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto. His book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media, is published by OR Books.

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US Mideast Mirage – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on September 22, 2020

The big Mideast deal ballyhooed by Trump and Co. is in reality a phony peace between secretly allied Gulf States and Israel.  They have been playing footsie for over a decade.  It is not primarily about peace but about Iran and arms sales to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia that they have no idea how to use.  Weapons sales are a protection payoff to Washington, which has important bases in Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

What next?  Will Trump declare a trans-Pacific alliance between Tonga and the US to ‘contain’ China?

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/09/eric-margolis/trumps-mideast-mirage/

By

The Trump administration, desperate for some good news, just manufactured its own news by confecting a ‘peace’ deal between Israel and a bunch of pipsqueak Arab monarchies – just in time for November US elections.

The Gulf monarchies – the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – that signed this agreement are so frightened of neighboring Iran that they would happily have opted for Israeli rule rather than welcome the angry, unforgiving Iranians, who call the Gulf Arabs ‘traitors, cowards and backstabbers,’ a sentiment shared by much of the Arab world.

Few Americans could find these little sheikdoms on a map.  But many evangelical voters, who have a comic-book view of the Mideast, will think the Trump administration has achieved a major feat by supposedly bringing peace to the Holy Land.  Cynics, among them many Israelis, will likely scoff at such falafel in the sky thinking.  Oman is expected to sign the new accord.

Israel remains intent on expanding its borders to gobble up all of what was historic Palestine and its water resources.  Five million Palestinians will remain stateless.  Israel also has its eye on fertile parts of Syria and Lebanon.

As I suggested in my book on Mideast strategy, ‘American Raj,’ the key beneficiaries of any Arab-Israeli peace deal would be Israel’s bankers, businessmen and arms makers.  If a decent peace deal can be made with the Palestinians, the doors of the entire Muslim world (a fifth of humanity) will be opened to Israel’s commerce and finance.  This will be a huge bonanza worth orders of magnitude more than the West Bank’s scrubby slopes.

But to do so, Israel’s hard right and religious extremists will have to lessen their demands for Arab land and water – that is, what they term, Greater Israel. Just as difficult and obdurate will be Trump’s evangelical core voters who want to see a mythical Biblical Israel recreated, paving the way for the return of the Messiah and earth’s fiery destruction.

The United Arab Emirates, population just under 10 million, is only 10% Arab.  The rest of its people are mainly Indians and Pakistani coolies, giving rise to the old bon mot that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the world’s best Indian-run cities.

Non-Arab members of the UAE are treated like slaves.  They are paid a pittance, poorly fed, and live in squalor.  Non-Arabs have no rights.  Arab citizens don’t have any rights either, just a better standard of living.

I remember these tiny city states from the early 1970’s when I worked for a leading US firm that smuggled high-end cosmetics and perfumes into India, Pakistan and the USSR via Dubai’s busy port.

Back in the day, Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6, controlled Oman and its royal rulers.  Similarly, the CIA today exercises great influence over Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, not to mention Egypt and Morocco.  Tiny Qatar maintains a degree of independence in the face of Saudi threats and efforts by the Trump people to crush it.

The big Mideast deal ballyhooed by Trump and Co. is in reality a phony peace between secretly allied Gulf States and Israel.  They have been playing footsie for over a decade.  It is not primarily about peace but about Iran and arms sales to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia that they have no idea how to use.  Weapons sales are a protection payoff to Washington, which has important bases in Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

What next?  Will Trump declare a trans-Pacific alliance between Tonga and the US to ‘contain’ China?

As for peace in the Mideast, recall the biting words of Roman historian Tacitus, ‘where they make a desert they call it peace.’  That is what awaits over five million Palestinian refugees, not a new dawn promised by the Trump administration.

Eric S. Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.

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There is a historic change taking place in the Middle East, by Patrick Cockburn – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on August 18, 2020

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

https://www.unz.com/pcockburn/there-is-a-historic-change-taking-place-in-the-middle-east/

President Donald Trump is cock-a-hoop over the United Arab Emirates becoming the first Arab Gulf state to normalise its relations with Israel. He needs all the good news he can get in the months before the US presidential election.

“HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Trump tweeted. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed a triumph in establishing full diplomatic relations with an Arab state that had once been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians. The UAE, for its part, said it had averted Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, while the Palestinians denounced yet one more betrayal by their fellow Arabs.

Much of this is overblown. Trump and Netanyahu will exaggerate their achievement to strengthen their domestic political status. The UAE had long ago established security and commercial links with Israel and Netanyahu’s annexation of the West Bank had been postponed previously. Pious talk by the US and its western allies in pre-Trump days about fostering a non-existent peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, at the heart of which was an imaginary “two-state solution,” was always a device for ignoring the Palestinians while pretending that something was going on.

Yet there is a real historic change going on in the Middle East and north Africa, though it has nothing to do with the relationship between Israel and the Arabs. It is a transformation that has been speeded up by the coronavirus cataclysm and will radically change the politics of the Middle East.

The era characterised by the power of the oil states is ending. When the price of oil soared in the aftermath of the 1973 war, countries from Iran to Algeria, mostly though not exclusively Arab, enjoyed an extraordinary accretion of wealth. Their elites could buy everything from Leonardo da Vinci paintings to Park Lane hotels. Their rulers had the money to keep less well-funded governments in power or to put them out of business by funding their opponent.

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out. The determining factor is that between 2012 and 2020 the oil revenues of the Arab producers fell from $1 trillion to $300bn, down by over two-thirds. Too much oil was being produced and too little was consumed pre-coronavirus and, on top of this, there is a shift away from fossil fuels. Cuts in output by Opec might go some way to raising the oil price, but it will not be enough to preserve a crumbling status quo.

Ironically, a petrostate like the UAE just is flexing its political muscles by normalising relations with Israel just as the economic world of which it was part is breaking up. Nor is the UAE alone: the oil states have always had a problem turning money into political power. Saudi Arabia, UAE and their arch rival Qatar took a more aggressive role during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in 2011. Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, became even more interventionist in 2015 and were overjoyed the following year when Trump, over-impressed by their riches and apparent influence, entered the White House.

The successes of the alliance of Trump and the Gulf monarchies have been skimpy. Their prime target Iran is battered but surviving. Saudi Arabia and UAE began a quick war in Yemen five years ago which is still going on. Bashar al-Assad remains in power in Damascus and Libya is engulfed in an endless civil war of extreme ferocity.

The super-rich oil producers are feeling the draft, but states like Iraq are close to capsizing because they can no longer pay the bills. Last October, hundreds of thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets to protest against lack of jobs, corruption and the failure of the government to provide water and electricity. Ferocious repression killed at least 600 protesters and injured 20,000, but they kept coming back to the streets.

Similar protest swept through Lebanon as its economy imploded. It is not only oil producers that are suffering, but countries like Lebanon and Egypt which looked to the petrostates for business and jobs. Lebanon used to be kept going by remittances. More than 2.5 million Egyptians work in the oil states. If there are not enough Egyptian doctors to treat Covid-19 patients at home, it is because they are earning better money in the oil states.

Strains were already showing before the pandemic. The whole system looked increasingly rickety. Oil states at the height of their prosperity had operated similarly, regardless of whether they were monarchies or republics. The ruling elite, be it Saudi, Iraqi, Libyan or Algerian, exploited governments that were what one expert described as “looting machines”, whereby those with political power turned this into easy money.

They were not alone. They could cream off great fortunes without provoking a revolt by the rest of society because they ran vast patronage machines. Ordinary Saudis, Libyans, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis were guaranteed jobs as their small cut of the oil revenue cake.

It is this fifty-year-old system that is now faltering. As populations rise and young people flood into the labour market, more and more money is required to keep society running as before, but such resources are no longer there. This change has revolutionary implications as the unspoken social contract between rulers and ruled breaks down. Nothing much can be done to preserve it because the oil industry blights all other forms of economic activity. Little is produced locally and then only with massive state subsidies.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

The world understands all too well the impact of the pandemic on health. It is beginning to foresee the economic devastation that follows. But it has yet to take on board the political turmoil inevitably caused by pandemic-hit economies, though Lebanon has given a foretaste of this. Beset by wars and dysfunctional social and economic systems, the Middle East is too fragile to cope with the coming earthquake.

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How To Make American Foreign Policy Yours – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on November 13, 2019

The only thing missing is mention of AIPAC.

https://original.antiwar.com/Ryan_Summers/2019/11/12/how-to-make-american-foreign-policy-yours/

Originally posted at TomDispatch.

 

“Legislation Is Prepared by Lobbyists All the Time”

Foreign powers have a remarkably direct way of making sure their voices are heard in Washington: let their lobbyists script what various members of Congress say. That may sound wild, but it’s actually commonplace. Lee Fang of the Intercept reported a typical example of this recently. He discovered that, on November 13, 2017, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, read verbatim into the congressional record a set of talking points given to his office by lobbyists working for the Saudi government…

Buying Think-Tank Thinking

Foreign powers have ample ability, through their lobbyists, to directly influence congressional legislation. They also have at least three indirect, perfectly legal avenues for trying to shift US foreign policy in their favor: think tanks, the media, and academia.

As CIP’s recent report on the influence of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in America documented, lobbyists hired by foreign powers often work directly with influential think tanks to shape the narrative about the countries they represent. They meet with think-tank experts, provide them with talking points, offer research assistance, and sometimes even give them all-expense-paid trips to the country in question…

Shaping the Media Narrative

Media outlets are another prime target of foreign influence operations. Some governments, of course, run their own media outlets in America and many of these are required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. China’s CCTV and Russia’s RT, which was deemed “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet” in the Director of National Intelligence’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, are obvious examples. And, of course, foreign powers continue to engage in a number of illegal Twitter and Facebook activities meant to influence domestic politics, as well as American views of their own countries. In early November, for example, two former Twitter employees were charged with spying for Saudi Arabia and accessing the private information of the Kingdom’s critics in the US

Generally ignored, however, are the ways in which foreign powers often engage in legal media manipulation that neither they, nor such outlets, are required to tell viewers or listeners about. One of the most common tactics is simply to work closely with reporters covering issues of importance to them. No surprise then that the Center for International Policy’s investigations have consistently found journalists among the top targets of registered foreign agents. In some cases it’s fairly easy to see how this influence gets converted into extremely positive spin on their behalf…

Foreign Influence in the Ivory Tower

While foreign influence in Washington has consistently made front-page headlines, it’s arguably just as pervasive at American universities. Chinese influence has, for instance, garnered considerable attention in recent years. That country’s Confucius Institutes, ostensibly language and cultural centers at American colleges paid for by the Chinese government, have been the focus of eye-opening congressional investigations on the role foreign governments can play on campus. As a Senate investigation reported in early 2019, “Confucius Institute funding comes with strings that can compromise academic freedom,” allowing the Chinese government to play censor at academic conferences on US soil and even censor course materials critical of China…

Expanding the Spotlight to Perfectly Legal Foreign Influence

The scrutiny placed on malign actors like Rudy Giuliani’s associates and their alleged dealings with Ukrainian elites to compromise an American election is certainly warranted. We live in a world in which the ability of foreign powers to undermine American democracy (as this country once undermined democracies elsewhere) remains a genuine threat. Seldom, however, does anyone even think about the influence operations of foreign powers – operations that are perfectly legal and don’t garner headlines.

The American political system, which has always been vulnerable to outside influence, is arguably more susceptible to foreign meddling now than it has been in decades – and most of it is perfectly legal. From woefully inadequate disclosures regarding conflicts of interest by witnesses testifying before Congress to foreign agents filling campaign coffers and literally writing our laws, as well as influencing think tanks, media outlets, and universities, there remain a host of legal ways for foreign powers to try to bend our policies and thinking to their will. While it’s imperative that we be vigilant in rooting out illegal foreign influence, if American democracy is to remain “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” a bright light should be directed onto all forms of influence that seek to undermine it.

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The Saudis Get a Taste of Their Own Medicine – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2019

The Saudis would have been better off buying air defenses from the Russians, at a quarter of the US selling price.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/09/eric-margolis/the-saudis-get-a-taste-of-their-own-medicine/

By

Special for LewRockwell.com

The Mideast has its own variety of crazy humor.  The Saudis have been blasting and bombing wretched Yemen, one of this world’s poorest nations, since 2015.

These US-supported attacks and a naval blockade of Yemen imposed by Saudi Arabia and its sidekick ally, the United Arab Emirates, have caused mass starvation.  No one knows how many Yemenis have died or are currently starving.  Estimates run from 250,000 to one million.

The black humor?  The Saudis just claimed they were victims of Iranian `aggression’ this past week after the kingdom’s leading oil treatment facility at Abqaiq was hit by a flight of armed drones or cruise missiles.  The usual American militarists, now led by State Secretary Mike Pompeo after the demented warmonger, John Bolton, was finally fired, are calling for military retaliation against Iran even though the attack was claimed by Yemen’s Shia Houthi movement.

This drama came at roughly the same time that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US president Donald Trump, vowed to annex Palestine’s entire Jordan Valley if elected. Not a peep of protest came from the US, which recently blessed Netanyahu’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights while scourging Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, for annexing Crimea – a Russian possession for over 300 years.

I studied US photos of the damaged Saudi oil installations. Its oil tanks appear to be precisely hit at the same place. After the attack, the Saudis claimed half of their oil production was knocked out; but a day later, they vowed production would be resumed within a week. Parts of so-called drones were shown that appeared way beyond the technological capabilities of Yemen or even Iran. The missiles may have been supplied by Ukraine.

The Saudis, like their patron in Washington, have a poor record for truthfulness. Remember the Saudi denials about the murder of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi? More important, we have been waiting for more false flag attacks in the Gulf designed to justify a US attack on Iran.

The pattern of so-called drone attacks against the Saudi oil installations is just too neat and symmetrical. The Israelis have a strong interest in promoting a US-Saudi War. The attacks in Saudi came ironically right after the anniversary of 9/11 that plunged the US into war against large parts of the Muslim world.

As a long-time military observer, I find it very hard to believe that drones could be guided over such long distances and so accurately without aircraft or satellites to guide them.  In Yemen, which is just creeping into the 12th century, changing a flat tire is a major technological achievement.  To date, Iran’s missile arsenal has poor reliability and major guidance problems.

Adding to the questions, the Saudis have spent billions on US-made air defense systems.  They failed to protect the oil installations.  The Saudis would have been better off buying air defenses from the Russians, at a quarter of the US selling price.

Trump at least showed some wisdom by so far rejecting demands from the neocons that surround him to launch major attacks on Iran.  Blasting Iran would not serve much purpose and would expose US forces in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Somalia, and Syria to Iranian guerilla attacks.  Saudi oil installations – after what we saw last week – are vulnerable.

Attacking Iran, even if just from the air, risks a much wider Mideast war just as the Trump administration – which originally campaigned against ‘stupid’ Mideast wars – faces next year’s elections.  But the administration is under intense pressure from its pro-Israel base to go after Iran.

Bombing Iran’s oil infrastructure would be relatively easy and has been intensively planned since early 2002.  But what next?  So-called ‘regime change’ (Washington’s favorite euphemism for overthrowing disobedient foreign governments) rarely works as planned and can get the US into horribly messy situations.  The CIA overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953 and look where we are today.

Perhaps the attacks on Abqaiq may cause the reckless Saudi leaders to stop devastating Yemen and throttle back on their proxy war against Iran which has gone on since 1979.  But don’t count on it.

Be seeing you

4ec7b-iu

 

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TWO Saudi oil tankers were hit by a “sabotage attack” off the United Arab Emirates, it was announced this morning – as tensions flare between the US and Iran.

Posted by M. C. on May 13, 2019

Dumb ‘ol Iran.  What a convenient time to stage an attack, just when Bolton and Pompeo ‘suggest’ such a thing may happen.

Rather convenient for John Bolton and McDonnell Douglas.

Oh wait…we don’t really know who staged the attack…wink, wink.

Hands Off My Fries: A Philosophical Objection to "Nudging ...

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9060525/saudi-oil-tanker-sabotage-us-iran/

The ships were struck off the coast of the port of Fujairah – with one of the tankers due to be loaded with Saudi crude oil bound for the United States.

Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih revealed the tankers suffered “significant damage” – although it was unclear what the attack involved.

He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”

Trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi ships as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah.

A huge US naval presence has built up in the Gulf over recent days amid a fevered standoff between Washington and Tehran.

US intelligence revealed Iran was on the verge of carrying out offensive action to disrupt and attack American and partner interests in the region.

It led to the deployment of US aircraft carriers, Patriot missiles and B52 bombers over recent days…

U.S. and Them - Operation Ajax - Iran and the CIA coup ...

 

 

 

 

 

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