Syria: It’s Not a Civil War and it Never Was

December 31st, 2015 by Ulson Gunnar

The weapons are foreign, the fighters are foreign, the agenda is foreign. As Syrian forces fight to wrest control of their country back and restore order within their borders, the myth of the “Syrian civil war” continues on. Undoubtedly there are Syrians who oppose the Syrian government and even Syrians who have taken up arms against the government and in turn, against the Syrian people, but from the beginning (in fact before the beginning) this war has been driven from abroad. Calling it a “civil war” is a misnomer as much as calling those taking up arms “opposition.” It is not a “civil war,” and those fighting the Syrian government are not “opposition.”

Those calling this a civil war and the terrorists fighting the Syrian state “opposition” hope that their audience never wanders too far from their lies to understand the full context of this conflict, the moves made before it even started and where those moves were made from.

When did this all start? 

It is a valid question to ask just when it all really started. The Cold War saw a see-sawing struggle between East and West between the United States and Europe (NATO) and not only the Soviet Union but also a growing China. But the Cold War itself was simply a continuation of geopolitical struggle that has carried on for centuries between various centers of power upon the planet. The primary centers include Europe’s Paris, London and Berlin, of course Moscow, and in the last two centuries, Washington.

In this context, however, we can see that what may be portrayed as a local conflict, may fit into a much larger geopolitical struggle between these prominent centers of special interests. Syria’s conflict is no different.

Syria had maintained close ties to the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. That meant that even with the fall of the Soviet Union, Syria still had ties to Russia. It uses Russian weapons and tactics. It has economic, strategic and political ties to Russia and it shares mutual interests including the prevailing of a multipolar world order that emphasizes the primacy of national sovereignty.

Because of this, Western centers of power have sought for decades to draw Syria out of this orbit (along with many other nations). With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the fractured Middle East was first dominated by colonial Europe before being swept by nationalist uprising seeking independence. Those seeking to keep the colonial ties cut that they had severed sought Soviet backing, while those seeking simply to rise to power at any cost often sought Western backing.

The 2011 conflict was not Syria’s first. The Muslim Brotherhood, a creation and cultivar of the British Empire since the fall of the Ottomans was backed in the late 70s  andearly 80s in an abortive attempt to overthrow then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, father of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The armed militants that took part in that conflict would be scattered in security crackdowns following in its wake, with many members of the Muslim Brotherhood forming a new US-Saudi initiative called Al Qaeda. Both the Brotherhood and now Al Qaeda would stalk and attempt to stunt the destiny of an independent Middle East from then on, up to and including present day.

There is nothing “civil” about Syria’s war. 

In this context, we see clearly Syria’s most recent conflict is part of this wider struggle and is in no way a “civil war” unfolding in a vacuum, with outside interests being drawn in only after it began.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Al Qaeda spin-off were present and accounted for since the word go in 2011. By the end of 2011, Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise (Al Nusra) would be carrying out nationwide operations on a scale dwarfing other so-called rebel groups. And they weren’t this successful because of the resources and support they found within Syria’s borders, but instead because of the immense resources and support flowing to them from beyond them.

Saudi Arabia openly arms, funds and provides political support for many of the militant groups operating in Syria since the beginning. In fact, recently, many of these groups, including allies of Al Qaeda itself, were present in Riyadh discussing with their Saudi sponsors the future of their joint endeavor.

Together with Al Nusra, there is the self-anointed Islamic State (IS). IS, like the Syrian conflict itself, was portrayed by the Western media for as long as possible as a creation within a vacuum. The source of its military and political strength was left a mystery by the otherwise omniscient Western intelligence community. Hints began to show as Russian increased its involvement in the conflict. When Russian warplanes began pounding convoys moving to and from Turkish territory, bound for IS, the mystery was finally solved. IS, like all other militant groups operating in Syria, were the recipients of generous, unending stockpiles of weapons, equipment, cash and fighters piped in from around the globe.

The Syrian conflict was borne of organizations created by centers of foreign interests decades ago who have since fought on and off not for the future of the Syrian people, but for a Syria that meshed more conveniently into the foreign global order that created them. The conflict has been fueled by a torrent of weapons, cash, support and even fighters drawn not from among the Syrian people, but from the very centers of these foreign special interests; in Riyadh, Ankara, London, Paris, Brussels and Washington.

How to settle a civil war that doesn’t exist?

If the Syrian conflict was created by foreign interests fueling militant groups it has used for decades as an instrument of executing foreign policy (in and out of Syria), amounting to what is essentially a proxy invasion, not a civil war, how exactly can a “settlement” be reached?

Who should the Syrian government be talking to in order to reach this settlement? Should it be talking to the heads of Al Nusra and IS who clearly dominate the militants fighting Damascus? Or should it be talking to those who have been the paramount factor in perpetuating the conflict, Riyadh, Ankara, London, Paris, Brussels and Washington, all of whom appear involved in supporting even the most extreme among these militant groups?

If Damascus finds itself talking with political leaders in these foreign capitals, is it settling a “civil war” or a war it is fighting with these foreign powers? Upon the world stage, it is clear that these foreign capitals speak entirely for the militants, and to no one’s surprise, these militants seem to want exactly what these foreign capitals want.

Being honest about what sort of conflict Syria is really fighting is the first step in finding a real solution to end it. The West continues to insist this is a “civil war.” This allows them to continue trying to influence the outcome of the conflict and the political state Syria will exist in upon its conclusion. By claiming that the Syrian government has lost all legitimacy, the West further strengthens its hand in this context.

Attempts to strip the government of legitimacy predicated on the fact that it stood and fought groups of armed militants arrayed against it by an axis of foreign interests would set a very dangerous and unacceptable precedent. It is no surprise that Syria finds itself with an increasing number of allies in this fight as other nations realize they will be next if the “Syria model” is a success.

Acknowledging that Syria’s ongoing conflict is the result of foreign aggression against Damascus would make the solution very simple. The solution would be to allow Damascus to restore order within its borders while taking action either at the UN or on the battlefield against those nations fueling violence aimed at Syria. Perhaps the clarity of this solution is why those behind this conflict have tried so hard to portray it as a civil war.

For those who have been trying to make sense of the Syrian “civil war” since 2011 with little luck, the explanation is simple, it isn’t a civil war and it never was. Understanding it as a proxy conflict from the very beginning (or even before it began) will give one a clarity in perception that will aid one immeasurably in understanding what the obvious solutions are, but only when they come to this understanding.

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

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The Black Man’s Burden

December 31st, 2015 by Garikai Chengu

So much has been said of the “white man’s burden:” namely, how the collapsing American Empire and bygone British Empire have shouldered the burden of civilising Africa and driving the global economy for centuries. The opposite is true. The fact of the matter is that not only was Western civilisation invented by black Africans in ancient Egypt, Africa has driven global economic growth for centuries.

African natural resources, labour, land, slavery and skilled émigré – as any decent economic historian will tell you – have fueled the world’s economy for many, many decades. To this day, Africa is the world’s engine-room for growth. In short, driving global economic growth abroad, whilst benefiting little at home is the “black man’s burden.” That Africans know that there are immense riches just beneath their feet as well as just above their heads in High Office, only adds to the burden.

The roots of “Western” civilization, technology, religion, culture and science are to be found not in Greece, but in Black Egypt. Infact as early as 9,000 BC to 500 A.D. black empires, from the prehistoric Zingh Empire of Mauritania to ancient Khemet of Egypt, were at the forefront of development in technology, politics and culture. Far from “civilising the natives,” Europeans replaced communitarianism, cooperation and spirituality – that prevailed across Africa – with a corrupt, aggressive and inhumane form of civilisation.

First there was the brutal kidnapping of millions of Africans, so as to replace the indigenous Americans that Europeans had wiped out. The slave trade broke the back of African economies whilst creating capital for plantation owners that kick started Europe’s industrial revolution.

Africans were stripped of their land and forced down gold mines and onto rubber plantations. The naked theft of African land and minerals including gold, copper, rubber, ivory and tin continued ravenously throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This culminated in the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884, where Europe gleefully divied up Africa and formalised the “Scramble For Africa.”

After World War Two, Europeans were severely weakened by years of unremitting industrial slaughter of each other. To make matters worse, liberation movements were gaining momentum. This ultimately made the cost of containing “restless natives” greater than the benefits Europeans could extract from them. As British power wained the baton of colonialism was passed to American imperialism.

Poverty and disunity have been the essential ingredients that have allowed this neo-colonial exploitation to continue. But, thanks largely to soaring mineral prices and Chinese win-win investments, poverty levels are beginning to tumble.

Disunity however persists. America is making sure of it. Washington is fomenting disunity by funding reactionary neo-liberal political parties across the continent as well as the odd “good dictator.” A bad dictator however, named Muammar Gaddafi, was hunted down and assassinated by Washington. Not least because of his plans for an African IMF, gold backed Afro-currency and a United States of Africa. In essence, Colonel Gaddafi’s plans for African unity were as good as a hand written suicide note addressed directly to NATO. By losing Gaddafi, Africa may also have lost Libya. For, NATO will ensure that Mr. Gaddafi’s plans for African unity will be smothered in their crib.

Then ofcourse there is United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) which will almost certainly establish a military base in Libya. Infact any African government that America offered money to host AFRICOM, Mr. Gaddafi would offer double the amount to refuse.

Mr. Obama would have us believe that hundreds of highly trained US Special Forces are braving tsetse flies, dengue fever and are running around in the African bush to flush out Ugandan rebels. All for freedom and democracy. Coincidentally in one of the most oil rich enclaves on earth. Home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest onshore oil discovery in 20 years of two billion barrels.

The new cold war between America and China will be over resources, not ideology. Africa will take centre stage. Should America’s hard power and divide-and-rule approach triumph, Africa may descend into one large theater of war with many actors, chapters and a tragic ending. Should China’s soft power and win-win economic approach triumph, this may end up becoming a truly African Century.

To this day, Africans produce cheap, often slave labour and ship raw materials north for peanuts. In return Africans purchase finished products at a premium from the north. This skewed trade relationship is what helped build the west and underdeveloped Africa for centuries.

Reversing this trend would allow the black man to free himself of a centuries old burden. Reversing this trend is this generation’s struggle. That said, Africa’s future looks bright, for the ingredients are present for an economic boom, which actually benefits Africans: favourable demographics, a commodities boom, a burgeoning middle class and growing enthusiasm for technology with more than 600 million mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe.

If Africans resolutely build the capacity to refine their own crude oil, gold and platinum as well as the capability to cut and polish their diamonds, they will certainly turn this into an African century. If Africans staunchly defend their resources and turn them into finished products, they will finally turn the “black man’s burden” into Africa’s renaissance.

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Britain’s New Holy War Doctrine

December 31st, 2015 by Graham Vanbergen

In modern societies people nowadays regard the notion of a holy war as nothing more than a contradiction. The deliberate slaughter and wholesale destruction of people and societies seems to be as far from holiness as one can get, surely.

However, religion and war have gone hand in hand for centuries and still do. Armies of young men forge ahead into battle with a belief that God is with them, He is on their side and will keep them safe irrespective of the risk. In biblical times, losing a war sometimes meant changing religion for the losers.

However, for war to be a holy war there has always been a central point of focus with religion being the spearhead. Preconditions such as the achievement of a religious objective, the authorisation of a religious leader and possibly spiritual rewards for the victors have a tendency to be ‘just war’ conditions.

Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war, (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith) which were briefly; spreading the faith, rescuing Christians, recover religious sites being profaned and avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago). From this you can see that the conflict against ISIS qualifies from every angle and perspective.

The British government managed an aggressive and pernicious campaign to overturn an embarrassing 2013 parliamentary vote on the bombing of Syria. It succeeded, but only after the Paris killing spree and the refugee crisis it was attached to. The reality for the government is that its citizens do not support its actions in Syria. The latest polls suggest less than half support the bombing of Syria and a third strongly object. How will they react when they find out Britain will start bombing Libya quite soon, one can only speculate.

The government accepts that it needs a new narrative to continue the indiscriminate and illegal killing of countless innocent civilians abroad to support it’s commitments to domestic weapons manufacturers and blindly follow American foreign policy.

The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state but the Church, or person who heads the religious institution concerned.

This Christmas we have witnessed something quite extraordinary – Britain’s leaders effectively ganging up to deliver a united message through the establishment press and media organisations. The Queen, The Prime Minister and our religious leaders acting in harmony, the message is religious and it’s about war.

From The Telegraph –

Britain’s two most senior clerics have drawn on the darker side of the nativity story in hard-hitting Christmas sermons warning of the possible “elimination” of Christianity from the region of its birth. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, both draw comparisons between the Biblical account of the mass murder of children around Bethlehem on the orders of King Herod and the 21st Century Jihadist threat”.

Welby branded the ISIS terror group “a Herod of today” as he warned that Christianity faces “elimination” in the region of its founding two millennia ago.

Meanwhile Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, also used his Christmas address to speak of the surge in murder driven by faith, also describing Christians being murdered by Islamist extremists as “martyrs”.

This year, the Queen used her Christmas Day broadcast to make her most overtly religious address to the nation quoting directly from the Gospel of John. She highlighted the Christian message of light triumphing over the dark following a year which has seen “moments of darkness.”

In a masterclass of hypocrisy Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, in a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, called for a revival of traditional Christian values.

He staunchly defended the role of religion in politics (something previous politicians have steered well away from) and said the Bible in particular was crucial to British values. “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so,” he told the audience at Christ Church.

What binds these speeches together is the politicisation of Britain’s indigenous religion as a pretext for attacking (or defending ourselves) another country based on its religion – in essence, a holy war.

From the The Independent –

Britain faces a terrorist threat lasting for decades, David Cameron has warned, as the official alert level was raised due to events in Iraq and Syria.

To ensure this new and enforced religious and political doctrine will continue for those decades we find that our schools must teach that Britain is a Christian country. “The guidance I have issued today makes absolutely clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in religious education.”

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan made her comments after David Cameron’s Christmas message to stress Britain was a Christian country in what was widely viewed as his most religious address ever.

The sudden emergence of a holy theme entering British politics is not only surprising but should be regarded as deeply suspicious. For a start, it is endorsed by a prime minister who advocates the illegal extra-judicial murder of British citizens, the bombing and killing of innocent civilians, isolation and blame culture towards the ‘undeserving poor’ and suspicion of war-torn refugees – hardly christian traits of any sort.

Jesus, who famously taught, “blessed are the peacemakers” would have abhorred people like David Cameron, Francoise Hollande and Barrack Obama for their actions. Perceived as a political dissident and threat to government power with anti-government views, Jesus would have been arrested by these leaders and labelled a domestic extremist. The key thrown away.

But Cameron does not have such values. Britain is now the second largest arms seller in the world – thriving off death and destruction. It sells to any country who will buy no matter what human rights abuses occur as a result. One need not look further than the continued arms sales to Israel and their treatment of the Palestinians. According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in Roman Judea, and died and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, making the area a Holy Land for Christianity. Two thousand years later, Israelis and Palestinians and the wider world argue from which clan Jesus descended. Britain is weaponising the region. The irony.

All of this in the backdrop of a declining religious society back in Britain. In the ten years between the 2001 and 2011 census, Briton’s registering their christian faith fell by 20% and there was a 67% rise in people reporting no religion.

As we all know, the great series of western holy wars were the Crusades. These took place from 1095 until 1291 CE with the aim of capturing the sacred places in the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there. It was intended as a war to right wrongs done against Christianity as mentioned earlier by Francis Bacon.

The first Crusade captured Jerusalem after bitter fighting. The residents of the city were utterly brutalised and slaughtered in their thousands by the Christian invaders. The conduct of the invaders breached the principles of modern just war ethics.

Clearly, nothing has changed in two thousand years except the narrative and even that has seemingly moved 360 degrees.

Whilst the massacres still colour politics on both Christian and Islamic sides to this day, it is alarming to think that modern wars are now being waged under the guise of religion on the basis that all other excuses have been exhausted.

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As the TRAI decides the fate of Free Basics, Mark Zuckerberg is in India with ₹100 crore, in pocket change, for advertising. Facebook’s Free Basics is a repackaged internet.org, or in other words, a system where Facebook decides what parts of the internet are important to users.

Reliance, Facebook’s Indian partner in the Free Basics venture, is an Indian mega-corporation with interests in telecom, energy, food, retail, infrastructure and, of course, land. Reliance obtained land for its rural cell phone towers from the government of India and grabbed land from farmers for SEZ’s through violence and deceit. As a result and at no cost, Reliance has a huge rural, semi-urban and suburban user base — especially farmers. Although Free Basics has been banned (for the time being), Reliance continues to offer the service across its networks.

A collective corporate assault is underway globally. Having lined up all their ducks, veterans of corporate America such as Bill Gates are being joined by the next wave of philanthro-corporate Imperialists, including Mark Zuckerberg. The similarities in Gates and Zuckerberg’s perfectly rehearsed, PR firm-managed announcements of giving away’ their fortunes is uncanny. Whatever entity the Zuckerbergs form to handle the US$45 billion they will be investing will most likely end up looking a lot like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ie: powerful enough to influence the climate negotiations, responsible for nothing.

An advertisement for Facebook's Free Basics internet service. It reads, "What Net Neutrality Activists Won't Tell You."

An advertisement for Facebook’s Free Basics internet service. It reads, “What Net Neutrality Activists Won’t Tell You.”

What could Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have to gain from dictating terms to governments during the climate summit? “The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will invest in ideas that have the potential to transform the way we all produce and consume energy,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. It was an announcement of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the combined wealth of hundreds of billions of dollars of 28 private investors who will influence how the world produces and consumes energy.

At the same time, Gates is currently behind a push to force chemical, fossil fuel dependent agriculture and patented GMOs (#FossilAg) through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). It is an attempt to lock African farmers into a dependence on fossil fuels that should be left underground, as well as creating a dependence on Monsanto for seeds and petrochemicals.

95% of the cotton in India is Monsanto’s proprietary Bt Cotton. This year, in regions from Punjab to Karnataka, 80% of this Bt crop failed  — that’s 76% of Bt Cotton farmers with no crop left at harvest time. If they had a choice, they would switch. But what resembles a choice between cotton seeds is the same Bt Cotton seed, marketed by different companies under different names, purchased in desperation as farmers try combination after combination of seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides — all of which have chemical names designed to make you feel inadequate — until you have no ‘choices’ left but to take your own life.

What Monsanto has done by pushing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and patents on seeds, Zuckerberg is attempting to do to internet freedom in India. And like Monsanto, he is targeting the most marginalised Indians.

Free Basics will limit what the internet is to a vast majority of India. Already at its outset Free Basics has said it won’t allow video content on the basis that it will interfere with the telecom companies’ services (read: profits) — despite the TRAI’s own recommendation that video content is more accessible to different parts of the population.

Once allowed as a free service, what is to stop telecom companies from redefining the internet to suit their own interests, and those of their corporate partners? After all, the ban on Free Basics has not stopped Reliance from carrying on with the service to its huge user base, a large proportion of who are farmers.

Why should Mark Zuckerberg decide what the internet is to a farmer in Punjab, who has just lost 80% of his cotton harvest because Monsanto’s Bt Cotton and the chemicals he was told to spray completely failed? Should the internet allow him to see how GMO technology has failed everywhere in the world and is only kept afloat through unfair market and trade policies, or should the internet suggest the next patented molecule he should spray on his crop?

The Monsanto-Facebook connection is a deep one. The top 12 investors in Monsanto are the same as the top 12 investors in Facebook, including the Vanguard Group. The Vanguard Group is also a top investor in John Deere, Monsanto’s new partner for ‘smart tractors’, bringing all food production and consumption, from seed to data, under the control of a handful of investors.

It’s no surprise that the Facebook page March Against Monsanto, a major American movement in support of labelling and regulating GMOs, was deleted.

Recently India has seen an explosion in e-retailing. From large corporations to entrepreneurs, people all over the country are able to sell what they make to a market that was earlier unreachable to them. Craftsman have been able to grow their businesses, farms have found consumers nearby.

Just like Monsanto with patented seeds, Zuckerberg wants not just a slice, but the whole pie of the basic economy of the Indian people, especially its farmers and peasants. What would Monsanto’s monopoly over climate data mean for farmers enslaved through a Facebook gateway to Monsanto data delivered through an internet that is controlled by Facebook? What would this mean for internet and food democracy?

The right to food is the right to choose what we want to eat; to know what is in our food (#LabelGMOsNow) and to choose nourishing, tasty food — not the few packaged goods that corporations want us to consume.

The right to the internet is the right to choose what spaces and media we access; to choose spaces that enrich us — not what companies think should be our ‘basics’.

Our right to know what we are eating is as essential our right to information, allinformation. Our right to an open internet is as essential to our democracy as our right to save, exchange and sell open pollinated farmers’ seeds.

In the ultimate Orwellian doublespeak, “free” for Zuckerberg means “privatised”, a far cry from privacy — a word Zuckerberg does not believe in. And like corporate-written “free” trade agreements, Free Basics is anything but free for citizens. It is an enclosure of the commons, which are ‘commons’ because they guarantee access to the commoner, whether it be seed, water, information or internet. What Monsanto’s IPRs are to seed, Free Basics is to information.

Smart Tractors from John Deere, used on farms growing patented Monsanto seed, sprayed and damaged using Bayer chemicals, with soil and climate data owned and sold by Monsanto, beamed to the farmer’s cellphone from Reliance, logged in as your Facebook profile, on land owned by The Vanguard Group.

Every step of every process right up until the point you pick something up off a supermarket shelf will be determined by the interests of the same shareholders.

Talk about choice.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate CrisisStolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food SupplyEarth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

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Originally published by Global Research on August 28, 2014

The 2014 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by researchers at the University of Oxford covers 108 countries: 31 Low-Income Countries, 67 Middle-Income Countries and 10 High-Income Countries. These countries have a total population of 5.4 billion people, some 78% of the world’s population.

The MPI assesses poverty at the individual level. If someone is deprived in a third or more of ten weighted indicators, the global index identifies them as ‘MPI poor’, and the extent – or intensity – of their poverty is measured by the number of deprivations they are experiencing. Those indicators and based on health, education and living standards and comprise the following factors: years of schooling, school attendance, levels of nutrition, child mortality, access to cooking fuel, sanitation (open defecation, for example), access to water, ownership of assets, access to electricity and flooring material (eg, dirt).

Based on a rural-urban analysis, of the 1.6 billion people identified as MPI poor, 85% live in rural areas. This is significantly higher than estimates of 70-75% in poverty, where income is used as the basis for determining poverty.

Poverty reduction is not necessarily uniform across all poor people in a country or across population subgroups. An overall improvement may leave the poorest of the poor behind. The highest levels of inequality are to be found in 15 Sub-Saharan African countries and in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The researchers have paid special attention to the situation of the destitute, or what they term the poorest of the poor. Over half of the world’s poor are classed as destitute.

Countries which have reduced MPI poverty and destitution the most in absolute terms were mostly Low Income and Least Developed Countries, with Nepal making the fastest progress.

The situation in India

Eradicating poverty in India requires every person having access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education. According to the MPI, out of its 1.2 billion-plus population, India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan. Some  640 million poor people live in India (40% of the world’s poor), mostly in rural areas, meaning an individual is deprived in one-third or more of the ten indicators mentioned above (malnutrition, child deaths, defecating in the open).

In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower levels. The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, followed by India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

India had the second-best social indicators among the six South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) 20 years ago. Now it has the second worst position, ahead only of Pakistan. Bangladesh has less than half of India’s per-capita GDP but has infant and child mortality rates lower than that of India.

Writing this week in India’s Deccan Herald, Prasenjit Chowdhury notes that according to two comparable surveys conducted in Bangladesh and India in 2006, in Bangladesh, 82% of children are fully immunised, 88% get vitamin A supplements and 89% are breastfed within an hour of birth. The corresponding figures for Indian children are below 50 per cent in all case and as low as 25%t for vitamin A supplementation.

Moreover, over half of the population in India practices open defecation, a major health hazard, compared with less than 10% in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has overtaken India in terms of a wide range of basic social indicators, including life expectancy, child survival, enhanced immunisation rates, reduced fertility rates and particular schooling indicators.

What has gone wrong?

In recent times, India has experienced much publicised high levels of GDP growth. So what is going wrong? Amartya Sen and the World Bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth is occurring through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. To use Arundhati Roy’s term, the poor in India are the ‘ghosts of capitalism’: the ‘invisible’ and shoved-aside victims of a now rampant neoliberalism.

The ratio between the top and bottom 10% of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, this has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. The poverty alleviation rate is no higher than it was 25 years ago. Up to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997 due to economic distress and many more have quit farming.

Assets such as airports, seeds, ports and other infrastructure built up with public money or toil have been sold off into private hands.

Secretive Memorandums of Understanding have been signed between the government and resource extraction-related industries, which has led to 300,000 of the nation’s poorest people being driven from their lands in tribal areas and around 50,000 placed into ‘camps’. As a result, naxalites and insurgents are in violent conflict with the state across many of these areas.

Where have the benefits been accrued from the 8-9% year on year GDP growth in recent times?

 Sit down and read the statistics. Then step outside and see the islands of wealth and privilege surrounded by the types of poverty and social deprivations catalogued by the MPI.

Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (ie the very rich) are the biggest culprits here. Crony capitalism and massive scams have become the norm. It is not too hard to see what is going wrong.

 India’s social development has been sacrificed on the altar of greed and corruption for bulging Swiss accounts, and it has been stolen and put in the pockets of the country’s ruling class ‘wealth creators’ and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping.

Me-first acquisitiveness is now pervasive throughout the upper strata of society. Run out and buy some useless product because Kareena, Priyanka or another icon of deception says ‘because you’re worth it’… but never ever let this narcissism give way to contemplate why the rivers and soils have been poisoned and people are being been made ill in places like Punjab, agriculture is being hijacked by the likes of Monsanto, land is being grabbed on behalf of any number of corporations, the great nuclear power money fest is in full swing or why ordinary people are violently opposing state-corporate power. Much of this acceptance results from deals hammered out behind closed doors. Much of it results because too many are conditioned to be ignorant of the facts or to accept that all of the above is necessary.

This is a country where the majority sanctify certain animals, places, rivers and mountains for being representations of god or for being somehow touched by the hand of god. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism and its hugely powerful corporations that colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism, as well as the ignorance of reality ‘out there’ – what lies beyond the narrow concerns of spend and buy middle class India?

Western capital had known that India has always been ripe for the taking. Consumerism’s conspicuous purchasing and consumption draws on and manipulates the pre-existing tendency to buy favour, the perceived self importance deriving from caste, the sense of entitlement due to patronage, the desire nurtured over the centuries to lord it over and seek tributes from whoever happens to be on the next rung down in the pecking order. Lavish, conspicuous displays of status to reinforce difference and hierarchy have always been important for cementing social status. Now icons of capitalism, whether renowned brand products, labels or product endorsing celebrities, have also taken their place in the pantheon of Indian deities to be listen to, worshiped and acquiesced to.

And the corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

 Seeds, mountains, water, forests and the biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands, the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP. And India suddenly becomes capitalism’s poster boy ‘economic miracle’.

India is suffering from internal hemorrhaging. It is being bled dry from both within and without. Too extreme a point of view? Tell that to the 340 million destitute who make up over half of India’s poor.

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Following a series of disastrous failures in India, one of Coca-Cola’s most important markets, the company is desperate to rebuild its reputation by claiming ‘water neutrality’. But the idea is absurd, writes Amit Srivastava, and does nothing to benefit the communities that suffer from the depleted aquifers it pumps from.

The Coca-Cola company is planning to announce that it is close to replenishing all the water it uses“back to communities and nature” by the end of 2015, well ahead of schedule.

It will take more than PR puff to restore Coca-Cola's reputation in India. Wall-painted sign in Bangalore, India. Photo: Syed Nabil Aljunid via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

It will take more than PR puff to restore Coca-Cola’s reputation in India. Wall-painted sign in Bangalore, India. Photo: Syed Nabil Aljunid via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

As campaigners that have closely scrutinized Coca-Cola’s operations in India for over a decade, we find the company’s assertions on balancing water use to be misleading.

The company’s track record of managing water resources in and around its bottling operations is dismal, and the announcement is a public relations exercise designed to manufacture an image of a company that uses water sustainably – far removed from the reality on the ground.

The impetus for Coca-Cola to embark upon its ambitious water conservation programs globally stems from its experience in India, where the company has been the target of communities across the country holding it accountable for creating water shortages and pollution.

The company has faced crisis in India due to their mismanagement of water resources, including

  • the forced closure of their bottling plant by government authorities in Kerala in 2005,
  • the closure of its 15 year old plant in Varanasi last year,
  • the refusal by government authorities to allow a fully-built expansion plant to operate in Varanasi in August 2014,
  • a proposed plant in Uttarakhand cancelled in April 2014,
  • and the withdrawal of the land allocated for a new bottling plant by the government in Tamil Nadu due to large scale community protests in April 2015.

Coca-Cola’s operations in Jaipur in India are also now used as a case study in colleges and universities on the company’s profound impact on water resources.

The myth of ‘water neutrality’

The suggestion that the world’s largest beverage company can become “water neutral”, as Coca-Cola has suggested, is impossible and deceptive, as the India Resource Center has pointed out in the past. It is not possible for a company whose primary raw material is water, to have ‘neutral’ impact on water resources.

Such a disingenuous suggestion by the world’s largest beverage company is a disservice to the public, and without admission of the massive impact the company has on water resources, there can be no genuine discourse with Coca-Cola on water management.

The company’s claims of having ‘neutral’ impact on water resources are misleading for two principal reasons.

First, water issues are local in their impact unlike, for example, climate change. When Coca-Cola extracts water from a depleted aquifer in Varanasi or Jaipur, the impacts are borne by the local communities and farmers that depend upon it to meet their water needs.

Replenishing an aquifer hundreds of miles away from the point of extraction, as Coca-Cola has often done to ‘balance’ their water use, has no bearing on the health of the local aquifer which Coca-Cola depletes through its bottling operations, nor the privations suffered by those who depend upon it.

Second, the amount of water used to make Coca-Cola products, referred to as the ‘water footprint’, is much more than the water used in the bottling plants. Cane sugar is a major component of Coca-Cola products in India, and as one of the largest procurers of sugar in India, Coca-Cola is well shy of achieving any balance with the water used the production of its sugar sweetened beverages.

The Water Foot Print Network has estimated that it takes 442 liters of water to make one liter of Coca-Cola using cane sugar, and 618 liters of water to make one liter of Coca-Cola product using High Fructose Corn Syrup.

These astounding numbers are not factored into the water replenishment announcement, and Coca-Cola’s claims fall flat if they were to be included – as they ought to be. The numbers used for their announcement are about 200 times less than the actual water footprint of Coca-Cola products.

No more pumping of depleted aquifers!

One of the continuing challenges being faced by communities across India is that the Coca-Cola company has continued to operate its bottling plants in severely water-stressed areas, as well as propose new plants in water-stressed areas where the communities have very limited access to potable water – a fundamental human right.

Any company that wants to establish itself as a responsible user of water would begin by not operating in water stressed areas, a demand that has been made of Coca-Cola but which the company seems to ignore because it will deprive it of profits and access to markets.

Coca-Cola is in the habit of making tall claims and generating false opinions favorable to its own cause, whether it is on water use or public health, and this announcement on water replenishment is just that. Just last week, the company was exposed for setting up a front group, Global Energy Balance Network, to confuse the science around obesity.

Attempting to confuse and mislead regulators and scientific opinion is not new to Coca-Cola. In 2006, one of Coca-Cola’s lobbyists in India admitted that his job “was to ensure, among other things, that every government or private study accusing the company of environmental harm was challenged by another study.”

If Coca-Cola truly wishes to rebuild its reputation in India and mitigate the massive environmental damage caused by its operations, it must stop the greenwashing, stop exploiting depleted aquifers, and engage seriously with its critics and impacted communities.

Amit Srivastava is director of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

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full-289552-syrian-rebels-celebrating-1451404294Syria Rebel “Opposition” Commander’s Assassination, a Major Blow to US-NATO-Saudi Agenda

By Eric Draitser, December 30 2015

News of the death of prominent anti-Assad commander (or ‘terrorist,’ ‘rebel,’ ‘opposition commander,’ etc.) Zahran Alloush has the potential to radically alter the nature of the war in Syria.

USA guerreWar and the Economic Crisis: America Is Being Destroyed By Problems That Are Unaddressed

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, December 30 2015

The failure of leadership in the United States is not limited to the political arena but is across the board.

061128-N-4953E-004Multirole Naval Platforms of the 21st Century. Naval Arms Race and Regional Conflicts

By Brian Kalman and Igor Pejic, December 30 2015

An apparent trend in many navies of the world today is the fielding of multi-purpose vessels along the lines of the traditional LHD platform, but with added capabilities. It appears that in an age of increasingly asymmetrical warfare or limited conflict, both highly modernized and developing navies are acquiring these vessels.

US MilitaryUS Military to Expand Global Operations in 2016

By Thomas Gaist, December 30 2015

The year 2015 will be remembered as a year of expanding global warfare and militarism. (…) The imperialist powers are determined to make 2016 an even bloodier and more dangerous year. Germany and Japan are openly remilitarizing, as their governments seek to whitewash and rationalize the crimes of the World War II era. All of the imperialist powers have seized on the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino to place their populations and economies on a war footing.

H.-ClintonClinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department

By David Sirota, December 30 2015

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

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One hundred years ago European civilization, as it had been known, was ending its life in the Great War, later renamed World War I. Millions of soldiers ordered by mindless generals into the hostile arms of barbed wire and machine gun fire had left the armies stalemated in trenches. A reasonable peace could have been reached, but US President Woodrow Wilson kept the carnage going by sending fresh American soldiers to try to turn the tide against Germany in favor of the English and French.  

The fresh Amerian machine gun and barbed wire fodder weakened the German position, and an armistance was agreed. The Germans were promised no territorial losses and no reparations if they laid down their arms, which they did only to be betrayed at Versailles. The injustice and stupidity of the Versailles Treaty produced the German hyperinflation, the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hitler.

Hitler’s demands that Germany be put back together from the pieces handed out to France, Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, comprising 13 percent of Germany’s European territory and one-tenth of her population, and a repeat of French and British stupidity that had sired the Great War finished off the remnants of European civilization in World War II.

The United States benefitted greatly from this death. The economy of the United States was left untouched by both world wars, but economies elsewhere were destroyed. This left Washington and the New York banks the arbiters of the world economy. The US dollar replaced British sterling as the world reserve currency and became the foundation of US domination in the second half of the 20th century, a domination limited in its reach only by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet collapse in 1991 removed this constraint from Washington. The result was a burst of American arrogance and hubris that wiped away in over-reach the leadership power that had been handed to the United States. Since the Clinton regime, Washington’s wars have eroded American leadership and replaced stability in the Middle East and North Africa with chaos.

Washington moved in the wrong direction both in the economic and political arenas. In place of diplomacy, Washington used threats and coercion. “Do as you are told or we will bomb you into the stone age,” as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told President Musharraf of Pakistan. Not content to bully weak countries, Washington threatens poweful countries such as Russia, China, and Iran with economic sanctions and military actions. Consequently, much of the non-Western world is abandoning the US dollar as world currency, and a number of countries are organizing a payments system, World Bank, and IMF of their own. Some NATO members are rethinking their membership in an organization that Washington is herding into conflict with Russia.

China’s unexpectedly rapid rise to power owes much to the greed of American capitalism. Pushed by Wall Street and the lure of “performance bonuses,” US corporate executives brought a halt to rising US living standards by sending high productivity, high value-added jobs abroad where comparable work is paid less. With the jobs went the technology and business knowhow. American capability was given to China. Apple Computer, for example, has not only offshored the jobs but also outsourced its production. Apple does not own the Chinese factories that produce its products.

The savings in US labor costs became corporate profits, executive renumeration, and shareholder capital gains. One consequence was the worsening of the US income distribution and the concentration of income and wealth in few hands. A middle class democracy was transformed into an oligarchy. As former President Jimmy Carter recently said, the US is no longer a democracy; it is an oligarchy.

In exchange for short-term profits and in order to avoid Wall Street threats of takeovers, capitalists gave away the American economy. As manufacturing and tradeable professional skill jobs flowed out of America, real family incomes ceased to grow and declined. The US labor force participation rate fell even as economic recovery was proclaimed. Job gains were limited to lowly paid domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses, and bartenders, and part-time jobs replaced full-time jobs. Young people entering the work force find it increasingly difficult to establish an independent existance, with 50 percent of 25-year old Americans living at home with parents.

In an economy driven by consumer and investment spending, the absence of growth in real consumer income means an economy without economic growth. Led by Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve in the first years of the 21st century substituted a growth in consumer debt for the missing growth in consumer income in order to keep the economy moving. This could only be a short-term palliative, because the growth of consumer debt is limited by the growth of consumer income.

Another serious mistake was the repeal of financial regulation that had made capitalism functional. The New York Banks were behind this egregious error, and they used their bought-and-paid-for Texas US Senator, whom they rewarded with a 7-figure salary and bank vice chairmanship to open the floodgates to amazing debt leverage and financial fraud with the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall destroyed the separation of commercial from investment banking. One result was the concentration of banking. Five mega-banks now dominate the American financial scene. Another result was the power that the mega-banks gained over the government of the United States. Today the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve serve only the interests of the mega-banks.

In the United States savers have had no interest on their savings in eight years. Those who saved for their retirement in order to make paltry Social Security benefits liveable have had to draw down their capital, leaving less inheritance for hard-pressed sons, grandsons, daughters and granddaughters.

Washington’s financial policy is forcing families to gradually extinguish themselves. This is “freedom and democracy “ America today.

Among the capitalist themselves and their shills among the libertarian ideologues, who are correct about the abuse of government power but less concerned with the abuse of private power, the capitalist greed that is destroying families and the economy is regarded as the road to progress. By distrusting government regulators of private misbehavior, libertarians provided the cover for the repeal of the financial regulation that made American capitalism functional. Today dysfunctional capitalism rules, thanks to greed and libertarian ideology.

With the demise of the American middle class, which becomes more obvious each day as another ladder of upward mobility is dismantled, the United States becomes a bipolar country consisting of the rich and the poor. The most obvious conclusion is that the failure of American political ledership means instability, leading to a conflict between the haves—the one percent—and the dispossessed—the 99 percent.

The failure of leadership in the United States is not limited to the political arena but is across the board. The time horizon operating in American institutions is very short term. Just as US manufacturers have harmed US demand for their products by moving abroad American jobs and the consumer income associated with the jobs, university administrations are destroying universities. As much as 75 percent of university budgets is devoted to administration. There is a proliferation of provosts, assistant provosts, deans, assistant deans, and czars for every designated infraction of political correctness.

Tenure-track jobs, the bedrock of academic freedom, are disappearing as university administrators turn to adjuncts to teach courses for a few thousand dollars. The decline in tenure-track jobs heralds a decline in enrollments in Ph.D. programs. University enrollments overall are likely to decline. The university experience is eroding at the same time that the financial return to a university education is eroding. Increasingly students graduate into an employment environment that does not produce sufficient income to service their student loans or to form independent households.

Increasingly university research is funded by the Defense Department and by commercial interests and serves those interests. Universities are losing their role as sources of societal critics and reformers. Truth itself is becoming commercialized.

The banking system, which formerly financed business, is increasingly focused on converting as much of the economy as possible into leveraged debt instruments. Even consumer spending is reduced with high credit card interest rate charges. Indebtedness is rising faster than the real production in the economy.

Historically, capitalism was justified on the grounds that it guaranteed the efficient use of society’s resources. Profits were a sign that resources were being used to maximize social welfare, and losses were a sign of inefficient resource use, which was corrected by the firm going out of business. This is no longer the case when the economic policy of a counry serves to protect financial institutions that are “too big to fail” and when profits reflect the relocation abroad of US GDP as a result of jobs offshoring. Clearly, American capitalism no longer serves society, and the worsening distribution of income and wealth prove it.

None of these serious problems will be addressed by the presidential candidates, and no party’s platform will consist of a rescue plan for America. Unbridled greed, short-term in nature, will continue to drive America into the ground.

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A recently announced Saudi-led “anti-terror” coalition was met with great skepticism recently.

This is not because of doubts over Saudi Arabia’s sincerity alone, but because of the fact that much of the terrorism the “coalition” is allegedly to fight is an intentional creation of Saudi Arabian foreign policy to begin with.

Image: Saudi Arabia, indisputably the premier state-sponsor of terrorism on Earth, and supplying the ideological “source code” carried forth by Al Qaeda and the so-called “Islamic State,” claims it wants to lead an “anti-terror coalition.” The world is reasonable to call this disingenuous at best, a ploy to continue, or even expand terrorism at worst. 

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CNN’s article, “Muslim nations form coalition to fight terror, call Islamic extremism ‘disease’,” claims:

Calling Islamic extremism a disease, Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a coalition of 34 largely Muslim nations to fight terrorism.

“This announcement comes from the Islamic world’s vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease,” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said.

Asked whether the new coalition could include ground forces, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that “nothing is off the table.”

In reality, decades of documented evidence reveal that the Saudis are the primary conduit through which Western cash, weapons, support, and directives flow into mercenary armies of extremists, indoctrinated by Saudi Wahhabism – a politically-motivated perversion of Islam – and sent to execute joint Western-Saudi  geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and beyond.

In fact, over the decades, one can see a direct relation to the increasing impotence of Western conventional forces and their ability to project power across the planet, and the rise of unconventional terrorist forces that reach into otherwise inaccessible regions in their stead.

Image: The seats were still warm in Riyadh where representatives from Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria sat, discussing with their Saudi sponsors future collaboration as Saudi Arabia announced its “anti-terror coalition.” 

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This does more than the West’s feigned ignorance and surprise to explain why, after a year of allegedly battling the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in Syria, the United States made little progress and only after Russia’s recent intervention, has the terrorist organization’s existence been put in jeopardy.

The rise of ISIS, turns out to be the premeditated machinations of the West and its regional partners. A Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA) report drafted in 2012 (.pdf) admitted:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

To clarify just who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) principality” (State), the DIA report explains:

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

The DIA report makes it clear that Saudi Arabia’s “coalition” is the source of all terrorism, not the solution, and that there already exists a coalition sincerely committed to exterminating the scourge of militant extremism in the MENA region – Russia, China, Iran, and of course Syria itself.

A Facade to Hide Continued Terrorism Behind 

Likely what Saudi Arabia is doing, is attempting to reboot a narrative that, as of late, is increasingly implicating it and many of the members of its “coalition” as the very source of global terrorism. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly involved directly with military operations beyond its borders. Its forces are fighting in neighboring Yemen, and military forces from Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf neighbors have been fighting covertly and semi-covertly in operations stretching from Libya to Syria.

Creating a “coalition” to fight “terrorism,” would give the Saudis another rhetorical ploy to hide their increasingly direct role in supporting militarily the terrorist proxies they have deployed and who are now being defeated across the MENA region. Just as the US has done in Syria, using ISIS as a pretext to involve itself directly and militarily in the Syrian conflict without ever actually fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia is seeking to create a plausible cover story to do the same.

For those interested in truly defeating terrorism globally – recognizing the state sponsors of terrorism and excluding them categorically from solving the problem until they are held responsible for creating it in the first place is essential. Saudi Arabia’s announcement was met with skepticism, even ridicule for this very reason. Second, to defeat terrorism globally, those truly interested in investing in such a battle, should do so with those demonstrating a sincere desire to eradicate this scourge.

Thanks to the US DIA, a list of nations leading the fight has already been provided.

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

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Russian air strikes had destroyed 556 militant targets in 164 combat sorties conducted since December 25. Successfully hit targets were located in Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa provinces. The Russian air support helped the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to stage offensives to the north and east of Latakia Province. Three significant plateaus towards Kabbani and Sirmaniyah fell into the army control.

Separately, the pro-government forces have continued successful advances in the province of Aleppo. The SAA liberated the village of Doudyan and destroyed militant outposts and supply routes in the villages of Tal Jebin, Tal Meseybeen, Shwehene, Maaret Artiq and Shimaeya. The SAA also took control of the village of Sharba.

On Dec. 27 the Iraqi Security Forces declared victory over ISIS militants in the city of Ramadi. The declaration comes after the Iraq forces encircled the city and seized the central administration complex. However, there are many pockets of militants still entrenched in various positions throughout the city. The Iraqi security forces will also have to spend significant time to clear out the remaining improvised explosive devices that infest the city.

Pentagon confirmed that militants were cleared from the government complex. But some US experts have already noted that the Ramadi’s strategic value is repeatedly overestimated. According to them, Ramadi is just one location in the contested Anbar province and the Iraqi army will face serious problems in attempts to clear nearby ISIS locations in Fallujah, Hit and areas west of Haditha. This rapidly reaction marks that Iraq made a serious step in war on ISIS. A series of such steps could increase the Iraqi security forces independence from the US-led coalition support what definitely isn’t a goal of the US political leadership.

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US-Backed Iraqi Forces Recapture Ramadi from ISIS

December 30th, 2015 by James Cogan

The Iraqi government and its prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, have announced that its troops, backed by US air strikes, have driven Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) out of Ramadi, the capital of the country’s western province of Anbar.

Abadi’s boasting on Twitter of the “liberation” of Ramadi, combined with celebrations on state media, follows months of intense bombardment by US war planes and weeks of street-to-street fighting by US armed and trained Iraqi special forces units.

US military spokesman Colonel Steven Warren revealed in a press statement that at least 630 air strikes had been launched against ISIS targets in Ramadi since July. More than 30 were carried out in the past week to support Iraqi troops as they pushed toward the main government complex in the city centre.

No official estimates have been released of either government or ISIS casualties, or the death toll among the Ramadi residents who had not fled. As few as 400 ISIS fighters were estimated to be defending the city, seeking to prevent the government advance with little more than explosives and sniper fire. Reuters was told that 93 government troops were admitted to Baghdad hospitals on Sunday alone.

The city itself is in ruin. Even the sanitised media footage shows utter devastation to blocks of residential housing. A spokesman for the government-endorsed Anbar provincial council, Eid al-Karboly, told the Washington Post: “All the infrastructure of the city has been destroyed. It will take years to return life to the city.” Karboly estimated that 80 percent of all homes are damaged to some degree.

Many of the buildings that have been destroyed in the current efforts to retake Ramadi were only rebuilt in the last seven years, after being reduced to rubble during the US occupation of Iraq.

Anbar province was one of the centres of resistance to the US invasion. Both Ramadi and Fallujah, the other major city in the province, were bloody battlefields between American troops and Iraqi insurgents on repeated occasions between 2004 and 2007. Fighting was only brought to an end by the so-called “Awakening” policy of the US military, which effectively involved buying off the tribal leaders of many of the insurgents and placing tens of thousands of resistance fighters on the US-funded Iraqi government payroll.

The growth of support for ISIS in western Iraq stemmed in large part from the decision by the Baghdad government, which is dominated by religious-based Shiite parties, to systematically reduce support for the predominantly Sunni militias in Anbar after the US withdrawal at the end of 2011. Sunni-based political parties and Anbar tribal leaders were subsequently persecuted.

Amid hostility toward the sectarian policies of the Shiite government, areas of Fallujah and Ramadi were taken over by fighters declaring allegiance to ISIS in early 2014. At the time, the actions of the extremist Sunni movement against the Baghdad regime enjoyed the tacit sympathy, if not overt support, of many of the tribal leaderships that had enlisted into the US “Awakening.” Former US-funded tribal fighters provided much of the manpower and military expertise that ISIS employed to capture most of Anbar and the key northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014, where they routed tens of thousands of poorly-motivated, US-trained government troops.

The last sectors of Ramadi came under complete ISIS control in May 2015. As in Mosul, government forces retreated in disarray, provoking US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to publicly denounce the Iraqi Army for “a lack of will to fight.”

The recapture of the city appears linked to a new set of deals and pay-offs that US officials have struck with the Anbar tribal leaderships, who either have been alienated by ISIS or have concluded it is a lost cause. Daniel Byman, an American analyst of Islamic extremist movements, told the New York Timesyesterday that the Anbar tribes “want a high degree of independence, but they also want to be on the side of the winners.”

The Iraqi government has stressed that the forces used to assault Ramadi were not made up of the largely Shiite troops, some commanded by Iranian officers, which have borne the brunt of defending Baghdad and surrounding areas from ISIS over the past year. Instead, they were a combination of units that have been “retrained” over recent months by US and Australian advisors and what the Wall Street Journal described as a US-backed “thousands-strong force of local Sunni tribal fighters.”

Preparations are now underway for offensives by the same forces to seize back control of Fallujah, as well as, ultimately, Mosul and other ISIS-held towns and villages in the northern province of Nineveh.

Reports indicate that the Sunni tribal force will be handed control of Ramadi once it is fully cleared of ISIS fighters and that the Iraqi Army will withdraw. Such a policy dovetails with the widespread discussion in US and European military and strategic circles that the only way to maintain control over the oil-rich Middle East—after more than a decade of military setbacks and debacles for US policy—is the partition of Iraq and Syria into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish mini-states.

US-Israeli strategist Barak Mendelsohn bluntly headlined a comment in the November edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, “Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq: Why the West Should Plan for a Partition.” Mendelsohn declared that the US and the European powers should carve out an “independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border,” while leaving the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in control of a small Shiite and Christian enclave centred on Damascus.

Other proposals include carving out the majority Kurdish-populated northern provinces of both Iraq and Syria into another statelet—a prospect that is ferociously opposed by the Turkish and Iranian governments, which fear an upsurge of separatist sentiment in their Kurdish regions.

The divisions that were fomented by the US occupation in Iraq to weaken resistance, and then to provoke civil war in Syria against the Assad government, are already responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and forcing millions in both countries to flee their homes. The fact that American and European strategists are contemplating redrawing borders, entrenching sectarian and ethnic conflicts and, most likely, triggering new wars, is testimony to the sheer criminality of imperialist policy in the Middle East.

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Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration

December 30th, 2015 by Lawal Rafiu Adeniran

Book Title: Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration, by Kola Ibrahim, 2015

As a testament to Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisation theory, which is also manifesting in what Mary Kaldor describes as ‘new wars’, a new dimension of conflicts has established itself in International politics. These conflicts now come in form of armed insurgency, violent secessionist, ethno-religious conflicts etc. Africa, no doubt occupies an important seat in the theatre of war.

In Nigeria, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’ Awati Wal-Jihad popularly called Boko Haram has been responsible for the death of over 14,000 people (both combatants and civilians), displacement of over 1.5 million persons, destruction and loot of properties worth billions of naira, abduction of over 220 school girls from Chibok secondary school, bombings of several high profile institutions amongst others. With the Nigerian government and their International principals bereft of any practical solution on how to curb the menace, Kola Ibrahim’s work ‘Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration’ comes to their rescue.

The book provides a scientific analysis of the causes, escalatory factors, response efforts targeted at the conflict and chart a way forward out of this seemingly hopeless state. In what appears to be a complete departure from the conventional method of analysing the conflict, he contends that any investigation into the conflict should not be done outside of the political economy of the society. In total conformity to his hypothesis, Boko Haram and other various ethno-religious terrorist groups are offspring of capitalism and imperialism, the current socioeconomic system embraced by Nigeria and their international principals and not until this system is overthrown all efforts at combating terrorism will only be tantamount to enclosing water in a basket. Even if the government manages to defeat Boko Haram under this current arrangement, it will only enthrone negative peace if the underlining causes of the conflict are not addressed.

However, it is my view that any effort at understanding the trajectory of religious fundamentalism in Nigeria should not ignore the rise and fall of the Maitatsine movement. In the same manner that Boko Haram rise was traced in scientific details to the Uthman dan Fodio Jihad, a detailed analysis of the Maitatsine movement should be done while drawing out similarities with Boko Haram. This work provides little insight into the movement. Of course, this is compensated for by the deep and detailed analyses from various angles, of the rise of terrorism, religious fundamentalism and terrorism, and Boko Haram in particular. This gives a general understanding of various strands of religious fundamentalism and terrorism, including Maitatsine movement.

Also, the use of the word tribe in describing the uniqueness of our culture and relations may not be accurate. Of course, the author used ‘tribe’ and ‘ethnic groups’ interchangeably, which may seem simple and easy to use, especially when writing for general and varied readers, it is however necessary to state that there is a serious debate on the use of tribes in Africa ethnographic analysis. In my view, tribalism is an important element in the racist ideology of colonialism and imperialism. If not what is it that make about 14 million Hausa/Fulani a tribe and less than 4 million Norwegians an ethnic group. If looked at properly, all the characteristics that qualify a group to be tagged as a tribe also existed among the colonial/European people, ethnic groups not tribe is used to describe them. Therefore, tribalism, as much as it is not used to describe western ethnography should not be used in Africa.

Irrespective of these few observations, the book passes as a reference and important library material for understanding our society, even beyond the Boko Haram terrorism or global terrorism. The book utilized various tools to analyzing terrorism and the rise of Boko Haram. Starting with the philosophical, historical and sociological analysis of religion and the tendency of violent and fundamentalist trends developing religions, the book gave a brilliant insight into understanding religious terrorism.

Terrorism is not only a feature in Nigeria; therefore, the effort of the writer in analyzing terrorism from a global perspective gives a better understanding of the rise of religious terrorism in Nigeria in recent times. The role of capitalist geopolitics and imperialism in the rise of religious terrorism and especially Boko Haram is well documented and explained in Chapter 3 of the book.

Furthermore, a deep analysis of the rise of radical religious consciousness in the northern Nigeria, tracing it to the Usman dan Fodio jihad campaign also helps to understand the sociology and historical background to rise of various religious tendencies in the north, and the role of various actors. The book also did a political-economic analysis of Nigeria from the colonial period to the current period. This understanding is necessary in order to understand how Nigeria’s political economy provides the background to radical religious consciousness and the use of religion for political purposes.

The book also looks at the immediate causes of the rise of Boko Haram tendency especially since the beginning of civil rule in 1999 in Nigeria. It explains the role of the political actors and the Nigerian state in providing the breeding ground for the rise of Boko Haram. Furthermore, the military terror against the group, mirroring the neo-colonial and repressive nature of capitalist armed forces, is a refreshing and vivid angle to understanding the rise of Boko Haram tendency.

The book, in conclusion, just like it has provided the clues in the two articles of the Introduction, gave various proposals to the working class, labour movement and civil society in defeating the ogre of terrorism in Nigeria on a permanent basis.

By and large, in a period when scholars in terrorism studies are lost on whether terrorism could ever be abolished or defeated from our society, whether negotiations and mediations, or the killing of the leaders of terrorist organisations could save the world from its self-made mess, Kola Ibrahim brings to spotlight once again that for Boko Haram and global terrorism to be defeated on a permanent basis, we must first of all defeat capitalism. This can only be done when workers take over their unions and rebuild on democratic, anti-capitalist and revolutionary basis. Only a revolutionary socialist government that will put the commanding heights of the economy under workers control can guarantee positive and lasting peace.

I therefore recommend this classic book to students, researchers, policy makers, journalists, politicians and all those who seek alternate narrative and crave for a deeper understanding of Boko Haram, global terrorism and its relationship with capitalism beyond the current peripheral analysis found in literature.

Lawal Rafiu Adeniran, M.A Peace and Conflict Studies, Ibadan, Nigeria.

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Image: USS Stethem

An apparent trend in many navies of the world today is the fielding of multi-purpose vessels along the lines of the traditional LHD platform, but with added capabilities. It appears that in an age of increasingly asymmetrical warfare or limited conflict, both highly modernized and developing navies are acquiring these vessels. These multi-use vessels are being built to provide their nations a power projection capability that is well suited to the likely asymmetrical nature of modern conflict. These vessels can respond quickly to both natural and man-made disasters, providing peace keeping troops, relief supplies, hospital facilities, water purification and helicopter rescue and evacuation. They can also respond quickly to a localized military threat, bringing a significant fighting force to bear in a short interval of time.

In an age of increased state sponsored terrorism these vessels can act as effective offshore command and control stations for anti-terrorism operations. They can accommodate and facilitate the insertion of special operations forces both via air and sea. They can support special operations teams once in the field with air support, up to date reconnaissance, logistical support, and emergency extraction in short duration. In light of the flexibility inherent in these vessels and the power projection capabilities they possess they are a force multiplier in a modern conflict.

Written by Brian Kalman and Igor Pejic exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence. 

Introduction

The many varied nations of the world that have maritime borders operate navies of equally varied composition and capability. From the imperial monolith of the United States to the small island nation of the Philippines or Taiwan, all such nations must maintain navies to ensure their defense, access to trade, relief in events of natural and manmade disaster and to protect their national interests. Regional powers such as India, China and Japan have different security interests and strategies, and their naval composition and capabilities reflect these realities.

China and India are growing in influence and are accordingly investing in modernizing their navies in order to protect expanding interests and to facilitate power projection capabilities. Russia finds itself in similar circumstances, and has spent decades rebuilding a viable and capable naval arm that more apply reflects its proud naval heritage. Japan has found that it must increasingly rely more on itself to ensure its defense in a region of potential adversaries that possess increasingly more capable navies and ballistic missile forces. The offensive military strategies of both the United States and NATO are fueling the decision of many nations to start new building programs, whether they are allied with these institutions or are their targets. China and Russia are reacting to an ever more obvious strategy to contain and control their national growth.

The past fifteen years has seen the United States and its allies engage in numerous military invasions and interventions in the Middle East. All of these operations have utilized strike aircraft, special operations forces and armed and unarmed UAVs as force multipliers. These force multipliers have allowed for successful prosecution of offensive operations while reducing the conventional military forces required, as well as reduced the duration of operations. The success of such operations in localized, low-intensity conflicts is especially evident. Warships that can provide a platform to transport and support small, combined arms units of strike aircraft, helicopter assault or amphibious assault infantry or marines, special operations units, and reconnaissance and attack UAVs are seen as an essential tool in prosecuting the low intensity conflicts of the future.

It is quite evident with minimal research to find that every nation with a significant naval footprint in the world is investing in new multirole vessels. These vessels come in a number of different forms and can be built to particular specifications. The military operations of the past decade and a half are influencing the naval strategy of many nations with the backdrop of two major geo-political centers of tension: the South China Sea and Syria. Conflict or future conflict in these areas will require the forces engaged to utilize these new and flexible tools of power projection in order to prevail.

The Multirole Naval Platform

There are a number of different designs that fit into the category of the Multirole Naval Platform (MRNP). Some of these designs optimize flexibility and provide a balance of command and control, strike aircraft, air and amphibious assault, or cargo space while others are designed to maximize the effect of only one or two of these capabilities. For example, the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) is very flexible, with helicopter and amphibious assault capabilities, ample cargo space and medical facilities for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations and even accommodation of VSTOL strike aircraft. The Helicopter Dock Destroyer (DDH) is aviation-centric, with no amphibious capability. More space is allotted to aircraft and the fuel and armaments they require. The Landing Platform Dock (LPD) is a smaller version of the LHD in many respects, being under 20,000 tons displacement. These vessels are a good alternative to the LHD when the nation lacks the operational or economic ability to maintain the larger LHD, or the vessels will most likely be operating in shallower or more confined waterways. Greater speed and smaller size (stealth) are also benefits of this design. The Landing Ship Tank (LST) is designed to transport and land a combination of infantry and tanks or other heavy vehicles. They may also possess a small number of aircraft for reconnaissance, support and air assault.

Landing Helicopter Dock LHD

The LHD is the most balanced, and thus flexible of all of the MRNP designs. The LHD is the largest design, requiring the dimensions and space to accommodate a large number of aircraft, troops, light and heavy vehicles, cargo and amphibious assault craft. As a result, the displacement of these vessels is usually between 25,000 and 40,000 tons. A good examples of an LHD are the HMAS Canberra L02, USS Wasp LHD1 and SPS Juan Carlos I L61.

Juan Carlos I LHD

Juan Carlos I LHD

These vessels have to be large enough to accommodate the following features:

  • Large flight deck to allow helicopter assault operations and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Large internal aircraft hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck. Often doubles as a cargo deck.
  • Floodable well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft, LCACS and/or amphibious vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 500 and 2,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

Landing Platform Dock

The LPD is a well-balanced multirole vessel; however, on a smaller scale than the LHD. It has comparable flexibility, but at a much smaller scale it lacks the power projection capability of the LHD. It has a small aircraft component, a smaller troop carrying capacity, and less long term self-sustainability. They are designed to provide more amphibious capability than air assault. It is of smaller dimension and displacement than the LHD, coming in at between 8,000 and 20,000 tons. Although their smaller size limits the scope of their operations, they gain the benefit of being able to operate more easily in littoral waters and are less costly to build and maintain. They have a shallower draft and smaller dimensions that lend to them being more suited to more constricted coastal waterways.

San Antonio Class LPD

San Antonio Class LPD

The vessels of the LPD pattern possess the following characteristics:

  • A flight deck that allows for limited helicopter assault and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Small internal hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck.
  • Floodable Well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft and LCACs.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 200 and 1,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

Helicopter Dock Destroyer

The DDH is a relatively new adaptation of the MRNP. The DDH abandons all amphibious capabilities in favor of aircraft assault and aerial strike capability. The only two nations to build and operate DDHs are the United States and Japan. The JMSDF operates three DDHs currently, with a fourth vessel to enter operation in 2016. The United States has only one DDH, the USS America with another the USS Tripoli slated to be commissioned in 2018, if construction and sea trials go according to plan. Although the USS America and USS Tripoli are designated LHAs, they lack the amphibious capabilities of all other LHAs before them and should not be categorized as such. The displacement of a DDH ranges between 19,000 and 46,000 tons.

The Japanese DDHs lack a well deck and all space that would be devoted to amphibious equipment is utilized to support helicopter operations. These vessels act as command vessels in the JMSDF Escort Fleet Flotillas, are loaded with ASW helicopters and other ASW countermeasures along with a full complement of helicopter assault troops. The larger Izumo class DDHs have a large enough flight deck and internal hangar space to equip them with fixed-wing VSTOL aircraft, most likely the F-35B, if so decided in the future. The smaller Hyugaclass DDHs have both been used in HADR operations over the past few years in response to an earthquake and a major hurricane, where their helicopter support and evacuation capability proved of benefit.

Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft

Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft

The notable characteristics of the DDH are as follows:

  • Very large flight deck that can accommodate medium and heavy helicopters and VSTOL strike aircraft and UAVs.
  • Large internal hangar decks to service aircraft.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 300 and 1700 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

The USS America LHA6 has proven to be a controversial topic amongst the US Navy and Marine Corps. Many see the vessel as a small aircraft carrier and do not see the need for such a vessel for the USMC. The USMC’s traditional role as an amphibious force should not be abandoned, and the flexibility exhibited by the force of LHAs and LPDs already operated by the force offer far more flexibility to USMC expeditionary forces than theAmerica Class vessels. Why remove a tool from your toolbox? The USMC has traditionally relied on the US Navy to provide aerial strike capability when so required, and the US Navy has ten aircraft carrier strike groups in service. It has largely been accepted that the USS Tripoli LHA7 will be the last vessel in this class to lack a well deck, with all other vessels in class being redesigned to allow for amphibious operations.

Landing Ship Tank

While traditionally designed to be beached bow-first to discharge tanks and heavy combat vehicles, the LST design has matured to allow for discharge via bow ramp or well deck like the LHA and LPD. Although not really an MRNP due to the limits in its capabilities, more modern LSTs share more in common with the LPD or LHD than in the past. The Navy of the Republic of Korea operates 4 modern LSTs with bow ramps of the Go Jun Bong class, and is currently in the second phase of LST development (LST-II), having designed more capable ships. These vessels usually carry a mixture of tanks, AAVs, and small landing craft as well as support vehicles along with 200 to 300 marines. These vessels lack helicopter assault capability, with only a small helicopter deck fitted.

The JMSDF operates three LSTs; however, their design is more akin to an LPD or LHD, having a stern well deck that houses two LCACs for transporting tanks (up to 10 Type 10 MBTs), vehicles and troops ashore. The Osumiclass vessels also can carry up to eight helicopters for transporting troops or for support and evacuation in HADR operations. Funds have recently been allocated to study the feasibility of refitting these vessels with V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AAV7s for amphibious assault.

ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT

ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT

The LST is usually close in size and displacement to the LPD, though slightly smaller. The bow-ramp LST has a very shallow draft in comparison to its size, due to the requirement to beach the vessel bow-first in order to discharge vehicles. Displacement ranges between 4,000 and 14,000 tons. The characteristics of the LST include:

  • A large bow ramp for discharging tanks, vehicles and troops while beached or a well deck for launching amphibious forces and tanks via LCAC or landing craft.
  • Limited aircraft capability.
  • Ability to carry approximately 10 to 12 MBTs and other vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 250 and 1,000 troops.
  • Limited hospital facilities.

Naval Arms Race in Asia and the Mediterranean

It is obvious to see the benefits of the MRNP with their inherent flexibility, humanitarian support and power projection capabilities. Such vessels would be of benefit to any nation with an extensive maritime border. The benefits are obvious, but why are so many vessels now being built in such a short span of time? These naval building programs are being driven by geo-political developments in two main regions of the globe, the Mediterranean and the Asia-Pacific. This is in direct relation to the wars of regime-change and disruption in the Middle East and the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” and the disputes over contested areas in the East and South China Seas.

When identifying the driving cause, a common denominator is the hegemonic foreign policy of the United States. The wars of regime change that wrought chaos in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and now Yemen and Syria were all spearheaded by the United States and NATO. The result of these operations has been failed states and humanitarian catastrophe for those nations targeted. Syria has been laid waste by a Wahhabist invasion that was created by Saudi Arabia and their emirate allies in conjunction with the United States. The threat of direct military intervention in Syria by the United States in 2014, turned the Mediterranean into the largest possible naval battle ground in recent times.

Nations building/acquiring MRNPs in the Europe/Mediterranean:

France: 3

  • 3 x Mistral Class LHDs built between 2004 and 2012.

Spain: 3

  • 1 x Juan Carlos I Class LHD, 2 x Galicia Class LPDs built by Navantia recently acquired (2010 to present).

Russia: 2 (planned)

  • 2 x Mistral Class LHDs built by France and sold to Egypt. Sold to Egypt in 2015. Now seeking 2 x LHDs of indigenous design and manufacture.

Turkey: 1

  • Building 1 x LPD based on Juan Carlos I Class of Spanish shipbuilder Navantia starting 2015.

Egypt: 2

  • Recent purchase of 2 x Mistral Class LHDs from France in 2015.

In East and Southeast Asia the reality of a resurgent China, a nation that can trace its civilization back for over five thousand years, has been met with open hostility on the part of the United States. Apparently, the U.S. government believes that China should be allowed to expand its economic power, but not its military ability or geo-political influence. In an attempt to hamper Chinese expansion in these areas, the United States has decided to aid China’s potential adversaries at every turn. Nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, wary of any Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and with equal claims to islands and oils and gas fields there, have been on the receiving end of U.S. support and even military assistance.

Nations in Asia building/acquiring MRSVs:

India: 1 (of 4)

  • Acquired 1 x Austin Class LPD from the U.S. in 2007. Plan to acquire a total of 4 x LPDs of a new design by 2020.

China: 4 (of 12)

  • 4 x Type 071 Class LPD built between 2007 and 2015, with 2 more being constructed. Plans to build 6 x LHDs have been in the works since 2005.

Japan: 7

  • 2 x Hyuga Class DDH and 2 x Izumi Class DDH built between 2006 and the present. 3 x Osumi Class LST built between 1998 and 2003.

South Korea: 1 (of 2)

  • 2 x Dokdo Class Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) built between 2007 and the present. The second in class planned to handle VSTOL strike aircraft. A newer LPX design is also in the planning stage.

Indonesia: 4

  • 4 x Makassar Class LPD built between 2007 and 2011.

Philippines: 2 (of 4?)

  • 2 x LPD being built on the Makassar Class pattern in Indonesia. Delivery planned between 2016 and 2017. The Philippine Navy may decide on a total complement of 4 such vessels.

United States: 30 (of 34)

  • This includes 9 x San Antonio Class LPDs built of a planned 12 total vessels between 2006 and the present, as well as 1 x America Class LHA built of a planned 2 total vessels between 2015 and the present.

(It is important to note that the United States is building more new MRNPs than any other nation in this analysis by a wide margin. These new vessels will be added to the older class of LHDs and LSDs that were built and commissioned between 1985 and 2002.)

Geopolitical Flashpoints

There are a number of territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and a number of other nations. These disputes are ostensibly matters of exerting sovereignty over historical territories; however, the likely presence of oil and natural gas and highly prized fishing rights are of far greater importance. The same issues are at the root of the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands.

The war in Syria that has claimed over 250,000 lives and devastated arguably the last secular nation in the Middle East, is another volatile geo-political flash point that has absorbed the efforts of most nations in the Middle East, Russia, the United States and many NATO member states. This is also a conflict centered determining what nations control the flow of oil and natural gas, in this case from the Middle East into Europe, as well as cornering that market as a whole.

The current conflict in Yemen started out as an internal one until Saudi Arabia decided to intervene on the side of the deposed Hadi administration. The Saudis refuse to allow a non-Sunni power friendly to Iran to exist in the region, especially one located on their rebellious southern border region. This conflict has continued to escalate, with numerous allies to Saudi Arabia engaging in airstrikes and naval shelling of the Houthi controlled areas of the country.

The Senkaku Islands

The sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, known as the Daioyu Islands in China, has been in dispute for centuries. China claims that the islands were their territory centuries before they were illegally annexed by Japan at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Japan asserts that the islands were ceded to Japan as part of the ceding of Taiwan “in perpetuity” at the conclusion of the war. Japan surrendered Taiwan to the Chinese Nationalists at the conclusion of World War II, who ended up retreating to the Island at the end of the Chinese Civil War and establishing the Republic of China.

The Senkaku Islands remained in limbo as far as their ownership was concerned, until the government of Japan reasserted sovereignty when they purchased three of the islands from a private Japanese citizen in 2012, effectively legally nationalizing them. China responded by creating a new air-defense identification zone over the islands the following year. Japan upped the ante by forming the Amphibious Preparatory Unit (APU) of 700 men (to be expanded to 3,000), a force of marines that could be dispatched by air or sea to respond to any attempts to occupy the islands. The two nations have sent military aircraft over the islands, and Chinese civilian and auxiliary/research vessels have spared with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the islands’ waters. China sent an armed vessel to the waters of the Senkakus for the first time in late December of 2015, resulting in a formal diplomatic complaint from Japan.

Senkaku-Islands-detail

Senkaku Islands detail

It is easy to see how Japan’s new DDHs and LSTs could be utilized in responding to further moves by the Chinese to exert their sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. The new APU could be deployed to the islands in short order aboard either an Osumi class LST or Hyuga or Izumo class DDH acting as part of one of four Escort Fleet Flotillas. The large DDHs could be equipped with VSTOL F-35B in such a theoretical future conflict over the islands. China would likely use any number of the six Type 071 LPDs in a fleet of escorting warships to occupy the islands and force the issue. It is; however, unlikely that China would attempt to settle the issue militarily before the larger LHDs it has planned for the PLAN come into service in 2020.

South China Sea Disputes

A detailed explanation of the many interlaced territorial disputes in the South China Sea by all the nations involved is beyond the scope of this analysis. There are two main areas of contention: the sovereignty of the entire South China Sea and its legal status as an international waterway for purposes of uninhibited trade, and the sovereignty of particular island chains and shoals. It is theorized that a great deal of oil and natural gas are in abundance under the seabed in many of these disputed areas. Oil and gas exploration and drilling has been underway for a number of years now, most notably in waters south of Vietnam/north of Malaysia and in waters north of Brunei. In pressing its claims of sovereignty China went as far as anchoring an oil exploration rig within the EEZ of Vietnam in May of 2014. Vietnam has a conflicting claim to much of the South China Sea, including the Spratley and Paracel Islands. Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines also have disputed claims in the area .China has taken the unprecedented decision to construct man-made islands at three locations in the Spratly Islands as well as construction in the Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

China most likely started dredging and land reclamation on the first of three man-made islands in the Spratleys sometime in 2011 or 2012. Construction efforts have steadily picked up pace since 2014 and the small reefs and atolls have morphed into artificial islands of thousands of acres in size. China has been building airstrips and port facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, and both Subi and Mischief Reef are undergoing major reclamation. In addition, China is building a fuel depot on Woody Island in the Paracels. China has fought naval skirmishes with Vietnam over control of the Paracel Islands on two separate occasions, one in 1974 and another in 1988.  China has also constructed military outposts in Scarborough Shoal which is also claimed by the Philippines, the islands clearly located within that nations EEZ.

South China Sea conflicting claims

South China Sea conflicting claims

China submitted a formal claim to the United Nations to virtually the entire South China Sea in 2009, which was rejected by that body as it does not comply with established international law governing the establishment of territorial waters. All nations with conflicting claims protested, along with the United States and Indonesia who hold no claims. The building of artificial islands is obviously either an attempt by China to press their claim by occupying and utilizing these islands, or to militarily exert control over the South China Sea as their long term goal. In order to protect these holdings and to react to any threat from prospective adversaries, a navy equipped with LPDs and LHAs is essential. China undoubtedly had this in mind when it started building six LPDs of the Type071 class and designing the new LHAs. The new LHAs are comparable to the Canberra or Mistral class, but are said to be much larger in size, with a displacement approaching 40,000 tons.

The Philippine Navy has received military aid from both Australia and the United States in the face of greater Chinese resolve to solidify their claims. Australia has donated two fully refurbished Balikpapan Class heavy landing craft (LHC) to the Philippine Navy while the U.S. has announced plans to donate two vessels, a decommissioned USCG cutter and a research vessel. Two LPDs based on the Indonesian PT PAL built Makassar are already under construction and should be delivered between 2016 and 2017.

Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.

Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.

It is easy to imagine a future conflict in the South China Sea where all major parties to the conflict will benefit from utilizing newly acquired MRNPs. Vessels that can land marines or assault troops via landing craft or AAVs complete with armored support, combined with air assault elements and that can provide aircraft to provide ground attack and air superiority cover to the attack force are a tool that both China and those aligned with the United States in this dispute have decided they must have. Any asymmetrical warfare that might take place could be commanded and coordinated from LHAs or LPDs. Special forces can operate from these platforms with insertion and extraction by sea or air, with reconnaissance support from the advanced sensors and information systems onboard as well as from UAVs launched and recovered from their flight decks. If a military confrontation happens, whether a result of miscalculation or by design, these new vessels will likely play a large part. As the United States ratchets up pressure in continuous “freedom of navigation” missions with armed warships and strategic bomber forces, the Chinese will be forced to either respond in kind or back down. Hopefully, statesmanship and compromise will prevail.

Chinese Type 071 LPD underway

Chinese Type 071 LPD underway

The War in Syria

The war that has raged in Syria for 5 years now has taken a decisive turn since Russia started its air campaign to aid the Syrian Arab Army in its fight to regain the initiative in the war and destroy the mostly foreign Wahhabist elements fighting the state on behalf of foreign interests. Russia is undoubtedly aiding a longtime ally in a time of desperate need, as well as ensuring its own defense in the long run. Russia has been fighting equally unsavory and illegitimate Wahhabist forces in its own Caucasus republics, and it is reasonable to believe that those forces fighting in Syria, if victorious would turn their sights north toward Russia. They would find willing allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE (all of which are funding and aiding the various terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian state) and Russia cannot allow this to come to pass.

A very defined delineation of adversaries has begun to emerge in this conflict in the form of three distinct blocks. One side is made up of those forces that aim to reestablish the legitimate sovereign state of Syria. They also aim to establish a mutually beneficial logistical route of oil and natural gas transport through their nations to the European market. These nations are Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia. Russia, most importantly seeks to maintain balance.

Combat-radius(airbase+navy)

On another side there are the nations that aim to overthrow the government of Syria and render the nation impotent and malleable to their wishes. They hope to be able to control the groups that they have armed and funded to overthrow the legitimate government in Syria, so that after the war they can leverage beneficial oil and natural gas transit contracts that will allow them to control the transport of oil and natural gas from the Middle East to Europe, while cutting out Iran and Iraq, and undercutting Russian prices. These nations are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

The third side is comprised of nations that hope to continue the destabilization of the entire region to the detriment of Russia and Iran. They would rather see the Saudi alliance gain control of oil and natural gas transit to Europe than the Syria-Iraq-Iran alliance. This forces Russia and Iran to invest resources into fighting regional conflicts, while they continue to militarily surround them and fund internal forces to destabilize them. This side is composed of the United States and NATO.

The Case of the Russian Mistrals

Although the much hyped reason that France reneged on the contract to deliver two Mistral Class LHDs, theVladivostok and the Sevastopol, to Russia was the Russian “invasion” of the Ukraine and the “annexation” of the Crimea. Although the invasion and annexation were the fantasy creation of a concerted western media and White House propaganda campaign, they were just a convenient cover for the real reason that the Mistralscould not be delivered to Russia. The true reason was a very possible, and by September of 2015, real Russian intervention in Syria.

The United States and NATO, at times in coordination with the Saudi Arabia/Gulf emirate alliance, had been deeply invested in the overthrow of the Syrian government since the start of conflict in 2011. Turkey, also a member of NATO, is deeply involved in the conflict for a number of reasons, and due to its geographical location stands the most to lose from a Russian intervention. It became apparent when Russia responded to a very possible direct military intervention by the United States and NATO in 2013 by moving a large number of warships into the Mediterranean, that it wasn’t just the U.S. that had a red line that could not be crossed. Russia was ready for war, but fortunately Russia was able to broker a deal to exchange Syrian chemical weapons for de-escalation. The U.S. administration should have understood at this juncture that Russia would not allow the Syrian government to be overthrown by an unlawful military campaign. If Russia was to intervene as a collapse of the Syrian government seemed likely, the addition of two Mistral Class LHDs to their naval assets could not be tolerated.

Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials

Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials

It is arguable that at least one of the Mistrals, the Vladivostok would be available to take part in Russia’s current operations in Syria. The crew had been training for over a year in preparation for its commissioning in 2014. This vessel would have been a great asset positioned off the Syrian coast, being able to respond to support the airbase in Lattakia or to deliver ground attack support and troop transportation along the entire Syrian coast. It could act as a powerful joint naval/land force command ship and could support aerial operations with a force of reconnaissance UAVs. If need be, Russian marines and Spetsnaz could also deploy from this floating base of operations. It would have been a force multiplier in the region, and would definitely have influenced any calculus on the part of Turkey. It could also have been position in the Black Sea or close to the Bosporus to influence the decision making of the Erdogan regime or to react to any Turkish provocations.

Russia is determined to acquire LHDs or LPDs for the Russian Navy. It has announced with the cancellation of the Mistral deal that it will be asking indigenous ship builders to provide the government with designs for a similar platform to meet the needs of the Ministry of Defense (MoD). It is interesting to note that Turkey signed a contract in May of 2015 with Navantia of Spain to build an LPD based on the Juan Carlos I LHD design. This is the same design that was used as the basis of the Royal Australian Navies newly commissioned HMAS Canberra and soon to be commissioned HMAS Adelaide. Apparently, Turkey will be receiving one of these modern power projection vessels before Russia does. Russia lost a valuable head start when they decided to trust France to honor a basic contract. Apparently two centuries of peaceful relations between the two nations after the defeat of Napoleon mean little to the French leadership of today.

The Yemen Conflict and the Indian Ocean

It appeared, with the overthrow of an illegitimate ruler who gained office in an election where there was only one candidate that Yemen was moving towards stability, after a period of civil war and terrorism. Not long after the forces of the Houthi and Saleh aligned factions forced the Saudi aligned Abd Radduh Mansur Hadi to flee the country in February of 2015, the Saudi Arabian Airforce started bombing the impoverished country. It was clear that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate a predominantly Shia Houthi movement that shares good relations with Iran to take control of the nation that is on their disputed southern border. A coalition of nations under the leadership of Saudi Arabia has since been formed partly due to Saudi inability to prevail militarily and partly to add an air of legitimacy to the illegal Saudi invasion. The Houthis have been able to hold roughly a third of the country, with the other two thirds are controlled by the Hadi government and Ansar-al Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It is interesting to note that the Saudi-proxy terrorist groups have flourished in Yemen since Saudi Arabia started their campaign.

It was announced in September of 2015, that the two Mistral Class LHDs that were denied to Russia were purchased by Egypt. Egypt is a member of the Arab League sanctioned coalition that is engaged in the conflict in Yemen and currently has air and naval assets engaged. It remains to be seen if the conflict will see the use of the two LHDs at some future date. With the Saudi led coalition making little headway in the conflict, even with the aid of terrorist bombings by their allies in Ansar al-Sharia and AQAP, there may be time remaining to the Egyptian Navy to take delivery of the vessels, train the vessel crew and Ka-52 air crews and add these powerful vessels to the naval assets already engaged in the conflict.

Yemen-conflict

It is important to note that the entire Indian Ocean is growing in strategic importance in light of developments over the past three decades. India is positioned between a volatile Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa to the west and a traditional enemy in Pakistan and an ever increasingly assertive China to the east. India has wisely responded by modernizing its aircraft carrier force with the acquisition of a Soviet Era Kiev Class aircraft carrier, which was heavily modified and commissioned into the Indian Navy as the INS Vikramaditya in 2013. The INS Viraat, a former British Centaur Class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, is also in service, but is slated to be replaced by the indigenously designed and built INS Vikrant by 2018. INS Vikrant will commence sea trials this coming year. The Indian Navy has called for proposals for its Multirole Support Vessel (MRSV) project, and has specified an LHD design of between 20,000 and 27,000 ton displacement. It appears that Navantia is the leading contender to win the contract; however the DCNS designed Mistral 140 concept, at a much smaller displacement of 14,000 tons may be a contender.

Conclusions

The world is currently faced with a number of regional conflicts that could easily and regrettably become conflicts of global proportion. Nations as small and as economically limited as the Philippines to the military juggernaut that is the United States, have moved in recent years to acquire vessels that allow them flexibility, power projection capability, and asymmetrical warfare options in an ever increasingly complex geo-political landscape. From the Middle East to East and Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean, the world is challenged by conflicts that defy international law regardless of the claims of the perpetrators. All of these conflicts have been decades in the making.

As the nations on every side of these conflicts plan their strategy, both diplomatically and militarily, one fact stands out loud and clear. They have all either acquired or are in the process of acquiring multirole naval platforms such as the LHD,LPD,LHA or DDH to empower their navies and to provide more options to diplomats, military planners and warfighters to stay one step ahead in an ever changing geo-political landscape. These vessels are not game-changers on their own, but when employed as a component of a modern naval force, they provide an added power projection capability and a host of options to naval strategic planners. They are a force multiplier in 21st century naval warfare.

It remains to be seen how the current conflicts and disputes will be resolved by all of the assorted stakeholders. The fact that these vessels are being added to the naval inventories of many of the real or potential belligerents of these conflicts and disputes carries the probability that they will be used in the future. All we can do is hope that their inherent power and capabilities will work as a deterrent to conflict and war, and that they will one day be looked on in awe as a tool ultimately left sheathed, while intimidatingly ensuring peace.

Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.

Igor Pejic graduated Political Science Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science and now he is a postgraduate student on the MA Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

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Part 1 of 3. Read part 2 and part 3.

Despite the end of NATO combat operations in December 2014, US drones continued to launch strikes in Afghanistan throughout 2015 as part of its (ahem) non-combat mission. British drones departed Afghanistan for the Middle-East with Adrian Chiles giving us an inside view of RAF Waddington, home of British drone operations. Meanwhile, in a classic example of having your cake and eating it, defence companies are now unashamedly marketing anti-drone devices to protect us from the drones that they are selling. With all the money sloshing around the industry, it’s perhaps no wonder that the ASTRAEA programme was denied further government funding.

purple-alphabet-letter-b2015 saw the publication of a number of excellent new books examining the technology, politics and ethics of the growing use of armed drones.  Also expanding are the number of US drone bases around the globe, with Africa being a particular focus (recent reports also suggest Suffolk in the UK is to be the site of a new US drone operations centre). Pakistan surprisingly joined the armed drone users club in 2015 with its Burraq drone launching strikes in North Waziristan.  Less surprising perhaps is the fact that despite all the media hype, Britain’s Brimstone missile has yet to be integrated onto British drones.

cCivilian casualties from drone and air strikes in Iraq and Syria are mostly invisible in mainstream media reports, yet casualty recorders like Airwars report they are growing week by week. The use of civilian contractors to maintain US military drone programs came under the spotlight in a TBIJ investigation this year – and is likely to increase with the push to increase Combat Air Patrols.  In the UK, project Claire  (CiviL Airspace Integration for RPAS in Europe) took a worrying step forward with the first flight of a military drone in unsegregated civil airspace.

dMore British drones deployed to the Middle East for operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria at the beginning of the year. Despite calls for greater openness and transparency, the number of British drones in use against ISIS is officially asecret (but Shhh! the Defence Secretary seemed to have forgot when he told the French press that all ten are in operation).  David Cameron committed to again double the UK’s armed drone fleet (after doubling the number in operation in 2014) as part of the strategic defence and security review.  David Davis took over as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones and initiated an important debate around the use of drones for targeted killing. The UK’s Cross Government Working Group on drones promised a public dialogue on drones which so far at least, has been neither public nor a dialogue.

e-a-zThe debate on whether the growing use of armed drones is an effective means of creating peace and security continued throughout the year with the rancorous TV debate between Glen Greenwald and Christine Fair being an extreme example. A US government report meanwhile found that the use of Reaper drones by US Homeland Security to protect US borders had been largely ineffective.  Enrique Iglesias needed surgery on his hand after grabbing a drone during a concert in May, one of numerous reports of injuries from civil drones.  At the end of the year Germany announced that it was taking over the leadership of the European combat drone development programme.

FFunding for drone development and operations seems limitless despite on-going spending cuts in the UK and the US.  Leaders from different faith communities spoke out against the use of drones for targeted killing with leaders writing a joint letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders.  Despite the ‘pinpoint precision’ of drone strikes, there have been a number of reported friendly firedeaths from strikes in Iraq during 2015.  Meanwhile the organisers of theFarnborough air show are keen to have a Reaper or Global Hawk drone take part in the flying display next year to “help people get comfortable with the idea” of drones.  Chances of either the drones flying, or the public being comforted, are slim to non-existent.

GA new report from Corporate Watch detailed the impact of Israeli drones in Gaza – an issue that gets little attention from most drone watchers – while Israeli security services began to use surveillance drones to monitor protests in the West Bank.  We learnt this year that RAF pilots are lent as a gift of services to the USAF in order to operate US armed drones, while leaked documents suggested GCHQ also gifting intelligence to the US for its drone strikes.  Google’s attempts to steal Amazon’s thunder ended in tears as its massive solar-powered drone crashed shortly after take-off.

letter_hThe USAF’s main drone training centre, Holloman AFB in New Mexico, is to undergoing a dramatic expansion in 2016 to match the ever expanded need for drone pilots.  21-year old British hacker Junaid Hussain was killed in a US drone strike in Syria in August 2015, one of ten Britons killed in such strikes according to TBIJ figures.  After president Obama apologised and promised an investigation into the deaths of two western hostages in a US drone strike, a coalition of human rights groups urged the same treatment for all civilian victims of US drone strikes.

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New York: Christmas Eve in The City That Never Sleeps?

December 30th, 2015 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The city that never sleeps? Well, this Christmas eve New York is defying that moniker.

Although the metropolis may awaken after midnight, it’s presently deserted. Park and Fifth Avenues twinkle on through the evening while their residents abandon streets and highways, malls and markets, parks and bike lanes to join family and friends indoors, even on this warm winter night. Up and down the wide avenues of Manhattan millions of miniature lights still sparkle, embracing tree trunks and reaching through invisible, naked branches. Dazzling decorations that lured shoppers are now but shadows behind dimmed window panes. Curbside parking space is plentiful; taxi drivers have burrowed their cars in suburban garages; fruit vendors, the only merchants in sight, are shuttering their vans.

I pass Symphony Space with its marquee in darkness. Starbucks at 95th is lifeless; although I see lights on atMcDonalds on 96th.  Their coffee maker is off; and those employees chatting inside must be waiting to be paid their bonus. (Does McD give Christmas bonuses?). One working mother guarding McD’s door against any new customers unapologetically announces that she’s heading home early today.

Forget any last minute stocking stuffer, a bottle of perfume, chocolates, or wine. Shoppers had their chance; now workers deserve some respite. Do I detect an uncharacteristic respect for workers’ family needs this night? “We’re closed”, whispers a silent Wall Street. For one evening and a day, this mercilessly capitalist center succumbs to ‘tradition’, if not religious conviction.

I don’t remember New York streets as vacant like at 9 pm today. Broadway in lockdown! South Asian cooks in masala bars, Japanese sushi roll wrappers, and Afghan taxi drivers all bend to America’s Christmas (if not Christian) tradition and depart for distant lodgings. No quick pickups from cheap Chinese fast food joints or the Halal shawarma street-carts tonight.

After finishing my radio special after 7 o’clock, I head towards Brooklyn’s Schermerhorn subway station. The streets have emptied. Seeing a handsome brightly lit store selling fresh produce, juices, and organic cereals, I step inside for some bulgar wheat—$8.00. a pound!– but I’m unlikely to find it anywhere else tonight. Four attendants hover in the aisles with no one to serve. (Are they too awaiting their yearend bonus?)

At least the A train to Manhattan is still running and I board a near empty car. Beside me, a groggy fellow, in laborer’s clothes is either drugged or he drank too much at his company party; he teeters beside me all the way out of Brooklyn, then finally stretches himself out over five empty seats as we tunnel towards Manhattan. Three other passengers across from me emit the ambience that identifies ‘tourist’ to any native New Yorker. They’re conversing in French, as are two casually dressed men seated nearby. I spot a young woman an orange hijab browsing through her phone: intense, but not French.

That’s it. What a reversal of mood since I traveled on this very route only 6 hours earlier! Then, subway platforms on the A-Line were not only jammed with commuters; they thrummed with seasonal music proffered by a variety of ‘holiday’ entertainers who know we’re especially generous these days. A cacophony of sound behind me stirs my curiosity and, walking along the platform, I find its source– a man plucking a guitar and stomping his tambourine-wrapped foot while mouthing some unrecognizable tune. Awful. Yet a surprising number of people stop to photograph his pitiful drama. The man’s disharmony is surely a ploy to draw us to his ‘stage’, a presentation as crude as his music and unarguably below NYC’s street-music standards.

There in front of him, and us, five foot-high dolls are perched, each dressed in a colorful bra and skirt. Electrically animated by the man’s vigorous foot slapping, they shake and shimmy, while on a shelf above them, three furry toys– a rabbit, a bear and a monkey– twirl. “Oh look!” squeals a young mother, parking her baby in its stroller. Calling two older children towards the display, the enthusiastically snaps a photo. (Her daughters are less impressed.) Meanwhile passing travelers drop dollar bills into a bowl at the man’s elbow. Others raise their phone cameras towards the makeshift stage, then move on.

I step into the next train to join workers and shoppers heading to Brooklyn. The train car is crowded but four tall men somehow make their way among us, three wearing red Santa caps, followed by one shaking a small brown bag at us. The singers start with “Jingle Bells”, then shift to “Silent Night” in the genre of African American gospel music. I can’t find any singles when I reach into my purse, but the fellow handling the quartet’s ‘donations’ rushes to assist me. Seeing my $10. note, he smiles: “I can give you change”, and reaches into his own sack to help me out. Am I to announce my contribution, divided by four, to the whole train? The carolers, waiting, are into a second verse of Silent Night. An awkward moment.  How can I ask for change? So I drop my tenner into the proffered bag forthwith and murmur a blessing to his “Merry Christmas” thankyou.

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News of the death of prominent anti-Assad commander (or ‘terrorist,’ ‘rebel,’ ‘opposition commander,’ etc.) Zahran Alloush has the potential to radically alter the nature of the war in Syria. 

Considering Alloush and other senior members of the leadership of the Salafist militant group Jaish al-Islam were killed in a major airstrike carried out by the Syrian air force, there is undoubtedly going to be a transformation on the ground as initiative on the battlefield, particularly in Southern Syria, shifts still further to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.

With Alloush out of the picture and, based on reports coming from sources inside the opposition, significant disarray at the uppermost echelons of leadership of the barely cohesive “Islamic Army,” it seems clear that the Syrian government is likely to move in to reestablish control of Douma, Ghouta, and other rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.

However, while many international observers lament the loss of this “iron-fisted leader” less than a month ahead of planned peace talks set to take place in late January 2016, nearly all analyses of this development have failed (deliberately omitted?) to elucidate just what the rebel groups under his command were doing in Ghouta and Douma, the nature of the ongoing war within the war between the Syrian military and the factions in control of these key suburbs, and the propaganda about the key strategic corridor and the events that have taken place there, including the infamous “Douma market attack” of August 2015 (which I debunked here).

By examining the wealth of information about Alloush, his ideology, his organization, and their activities in the rebel stronghold suburbs of Damascus, it becomes clear that the airstrike that ultimately killed him and many of his Salafist comrades did far more than simply kill a leader of an important rebel group.  Rather, this was a monumental, and perhaps mortal, blow to an entire segment of the rebel-terrorist coalition fighting against the Syrian government and people.

Zahran Alloush: Reality vs Perception

In the days since Alloush’s death there have been, rather predictably, numerous articles written about the assassination, nearly all of which portray Alloush as something of a ‘moderate,’ a man who by the sheer force of his personality and will led an armed faction which stood as “defenders of the true revolution” in their steadfast opposition to both Assad and the Islamic State.  One could be forgiven for thinking that Alloush was a patriot doing his part to defend Syria from the Islamic State and the brutal dictatorTM rather than a vicious Salafist who committed countless war crimes against the Syrian people, among others.

Take for instance the New York Times, writing just hours after the assassination was announced:

Mr. Alloush led the Army of Islam, a group that had recently agreed to participate in a political process seeking to end the five-year-old conflict…Analysts said the strikes were in keeping with longstanding efforts by the Syrian government and its allies to eliminate groups claiming to occupy a middle ground between Mr. Assad and the Islamic State. The efforts are part of a broader objective to improve Mr. Assad’s standing among Western governments, which despise him but also see the Islamic State as an increasing menace.

Consider the implication of the phrase “groups claiming to occupy a middle ground between Mr. Assad and the Islamic State.”  While this is classic corporate media faux-objectivity, the reality is that this is cleverly constructed misinformation designed to validate and legitimize an absolutely discredited notion, namely that there is a significant difference between the ideology of Alloush’s organization and that of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).  Indeed, the NYT here is unsurprisingly bolstering official Washington’s line that the US must support “moderate opposition” which, in the subtext of that phrase, is everyone who is not ISIS/ISIL.  But real experts on Syria recognize that this is merely political window-dressing, that in fact the difference between Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate), and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is just words; these organizations compete for influence and control, but do not truly differ ideologically.

Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on Syria, suffers no such delusions about Alloush.  In December 2013, Landis wrote:

Zahran Alloush’s rhetoric and propaganda videos provide much insight into his world view, attitude toward Syria’s religious minorities, and vision for Syria’s future. The difference between his ideology and that of al-Qaida groups is not profound. Rather, it is one of shades of grey. [The video linked in the article] is an anti-Shiite tirade and “bring-back-the-Umayyad-Empire” propaganda piece. It shows how sectarian Alloush is. He refers to Shiites, and reduces the Nusayris into this grouping, as “Majous”, or crypto-Iranians…  Here it is an Islamic term of abuse meant to suggest that Alawites and Iranians not only have the wrong religion but also the wrong ethnicity—they are not Arabs, but crypto-Iranians…[This] demonstrates how demonized the Alawites are in the propaganda of the new Islamic Front.  Zahran calls for cleansing Damascus of all Shiites and Nusayris… On hearing this sort of talk from the leaders of the revolution, Alawites and other non-Sunni sects worry that their struggle is a fight for their very existence [emphasis added].

This video and the language of Alloush demonstrates [sic] how difficult it is to draw a clear line between the ideology of the Islamic Front and that of the al-Qaida groups [emphasis added]. They both embrace foreign jihadists and encourage them to come Syria to join the fight. They both call for the resurrection of an Islamic Empire and they both look back to the Golden Age of Islam for the principles upon which the new state will be founded. Their political philosophy and blue print for the future is largely based on a similar reading of Islamic history and the Qur’an.

Some analysts try to draw a clear line between al-Qaida and the Islamic Front, insisting that the former support changing Syria’s borders and seek to establish a Caliphate while the latter are Syrian Nationalists. Unfortunately, this distinction is not evident in their rhetoric. Both idealize Islamic Empire, both reject democracy and embrace what they call shari’a, both welcome jihadists from the “Islamic Umma,” both fly the black flag of Islam rather than the Syrian flag as their predominant emblem. The Islamic Front is dominated by Syrians who do have clear parochial interests, whereas ISIS is run by an Iraqi. Foreigners play a dominate role in its command, but this is not so with the Islamic Front. All the same, their ideologies overlap in significant ways.

Landis, well known as a fierce critic of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Government, here removes the mask from Alloush and quickly debunks and thoroughly discredits any attempts to manufacture moderation in the figure of Alloush.  Far from being one of the mythical “moderates” that Obama & Co. are always prattling on about, Alloush is unmistakably a jihadist of the first order, one whose ideology, as Landis correctly noted, is not at all different from that of Al Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL.  Indeed, this is only further confirmed in this video where, as Landis points out, Alloush:

“goes to some lengths to explain that his relationship with Nusra [al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria] is one of brotherhood with only superficial ideological differences that can be settled with shari’a and discussions. This supports my argument that the ideological differences between the Front and al-Qaida are not deep.”

Of course, rhetorical flourishes aside, the question of actual crimes committed by Alloush and his jihadi comrades is critical to examine.  In late 2014 and early 2015, Alloush commanded Jaish al-Islam to fire rockets indiscriminately onto Damascus, a blatant war crime.  Many Syrians were killed in these attacks.   It is important to note that while the pro-rebel media outlets would make an equivalence between such attacks and the infamous “barrel bombs” of the Syrian Arab Army, the reality is that these are simply not comparable.  The aerial offensives carried out by Syria’s air force have targeted rebel strongholds with clear military and strategic targets, while the Jaish al-Islam rocket attacks were fired at civilians without any specific targeting.  This is not to say one has to sanction the SAA’s tactics, just to understand the difference between them and those used by the rebels.

Whether one wants to use this to absolve Assad and the Government of blame or not, the inescapable fact is that bombardment by the military was never indiscriminate.  By contrast, the purpose of Alloush’s bombardment of Damascus was solely to inflict terror on the population of Syria’s capital, and to take revenge for attacks carried out by the Syrian armed forces.  Charles Lister, a vehemently anti-Assad analyst with the Brookings Doha Center, noted in a tweet that referenced an announcement by Alloush via twitter, that “Jaish al-Islam has begun a massive mortar & Grad rocket attack on central #Damascus, to ‘cleanse the capital.’”  Indeed, the use of the word “cleanse” is instructive as it illustrates the attitude and ideology of Alloush as it is practiced on the battlefield.  His desire to ethnically cleanse Syria was never mere rhetoric.  Any way you slice it, Alloush and Jaish al-Islam committed this act that constitutes a war crime.

Interestingly, Alloush’s ideological and rhetorical brotherhood with the Nusra Front translated into on-the-ground collaboration, particularly at the infamous massacre in the Damascus suburb of Adra.  While pseudo-alternative media propagandists such as James Miller at The Intercept callously claimed that no massacre occurred at Adra, instead claiming that RT and other non-Western media that reported it were simply spreading disinformation, Miller and his ilk’s attempts to cover up what truly happened fell flat.

Award-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn, writing in the UK Independent on February 9, 2014, painted a chilling portrait of the horrors of the Mhala family and others in Adra.  Cockburn wrote:

Accounts of what happened to the rest of the population of Adra are confused. I spoke to some of the 5,000 refugees who had been allowed to leave by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front on 30 December and some of whom are now squatting in a giant cement factory. They said the jihadis had ordered them to their basements and had kept them there. The number singled out for execution is put at between 32 and 80. There are accounts of the doctor in the local clinic, a Christian known locally as Dr George, being decapitated. Bakery workers who resisted their machinery being taken away were roasted in their own oven. Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic Front fighters went from house to house with a list of names and none of those taken away then has been [sic] since. This includes the head of the legal department at the Information Ministry who disappeared with his wife and daughter and whose phone is now being answered by a man saying he belongs to Jabat al-Nusra.

It is critical to note the close collaboration here between Nusra and the Islamic Front, the coalition in which Alloush’s Jaish al-Islam is a founding member and plays a central role.   A resident of Adra, the wife of a doctor in town, explained that,

“The armed men were non-Syrians. We lived terrible days, before we could escape with only the clothes that we wore…We woke up at dawn with the sound of bullets… we saw men carrying black flags of Jaish al-Islam and Jabhat al-Nusra. Some of them were singing ‘Alawites we have come to cut off your heads’ song, and this was the song they first sang at the start of the war in Idlib.”

Such egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity are par for the course for Jaish al-Islam.  In early November 2015, just weeks before Alloush was finally killed, Jaish al-Islam made international headlines after parading caged civilians through the streets of Ghouta, with cages of women being placed atop the organization’s headquarters and other key buildings to act as human shields against possible Syrian or Russian airstrikes.

According to the corporate media’s own darling, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (the one-man anti-Assad operation run by Rami Abdel Rahman which has become the primary source for much of the western media’s reporting on Syria), Jaish al-Islam “spread cages over several areas and squares in the Eastern Ghouta putting inside them regime forces’ officers, soldiers and their families.”   Despite the attempt by SOHR to soft-peddle the war crime by characterizing the victims as “regime forces and their families,” the obvious barbarity of such an act is not lost on any genuine political observer.  Such actions certainly go a long way toward debunking the spurious assertion that Alloush and Jaish al-Islam (or Alloush’s original group Liwa al-Islam) are anything that could be described as “moderate.”

Their terrorist credentials are further bolstered by the dastardly role they played in the chemical weapons attack, and subsequent attempts to derail the dismantling of the chemical weapons stockpile by the Syrian Government.  Even if one were to dispute the very provocative alleged video evidence (herehere, and here with excellent, balanced analysis here) of Alloush’s Liwa al-Islam (his organization before consolidation as Jaish al-Islam) there are clear and unmistakable connections between Alloush and the entire chemical weapons saga in Syria.

According to military and strategic analyst, and retired Brigadier General, Ali Maqsoud, the Liwa al-Islam forces arrayed in Jobar included “the so-called ‘Chemical Weapons Front’ led by Zahran Alloush [the supreme leader of Liwaa al-Islam]. That group possesses primitive chemical weapons smuggled from al-Qaida in Iraq to Jobar, in the vicinity of Damascus…[they used]rockets [which] were manufactured domestically to carry chemicals. They were launched from an area controlled by Liwaa al-Islam.”

Maqsoud’s analysis was substantiated by a comprehensive report released in January 2014 (more than four months after the incident), by former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Prof. Theodore Postol of MIT which effectively debunked the claims of the US government (along with Human Rights Watch and a number of other organizations) that the Syrian military carried out the attack.  The Lloyd/Postol report showed definitively that US intelligence and conclusions regarding the incident were grossly inaccurate. The report, entitled Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013, notes that:

The Syrian improvised chemical munitions that were used in the August 21 nerve agent attack in Damascus have a range of about 2km…[The evidence] indicates that these munitions could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘heart’, or from the eastern edge, of the Syrian Government-controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on August 30, 2013…The UN independent assessment of the range of the chemical munitions is in exact agreement with our finding.

In other words, Lloyd and Postol confirmed with their findings that the chemical attack of August 21, 2013, which almost led to a direct US military intervention, was carried out from area controlled by Alloush and Liwa al-Islam.  This is further substantiated in Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh’s infamous April 2014 exposé The Red Line and the Rat Line which noted that:

The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons… Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing…[which] drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large-scale production effort in Syria.’

Naturally, this must be seen in connection with the now well established fact that Alloush is essentially an agent of Saudi Arabia.  Without funding and support from Riyadh, Alloush’s organization would never have even gotten off the ground at the outbreak of the war in Syria in early 2011. Christof Lehmann of nsnbc wrote in October 2013 that:

Several commanders of al-Qaeda brigades in Syria have stated that Zahran Alloush receives his orders directly from Saudi Intelligence. Russian diplomatic sources stated… that people of many different political observances have provided information to Russian diplomats.  Statements to the effect that Zahran Alloush receives his orders directly from the Saudi Intelligence are corroborated by the fact that both Alloush and the Liwa-al-Islam are financed by the Saudi Interior Ministry. The group was literally established with Saudi money after Alloush was released from prison in 2011 [just weeks before the first unrest in Syria began].  According to international law, this fact alone is sufficient to designate Alloush and the Liwa-al-Islam as Saudi mercenaries.

There was an obvious direct line between Riyadh and Ghouta with Alloush and his organization.  That line has now been permanently severed with his death and those of other key figures of the organization.  This will have major implications for the future of the war in Syria, especially with the beginning of a peace process coming at the end of January 2016, less than four weeks from the time of publication.

Part Two of this article will focus on the implications of Alloush’s elimination for the future of this war.  How will this major setback for the rebel/terrorist factions impact any negotiations?  How will it affect the military situation on the ground?  The article will also attempt to place into a broader narrative the “war within the war” between the Syrian military and the Alloush-led rebel groups in the Damascus suburbs.

For now, one thing is certain: this assassination marks a major turning point in this bloody, nearly five year old war.

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In last week’s review of the Russian military intervention in Syria I wrote that Kerry had lost every single negotiation he ever had with the Russians and that he had a record of agreeing to A only to come back to the US and then declare non-A. This time again, the Americans did not change their modus operandi, except that it was Obama himself who declared, yet again, that Assad must go, resulting in some commentators speaking of a “White House Schizophrenia”. Others, however, noted that this could be simply a case of face saving denials. Personally, I think that both of these explanations are correct.

There is no doubt that Obama is an exceptionally weak, and even clueless, President. The man has proven to have no vision, no understanding of international relations, his culture is minimal while his arrogance appears to be infinite – he is all about form over substance. This is the ideal mix to win a Presidential election in the USA, but once in the White House this is also a recipe for disaster.

When such a non-entity is placed at the top of the Executive branch of government, the different part of government do not get a clear message of what the policy is and, as a result, they each begin doing their own thing without worrying too much about what the POTUS has to say. The recent article by Sy Hersh “Military to Military” is a good illustration of that phenomenon. Being weak and lacking vision (or even understanding) Obama’s main concern is conceal his limitations and he therefore falls back on the oldest of political tricks: he tells his audience whatever it wants to hear. Exactly the sames goes for Kerry too. Both of these man will say one thing to the Russian rulers or during an interview with a Russian journalist, and the exact opposite to an American reporter. That kind of “schizophrenia” is perfectly normal, especially in the USA.

Christmas celebration in the streets of Latakia, Syria. Credit: The Saker.

Christmas celebration in the streets of Latakia, Syria. Credit: The Saker.

To use the expression coined by Chris Hedges, the USA is an “Empire of Illusion”. The US society has an apparently infinite tolerance for the fake as long as the fake looks vaguely similar to the real thing. This is true on all levels, ranging from the food Americans eat, to the way they entertain themselves, to the politicians they elect and to the putative invincibility of the armed forces their taxes pay for. It is all one gigantic lie, but who cares as long as it is a fun, emotionally reassuring lie. In the Syrian context, this ability to ignore reality results in the support of terrorism in the name democracy, the conduct of an “anti-Daesh” campaign which results in Daesh dramatically increase its territory, the accusation that Assad used chemical weapons and now the “Assad can stay but he must go” policy. This ability to completely decouple rhetoric and reality can sometimes have a positive side-effect. For example, even if this week saw a Zag! From the US Administration in terms of rhetoric, this does not necessarily mean that the USA will continue to attempt to overthrow Assad. The opposite is also true, however. The fact that the US has said that Assad can stay in no way implies that the US will stop trying to overthrow him.

The bottom line is this: yes, there was definitely a Zag! this week, but only time will tell how much of a zag we are dealing with.

In this context I highly recommend the recent article by Alexander Mercouris entitled “Russian diplomacy achieved a trio of Security Council Resolutions over the last month which give Russia a decisive advantage” in which he explains how Russia has achieved victory after victory at the UN Security Council. What is important here is that with each of these Russian-sponsored Resolutions the number of available options for the USA are gradually reduced.

Another factor also reducing the US options are all the tactical successes of the Syrian military whose progress is slow, but steady. The intensive pace of Russian airstrikes is having an effect on Daesh and the Syrians are slowly advancing on all fronts. There has been no Daesh collapse yet, but if the Syrians continue to advance as they have done so far their offensive will eventually reach a critical point when the quantity of their small (tactical) victories will end up triggering a qualitative (operational) reaction and Daesh will begin to collapse. Of course, the Daesh fighters will have the option of finding safety in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and elsewhere, but the psychological impact of a Daesh defeat in Syria will be huge.

So far there are no signs of a possible Turkish invasion of northern Syria, no signs that anybody is still thinking about imposing a no-fly zone, and besides the murder of Samir Kuntar in an Israeli airstrike (which I discussed here), it appears that the S-400s are achieving the desired deterrent effect.

In other words, while US leaders have their heads stuck deep up into their own delusions, the events on the ground are slowly but steadily reinforcing the Russian position and vindicating Russia’s stance.

In the meantime, the Syrian Christians who follow the Gregorian Calendar are celebrating Christmas in the streets of Latakia in a clear sign that a multi-confessional Syria still exists and has a future.

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US Military to Expand Global Operations in 2016

December 30th, 2015 by Thomas Gaist

The year 2015 will be remembered as a year of expanding global warfare and militarism. It began with discussions of the possibility of “total war” against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, saw new provocations against China in the South China Sea, and draws to a close amid the escalation of the US and European war in Iraq and Syria and the spread of conflict to Yemen, Libya and other parts of Africa.

The imperialist powers are determined to make 2016 an even bloodier and more dangerous year. Germany and Japan are openly remilitarizing, as their governments seek to whitewash and rationalize the crimes of the World War II era. All of the imperialist powers have seized on the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino to place their populations and economies on a war footing.

The most dangerous factor is the US drive for global domination. The United States has its hands in virtually every country, employing drone assassinations, Special Forces operations and a network of military bases and agreements aimed at establishing unchallenged military domination over the planet, along with cyberspace and outer space.

More plans are afoot. Washington is preparing to expand its global basing system through the addition of a “larger network envisioned by the Pentagon,” which will include at least four new Special Forces hubs and numerous new “spoke” bases, according to a New York Times article published Monday.

The commando network will be centered on Eurasia and Africa but will be global in scope, according to Pentagon officials. Among the new bases will be a permanent establishment in Afghanistan, which will function as “a hub for Special Operations troops and intelligence operatives throughout Central and South Asia.”

The record of the US special units, which have emerged as the spearhead of the so-called “war on terror” since 2001, makes clear the murderous nature of the escalating commando war. US Special Forces have been granted a general license to carry out violence and mayhem in every part of the world with total disregard for international law. Thousands of US commandos are already operating in between 85 and 130 countries worldwide, according to varying estimates by US media sources.

The enlarged Special Forces network is only one element of a broader strategic escalation by Washington. US weapons manufacturers are collaborating with the government to channel an expanding war chest of arms to allied governments and proxy forces, with American weapons sales surging in recent years. In 2014, total US arms sales jumped by $10 billion to a total of $35 billion, giving US corporations control over 50 percent of the world weapons market, according to a congressional report released last week.

The intensified drive for a redivision affects every region of the world.

Europe

Washington is pre-positioning military equipment and deploying conventional forces and military “advisors” and trainers throughout Europe in preparation for war against Russia.

The US Army plans to double the number of tanks it has deployed to Europe, sending another full armored brigade to the continent, accompanied by infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons as well as an additional full Army division dedicated to joint operations with NATO and European militaries.

In Ukraine, US Army forces are training five battalions of active-duty forces and US Special Forces are partnering with the Ukrainian military to develop Ukraine commando units.

Asia Pacific

South Korea, a country that has been tapped to serve as a staging area for US war preparations against China, was the leading importer of US arms in 2014, purchasing nearly $8 billion worth of American-made weaponry.

In December, the Obama administration approved the sale of $1.8 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, including warships previously used by the US Navy and several advanced missile systems. The sale was the first weapons transfer to Taiwan in years and was clearly intended as a provocation against Beijing.

In the Pacific, the US Army’s “Pacific Pathways” program is coordinating joint operations with Asia-Pacific militaries. In the course of 2015, the program saw the US conduct joint drills with units from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea and Thailand.

Middle East

Leading purchasers of US weapons in 2014 included the ultra-reactionary regimes of Saudi Arabia, which purchased $4 billion worth of TOW missiles, and Qatar, which purchased $9.8 billion worth of US arms. Qatar has been a major backer of Islamist forces in Syria in the US-backed civil war against Assad.

The US has spearheaded a new imperialist carve-up of the entire region, with Britain, France and Germany piling into the wars in Iraq and Syria toward the end of 2015 and Saudi Arabia leading a US-backed war in Yemen.

Africa

Total arms sales to Africa—particularly in the oil-rich regions—increased by 50 percent between 2010 and 2014 over the previous five-year period. Cameroon and Nigeria, which are collaborating with the growing US intervention in West Africa in the name of the “fight against Boko Haram,” were among the leading importers of weapons. Preparations are underway to relaunch military operations in Libya, already devastated by the US-NATO war that overthrew and murdered Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Cyber and outer space

Even cyberspace and outer space are not exempt from the US-led militarization drive. In November, the US was one of only four countries to vote against a United Nations resolution, “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” which was supported by more than 120 member states. In a presentation earlier this year, US Undersecretary of Defense Robert Work outlined Pentagon plans to deploy a range of space weapons, which Work claimed are necessary to ensure military dominance over Russia.

***

The experience of the Obama administration has underscored the impossibility of opposing imperialist war outside of a struggle against the capitalist system and all of its political representatives. Having won office in 2008 as an antiwar candidate, presenting himself as an opponent of the war in Iraq and an antidote to the militarism of the Bush administration, President Obama has presided over an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, and a new war in Iraq.

Obama’s talk about ending the war in Afghanistan has been exposed by his decision to keep thousands of US troops in the country and the plans to establish permanent US bases there. All of his pledges of “no ground troops” or “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria have been exposed as lies.

The divisions that exist within the US ruling elite and the state over foreign and military policy concern the focus and methods of US efforts to dominate the territory and resources of the world, with the Obama White House arguing for a concentration on the struggle against China and his opponents demanding a larger commitment of troops and weapons to turn the Middle East into a de facto US colony. But there is no “peace faction” within the corporate and political establishment, or either of the two big-business parties.

One side of the global crisis is the slide toward a new world war. The other is the development of revolutionary struggles by the working class. Vast resources are allocated to destruction and war, while growing sections of the US population are pushed into poverty and forced to struggle for basic necessities such as housing, education, nutrition and health care.

The struggle against war can be conducted only on the basis of the independent mobilization of the working class in the US and internationally against imperialism on the basis of a socialist and internationalist revolutionary program.

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Hilary Wainwright and Leo Panitch in conversation with Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the UK Labour Party. They talk about the meaning of ‘new politics’, Tony Benn’s legacy, and opening up Labour’s policymaking to the people.

Hilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper‘s editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. Leo Panitch is distinguished research professor at York University, Canada. This interview was conducted on a train ride from Birmingham to London, 12 November 2015.

Leo Panitch (LP): Your remarkable campaign for the leadership not only doubled the party membership but galvanized some 400,000 people overall to associate with the party. This is frankly unheard of anywhere in terms of party mobilization on the left in recent decades. What do you think this reflects about the possibilities for a new politics, not only in Britain but more broadly – especially in Europe?

Jeremy Corbyn (JC): I think our campaign excited people who were very depressed by the election result and very depressed by the analysis that was being offered at the end of it, which was essentially that Labour wasn’t managerial enough and we had to be better managers in order to do better in the future. I only really got on the ballot paper because of a combination of people – from those who just absolutely wanted an alternative to be put, to those who thought that there ought to be a democratic debate in the party. This kicked off the social media campaign that encouraged others to get involved.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally.

We finally made it into the ballot – which required 35 MPs to sign on to a nomination – with one vote to spare and one minute to go. Then at the hustings where the party leadership debates were held, the point of view I put got quite a good reception. And as we started organizing fringe meetings around them, the campaign suddenly took off. The first one was Nottingham, where we organized a meeting in a room for 100, and 300 turned up. From then on they just grew and so by the end of July, beginning of August, we were getting 1,000 people at every rally we organized. Most of them were filled up with one day’s notice. One place, we filled a hall for 1,500 with only four hours of notice on Facebook.

LP: Is it your sense that the same type of thing is happening elsewhere?

JC: Yes. Because this wasn’t anything to do with me. This was to do with people wanting a different way of doing politics – particularly the young people who came in and were very enthusiastic. Our campaign was a combination of the young and the old, very little in between, the middle-aged weren’t there. They were either under 30 or over 60, most of the people that came in to work on the campaign, and the phone-banking they did was quite extraordinary. There was one of them where I witnessed this 18-year-old Asian girl with a burka explaining to a 90-year-old white woman how to operate the mobile phone to make calls, and they were both getting on just fine. And it was kind of lovely.

We had 400 people on a phone bank one night. It was quite extraordinary. I’m not sure how much phoning they did – they did a great deal of chatting to each other. Most of our funding was raised by crowd-funding, small donations, the average donation was £25, and we got union money in. So about half of it was union-funded and the other half was fundraised.

Hilary Wainwright (HW): What was it exactly that you were tapping in public consciousness?

JC: The basis of the campaign was anti-austerity – that was the whole basis of it.

HW: And the appeal for the ‘new politics’, the new way of organizing politics – how do you see the connections between these two themes?

JC: Oh, they’re two sides of the same coin. Austerity is essentially making the social systems of all of Europe pay for the banking crisis, and with this comes a popular sense of either resignation or anger. So the idea that there is an alternative, that we can do things differently, is very important. That is why we have had the most unremitting attacks on me from day one of the campaign. Some of it is so bizarre it’s funny.

LP: Worse than what Tony Benn experienced?

JC: Hard to tell, different time, different age. It feels bad at times, although I just never respond to any of it, whereas Tony tried to at times and I think that’s a mistake. I mean, I don’t blame him for it. At that time, those days, I was with Tony in responding to all this. But if you respond to these kind of ludicrous personal attacks you then end up in a swamp or a trench with these people.

I’ll give you an example… I was accused of not bowing properly to the queen. I decided I wouldn’t respond. Had I responded, the debate would have been about at what angle one should bow. And by now, five days on from it [at the time of this interview], anyone who hadn’t followed the story closely would say, why is the leader of the Labour Party engaged in a public debate about how one should bow to the queen? They’d think, is that all he’s interested in? I’m about to lose my house and he, the leader of the Labour Party, has got nothing to say about that. So I just took the view from the very beginning that I’m not responding to any of it.

HW: That links to a question I was going to put, which was that you have this reputation that’s sometimes symbolized – for example in Steve Bell’s cartoons in the Guardian by you facing Darth Vader in Star Wars – or as the wise wizard in Harry Potter. You appear fearless. Have you always been fearless, is it something that comes from your family and background – or is it something you’ve gradually, intuitively learned or cultivated through your experiences, your 30 years as an MP? When you’ve been taking on powerful interests, diving in at the deep end every day as an MP, have you ever been fearful?

JC: There’s two points here, really. One is that I have this 18th century religious view that there is some good in everybody. Sometimes you have to search quite hard for it. Sometimes it’s very hard to find and you wonder if it really is there. Secondly, because I’ve never had any higher education of any sort, I’ve never held in awe those who have had it or have a sense of superiority over those who don’t. Life is life. Some of the wisest people you meet are sweeping our streets.

A friend of mine, a building worker – he sadly died, committed suicide last year, I was very sad about that and I’m very sad I wasn’t there for him at the time – whose house was very simple, lots of reused this and reused that, and somebody said to him: “Jim, why do you live like this?” He said, very wise, he said: “I live simply, that others might simply live.” And you think, hang on, that’s actually very profound. So you’ve got to have a bit of respect for people. I do have a respect for people and I actually, genuinely enjoy meeting the wide variety of people I do. My constituency has probably about 70 different languages spoken within it, people from all over the world. There’s the great, there’s the good and there’s lots of people who have been in the prison system. They’re all there.

What is fundamental is the attitude with which you approach people, it’s an attitude toward your environment, your attitude toward other people. Interestingly, the first leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, who was a more thoughtful man than he’s often given credit for, was much more bothered about education and opportunities for women than about nationalisation.

LP: It’s interesting in that connection that before you were elected in 1983, you were already associated with the attempt to change the Labour Party’s old statist and parliamentarist politics. Tony Benn had articulated very well in the 1970s the notion that the real problem is not about more state or less state, it’s about a different kind of state and, above all, a much more democratic British state that would be capable of introducing a cooperative, egalitarian and democratic economy. He would be so proud of you for having achieved what he wanted so badly – to be the Labour Party leader committed to this.

JC: I wish he was still here. I knew Tony very, very well for a very long time. The difference between Tony and me was that whereas he was one of those very unusual politicians who was actually very successful in a conventional career pattern, I have been monumentally unsuccessful in the conventional career pattern.

The first time I met Tony was 1969-70 period, when he was reflecting on his experiences as a cabinet minister in the 60s. What was interesting about him then was that, whereas most of the cabinet ministers reflecting on the experience talked about the ministerial car, the mendacity of the opposition, and how they were going to win again, Tony had quite different and more interesting personal reflections on what he had done or not done.

LP: Yes, and on the basis of such reflections, he wrote a Fabian pamphlet in 1970 called The New Politics: A Socialist Reconnaissance, in which he surveyed all the anti-authoritarian social movements in the late ‘60s – black power, women’s movement, anti-Vietnam War – and said, we need to bring that spirit into the party, that’s what we’re missing.

JC: I remember those discussions with him, and then I worked very closely with him in the mid-70s on industrial democracy. Sometimes he was idealistically too excited. He’d sort of say: “Yes, it’s all going to happen now.”

LP: You were quoted in Tony’s diaries as saying that you attributed the defeat in the 1983 election to “the great incompetence of the party machine.” So what I want to ask you is, did you mean this in the sense of its incapacity to project the promise of the new politics you shared with Tony beyond the active party membership – and does this remain the case today?

JC: I honestly can’t remember saying that but I can imagine the thought-processes I was having, which was that the party in ’83 presented a very interesting electoral platform but lots of people in the party were quite frightened of it, and the Tories were running essentially a fairly xenophobic election surrounding the Falklands war which we never challenged. We also were faced with the SDP being set up by those leading Labour parliamentarians who left the Labour Party at that time, so it was a very interesting period. I felt the party didn’t really understand what was happening.

LP: But what about the incompetence of the machine?

JC: In some cases just the actual organization on the ground was very poor.

LP: Are you worried about this now?

JC: No, not at all. The party now is in a very different place. The ground operation, as we call it, in the General Election was actually very good.

LP: Was it?

JC: Oh, yeah. We had more people active than many I can remember. I went to quite a lot of constituencies, key constituencies. And the membership is now much bigger, it’s double what it was. What I am worried about now is that the party needs to reach out and involve a wider range of people. That’s my main message.

I’ve just been speaking in Birmingham, to a very big Unite shop stewards’ conference. I said actually every one of you in this room is an expert, every one of you has an opinion, every one of you has optimism, every one of you has hopes. I want a party structure and a union structure that allows your intelligence to come forward and be part of our policy-making. So we don’t go through to 2020 where I, as the leader, go away and write a manifesto. We go through to 2020 where its patently obvious to everyone in the country what our manifesto is going to be – on housing, on health, on jobs, all those things – because everybody’s had a part in it. So the need is to reach, to widen our organization to make us a community-based party.

LP: And you think the party’s regional organizers know how to do this?

JC: Well, it’s not so much do organizers know how to do it – do we all know how to do it? I’m not an expert on this but I’ll try. We’re going to try various experiments in how we reach out and how we involve people, how we use social media, how we use digital tools to share ideas and knowledge. The idea is that we have a community conference on policy in which some people are there, some people are on Skype, some people are on a livestream feed, some people are sending in emails, whatever. All saying something, because they’ve all got something to say.

It’s reaching out to people and understanding that what we couldn’t do in ’83 was win parts of the national media because the story was written by the Radio 4 Today programme and The Sun. Radio 4 Today is still there and it’s influential, The Sun is still there and it’s influential, but they’re both much less influential than they were.

I do this weekly YouTube video, the lowest viewing figures we’ve had have been 400,000, the highest we’ve had is over a million. That’s the numbers of people who want to watch it. So, we’re doing all of that, and I’m spending a lot of time as well travelling around on trains, like this.

HW: This links in to what we’ve done to prepare this interview. Inspired by your approach to Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons, we’ve asked people what questions they want us to ask you.

JC: Dave from Witney, what’s his question?

HW: Well, Dave from Witney did not come up with anything, but Tim, from Barking, has a question about democratization of the state: he asks what your views are on a federal UK, given that new politics and democratization surely involve sharing power?

JC: Yeah, I’m glad that question has come up because of the problems that have arisen out of the UK being such a highly centralized state. It is changing, because Scotland is obviously very different now – as government in Scotland is devolved, it now has tax-raising powers which they may or may not want to use. But whatever the outcome in Scotland – whether independence or otherwise – England is still not decentralized at all. [Secretary of State] George Osborne is offering city-devolution to some places – over which I have some concerns because it is devolution to big cities and it doesn’t necessarily include adequate funding of the services that have been devolved. So you could end up with a form of devolution that doesn’t include any kind of financial autonomy or alternative source of income. You negotiate every year on limited funding with a central government which relies on you running even more services on its behalf.

The other end of the scale is the total federal model that Germany has, with not only the very powerful ‘Lander’ levels of regional governments but also very powerful cities and a relatively weak federal state. I think there is a very interesting debate on federal models to be had here. I don’t want us to go into government in 2020 saying simply that we are going to think about it. So I’ve asked Jon Trickett to set up a constitutional convention, which he’s doing – it’s under way now. It is looking at powers of government, powers of parliament, powers of the House of Lords, an elected second chamber. Then issues of rights and accountability in society, bill of rights kind of thing – protecting the Human Rights Act but moving on from that, of course, to how you sort English regional government.

Because there are no effective regional voices it means there is a disproportionate level of capital investment in London and the south-east compared to the north-west and north-east, for example. The East Midlands actually does the worst of every region. I put some ideas together on this during the leadership campaign as one of our consultative papers. I did 13 consultative papers on lots of different stuff. They are on the Jeremy4Leader website. Look at those and you’ll see some ideas there. All of those are open to comment. The difficulty we have at the moment is simply the capacity we have to respond to all this, because of the volume of stuff we’re getting in.

LP: And to raise the stakes even higher, what about democratizing European institutions?

JC: Well, European institutions – I want us to approach the European referendum on the basis of demands for a social Europe, demands for workers’ rights across Europe, demands for environmental protection across Europe, and turn it into a debate about: do you want a free market Europe that controls people or do you want a Europe where the people control the market? Essentially advancing that kind of alternative.

Now I’m not sure how far we’ve got with that debate, there’s a long way to go. I’m having a lot of discussion with a lot of union people on this at the moment. Our problem is simply the capacity to respond to everything. After only two or three weeks in office we discovered we had a backlog of a hundred thousand emails sent to me. We had a backlog of a thousand invitations to speak at places all over the country, and all over the world for that matter. We started from scratch with our office, so just the sheer management of issues off this is huge. It’s now much better, it’s getting better. We’ve got more staff in place, a better team in place, it’s growing but it is quite difficult.

Also I’m quite concerned that if I spend time in the office someone will always find something for you to do. There’s always a crisis that needs your urgent attention. If I wasn’t there, either the crisis wouldn’t happen or it wouldn’t need your urgent attention. But the fact I’m there means that it becomes my problem, not somebody else’s. So I’m quite assertive about the need to ensure I go travelling round the country. I’m doing basically three days travelling every week. So we’re going everywhere. I did over a hundred events during the leadership campaign and by the end of the year I will probably have done 400 to 500 public meetings.

HW: How do you organize the input you get through those meetings?

JC: That’s the hard part. That is the hard part. It can’t all reside in my brain – it’s not capable of retaining all this information. That is actually the problem area, how we deal with all this. And so, when we’ve finally got the rest of the team in place, we’re going to look at much more interactive websites and interactive ideas. A lot of it is depending on computers and social media. You couldn’t do this without computers and social media.

I think back to the Tony Benn deputy leadership campaign in 1981. I think of the miners’ strike in 1984. I think back to the industrial democracy movement in the early 1970s. All of which I was very involved with, but they would have been so much more successful and so much better if we’d had better forms of communication. We had to write letters to everybody, and spent a lot of time licking stamps.

HW: This leads into another question concerned with the party. It’s from Thomas Barlow: his question is how are you going to open up the party – both the party apparatus and the Parliamentary Party – to democratic inputs and participation in policy-making? And I might add, how far could your own Islington North constituency party be a participatory model for the rest of the party?

JC: There’s no perfect model, but what I say to anyone active in the party is that we’ve recruited 200,000 new members, but please don’t take them to the branch meetings. You get to your average branch meeting and you’re discussing the minutes of the last meeting but one, it’s not necessarily very attractive. My constituency party is not perfect but we have a very large membership. We’ve got 3,300 members in my CLP and 2,000 registered supporters. So we’ve got 5,000 people and the Labour vote is 30,000 – so one in six of the Labour vote are members of the party.

HW: So how do you involve them?

JC: We have thought a lot about how we conduct meetings. Our normal monthly meeting has a guest speaker, a discussion, a report from me and then after an hour and three quarters, we do the business in 20 minutes.

LP: So have you sent this out to other CLPs, to the regional organizers?

JC: This is where it’s going. We’ve organized a very interesting national executive ‘away day’ where I’ll be presenting ideas on this.

LP: This isn’t widely known…

JC: It will be, don’t worry. The word will get out there and one day the BBC will mention it.

HW: Maybe you could do a little film of sort of your local party in action showing what meetings could be like…

JC: Yeah, but the whole thing should not be personal around me…

HW: Then, moving on beyond the personal, how far could this model influence the Parliamentary Labour Party – so the issue is less whether MPs will be reselected as candidates for the next election by each of their constituency parties, but more that they face local parties that are so full of energy and capacity that they can’t resist the new politics agenda by clinging to the old politics.

JC: Abraham Lincoln had a point when he said: “With charity to all and malice toward none, we go forward.”

LP: Are there red lines you won’t cross, apropos of this?

JC: Yeah, I mean, my views on nuclear weapons are very well known. My views on social justice are very well known. My problem is all my views are extremely well known on everything. To be fair, you get a lot of noise from a small number of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. But there’s a much larger group that are actually very interested – very interested in who has joined the party, very interested in the fact that their membership has doubled. Some are nervous, some are concerned, some are excited. We’re all humans. We have to try and understand people. My natural, default position is to work with somebody, not against them. It does make my life quite busy.

HW: So this relates to another crowdsourced question which is from Finn Smith, who is asking how you envisage changing the present political culture? He says that you’re “respected because you’re humble, modest and caring but you’re up against a dominant narrative of personal gain, competition, private entrepreneurship. How do we change the mentality of this neoliberal sort of narrative?”

“Is socialism just about state power, state control, state ownership and so on, or is socialism about a state of mind of people.”

JC: Well it’s about the psychology of our society. It’s exactly where we started. Is socialism just about state power, state control, state ownership and so on, or is socialism about a state of mind of people. I think the response across Europe to the humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees is very interesting. The Hungarian government are not very nice people, and very nasty toward asylum seekers and refugees. But when those poor Syrians were trying to walk through Hungary to get to Austria, ordinary people came out and gave them clothes and water. They could’ve been throwing rubbish at them. They could’ve been attacking them. They weren’t. There is a basic humanity toward other people.

Of course, you have to unlock this when young people are brought up to understand their history and their culture largely in terms of consumerism, competition and self-advancement. So my absolute passion is that, starting with pre-school facilities, the emphasis should be on schools as places of social interaction, where people learn to play together, and where they are asked, is the advance of a community the ability of somebody to get very rich at the expense of others; or is the advance of the community when there is nobody homeless, nobody unemployed, nobody sleeping rough? We have to insist it is only about ‘getting ahead’ if we all get ahead.

Somebody said to me “you don’t speak for aspiration.” So I said, “Oh yeah I do, I’ve got a real aspiration.” And he said: “Okay, so what’s that?” And I said: “Everybody to have a house.”

HW: What about how to appeal to UKIP voters. Does it require redefining patriotism?

JC: No, it just requires reaching out and saying, well actually, the housing shortage is created by not enough houses, the doctors shortage is created by not enough doctors, the limits on school places by not enough schools. Stop blaming people. Look to ourselves how we solve it.

LP: So, it sounds like you are actually enjoying yourself in this new leadership position?

JC: Yeah, of course I am.

LP: Seriously?

JC: Yeah, I was pushed into this, but I’m happy I was.

HW: Are there any surprises? I mean, is it as you expected? Or are there things that are different, for good or ill?

JC: I feel constantly concerned that I’m spending all this time doing everything involved in all my leadership activity and sometimes I feel a tear between that and my responsibilities to the community that I represent. So I have a weekly fight over the schedule set out in my diary. That’s where I do get quite assertive, because I insist on spending time with those people and groups I always have represented even while now also travelling across the country – and also I make sure that I have time for myself. Half a day, or a day a week, so I can dig my allotment.

HW: OK, just one final question. You are known for your exemplary lack of sectarianism. You work with whoever is on board for the cause. You worked with the Greens, for example, in Stop the War, on anti-austerity platforms and so on. Now people are worried – and this is reflected in the crowdsourced questions – about the party’s electoral approach to the Greens, and in particular whether the Labour Party should stand down in the next election from challenging their leader, Caroline Lucas, in the Brighton constituency she is MP for. How does a non-sectarian ethic extend to that level as a party leader?

JC: That’s tomorrow’s problem, that’s not today’s. We’ve got to build the ideas, then develop the movement, and then we’ll see. Today is what we’ve achieved so far. •

This interview is jointly published with Red Pepper and Jacobin.

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The Fracturing of the European Union

December 29th, 2015 by Peter Schwarz

It is 70 years since large parts of Europe lay in ruins. Great power aspirations, nationalism and fascism made the continent the focus of two world wars, which together claimed nearly 100 million victims. Now, these same tendencies are spreading once again.

Everywhere in Europe, the ruling elites are moving sharply to the right. They are boosting military spending, taking part in the imperialist wars in the Middle East and Africa, sealing up borders and inciting xenophobic sentiments against refugees. They are developing authoritarian forms of rule and building up a police state in order to suppress growing social tensions.

After the attacks in Paris, the Socialist Party government imposed a state of emergency for three months, stationed thousands of soldiers on the streets and deployed the military’s only aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to bomb Syria. The beneficiary of this policy has been the right-wing National Front, which became the strongest party in the first round of the recent regional elections.

In Hungary and Poland, governments openly profess their admiration for the authoritarian regimes of the 1920s and 1930s.

In Germany, leading politicians and academics demand that the country again take on the role of a “hegemon” and “disciplinarian” in Europe and aspire to be a major power in the world, as if the crimes of the Nazi regime never happened. The austerity policies that Berlin has imposed on the economically weaker EU members for years have aggravated social and political tensions throughout Europe.

Even the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who otherwise is a political follower of the German chancellor, criticized Angela Merkel in the Financial Times this week for pushing economic policies that are fanning the flames of populism and damaging incumbent governments across the continent—and are based on double standards favoring Germany and hurting Italy. Governments in Warsaw, Athens, Lisbon and Madrid had lost their jobs because they followed the policy of fiscal discipline without true growth, Renzi complained.

Numerous recent comments in the media focus on the potential break-up of the EU under the pressure of growing contradictions and tensions.

Reuters correspondent Paul Taylor writes under the headline “Europe’s year from hell may presage worse to come”: “The crises of 2015 have threatened to tear the Union apart and left it battered, bruised, despondent and littered with new barriers.”

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz warned in Die Welt that no one can say “if the EU will exist in this way in a decade”. The alternative, he writes, is “a Europe of nationalism, a Europe of borders and walls. That would be devastating, because such a Europe has led our continent in the past repeatedly into disaster.”

An editorial in the Süddeutsche Zeitung even demands a “Plan B” in the event that the EU breaks apart. The main danger comes less from Greece and the refugee crisis or an exit of Britain than from “neo-nationalism”, the newspaper states.

While these and other comments warn of a break-up of the EU and the possible consequences, they do not answer the question of why nationalism and militarism are flaring up again in Europe. Indeed, they do not even pose the question.

Contrary to the claims of official propaganda, the EU has never overcome the conflicts that made Europe the center of two world wars. The EU does not unite the peoples of Europe, but has always been a weapon of the most powerful economic and financial interests against the working class at home and international rivals abroad. It is a hotbed of nationalism, inequality, dictatorship and war.

The EU is living proof that it is impossible to unite the continent on a capitalist basis. The defence of capitalist private property and the free movement of capital and profits, which are the focus of the EU treaties, inevitably have the consequence that the most powerful corporations in the EU set the tone and the strongest states impose their will on the weaker. Instead of alleviating national and social contradictions, the EU exacerbates them to the extreme.

The enlargement of the EU into Eastern Europe a decade ago did not bring democracy and prosperity. The new members have served the major European corporations as a source of cheap labor. Their welfare programs are being destroyed, wages kept low and unemployment high, while a small corrupt elite enjoy prosperity.

The EU, and especially Germany, took advantage of the financial crisis of 2008 to dictate unprecedented social cuts in the name of fiscal consolidation. In Greece, which was made an example, the average standard of living declined by 40 percent in a few years.

The EU and its members have responded to the growing social tensions with militarism and increased repression. The real or supposed danger of terrorist attacks have served as a pretext for further anti-democratic measures.

With the refugee crisis, the consequences of imperialist wars in the Middle East and North Africa have returned to Europe. The refugee issue has further polarized Europe. While large sections of the population react with solidarity, the ruling circles have unleashed a furious campaign against refugees, building up border fences and fighting each other.

The dangers arising from the break-up of the EU are very real. New wars and dictatorships, even within Europe, loom. This danger cannot be prevented by defending the EU, but only in a relentless struggle against it and the capitalist system upon which it is predicated.

The only way to unite Europe in the interests of its peoples, to use its vast resources in the interest of all and to prevent further wars, is through the United Socialist States of Europe. Only the independent mobilization of the European working class on the basis of a socialist programme can halt the impending disaster.

Peter Schwarz

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Aparentemente, o ano de 2015 marca o início da revolução no interior do FMI. Primeiro, se aprovou a inclusão do yuan, a moeda chinesa, entre os DEG, a cesta de divisas criada em 1969 para servir de suplemento das reservas oficiais dos países-membros. Agora, graças à aprovação do Congresso dos Estados Unidos, o FMI poderá implementar finalmente a reforma do sistema de quotas de representação, com o qual a China e outras potências emergentes ganharão peso na tomada de decisões, enquanto os países do continente europeu perderão relevância. Não obstante, ainda é prematuro concluir que se trata de uma transformação radical na correlação de forças dentro do FMI: os Estados Unidos continuarão mantendo seu poder de veto.

Os Estados Unidos parecem ter compreendido que para conservar sua liderança global é impossível desconhecer o crescente protagonismo da China e outras potências emergentes, e que é preciso compartilhar responsabilidades na gestão das finanças internacionais. Por isso Washington não teve outra alternativa senão outorgar importantes concessões aos seus adversários através do Fundo Monetário Internacional (FMI).

Na última semana de novembro, o FMI adotou a decisão de incorporar o yuan nos Direitos Especiais de Giro (DEG, sigla traduzida do nome em inglês ‘Special Drawing Rights’), a lista de divisas criada nos Anos 60 para complementar as reservas oficiais dos seus membros. Embora vários funcionários estadunidenses do Fundo tenham tentado se opor à medida desde um princípio, no final Pequim se comprometeu a seguir avançando na liberalização do seu setor financeiro.

Até agora, o Banco Popular da China já assinou cerca de quarenta acordos bilaterais de permuta de divisas (‘currency swaps’). Este ano, os bancos centrais do Suriname, África do Sul e Chile começaram a promover o abandono do dólar entre as empresas dos seus países. Aos poucos, o yuan vai suplantando a moeda norte-americana nos intercâmbios comerciais do gigante asiático.

Essa estratégia permite que o yuan seja hoje a segunda moeda mais utilizada no financiamento comercial, e a quarta nos pagamentos transfronteiriços, segundo os dados da Sociedade de Telecomunicações Financeiras Interbancárias Mundiais (SWIFT, por suas siglas em inglês). E, mais cedo que tarde, a moeda chinesa será plenamente conversível, ou seja, intercambiada livremente no mercado, sem nenhum tipo de restrição.

Assim, os dirigentes do Partido Comunista da China conseguiram acabar com as suspeitas da diretora executiva do FMI, Christine Lagarde: a partir do dia 1º de outubro de 2016, o yuan se tornará a terceira divisa mais relevante na composição dos DEG. A “moeda do povo” (‘renminbi’) terá um peso maior dentro da lista do FMI que o yen japonês e a libra esterlina, embora ainda deva se manter abaixo do dólar e do euro.

No dia 18 de dezembro, o Congresso dos Estados Unidos deu luz verde para que o FMI implemente a reforma do sistema de quotas de representação. Sem dúvidas, é a mudança mais importante dentro do FMI desde 1944, o ano em que se construíram os acordos de Bretton Woods. O novo sistema de quotas significa um grande respiro para o Fundo em termos de legitimidade.

Depois do colapso econômico de 2008, ficou evidenciado que o FMI não contava com os recursos suficientes para encarar às crises de liquidez. Nenhum país soberano tinha intenções de solicitar ajuda. O FMI se desprestigiou por completo após sua atuação nas crises de dívida na América Latina e no Sudeste asiático: havia demostrado que operava como o braço armado do Departamento do Tesouro dos Estados Unidos, e não como um fundo multilateral encarregado de estabilizar as balanças de pagamentos dos seus aderentes.

Por isso, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, diretor do FMI entre 2007 e 2011, convenceu os países emergentes a realizar novos depósitos em troca de incrementar suas quotas. O Diretório Executivo do FMI aceitou a proposta em 2010, durante a XIV Revisão Geral das quotas.

Logo depois, foi apresentada a iniciativa de reforma, diante da Junta de Governadores (integrada por todos os membros), para se submeter à aprovação dos parlamentos nacionais. Então, o governo dos Estados Unidos fez valer seu poder de veto – para uma decisão ser adotada pelo Fundo precisa de uma maioria de 85% da votação, e os Estados Unidos sozinho conta com 16,7% dos votos.

Porém, há alguns dias, após cinco anos de fervente oposição do Congresso norte-americano, a inércia finalmente se rompeu. A reforma do sistema de quotas será uma realidade. Os recursos à disposição do FMI se duplicarão, elevando-se a 659,67 bilhões de dólares. Vale destacar que a quota que se entrega a um país determina o nível máximo dos seus compromissos financeiros com o FMI, e o seu número de votos na instituição, sendo um fator determinante no acesso ao financiamento.

O avanço mais importante é o da China, cujo direito de voto passará de 3,8% a 6%, com o qual, será o terceiro país com mais poder, atrás somente dos Estados Unidos e do Japão. O Brasil subiu quatro posições, enquanto Índia e Rússia entraram na lista dos dez mais influentes. Por outra parte, a participação da Europa caiu. Com exceção à quota da Espanha, que passará de 1,68% a 2%, Alemanha, França, Itália e Reino Unido diminuirão sua participação.

“As reformas incrementam significativamente os principais recursos do FMI e nos permitem dar uma resposta mais eficaz às crises, e ao mesmo tempo melhoram la estrutura de governo institucional, ao refletir melhor o crescente papel que desempenham os países emergentes e em desenvolvimento, e a dinâmica da economia mundial”, disse Lagarde num comunicado à imprensa.

Contudo, lamentavelmente, os Estados Unidos conservará seu poder de veto: seu direito de voto diminuirá dois décimos, de 16,7% para 16,5%. Até agora, tudo parece indicar que os dirigentes de Pequim não desejam confrontar a dominação dos Estados Unidos no FMI, instituição que há mais de setenta anos se mantém como o “prestamista de última instância” mais importante na escala mundial, tendo em conta o volume de recursos que maneja.

A disputa entre China e Estados Unidos é somente tangencial. Pequim busca incrementar sua influência financeira através dos seus poderosos bancos estatais (Banco de Desenvolvimento da China, ICBC, Banco da China, etc.), e através dos bancos regionais de desenvolvimento nos que participa: o Banco Asiático de Investimentos em Infraestrutura (AIIB, por sua sigla em inglês), o Banco da Organização de Cooperação de Shanghai (SCO, por sua sigla em inglês) e o banco dos BRICS (que reúne Brasil, Rússia, Índia, China e África do Sul).

Tanto na Ásia-Pacífico quanto na África e na América Latina e no Caribe não há dúvida de que a China compete cara a cara com o Banco Mundial e os bancos regionais de desenvolvimento respaldados por Washington (Banco Asiático de Desenvolvimento, Banco Africano de Desenvolvimento, Banco Interamericano de Desenvolvimento, etc.) no financiamento de projetos de infraestrutura e extração de matérias-primas (‘commodities’).

Entretanto, os mecanismos de cooperação financeira impulsados por Pequim que oferecem liquidez aos países em conjunturas críticas, tais como a Iniciativa Chiang Mai (integrada por China, Japão, Coreia do Sul e dez economias da ASEAN) e o Acordo de Reservas de Contingência dos BRICS (também conhecido como o “mini-FMI”), possuem escassos recursos monetários, operam em dólares, e dependem do aval do FMI para outorgar empréstimos a partir de certo limite.

Portanto, se bem é uma excelente notícia para o mundo que China e outros países com elevadas taxas de crescimento do Produto Interno Bruto (PIB) consigam ver incrementada sua participação no FMI, com dois postos a mais entre os vinte e quatro do Diretório Executivo, os Estados Unidos continuarão exercendo uma dominação esmagadora.

Se Washington não concordar com algum mínimo detalhe poderá rechaçar qualquer proposta dos países emergentes, graças ao poder de veto. É claro que em algum momento, a China deverá exercer pressão para evitar que um só país escreva as regras do jogo, mas até lá dará tempo ao tempo…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

 

 

Tradução do espanhol : Victor Farinelli.

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez Economista formado pela Universidade Nacional Autônoma do México.

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Atentados de París: no es terrorismo, es geopolítica

December 29th, 2015 by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

Gracias a las redes sociales y los cables desclasificados por Wikileaks, es que la población mundial sabe hoy que cuando los movimientos populares ponen en entredicho la presencia hegemónica de Washington y el lobby pro-Israel en sus países de origen, entonces muy posiblemente se convertirán en víctimas de la intervención foránea.

El modus operandi imperialista consiste en financiar y entrenar guerrillas internas y grupos rebeldes locales que, a través de  la insurrección armada, la violación de los derechos humanos y el ataque a organizaciones y grupos con vocación democrática, consigue destituir los liderazgos locales y, de paso, atemorizar a la población para que sea ésta quien clame por la intervención occidental.

Entre estos grupos armados se encuentra Daesh (ISIS en inglés), secta fundamentalista sunita que es liderada por el yihadista Abubaker al Bagdadi desde el año 2010, y que busca consagrar el califato mundial. La ortodoxia de esta minoritaria organización militar autoriza el castigo y el exterminio de todos los infieles que no comulguen con la interpretación literal del Corán.

De esta manera, entre los “infieles” no solamente se encuentran todos aquellos que se niegan a alabar a Alá (las principales víctimas del mal denominado “Estado Islámico”), sino los más de dos billones de musulmanes chiítas o sunitas que entienden al Islam como lo que es: una religión absolutamente pacifista.

Su entrenamiento, que se remonta a la guerra afgano-soviética (1978-1992), ha sido similar al que recibieron grupos militares latinoamericanos bajo la denominada “Doctrina del shock”  promovida desde la Escuela de las Américas, que ejercía la tortura a sangre fría a quienes osaran apoyar a los gobiernos populares en las décadas de 1970 y 1980.

Esta organización mercenaria prefabricada ha recibido una instrucción militar brutal por parte de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA, por sus siglas en inglés), el MOSSAD y el M-16 que, al despojarlos de su condición humana, les permite perpetrar atrocidades bélicas contra todos los “infieles”.

Fundamentalmente, en contra de quienes están más cerca: el pueblo sirio y su gobernante chiíta, Bashar al-Assad, confirmado por el electorado nacional como Presidente de Siria en los años 2000, 2007 y 2014.  Esta guerra civil mantiene a la población atemorizada y luchando desesperadamente por exiliarse en algún país de Occidente.

Cabe destacar que para concretar las acciones bélicas de Daesh no sólo se requiere instrucción, sino también financiamiento. El derribo del avión ruso Su-24 por parte de Turquía ha develado un torrente de información suministrado por el Gobierno ruso y sus aliados sobre las estrechas relaciones entre el Daesh y la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN), organización en la que Israel y Turquía juegan un rol clave.

Los pozos de petróleo incautados al gobierno sirio de Bashar al-Assad y a los campos petrolíferos iraquíes de la región de Mosul por ISIS, son explotados y su crudo es enviado a Turquía en caravanas de  camiones-cisterna. Una vez en los puertos de Beirut y Ceyhan, el hidrocarburo es vendido a países de Asia y el Medio Oriente, principalmente a Israel, a través de la naviera BMZ Group Denizcilik, entidad de la cual Bilal Erdogan, hijo del actual presidente turco Recep Tayip Erdogan, es propietario mayoritario con casi un 30% de participación.

Esta compra de petróleo a Daesh permite el flujo millonario de dinero que es destinado a financiar la insurgencia y los atentados perpetrados por los yihadistas. Es así como se puede comprender entonces por qué ISIS nunca ha atacado Israel, Turquía, Arabia Saudita, Dubai, Bahrein, Estados Unidos o Qatar.

¿Quiénes resultan beneficiados de las atrocidades cometidas por Daesh? Definitivamente, los musulmanes no.  La creciente ola de islamofobia ha incentivado el cierre de fronteras, el agudizamiento de la política migratoria y la discriminación hacia la población árabe.  Además, ha permitido el surgimiento de grupos racistas que avalan el apartheid y las atrocidades cometidas por Israel en contra del pueblo palestino. La población mundial, cegada por la manipulación mediática, contempla con terror a las naciones y grupos libertarios que componen el Eje de la Resistencia.

El pasado jueves 17 de diciembre, en una encuesta realizada por la compañía Public Policy Polling (PPP) de opinión ciudadana estadounidense, un 30% de los simpatizantes del partido republicano votó a favor de bombardear Agrabah (la ciudad ficticia de Aladdín). Gracias a la campaña comunicacional global constante respecto al “islamismo radical” es que la respuesta instantánea de la población es apoyar la invasión, la protección y el cierre fronterizo, sin cuestionar el sentido de la acción, ni tomar en cuenta las miles de vidas de civiles que están en riesgo. Basta con que una palabra suene a origen árabe para que parezca peligrosa.

Sin lugar a dudas, el acto más representativo de la artillería comunicacional islamófoba es el haber denominado “Estado Islámico” al principal grupo insurgente Yihadista-Taliban-Al qaedista, designación ilegítima desde su origen ya que este grupo de sicarios, tal como lo menciona la corresponsal argentina Karen Marón “no posee ni la estructura organizacional de un Estado, ni está sujeto a derecho internacional, es decir que, Estado no es, islámico tampoco, porque contradice todo lo que señala el Corán y lo que profesa Mahoma”.

Sus actos tampoco son terroristas, puesto que el término “terrorismo” hace referencia a una sucesión de actos de violencia ejecutados con el único objetivo de infundir terror; mientras que para las cúpulas que están detrás de los atentados, el fin último de sus actos no es el provocar pánico, sino generar repercusiones políticas y acciones armamentistas concretas con el consentimiento de la población acosada por la sensación de vulnerabilidad.

Es así como el atentado a las Torres Gemelas perpetrado por Al-Qaeda en septiembre de 2001, así como los atentados a París en noviembre de 2015 por Daesh, legitiman los bombardeos e invasiones a Irak y a Siria respectivamente. El leitmotiv  de la OTAN por lo tanto, no es tanto detener a Daesh, sino contenerlo.

En definitiva, Estados Unidos, Israel, la familia real saudí –que es sionista– y Turquía, esta última motivada por los intereses económicos y la posibilidad de ampliar su territorio a Siria, han logrado consagrar que entre los 6 puntos que estableció la comunidad internacional de las Naciones Unidas en el Plan de Solución Política a la Crisis en Siria suscrito recientemente en Nueva York,  se le exija a Damasco la elaboración de una nueva constitución política que rija al país en un plazo máximo de seis meses y celebrar, además, elecciones presidenciales antes de año y medio.

En suma, hay que destacar que los atentados son completamente premeditados. A través de un pretexto, buscan legitimar la intervención, con lo cual, construyen un nuevo ordenamiento geopolítico acorde a sus intereses. ISIS es una organización mercenaria instrumentalizada para responder a un mandato específico.

En los atentados a París la víctima no fue el Estado galo, sino los ciudadanos franceses utilizados como carne de cañón. Los atentados están inmersos dentro de un contexto geopolítico bien delimitado, y sobre todo, guardan un origen espurio que debe combatirse. Nuestra tarea pendiente es diseñar un mundo más justo y seguro para todos sin intervención imperialista, sí es posible…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

Gabriela Riveros Medina

 

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez es economista, egresado de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Gabriela Riveros Medina es economista, egresada de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

Fuente: Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI).

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Benzina sul cessate il fuoco

December 29th, 2015 by Manlio Dinucci

La Risoluzione 2254 sulla Siria, approvata all’unanimità dal Consiglio di sicurezza dell’Onu, sottolinea «lo stretto legame tra un cessate il fuoco e un parallelo processo politico». Disinnescando il conflitto, ciò favorirebbe un allentamento delle tensioni in Medio Oriente. C’è però un problema: sui cinque membri permanenti del Consiglio di sicurezza, tre – Stati Uniti, Francia e Gran Bretagna – sono quelli che hanno più pesantemente violato «la sovranità e integrità territoriale della Repubblica Araba di Siria», che nella risoluzione dicono di «sostenere fortemente». Quelli che hanno organizzato «il crescente afflusso di terroristi in Siria», per il quale nella risoluzione «esprimono la più grave preoccupazione».

Il «cessate il fuoco» dipende quindi soprattutto da queste tre potenze della Nato e dalla Turchia, avamposto della guerra coperta contro la Siria, e dagli altri membri dell’Alleanza a partire dalla Germania. Dipende anche da un’altra potenza, Israele, che ha le mani in pasta in questa e altre guerre. Quali sono le loro intenzioni? Più delle parole valgono i fatti.

Il 18 dicembre, il giorno stesso in cui il Consiglio di sicurezza varava la «road map per la pace» in Siria, la Nato annunciava l’invio di navi da guerra tedesche e danesi e aerei radar Awacs in Turchia per rafforzare le sue «difese al confine con la Siria», mossa diretta in realtà contro la Russia il cui intervento contro l’Isis sta cambiando l’esito della guerra a favore di Damasco. E il giorno dopo la Nato annunciava che è pronto il primo dei droni Global Hawk che saranno schierati a Sigonella, insieme a quelli Usa, per la «sorveglianza terrestre», ossia per lo spionaggio nei paesi inquadrati nel mirino strategico Usa/Nato. Sempre lo stesso giorno in cui il Consiglio di sicurezza varava la «road map per la pace» in Medio Oriente, la Germania annunciava la consegna a Israele del quinto sottomarino da attacco nucleare.

Come documenta Der Spiegel, sono Dolphin modificati per il lancio di missili cruise nucleari, i Popeye Turbo con raggio di 1500 km, derivati da quelli statunitensi. Con il nuovo sottomarino ribattezzato Rahav (Poseidone) – il cui costo supera i 2 miliardi di dollari, un terzo dei quali finanziato dal governo tedesco – Israele rafforza la sua posizione di unica potenza nucleare della regione, mentre l’Iran (che a differenza di Israele aderisce al Trattato di non-proliferazione) rinuncia alle armi nucleari e la Siria consegna le armi chimiche costruite quale deterrente contro quelle nucleari di Israele.

Il 19 dicembre, il giorno dopo che il Consiglio di sicurezza aveva riaffermato «la sovranità e integrità territoriale» della Siria, Israele distruggeva a Damasco un intero palazzo con missili lanciati da due caccia, assassinando (insieme a diversi civili) il militante libanese Samir Kuntar: dopo 30 anni di carcere in Israele per aver combattuto per l’indipendenza del Libano e della Palestina, rilasciato in uno scambio nel 2008, aveva aderito agli Hezbollah andando a combattere l’Isis e per questo era stato iscritto da Washington nella lista dei «terroristi globali».

Contemporaneamente la Francia, sostenitrice al Consiglio di sicurezza del cessate il fuoco in Siria, annunciava di aver ricevuto l’acconto sui 7 miliardi di dollari per la fornitura di 24 cacciabombardieri Rafale al Qatar: il regime che ha alimentato, anche con commandos infiltrati, la guerra in Siria dopo quella che ha demolito la Libia. Insieme all’Arabia Saudita che, dopo aver finanziato con miliardi di dollari l’Isis e altri gruppi terroristi, partecipa alla coalizione a guida Usa «contro l’Isis» e ha promosso una «coalizione islamica anti-terrorismo».

Manlio Dinucci

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Le 300 Hiroshima dell’Italia

December 29th, 2015 by Manlio Dinucci

Mentre la parola «sicurezza» ci rintrona gli orecchi amplificata dai megafoni politico-mediatici, le parole del ministro della difesa russo Shoigu sul sempre più pericoloso confronto nucleare in Europa sono cadute nel silenzio. Nessun allarme, nessuna reazione governativa in Italia riguardo a ciò che ha detto: «Circa 200 bombe nucleari Usa sono schierate in Italia, Belgio, Olanda, Germania e Turchia, e questo arsenale nucleare è soggetto a un programma di rinnovamento».

Per tale ragione, «le forze missilistiche strategiche russe mantengono oltre il 95% dei lanciatori pronto in ogni momento al combattimento». E mentre un sottomarino russo lancia dal Mediterraneo contro obiettivi Isis in Siria missili cruise Kalibr (che percorrono circa 3mila km a bassa quota accelerando nella fase finale a tre volte la velocità del suono), il presidente Putin avverte che «i missili Kalibr possono essere armati sia con testate convenzionali sia con testate nucleari», aggiungendo che «certamente ciò non è necessario nella lotta ai terroristi, e spero non sarà mai necessario». Questo chiaro messaggio diretto in realtà alla Nato, in particolare ai paesi europei in cui sono schierate le armi nucleari Usa, viene presentato dai media come la «battuta» di un Putin che «mostra i muscoli». Non si allarma così la popolazione, lasciandola all’oscuro del pericolo cui è esposta.

Le circa 70 bombe nucleari Usa B-61, pronte all’uso nelle basi di Aviano e Ghedi-Torre, stanno per essere sostituite dalle B61-12. A tale scopo — documenta la Federazione degli scienziati americani (Fas) con foto satellitari — è stato effettuato l’upgrade delle due basi, dove nel 2013 e 2014 si è svolta la Steadfast Noon, l’esercitazione Nato di guerra nucleare con la partecipazione anche di caccia F-16 della Polonia, che si è offerta di ospitare le nuove bombe nucleari Usa.

La B61-12 è una nuova arma nucleare che, sganciata a circa 100 km dall’obiettivo, è progettata per «decapitare» il paese nemico in un first strike nucleare. Si cancella così la differenza tra armi nucleari strategiche a lungo raggio e armi tattiche a corto raggio.

Non si sa quante B61-12 saranno schierate in Italia ma, con una stima per difetto, si calcola che la loro potenza distruttiva equivarrà a quella di circa 300 bombe di Hiroshima. Secondo le regole del Gruppo di pianificazione nucleare della Nato, di cui fa parte l’Italia, i paesi che ospitano le armi nucleari Usa «mettono a disposizione aerei equipaggiati per trasportare bombe nucleari e personale addestrato a tale scopo», ma «gli Stati uniti mantengono l’assoluto controllo e la custodia di tali armi nucleari». La Fas conferma che a Ghedi sono stoccate le bombe nucleari Usa «per i Tornado italiani» e che piloti italiani vengono addestrati al loro uso.

Poiché si prevede di sostituire i Tornado con gli F-35, i primi piloti italiani, che hanno completato in novembre l’addestramento sugli F-35 nella base Luke della U.S. Air Force in Arizona, vengono addestrati anche all’uso delle B61-12.

L’Italia viola così il Trattato di non-proliferazione ratificato nel 1975, che la «impegna a non ricevere da chicchessia armi nucleari, né il controllo su tali armi, direttamente o indirettamente» (Art. 2). È divenuta di conseguenza base avanzata della strategia nucleare Usa/Nato e, quindi, bersaglio di rappresaglia nucleare. Vitale è la battaglia per la denuclearizzazione dell’Italia, senza di cui la generica richiesta dell’abolizione delle armi nucleari diventa copertura demagogica per chi non vuole affrontare la questione nodale. A dimostrazione che l’assopimento delle coscienze ha portato anche alla perdita dell’istinto di sopravvivenza.

Manlio Dinucci

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La Nato si allarga ancora

December 29th, 2015 by Manlio Dinucci

La «storica» decisione del Consiglio Nord Atlantico di invitare il Montenegroa iniziare la procedura di accesso per divenire il 29° membro dell’Alleanza, costituisce una ulteriore mossa della strategia Usa/Nato mirante all’accerchiamento della Russia. Che importanza ha per la Nato il Montenegro, l’ultimo degli Stati (2006) formatisi in seguito alla disgregazione della Federazione Jugoslava, demolita dalla Nato con l’infiltrazione e la guerra? Lo si capisce guardando la carta geografica. Con una superficie un po’ inferiore a quella della Puglia (a soli 200 km sulla sponda opposta dell’Adriatico) e una popolazione di appena 630 mila abitanti (un sesto di quella della Puglia), il Montenegro ha una importante posizione geostrategica. Confina con Albania e Croazia (membri della Nato), Kosovo (di fatto già nella Nato), Serbia e Bosnia-Erzegovina (partner della Nato). Ha due porti, Bar e Porto Montenegro, utilizzabili a scopo militare nel Mediterraneo. Nel secondo fece scalo, nel novembre 2014, la portaerei Cavour.

Il Montenegro è strategicamente importante anche come deposito di munizioni e altro materiale bellico. Sul suo territorio si trovano dieci grandi bunker sotterranei costruiti all’epoca della Federazione Jugoslava, dove restano oltre 10mila tonnellate di vecchie munizioni da smaltire o esportare, e hangar fortificati per aerei (bombardati dalla Nato nel 1999). Con milioni di euro forniti anche dalla Ue, è iniziata da tempo la loro ristrutturazione (i primi sono stati quelli di Taras e Brezovic). La Nato disporrà così in Montenegro di bunker che, ammodernati, permetteranno di stoccare enormi quantità di munizioni, comprese anche armi nucleari, e di hangar per cacciabombardieri.

Il Montenegro, la cui entrata nella Nato è ormai certa, è anche candidato a entrare nell’Unione europea, dove già 22 dei 28 membri appartengono alla Nato sotto comando Usa.

Un importante ruolo in tal senso lo ha svolto Federica Mogherini: visitando il Montenegro in veste di ministro degli esteri nel luglio 2014, ribadiva che «la politica sull’allargamento è la chiave di volta del successo dell’Unione europea — e della Nato — nel promuovere pace, democrazia e sicurezza in Europa» e lodava il governo montenegrino per la sua «storia di successo». Quel governo capeggiato da Milo Djukanovic che perfino l’Europol (l’Ufficio di polizia della Ue) aveva chiamato in causa già nel 2013 perché il Montenegro è divenuto il crocevia dei traffici di droga dall’Afghanistan (dove opera la Nato) all’Europa e il più importante centro di riciclaggio di denaro sporco. Una «storia di successo», analoga a quella del Kosovo, che dimostra come anche la criminalità organizzata può essere usata a fini strategici.

Continua così l’espansione della Nato ad Est.

Nel 1999 essa ingloba i primi tre paesi dell’ex Patto di Varsavia: Polonia, Repubblica ceca e Ungheria.
Nel 2004, la Nato si estende ad altri sette: Estonia, Lettonia, Lituania (già parte dell’Urss); Bulgaria, Romania, Slovacchia (già parte del Patto di Varsavia); Slovenia (già parte della Jugoslavia).
Nel 2009, la Nato ingloba l’Albania (un tempo membro del Patto di Varsavia) e la Croazia (già parte della Jugoslavia).

Ora, nonostante la forte opposizione interna duramente repressa, si vuole tirar dentro il Montenegro, seguito da alcuni «Paesi aspiranti» – Macedonia, Bosnia-Erzegovina, Georgia, Ucraina – e da altri ancora cui viene lasciata «la porta aperta».

Espandendosi ad Est sempre più a ridosso della Russia, con le sue basi e forze militari comprese quelle nucleari, la Nato apre in realtà la porta a scenari catastrofici per l’Europa e il mondo.

Manlio Dinucci

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Aparentemente el año 2015 marca el inicio de la revolución en el interior del FMI. Primero se avaló la inclusión del yuan en los DEG, la canasta de divisas creada en 1969 para servir de suplemento de las reservas oficiales de los países miembros. Y ahora, gracias a la aprobación del Congreso de Estados Unidos, el FMI podrá implementar finalmente la reforma del sistema de cuotas de representación, con lo cual, China y otras potencias emergentes ganarán peso en la toma de decisiones, mientras que los países del continente europeo perderán relevancia. No obstante, todavía es prematuro concluir que se trata de una transformación radical en la correlación de fuerzas dentro del FMI: Estados Unidos seguirá manteniendo su poder de veto.  

Estados Unidos parece haber comprendido por fin que para conservar su liderazgo global resulta más contraproducente desconocer el creciente protagonismo de China y otras potencias emergentes, que compartir responsabilidades en la gestión de las finanzas internacionales. Por esa razón, y muy a su pesar, Washington no ha tenido otra alternativa que otorgar importantes concesiones a sus adversarios a través del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI).

En un primer momento, la última semana de noviembre, el FMI adoptó la decisión de incorporar el yuan en los Derechos Especiales de Giro (DEG, ‘Special Drawing Rights’), la canasta de divisas que creó a finales de la década de 1960 para complementar las reservas oficiales de sus miembros. Aunque en el interior del Fondo varios funcionarios estadounidenses se opusieron desde un principio, al final de cuentas Pekín se comprometió a seguir avanzando en la liberalización de su sector financiero.

Hasta la fecha el Banco Popular de China ha firmado cerca de cuarenta acuerdos bilaterales de permuta de divisas (‘currency swaps’). Este año los bancos centrales de Surinam, Sudáfrica y Chile comenzaron a promover entre las empresas de sus países el abandono del dólar. De modo creciente, el yuan suplanta a la divisa norteamericana en la facturación de los intercambios comerciales del gigante asiático.

Esta estrategia ha permitido que el yuan sea hoy la segunda moneda más utilizada en el financiamiento comercial y la cuarta en los pagos transfronterizos, según los datos de la Sociedad de Telecomunicaciones Financieras Interbancarias Mundiales (SWIFT, por sus siglas en ingles). Y más temprano que tarde la moneda china será plenamente convertible, es decir, intercambiada libremente en el mercado sin ningún tipo de restricción.

Es así como los dirigentes del Partido Comunista [de China] consiguieron echar abajo las suspicacias de la directora ejecutiva del FMI, Christine Lagarde: a partir del próximo 1º de octubre de 2016 el yuan se convertirá en la tercera divisa más relevante en la composición de los DEG. La “moneda del pueblo” (‘renminbi’) tendrá un peso mayor dentro de la canasta del FMI en comparación con el yen japonés y la libra esterlina, aunque se ubicará todavía por debajo del dólar y el euro.

Y en un segundo momento, el pasado viernes 18 de diciembre, el Congreso de Estados Unidos dio luz verde para que el FMI implemente la reforma del sistema de cuotas de representación. Sin lugar a dudas, es el cambio más importante dentro del FMI desde 1944, el año en que se construyeron los acuerdos de Bretton Woods. El nuevo reparto de cuotas significa, además, un gran respiro para el Fondo en términos de legitimidad.

Es que después del colapso económico de 2008 se puso en evidencia que el FMI no contaba con los recursos suficientes para hacer frente a las crisis liquidez. Ningún país que se dijera soberano tenía intenciones de solicitar su ayuda. El FMI se desprestigió por completo tras su actuación en las crisis de deuda de América Latina y del Sudeste asiático: había demostrado que operaba como el brazo armado del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos, y no como un fondo multilateral encargado de estabilizar las balanzas de pagos de sus adherentes.

Por ello, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quien se desempeñó como director gerente del FMI entre 2007 y 2011, convenció a los países emergentes de realizar nuevos depósitos a cambio de incrementar sus cuotas. El Directorio Ejecutivo del FMI avaló la propuesta el año 2010 en el marco de la XIV Revisión General de cuotas.

Luego se presentó la iniciativa de reforma ante la Junta de Gobernadores (integrada por la totalidad de los miembros), para someterse por último a la aprobación de los parlamentos nacionales. Y entonces el Gobierno de Estados Unidos hizo valer su poder de veto. Es que para que una decisión sea acreditada por el Fondo necesita una mayoría del 85% de la votación, y Estados Unidos por sí solo contaba con 16.7% del total.

Pero hace unos días, tras cinco años de ferviente oposición de parte del Congreso norteamericano la inercia finalmente se rompió. La reforma del sistema de cuotas será una realidad. Los recursos a disposición del FMI se duplican, se elevarán a 659,670 millones de dólares. Cabe destacar que la cuota que se asigna a un país determina el nivel máximo de sus compromisos financieros frente al FMI y su número de votos en la institución, y es un factor que determina su acceso al financiamiento del FMI

El avance más importante corresponde a China, cuya derecho de voto pasará de 3.8 a 6%, con lo cual, será el tercer país con más poder, únicamente por detrás de Estados Unidos y Japón. Brasil sube cuatro posiciones, mientras que India y Rusia lograron entrar en la lista de los diez más influyentes. En cambio, las asignaciones de Europa cayeron. A excepción de la cuota de España, que pasará de 1.68 a 2%, Alemania, Francia, Italia y el Reino Unido disminuirán su participación.

“Las reformas incrementan significativamente los principales recursos del FMI y nos permiten desplegar una respuesta más eficaz ante las crisis, a la vez que mejoran la estructura de gobierno institucional al reflejar mejor el creciente papel que desempeñan los países emergentes y en desarrollo dinámicos en la economía mundial”, apuntó Lagarde en un comunicado de prensa.

Con todo, lamentablemente Estados Unidos conservará su poder de veto: su derecho de voto disminuirá únicamente dos décimas, de 16.7 a 16.5%. Hasta ahora todo parece indicar que los dirigentes de Pekín no desean confrontar la dominación de Estados Unidos en el seno del FMI, institución que a más de setenta años de ponerse marcha, se mantiene como el “prestamista de última instancia” más importante en escala mundial tomando en cuenta el volumen de recursos que maneja.

La disputa entre China y Estados Unidos es solamente tangencial. Pekín ha buscado incrementar su influencia financiera a través de sus poderosos bancos estatales (China Development Bank, China Ex-Im Bank, ICBC, Bank of China, etc.), y a través de los bancos regionales de desarrollo en los que participa: el Banco Asiático de Inversiones en Infraestructura (AIIB, por sus siglas en inglés), el Banco de la Organización de Cooperación de Shanghái (SCO, por sus siglas en inglés) y el banco de los BRICS (acrónimo de Brasil, Rusia, India, China y Sudáfrica).

Tanto en Asia-Pacífico, África, como en América Latina y el Caribe, no hay duda de que China compite cara a cara con el Banco Mundial y los bancos regionales de desarrollo respaldados por Washington (Banco Asiático de Desarrollo, Banco Africano de Desarrollo, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, etc.) en el financiamiento de proyectos de infraestructura y extracción de materias primas (‘commodities’).

Sin embargo, los mecanismos de cooperación financiera impulsados por Pekín que proveen liquidez a los países en coyunturas críticas (problemas de liquidez), tales como la Iniciativa Chiang Mai (integrada por China, Japón, Corea del Sur y diez economías de la ASEAN) y el Acuerdo de Reservas de Contingencia de los BRICS (también conocido como el “mini-FMI”) poseen escasos recursos monetarios, operan en dólares, y además dependen del aval del FMI para otorgar préstamos a partir de cierto límite.

Por lo tanto, si bien es una excelente noticia para el mundo que China y otros países con elevadas tasas de crecimiento del Producto Interno Bruto (PIB) hayan conseguido ver incrementada su participación en el FMI y tener dos puestos más entre los veinticuatro del Directorio Ejecutivo, Estados Unidos seguirá ejerciendo una dominación aplastante.

Si Washington no está de acuerdo en algún detalle, por mínimo que sea, podrá vetar cualquier propuesta de los países emergentes gracias a su poder de veto. Es indudable que en algún momento, China deberá ejercer presión para evitar que un solo país escriba las reglas del juego, tiempo al tiempo…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

 

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez : Economista egresado de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

 

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Selected Articles: “Power Politics” in the Middle East

December 29th, 2015 by Global Research News

531px-Syrian_Arab_Army_Flag.svgVideo: Syrian Military Operations against ISIS Terrorist Positions Near Turkish Border

By South Front, December 29 2015

Last weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies continued their counter-attack at the Al-Sina’a District (Industrial District) in the Deir Ezzor province’s capital, striking ISIS militants at east of this area. According to the ground reports, the Syrian…

Jewish-only roadIsrael’s First “Jewish-Only Road”. Palestinians are Banned from Using the Road”

By Ariyana Love, December 29 2015

Israel has announced the construction of a new, Jewish-only road that will connect two Jewish colonies, according to a report by the Middle East Monitor.

global-economyThe Power Politics behind the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh) and the “Trade” Agreements

By Chandra Muzaffar and Hassanal Noor Rashid, December 29 2015

The protracted conflicts in Syria and many parts of West Asia have been a fertile ground for the rise of extreme militants professing their own barbaric distortion of the Islamic Faith.

Foreign-and-Expatriates-MinistryWho are the State Sponsors of Terrorism? “Terrorism Is the Outcome of Generous Support by Countries Like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to Terrorist Organizations. Syrian Foreign Ministry

By SANA, December 29 2015

Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Monday sent two letters to the UN Secretary-General and President of UN Security Council regarding the persistence of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations in committing crimes against civilians in Syrian cities.

tim_anderson3The Dirty War on Syria: Washington Supports the Islamic State (ISIS)

By Prof. Tim Anderson, December 29 2015

Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS were shot down by Iraqi forces (Iraqi News 2015) were met with shock and denial in western countries. Yet few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria.

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Image: Ellen Brown

While the mainstream media focus on ISIS extremists, a threat that has gone virtually unreported is that your life savings could be wiped out in a massive derivatives collapse. Bank bail-ins have begun in Europe, and the infrastructure is in place in the US.  Poverty also kills. 

At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”

The pensioner’s bank was one of four small regional banks that had been put under special administration over the past two years. The €3.6 billion ($3.83 billion) rescue plan launched by the Italian government uses a newly-formed National Resolution Fund, which is fed by the country’s healthy banks. But before the fund can be tapped, losses must be imposed on investors; and in January, EU rules will require that they also be imposed on depositors. According to a December 10th article on BBC.com:

The rescue was a “bail-in” – meaning bondholders suffered losses – unlike the hugely unpopular bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis, which cost ordinary EU taxpayers tens of billions of euros.

Correspondents say [Italian Prime Minister] Renzi acted quickly because in January, the EU is tightening the rules on bank rescues – they will force losses on depositors holding more than €100,000, as well as bank shareholders and bondholders.

. . . [L]etting the four banks fail under those new EU rules next year would have meant “sacrificing the money of one million savers and the jobs of nearly 6,000 people”.

That is what is predicted for 2016: massive sacrifice of savings and jobs to prop up a “systemically risky” global banking scheme.

Bail-in Under Dodd-Frank 

That is all happening in the EU. Is there reason for concern in the US?

According to former hedge fund manager Shah Gilani, writing for Money Morning, there is. In a November 30th article titled “Why I’m Closing My Bank Accounts While I Still Can,” he writes:

[It is] entirely possible in the next banking crisis that depositors in giant too-big-to-fail failing banks could have their money confiscated and turned into equity shares. . . .

If your too-big-to-fail (TBTF) bank is failing because they can’t pay off derivative bets they made, and the government refuses to bail them out, under a mandate titled “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution,” approved on Nov. 16, 2014, by the G20’s Financial Stability Board, they can take your deposited money and turn it into shares of equity capital to try and keep your TBTF bank from failing.

Once your money is deposited in the bank, it legally becomes the property of the bank. Gilani explains:

Your deposited cash is an unsecured debt obligation of your bank. It owes you that money back.

If you bank with one of the country’s biggest banks, who collectively have trillions of dollars of derivatives they hold “off balance sheet” (meaning those debts aren’t recorded on banks’ GAAP balance sheets), those debt bets have a superior legal standing to your deposits and get paid back before you get any of your cash.

. . . Big banks got that language inserted into the 2010 Dodd-Frank law meant to rein in dangerous bank behavior.

The banks inserted the language and the legislators signed it, without necessarily understanding it or even reading it. At over 2,300 pages and still growing, the Dodd Frank Act is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever passed by the US legislature.

Propping Up the Derivatives Scheme

Dodd-Frank states in its preamble that it will “protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this under Title II by imposing the losses of insolvent financial companies on their common and preferred stockholders, debtholders, and other unsecured creditors. That includes depositors, the largest class of unsecured creditor of any bank.

Title II is aimed at “ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under bankruptcy liquidation.” But here’s the catch: under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claimssecured and unsecured, insured and uninsured.

The over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market (the largest market for derivatives) is made up of banks and other highly sophisticated players such as hedge funds. OTC derivatives are the bets of these financial players against each other. Derivative claims are considered “secured” because collateral is posted by the parties.

For some inexplicable reason, the hard-earned money you deposit in the bank is not considered “security” or “collateral.” It is just a loan to the bank, and you must stand in line along with the other creditors in hopes of getting it back. State and local governments must also stand in line, although their deposits are considered “secured,” since they remain junior to the derivative claims with “super-priority.”

Turning Bankruptcy on Its Head

 Under the old liquidation rules, an insolvent bank was actually “liquidated” – its assets were sold off to repay depositors and creditors. Under an “orderly resolution,” the accounts of depositors and creditors are emptied to keep the insolvent bank in business. The point of an “orderly resolution” is not to make depositors and creditors whole but to prevent another system-wide “disorderly resolution” of the sort that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The concern is that pulling a few of the dominoes from the fragile edifice that is our derivatives-laden global banking system will collapse the entire scheme. The sufferings of depositors and investors are just the sacrifices to be borne to maintain this highly lucrative edifice.

In a May 2013 article in Forbes titled “The Cyprus Bank ‘Bail-In’ Is Another Crony Bankster Scam,” Nathan Lewis explained the scheme like this:

At first glance, the “bail-in” resembles the normal capitalist process of liabilities restructuring that should occur when a bank becomes insolvent. . . .

The difference with the “bail-in” is that the order of creditor seniority is changed. In the end, it amounts to the cronies (other banks and government) and non-cronies. The cronies get 100% or more; the non-cronies, including non-interest-bearing depositors who should be super-senior, get a kick in the guts instead. . . .

In principle, depositors are the most senior creditors in a bank. However, that was changed in the 2005 bankruptcy law, which made derivatives liabilities most senior. Considering the extreme levels of derivatives liabilities that many large banks have, and the opportunity to stuff any bank with derivatives liabilities in the last moment, other creditors could easily find there is nothing left for them at all.

As of September 2014, US derivatives had a notional value of nearly $280 trillion. A study involving the cost to taxpayers of the Dodd-Frank rollback slipped by Citibank into the “cromnibus” spending bill last December found that the rule reversal allowed banks to keep $10 trillion in swaps trades on their books. This is money that taxpayers could be on the hook for in another bailout; and since Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with bail-ins, it is money that creditors and depositors could now be on the hook for. Citibank is particularly vulnerable to swaps on the price of oil. Brent crude dropped from a high of $114 per barrel in June 2014 to a low of $36 in December 2015.

What about FDIC insurance? It covers deposits up to $250,000, but the FDIC fund had only $67.6 billion in it as of June 30, 2015, insuring about $6.35 trillion in deposits. The FDIC has a credit line with the Treasury, but even that only goes to $500 billion; and who would pay that massive loan back? The FDIC fund, too, must stand in line behind the bottomless black hole of derivatives liabilities. As Yves Smith observed in a March 2013 post:

In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositors to fund derivatives exposures. . . . The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss.

Even in the worst of the Great Depression bank bankruptcies, noted Nathan Lewis, creditors eventually recovered nearly all of their money. He concluded:

When super-senior depositors have huge losses of 50% or more, after a “bail-in” restructuring, you know that a crime was committed.

Exiting While We Can

How can you avoid this criminal theft and keep your money safe? It may be too late to pull your savings out of the bank and stuff them under a mattress, as Shah Gilani found when he tried to withdraw a few thousand dollars from his bank. Large withdrawals are now criminally suspect.

You can move your money into one of the credit unions with their own deposit insurance protection; but credit unions and their insurance plans are also under attack. So writes Frances Coppola in a December 18th article titled “Co-operative Banking Under Attack in Europe,” discussing an insolvent Spanish credit union that was the subject of a bail-in in July 2015. When the member-investors were subsequently made whole by the credit union’s private insurance group, there were complaints that the rescue “undermined the principle of creditor bail-in” – this although the insurance fund was privately financed. Critics argued that “this still looks like a circuitous way to do what was initially planned, i.e. to avoid placing losses on private creditors.”

In short, the goal of the bail-in scheme is to place losses on private creditors. Alternatives that allow them to escape could soon be blocked.

We need to lean on our legislators to change the rules before it is too late. The Dodd Frank Act and the Bankruptcy Reform Act both need a radical overhaul, and the Glass-Steagall Act (which put a fire wall between risky investments and bank deposits) needs to be reinstated.

Meanwhile, local legislators would do well to set up some publicly-owned banks on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota – banks that do not gamble in derivatives and are safe places to store our public and private funds.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. Listen to “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.

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[Featured image: Head of US armed forces General Martin Dempsey, Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham and US Vice President Joe Biden have all admitted that their close regional allies (especially the Saudis, Qatar and Turkey) finance ISIS.]

“It is always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists and simultaneously trying to use some to place pieces on the Middle Eastern chess board to pursue their own interests … [but do the] so-called moderate bandits behead people moderately?” – Vladimir Putin (2015)

Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS were shot down by Iraqi forces (Iraqi News 2015) were met with shock and denial in western countries. Yet few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria. A Yemeni AnsarAllah leader says ‘Wherever there is U.S. interference, there is al Qaeda and ISIS. It’s to their advantage’ (al-Bukaiti 2015). However key myths remain important, especially to western audiences. Engaging with those myths calls for reason and evidence, not just assertion.

There is no doubt that the Arab and Muslim peoples of the Middle East hate the terrorist monstrosity called ISIS, ISIL or DAESH. Polling by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre found that 99% of Lebanese, 94% of Jordanians and 84% of Palestinians had an ‘unfavourable’ view of ISIS. As Lebanon’s constitutional system requires sectarian identification it was also found that 98% of Lebanese Sunni Muslims rejected ISIS (Poushter 2015). That latter finding discredits the common western assertion that ISIS somehow springs from Sunni communities. Less than 1% in Lebanon, 3% in Jordan and 6% in Palestine viewed the banned terrorist group favourably. The remainder did not express an opinion. Of all Syria’s neighbours, Turkey had the lowest ‘unfavourable’ view of ISIS, at 73%; the favourable score was 8% (Poushter 2015). The aim of this chapter is to help clarify what role Washington has had in creating or turning loose this Frankenstein’s monster.

Washington maintains two closely linked myths as regards terrorism in the Middle East. Then there is a ‘fall-back’ story. The first ‘existential myth’ is that, from 2014, the US became engaged in a war against extremist terrorists, in both Iraq and Syria. This followed several years of trying to topple the Syrian Government by backing illegal armed groups, which it calls ‘moderate’. Through this myth the US claims to be playing a protective role for the benefit of the peoples of the region. The second myth is that there is a significant difference between the ‘moderate rebels’ the US arms, finances and trains, and the extremist terrorists (DAESH or ISIS) it claims to be fighting.

These claims represented a shift in the rationale for the war on Syria, from one of ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a revival of the Bush era ‘war on terror’. The ‘fall back’ story, advanced by some of Washington’s domestic critics, is that US practice in the region has created a climate of resentment amongst orthodox Sunni Muslim communities, and the extremist groups emerged as a type of ‘organic reaction’ from those communities to repeated US interventions. This story hides the more damaging conclusion that Washington and its allies directly created the extremist groups.

However there is little point in simply asserting that last version, without evidence. The ‘existential myth’ of a western war on terrorism is so insistent and pervasive, and backed by such a commitment in political capital, arms and finance, that it is very difficult for western audiences to accept this new ‘war’ might be a charade. Further, diplomacy requires that stated policy positions be pursued to their logical conclusions, and that the aims be tested. For these reasons I suggest we should document the key elements of evidence, on Washington’s relationship with the sectarian terrorists. After that we can draw better informed conclusions.

It is certainly true that prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. The Afghan recruiter for ISIS, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, spent three years in the US prison at Guantanamo (Bienaimé 2015). ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq (Giovanni 2014). In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region (Nazemroaya 2006). While there have been claims that al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been backed up with evidence.

Nevertheless, according to Seymour Hersh’s article, ‘The Redirection’, the US planned to make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, in particular the Saudis, to contain alleged ‘Shiia gains’ in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel (Hersh 2007). This plan brought the Saudis and Israel closer as, for somewhat different reasons, both fear Iran.

In mid-2012, US intelligence reported two important facts about the violence in Syria. Firstly, most of the armed ‘insurgency’ was being driven by extremist al Qaeda groups, and second, the sectarian aim of those groups was ‘exactly’ what the US and its allies wanted. The DIA wrote:

‘The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria … There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers [The West, Gulf monarchies and Turkey] to the [Syrian] opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime’ (DIA 2012).

The US also observed (and certainly did not stop) the channelling of arms from Benghazi in Libya to ‘al Qaeda groups’ in Syria, in August 2012. These arms were detailed as including 500 Sniper rifles, 100 RPG launchers with 300 rounds and 400 howitzers missiles, of 125mm and 155mm calibre, all shipped to the Ports of Banias and Borj Islam, in Syria (Judicial Watch 2015). According to Michael Flynn, the former head of the DIA, and consistent with that intelligence, President Obama made a ‘wilful decision’ to support al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other ‘jihadist’ groups (Newman 2015). This all confirms motive, complicity and consistency of the process, from the early days of the Syrian conflict, building on former President Bush’s ‘New Middle East’ plan. Washington covertly approved the arming of al Qaeda groups in Syria, seeing its own advantage in that.

Probably the most convincing confirmation of US complicity with its terrorist ‘enemy’ has been the admissions from several senior officials that their main regional allies have financed ISIS. Those officials include the US Vice-President, the head of the US Armed Forces and the Chair of the US Armed Forces Committee. In September 2014 General Martin Dempsey, head of the US military, told a Congressional hearing ‘I know major Arab allies who fund [ISIS]’ (Rothman 2014). Senator Lindsey Graham, of the Armed Services Committee, responded with a justification, ‘They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight [Syrian President] Assad, they were trying to beat Assad’ (Rothman 2014; Washington’s Blog 2014). These were honest, if criminal, admissions.

The next month, US Vice President Joe Biden went a step further, explaining that Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ‘were so determined to take down Assad … they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad … [including] al Nusra and al Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … [and then] this outfit called ISIL’ (RT 2014; Usher 2014). Once again, these were consistent and credible admissions, except that Biden sought to exempt the US from this operation by blaming key allies. That caveat is simply not credible. The Saudis in particular are politically dependent on Washington and could not mount any major initiative without US approval. Not only that, the US systematically controls, by purchase contract and re-export license, the use of its weapons (Export.Gov 2015).

Washington’s relationship with the Saudis, as a divisive sectarian force in the region against Arab nationalism, goes back to the 1950s, when Winston Churchill introduced the Saudi King to President Eisenhower. More recently, British General Jonathan Shaw acknowledged the contribution of Saudi Arabia’s extremist ideology: ‘this is a time bomb that, under the guise of education. Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money’, Shaw said (Blair 2014). He was right.

Other evidence undermines western attempts to maintain a distinction between what came to be called the ‘moderate rebels’, by 2013 openly armed and trained by the US, and supposedly more extreme groups such as Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS. While there has indeed been some rivalry, the absence of real ideological difference is best shown by cooperation and mergers. For example the collection of US-backed groups called the ‘Free Syrian Army’ fought alongside ISIS and against the Syrian Army for several months in 2013, to gain control of Syria’s Menagh air base, near Aleppo (Paraszczuk 2013). Hoff points out that one of the ISIS commanders in the Menagh operation, Chechen Abu Omar al Shisani, ‘received American military training as part of an elite Georgian army unit in 2006’ and continued to receive US support in 2013, through his FSA alliance (Hoff 2015).

Long term cooperation between these ‘moderate rebels’ and the foreign-led Jabhat al-Nusra was seen around Daraa in the south, along the mountainous Lebanese border, in Homs-Idlib, along the Turkish border and in and around Aleppo. The words Jabhat al Nusra actually mean ‘support front’, that is, foreign support for the Syrian Islamists. Back in December 2012, as Jabhat al Nusra was banned in various countries, 29 of these groups reciprocated the solidarity in their declaration: ‘We are all Jabhat al-Nusra’ (West 2012). Soon after the 29 group signatories became ‘more than 100’ (Zelin 2012). There was never any real ideological difference between these sectarian anti-government groups.

The decline of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ network and the renewed cooperation between al Nusra and the string of reinvented US and Saudi backed groups (Dawud, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, Harakat Hazm) helped draw attention to Israel’s support for al Nusra, around the occupied Golan Heights. Since 2013 there have been many reports of ‘rebel’ fighters, including those from al Nusra, being treated in Israeli hospitals (Zoabi 2014). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even publicised his visit to wounded ‘rebels’ in early 2014. That led to a public ‘thank you’ from a Turkey-based ‘rebel’ leader, Mohammed Badie (Israel Today 2014). Semi-covertly, Israel backed all the armed groups against Syria, occasionally assisting them with its own missile attacks (Kais 2013).

The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan reported its observations of the Israeli Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al Nusra fighters at the border (Fitzgerald 2014). At the same time, Israeli arms were captured by Syrian forces from the extremist groups (Kais 2012; Winer 2013). In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israeli hospitals being used to help wounded al Nusra and ISIS fighters (Zoabi 2014). This led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]’. A military spokesman’s reply was hardly a denial: ‘In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity’ (Zoabi 2014). In fact, not even a humble farmer gets across the heavily militarised Occupied Golan border to retrieve a stray goat. ‘Humanitarian’ treatment for al Qaeda terrorists is different.

The artificial distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘extremist’ groups has been mocked by multiple reports of large scale defections and transfer of weapons, to the extremists. In July 2014 one thousand armed men in the Dawud Brigade defected to ISIS in Raqqa (Hamadee and Gutman 2014; Ditz 2014). In November defections to Jabhat al Nusra from the US-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front were reported (Newman 2014; Sly 2014).

In December, Adib Al-Shishakli, representative at the Gulf Cooperation Council of the exile ‘Syrian National Coalition’, said ‘opposition fighters’ were ‘increasingly joining’ ISIS ‘for financial reasons’ (Zayabi 2014). In that same month, the Al Yarmouk Shuhada Brigades, backed and trained for two years by US officers, were reported as defecting to ISIS, which had by this time began to establish a presence in Syria’s far south (OSNet 2014). Then, over 2014-2015, three thousand ‘moderate rebels’ from the US-backed ‘Harakat Hazzm’ collapsed into Jabhat al Nusra, taking a large stock of US arms including anti-tank weapons with them (Fadel 2015a). Video posted by al-Nusra showed these weapons being used to take over the Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, in Idlib province (Bacchi 2015). Debka File, a site linked to Israeli intelligence, says the heavy weaponry provided to the Syrian ‘opposition’ by the USA, Israel, the Saudis, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar includes tanks, armoured vehicles, rockets launchers, machine-guns, anti-aircraft weapons and ‘at least four types of anti-tank weapons’ (Debka 2015). The scale and consistency of the ‘defections’ strongly suggests management to channel these arms, along with fighters, to make ISIS the best equipped group. A similar conclusion was noted by US Senator John Kiriakou (Sputnik 2015b).

Recruitment of fighters for ISIS was certainly a heavily financed affair, and not an ‘organic’ drift of resentful ‘Sunni’ youth. In late 2014 the Afghan Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost was said to be ‘leading efforts in northern Pakistan to recruit fighters for ISIS’ (Bienaimé 2015). Soon after this report, Syrian jihadist Yousaf al Salafi, arrested in Pakistan, said he had been hired to recruit young men in Pakistan to fight with ISIS in Syria. He says he received $600 for each fighter he sent, working with a Pakistani sheikh and using US money (Variyar 2015). Who knows what the middle-men took, but this sum is several times the salary of an average Syrian soldier. As with Jabhat al Nusra, recruits came from a wide range of countries. Cuban journalists interviewed four captured ISIS jihadists from Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. They were recruited in a larger group which had passed freely through Turkey and across the border into Syria. They were assisted to participate in this ‘holy war’ by offers of a house, a good salary and a bride. More than 300 people were killed by their car bombs (PL 2015).

ISIS had US weapons by various means in both Iraq and Syria when, in late 2014, a ‘non-aggression pact’ was reported in the southern area of Hajar al-Aswad between ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, as both recognised a common enemy in Syria: ‘the Nussayri regime’, a sectarian way of referring to Alawi Muslims. Some reported ISIS had purchased weapons from the ‘rebels’ (AFP 2015).

With ‘major Arab allies’ directly backing ISIS and a steady stream of fighters and arms passing to ISIS from the collapsing US-backed ‘moderate rebel’ groups, it is a small leap to recognise that US and ‘coalition’ flights to ISIS areas (supposedly to ‘degrade’ the extremists) might also have become covert supply lines. That is precisely what senior Iraqi sources began saying, in late 2014 and early 2015 (Iraq News 2014). In mid-2014 ISIS began seizing US weapons, but this was put down to incompetence on the part of the Iraqi Army (Sharma and Nestel 2014).

However, soon after that, US air drops of arms were seized by ISIS troops on the ground. Was this US incompetence or US planning? As reported by both Iraqi and Iranian media, Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui said in January that ‘an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin’ (Sarhan 2015). Photos were published of ISIS retrieving the weapons. The US admitted seizures of its weapons but said this was a ‘mistake’ (MacAskill and Chulov 2014). Then in February Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli said the Iraqi army had shot down two British planes which were carrying weapons to ISIS in al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published of the wrecked planes. ‘We have discovered weapons made in the US, European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region’, al-Zameli said (FNA 2015a).

The Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz saying that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province (FNA 2015b). Also in February an Iraqi militia called Al-Hashad Al-Shabi said they had shot down a US Army helicopter carrying weapons for ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published (FNA 2015a). After that, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were reported as having arrested ‘four foreigners who were employed as military advisors to the ISIL fighters’, three of whom were American and Israeli (Adl 2015). Israel’s link to ISIS seems to have passed well beyond its border areas. In late 2015 an Israeli Colonel Yusi Oulen Shahak was said to have been arrested with an ISIS group in Iraq.

The Iraqi Government linked militia said Shahak, from the Golani brigade, was a colonel who ‘had participated in the Takfiri ISIL group’s terrorist operations’ (FNA 2015c). Six senior Iraqi officials have been cited detailing US weaponry and intelligence support for ISIS. Captured ISIS fighters said the US had provided ‘intelligence about the Iraqi forces’ positions and targets’ (FNA 2015d). The western media avoided these stories altogether, because they are very damaging to Washington’s ‘existential myth’ of a ‘War on ISIS’. However they certainly help explain why Baghdad does not trust the US military.

In Libya in 2015 a key US collaborator in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government announced himself the newly declared head of the ‘Islamic State’ in North Africa (Sputnik 2015a). Abdel Hakim Belhaj was held in US prisons for several years, then ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was wanted for terrorist acts. As former head of the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then the Tripoli-based ‘Libyan Dawn’ group, Belhaj was, in the past, defended by Washington and praised by US Congressmen John McCain and Lindsey Graham (Sputnik 2015a).

Evidence of the covert relationship between Washington and ISIS is substantial and helps explain what Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad called Washington’s ‘cosmetic war’ on ISIS (SANA 2015). The terrorist group was herded away from the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq but allowed to operate freely in Eastern Syria, against the Syrian Army (Fadel 2015b). The extremist group is used to justify a foothold Washington keeps in the region, weakening both Syria and Iraq. But Washington’s ‘war’ on ISIS has been ineffective. Studies by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgent database showed that ISIS attacks and killings in Iraq increased strongly in the months after US air attacks began (Lestch 2014). The main on-the-ground fighting has been carried out by the Syrian Army, with its allies, and the Iraqi armed forces, with support from Iran (Lister 2015).

All this has been reported perversely in the western media. The same channels that prominently report (virtually celebrating) the ISIS killing of Syrian soldiers have also claimed the Syrian Army was avoiding or ‘not fighting’ ISIS (Richter 2014; Vinograd and Omar 2014). That alleged ‘unwillingness’ was part of the justification for US bombing inside Syria, another false pretext. While it is certainly the case that Syrian priorities remained in the heavily populated west, multiple media reports make it clear that, well before the strikes by the Russian air force in October 2015, the Syrian Arab Army was the major force engaged with ISIS (YNet 2014; al Arabiya 2014; Reuters 2015), as also suffering the worst casualties from that terrorist group (Webb 2014). When it comes to avoiding ISIS, the reverse has been the case. The evidence tells us that Washington’s lack of will against ISIS is linked to the fact that the terrorist group remains a key tool against the Syrian Government. That also explains why the US refuses to coordinate with the Syrian Army against ISIS (King 2015). This is consistent with the central ongoing aim of ‘regime change’ in Damascus or, failing that, dismemberment of the country. Such an aim was rejected by the US and others at a Vienna conference (Daily Star 2015); but US practice speaks louder than its words.

The contradictions of the US position – of claiming to fight ISIS while covertly protecting it – were thrown into sharp relief when in late September 2015 Russia decided to add air power to the Syrian Army’s efforts, against all the terrorist groups. When the US refused to cooperate with Russia, Washington’s media and NGO cheer squads immediately shifted their chorus of Syrian Government ‘killing civilians’ to that of Russia ‘killing civilians’. That had little effect on matters. At the time of writing, with that powerful Russian assistance, ISIS and the others are retreating and the Syrian Arab Army and its allied militia are gradually reclaiming areas that have been occupied for some time (AFP 2015).

Closer cooperation between Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah threaten to seriously degrade US dominance in the region. In the Iraqi military’s recent offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit, the Iranian military emerged as Iraq’s main partner. Washington was sidelined, causing consternation in the US media. General Qasem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force was said to have been a leading player in the Tikrit operation (Rosen 2015). Not least amongst the new developments has been the creation of an intelligence centre based in Baghdad and shared by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran plus Hezbollah (4+1). This signals a new measure of independence for the Baghdad government, long thought to be a puppet captured by Washington (Boyer and Scarborough 2015).

This article has presented sufficient evidence for us to safely draw these conclusions.

First, Washington planned a bloody wave of regime change in its favour in the Middle East, getting allies such as the Saudis to use sectarian forces in a process of ‘creative destruction’.

Second, the US directly financed and armed a range of so-called ‘moderate’ terrorist groups against the sovereign state of Syria while its key allies the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey financed, armed and supported with arms and medical treatment every anti-Syrian armed group, whether ‘moderate’ or extreme.

Third, ‘jihadists’ for Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS were actively recruited in many countries, indicating that the rise of those groups was not due to a simple anti-western ‘Sunni’ reaction within the region.

Fourth, NATO member Turkey functioned as a ‘free transit zone’ for every type of terrorist group passing into Syria.

Fifth, there is testimony from a significant number of senior Iraqi officials that US arms have been delivered directly to ISIS.

Sixth, the ineffective, or at best selective, US ‘war’ against ISIS tends to corroborate the Iraqi and Syrian views that there is a controlling relationship. In sum we can conclude that the US has built a command relationship with all of the anti-Syrian terrorist groups, including al Nusra ISIS, either directly or through its close regional allies, the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. Washington has attempted to play a ‘double game’ in Syria and Iraq, using its old doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’ to maintain the fiction of a ‘war on terrorism’ for as long as is possible.

References:

Adl, Carol (2015) ‘US, Israeli Military Advisors Arrested In Iraq, Accused Of Aiding ISIS’, Your News Wire, 7 March, online: http://yournewswire.com/us-israeli-military-advisors-arrested-in-iraq-accused-of-aiding-isis/

AFP (2014) ‘Syria rebels, IS in ‘non-aggression’ pact near Damascus’, Global Post, 13 September, online: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140912/syria-rebels-non-aggression-pact-near-damascus

AFP (2015) ‘Syria gaining ground in ‘nearly every front’’, The Daily Star, 23 November, online: http://www.thedailystar.net/world/syria-gaining-ground-nearly-every-front-176662

Anderson, Tim (2015) ‘Daraa 2011: Syria’s Islamist Insurrection in Disguise’, Global Research, 5 July, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/daraa-2011-syrias-islamist-insurrection-in-disguise/5460547

Arabiya al (2014) ‘Syrian Govt. bombs ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, 63 killed’, 25 November, online: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/11/26/-Syrian-government-airstrikes-kill-63-in-Raqqa-monitor.html

Bacchi, Umberto (2015) ‘Syria: al-Qaeda Nusra Front shows off huge cache of US weapons seized from moderate Harakat Hazm rebels’, International Business Times, 4 March, online: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-al-qaeda-nusra-front-shows-off-us-weapons-seized-moderate-harakat-hazm-rebels-1490378

Bienaimé, Pierre (2014) ‘ISIS Now Has A Point Man Recruiting Fighters In Pakistan’, Business Insider, 20 November, online: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/isis-now-has-a-point-man-recruiting-fighters-in-pakistan-2014-11

Blair, David (2014) ‘Qatar and Saudi Arabia ‘have ignited time bomb by funding global spread of radical Islam’, Telegraph, 4 October, online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/11140860/Qatar-and-Saudi-Arabia-have-ignited-time-bomb-by-funding-global-spread-of-radical-Islam.html

Blanford, Nicholas (2011) ‘Assad regime may be gaining upper hand in Syria’, Christina Science Monitor, 13 May, online: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0513/Assad-regime-may-be-gaining-upper-hand-in-Syria

Boyer, Dave and Rowan Scarborough (2015) ‘White House alarmed as Iraq uses intelligence center operated by Russia, Iran, Syria’, Washington Times, 13 October, online: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/13/iraq-uses-intelligence-center-operated-by-russia-i/?page=all

Bukaiti al, Mohammed (2015) ‘Yemen’s Hidden War’, Rolling Stone, October, Issue 767, p.82; also online: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/yemens-hidden-war-20150730

Curtis, Mark (2012) Secret Affairs: Britain’s collusion with radical Islam, Serpent’s Tail, London

Daily Star (2015) ‘Moallem welcomes Vienna statement on Syria’, 2 November, online: https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Nov-02/321197-moallem-welcomes-vienna-statement-on-syria.ashx

Debka (2015) ‘Assad loses battles as US, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and UAE arm Al Qaeda’s Syrian branches’, 4 May, online: http://www.debka.com/article/24578/Assad-loses-battles-as-US-Israel-Turkey-Jordan-Qatar-and-UAE-arm-Al-Qaeda%E2%80%99s-Syrian-branches

DIA (2012) Intelligence Report ‘R 050839Z Aug 2012’ in Judicial Watch, Pgs. 287-293 (291) JW v DOD and State 14-812, 18 May, online: http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-287-293-291-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812-2/

Ditz, Jason (2014) ‘1,000-Strong Syrian Rebel Brigade Defects to ISIS: FSA Rebels Demand US Arms, Threaten to Quit War’, Anti-War.Com, 8 July, online: http://news.antiwar.com/2014/07/08/1000-strong-syrian-rebel-brigade-defects-to-isis/

Export.Gov (2015) ‘Dual Use Export Licenses’, US Export Agency, online: http://www.export.gov/regulation/eg_main_018229.asp

Fadel, Leith (2015a) ‘The Last of the “Moderates” – Harakat Hazzm Disbands to Join Islamists’, Al Masdar, 2 march, online: http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/last-moderates-harakat-hazzm-disbands-join-islamists/

Fadel, Leith (2015b) ‘Anti-ISIS Coalition Uses ISIS to Fight Assad in Favor of the Rebels’, Al Masdar, 2 October, online: http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/anti-isis-coalition-uses-isis-to-fight-assad-in-favor-of-the-rebels/

Fitzgerald, Denis (2014) ‘UN peacekeepers observe IDF interacting with al Nusra in Golan’, UN Tribune, 4 December, online: http://untribune.com/un-peacekeepers-observe-idf-interacting-al-nusra-golan/

FNA (2015a) ‘Iraq’s Popular Forces Release Photo of Downed US Chopper Carrying Arms for ISIL’, Fars News Agency, 28 February, online: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13931209001345

FNA (2015b) ‘Iraqi Army Downs Two British Planes Carrying Weapons for ISIL Terrorists’, Global research, 24 February, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/iraqi-army-downs-two-british-planes-carrying-weapons-for-isil-terrorists/5433089

FNA (2015c) ‘Israeli Colonel Leading ISIL Terrorists Captured in Iraq’, Fars News Agency, 22 October, online: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13940730000210

FNA (2015d) ‘Captured ISIL leaders in Iraq confess receiving intelligence support from US’, Fars New Agency, SOTT, 25 October, online: http://www.sott.net/article/304825-Captured-ISIL-leaders-in-Iraq-confess-receiving-intelligence-support-from-US

Giovanni di, Janine (2014) ‘Who Is ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?’ Newsweek, 8 December, online: http://www.newsweek.com/2014/12/19/who-isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-290081.html

Hamadee al, Mousab and Roy Gutman (2014) ‘1,000 Syrian rebels defect to Islamic State in sign it’s still strengthening’, McClatchy, 8 July, online: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/middle-east/article24770164.html

Hersh, Seymour (2007) The Redirection’, The New Yorker, 5 March, online: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection

Hoff, Brad (2015) ‘ISIS Leader Omar al-Shishani Fought Under U.S. Umbrella as Late as 2013’, Levant Report, 18 September, online: http://levantreport.com/tag/menagh-airbase/

Iraqi News (2015) American aircraft dropped weapons to ISIS, says MP, 4 January, online: http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/american-aircraft-airdropped-weapons-to-isis-says-mp/

Israel Today (2014) ‘Syrian Rebels Thank Netanyahu for Israel’s Compassion’, 23 February, online: http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24453/Default.aspx

Judicial Watch (2015) ‘Judicial Watch: Defense, State Department Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance’, 18 May, online: http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-defense-state-department-documents-reveal-obama-administration-knew-that-al-qaeda-terrorists-had-planned-benghazi-attack-10-days-in-advance/

Kais, Roi (2012) ‘Syria: Rebels use Israeli arms’, YNet, 27 January, online: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4181733,00.html

Kais, Roi (2013) ‘US confirms: Israel attacked Syrian missile base’, YNet, 31 October, online: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4448123,00.html

King, Justin (2015) ‘Mounting Evidence Shows US Does Not Want ISIS Defeated’, Mint Press, 24 February, online: http://www.mintpressnews.com/mounting-evidence-shows-us-does-not-want-isis-defeated/202479/

Lestch, Corrinne (2014) ‘U.S. airstrikes fail to slow down brutal ISIS attacks: report’, Daily News, 14 November, online: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/u-s-airstrikes-fail-reduce-brutal-isis-attacks-report-article-1.2011021

Lister, Tim (2015) ‘Battle for Tikrit: Despite billions in aid, Iraqi army relies on militia, and Iran’, CNN, 11 March, online: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/11/middleeast/lister-iraq-iran/

MacAskill, Ewen and Martin Chulov (2014) ‘Isis apparently takes control of US weapons airdrop intended for Kurds’, Guardian, 22 October, online: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/22/isis-us-airdrop-weapons-pentagon

Nazemroaya, Mahdi Darius (2006) Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ‘New Middle East’, Global Research, 18 November, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/plans-for-redrawing-the-middle-east-the-project-for-a-new-middle-east/3882

Newman, Alex (2014) ‘“Moderate” Rebels Armed by Obama Join al-Qaeda, ISIS’, New American, 21 November, online: http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/asia/item/19583-moderate-rebels-armed-by-obama-join-al-qaeda-isis

Newman, Alex (2015) ‘U.S. Defense Intel Chief: Obama Gave “Wilful” Aid to Al-Qaeda’, New American, 11 August, online: http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/foreign-policy/item/21384-u-s-defense-intel-chief-obama-gave-willful-aid-to-al-qaeda

Paraszczuk, Joanna (2013) ‘Syria Analysis: Which Insurgents Captured Menagh Airbase — & Who Led Them? EA Worldview, 7 August, online: http://eaworldview.com/2013/08/syria-feature-which-insurgents-captured-the-menagh-airbase/

PL (2015) ‘Yihadistas revelan cómo se reclutan militantes para el Estado Islámico’, CubaDebate, 25 June, online: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2015/06/25/yihadistas-arrestados-en-siria-revelan-como-ee-uu-recluta/#.ViwjaSv9iF_

Poushter, Jacob (2015) ‘In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS’, Pew Research Centre, 17 November, online: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/17/in-nations-with-significant-muslim-populations-much-disdain-for-isis/

Putin, Vladimir (2015) ‘Who are Syria’s moderate rebels?’ Daily Star, 24 October, online: http://www.thedailystar.net/world/who-are-syrias-moderate-rebels-161989

OSNet (2014) ‘Syrian rebels in the Golan defect to ISIS’, OS Net daily, December, online: http://osnetdaily.com/2014/12/syrian-rebels-golan-defect-isis/

Reuters (2015) ‘Syrian air strike kills two Islamic State commanders’, 7 March, online: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/03/07/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-islamicstate-idUKKBN0M30F320150307

Richter, Greg (2014) ‘Syrian National Coalition President: Assad, ISIS Not Fighting Each Other’, NewsMax, 30 September, online: http://www.newsmax.com/Newsmax-Tv/syrian-coalition-assad-isis/2014/09/30/id/597645/

Rosen, James (2015) ‘Quds force leader, commanding Iraqi forces against ISIS, alarms Washington’, Fox News, 5 March, online: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/03/05/iran-quds-force-leader-commanding-iraqi-forces-against-isis-alarms-americans/

Rothman, Noah (2014) ‘Dempsey: I know of Arab allies who fund ISIS’, YouTube, 16 September, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA39iVSo7XE

RT (2014) ‘Anyone but US! Biden blames allies for ISIS rise’, 3 October, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11l8nLZNPSY

SANA (2015) ‘Mikdad: US Turkish agreement to arm and train terrorists means failure of de Mistura initiative’, Syrian Arab News Agency, 21 February, online: http://www.sana.sy/en/?p=29385

Sarhan, Amre (2015) ‘American aircraft dropped weapons to ISIS, says MP’, Iraqi News, 4 January, online: http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/american-aircraft-airdropped-weapons-to-isis-says-mp/

Sharma, Versha and M.L. Nestel (2014) ‘Terrorists Seize U.S. Weapons in Iraq’, Vocativ, 16 June, online: http://www.vocativ.com/world/iraq-world/terrorists-seize-u-s-weapons-iraq/

Sly, Liz (2014) ‘U.S.-backed Syria rebels routed by fighters linked to al-Qaeda’, Washington Post, 2 November, online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/us-backed-syria-rebels-routed-by-fighters-linked-to-al-qaeda/2014/11/02/7a8b1351-8fb7-4f7e-a477-66ec0a0aaf34_story.html

Sputnik (2015a) ‘US Ally in Libya Joins ISIL and Leads Its Forces in the Country – Reports’, 3 May, online: http://sputniknews.com/news/20150305/1019074958.html

Sputnik (2015b) ‘US Congress Arms ISIL in Syria Via ‘Moderate’ Opposition – ex-CIA Officer’, 7 October, online: http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20151007/1028130762/US-congress-arms-ISIL-in-syria-via-moderate-opposition.html

Usher, Barbara Plett (2014) ‘Joe Biden apologised over IS remarks, but was he right?’ BBC News, 7 October, online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29528482

Variyar, Mugdha (2015) ‘Funds for ISIS Recruitment Came From US, Says Pakistani ISIS Commander’, IB Times, 29 January, online: http://www.ibtimes.co.in/funds-isis-recruitment-came-us-says-pakistani-isis-commander-621906

Vinograd, Cassandra and Ammar Cheikh Omar (2014) ‘Syria, ISIS Have Been ‘Ignoring’ Each Other on Battlefield, Data Suggests’, NBC News, 11 December, online: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/syria-isis-have-been-ignoring-each-other-battlefield-data-suggests-n264551

Washington’s Blog (2014) ‘Top U.S. Military Official: Our Arab “Allies” Support ISIS’, 16 September, online: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/09/top-u-s-military-official-arab-allies-support-isis.html

Webb, Sam (2014) ‘Up to 70 Syrian army chiefs beheaded by ISIS after jihadis make advance on second city of Idlib that has been held by Assad’s forces for more than a year’, Daily Mail, 28 October, online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2810598/Up-70-Syrian-army-chiefs-beheaded-Isis-jihadis-make-advance-second-city-Idlib-held-Assad-s-forces-year.html

West, Diana (2012) ‘Syrian Rebels: We Are All Jabhat Al Nusra (Al Qaeda)’, Free Republic, 12 December, online: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2967671/posts

Winer, Stuart (2013) ‘Syria says it captured Israeli weapons from rebels’, Times of Israel, 21 August, online: http://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-says-it-captured-israeli-weapons-from-rebels/

YNet (2014) ‘Syrian strikes on ISIS stronghold kill 29’, 6 September, online: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4568098,00.html

Zayabi al, Adib (2014) ‘Syrian rebels increasingly joining ISIS: Coalition ambassador’, Asharq al-Awsat, 25 December, online: http://english.aawsat.com/2014/12/article55339780/syrian-rebels-increasingly-joining-isis-syrian-national-coalition-ambassador

Zelin, Aaron Y. (2012) ‘Rally ‘Round the Jihadist’, Washington Institute, 11 December, online: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/rally-round-the-jihadist

Zoabi, Hiba (2014) ‘Israel said to treat wounded members of IS and radical Syrian groups’, i24News, 10 November, online: http://www.i24news.tv/app.php/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/50457-141110-israel-said-to-treat-wounded-members-of-is-and-radical-syrian-groups

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The protracted conflicts in Syria and many parts of West Asia have been a fertile ground for the rise of extreme militants professing their own barbaric distortion of the Islamic Faith. The involvement of two major powers in what can only be described as a cold war of attrition against these militants further highlights the complexity of the issue and the many secret hands that are exploiting the conflict in Syria in particular as a means to their own ends.

Whichever side of the fence one may be aligned to, it cannot be denied that these issues are in many ways connected, and even crafted.

From the rising trend of Islamophobia that has blighted the Western world through many burgeoning right –wing groups, to the aforementioned war in Syria that has sparked one of the most catastrophic human tragedies of the 21st century, these issues are all connected in some form or another, weaving a tale of a perpetual conflict reflective of a grand strategy which seeks to dominate the world through the exercise of power and hegemonic influence.

Daesh and Geopolitics.

Daesh, also known as IS or ISIS or ISIL, has risen to become the new face of terrorism in the modern world, outshining Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

While the group claims to be Islamic, their practice and rhetoric strikingly resembles the caricatures of Islam in medieval Europe to the point that it is almost cartoonish in nature, perfectly fitting the bill of the stereotypical evil Muslim bogeyman.

Daesh has struck with remarkable efficiency in many corners of West Asia and North Africa (WANA). Libya, Iraq and Syria have seen swathes of their territories fall under its occupation, and the group, having established a sophisticated media network, training camps and even administrative structures, continues to exert authority and control. From a military standpoint, the terrorist group has been able to hold on to its conquest — though it has in recent weeks lost some land to the US led coalition bombarding the areas it controls in Iraq and Syria.

However, the real challenge to Daesh particularly in Syria is not from the US but Russia. The effective air-cover afforded by the Russian air force since September 2015 has enabled the Syrian army of Bashar Al-Assad and its ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah to regain control over significant parts of Homs, Latakia and parts of Aleppo from Daesh and other terrorist outfits closely linked to either Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or Israel or the US and other Western powers. It is because outfits linked to them are losing control of parts of Syria that some Western and Turkish leaders have launched a massive propaganda war against Russia. The downing of the Russian military plane in Syrian airspace by the Turkish air force in November 2015 should be viewed in this context.

Indeed, the battle-lines are clearly drawn now with Syria as the battlefield in a new confrontation between the US, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other. In a sense, this is the first major conflict between the two protagonists of the 40 year Cold War that ended in 1989. On the side of the US are other Western powers such as Britain and France, backed by their regional allies such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. On the side of Russia, is of course the Syrian government, Iran, the Hezbollah and increasingly, the Iraqi government in Baghdad which feels that Russia is more sincere in fighting the terrorism that threatens Iraq and the region than the US or Turkey.

The conflict involving these two sides, which unfortunately also exhibits a Sunni-Shia dimension,   could potentially engulf the whole of WANA and indeed the world in a huge conflagration leading to even a world war. For the time being that danger has been checked by the UN Security Council Resolution on a Syria Peace Plan adopted unanimously by the Council in December 2015.  Resolution 2254 (2015) not only calls for a ceasefire and negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition but also expresses its support for free and fair elections within the framework of a sovereign, independent, and territorially united Syrian nation.

If it is implemented successfully, the death and destruction that has been Syria’s fate for the last four years may come to an end. It will certainly bring to an end the tragic sight of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing hearth and home, trying to reach safer shores in Europe.

From another perspective, it is this refugee crisis which also includes Iraqis, Libyans, Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, apart from Somalis, Malians and Nigerians, among others, that is now impacting upon politics in Europe and the United States.

The Refugee crisis, Right Wing Politics and Donald Trump

In the initial stages Germany was the most open among European countries to the refugees from WANA and other parts of Asia and Africa. Chancellor Merkel garnered much praise among the international community for Germany’s “Willkommenskultur” (Open Door Policy). This charitable endeavour was short lived however. Almost overnight, border control measures were implemented, train services to Germany were temporarily halted, and tens of thousands of refugees found themselves stranded in other European countries.

Still, the situation in Germany was not as bad as in the rest of Europe. The border control measures of countries like Hungary had left 170,000 refugees stranded, sparking diplomatic tensions with its neighbours, such as Croatia and Slovenia. This had also sparked criticisms from the international community many of them condemning the reprehensible manner in which the Hungarian government had treated the refugees.

Countries like France, on the other hand, had opened their borders to the refugees. Nonetheless, there has been criticism of France’s policy seen as discriminatory since it allegedly favours only the Christian groups who are viewed — wrongly — as being more persecuted than other religious groups.

This discriminatory attitude is obviously directed against Muslim refugees who are in the majority. It is a reflection of the growing anti-immigrant sentiment fuelled by a number of radical right-wing groups in Europe in recent years. There is perhaps a historical root to this. It is embedded in Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam, which has been part of the European consciousness for more than a thousand years.

What has exacerbated Islamophobia especially in France is the 13 November terror attack by Muslim extremists in Paris which resulted in the death of 130 innocent civilians. Because it happened on the heels of the refugee crisis, it has also led to renewed fears about Muslim migrants. Politicians and media analysts are now speculating that some of these refugees may be “terrorists”.

Such senseless speculation has only strengthened popular sentiments against Muslims. Unpleasant incidents that target Arab looking males or hijab clad females have become more rife and rampant. It has further widened the chasm between the communities.  Right-wing activists are even pushing for a movement to stem the “Islamization of Europe.”

In the US, Islamophobia is having a direct impact upon the presidential elections. The front-runner in the Republican camp has been quite candid about his fears of Muslim immigrants and the threat of Muslim terrorism. He has called for the outright ban of Muslims from entering America, for mosques to be torn down or monitored, and for Muslims in America to have special IDs.

Trump, it is apparent, has an audience. His anti-Muslim rhetoric resonates with a big segment of the middle and lower income White population. Victims of economic and social stagnation in the last two decades, scapegoating “the other” in this manner appeals to these Whites because they feel that once these “threats” are dealt with, “America will be great again”, which is Trump’s slogan, and their own situation will improve tremendously.

Thus we see how the exploitation of domestic fears rooted in the socio-economic situation by politicians seeking high office can actually serve the hegemonic agenda of a superpower. The Trump slogan of making America great again has widespread appeal within the populace since American dominance of the world is accepted as a given, as something good for humanity. Both Republican and Democratic aspirants recite this mantra about America’s leadership of the planet.

TPPA and Economic Hegemony

In what can be considered the other side of the world, there is another event which highlights another part of the grand strategy to assert the hegemonic power of the United States of America.

The controversial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a “trade” agreement among 12 Asia-Pacific countries helmed by the US which has negative ramifications for copyright laws, health care costs, local industries and national sovereignty. The TPPA excludes China, the Asia-Pacific’s most important economic power in every sense. This is why the TPPA is not so much about trade or economics. It is essentially about power and politics. It is a well-orchestrated strategy to contain and curtail the rising power and influence of China within its own neighbourhood. Two important signatories to the TPPA, Australia and Japan, have recently declared openly that they support the US “pivot to Asia” to contain “China’s aggressive influence and posturing.”

The TPPA may mask itself as a trade deal (and a bad one at that), but it cannot disguise its ulterior geopolitical motive. It is a motive that may subject its signatories, including Malaysia, to external hegemonic agendas that may undermine the interests of our own people.

Conclusion

The tentacles of the hegemon are spread across two fronts. One, in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) where it is determined to maintain its dominant power and influence. The stakes are high. It is not just oil and gas. It is the only region in the world where three continents meet and where some of the world’s most vital waterways are situated. But most of all, WANA is where Israel is. No other country is as important to the US and the West. The US is prepared to confront a big military power like Russia and a middling regional power like Iran in order to perpetuate its hegemony in the region.

Two, in the Asia-Pacific region where the hegemon seeks to contain and curtail the ascendancy of the world’s most dynamic economic power. For the US, the economic challenge posed by China has political and military significance in the medium and long-term which is why it wants to ensure that its own economic clout in the Asia-Pacific region which is still considerable will remain and expand.

For the hegemon, WANA and the Asia-Pacific are two regions where its right to rule the world has come to the fore. It will not allow anyone to question, let alone challenge, that right.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

Hassanal Noor Rashid is Program Coordinator of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). Malaysia.

 

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A Turkish court on Dec. 5 arrested an Israeli organ trafficking suspect, who was sought by Interpol’s red notice and detained at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on early Dec. 4.

He was reportedly in Turkey to convince struggling Syrian migrants to sell their organs.

Boris Walker was detained over alleged “organ trafficking” and “fraud” at 2:40 a.m. immediately after he arrived in Istanbul on a flight from Bangkok.

A court ruled for Walker’s arrest for 40 days, after which he is expected to be extradited to Israel.
According to a report by daily Vatan, Walker wanted to expand his illegal business in Turkey, targeting struggling Syrian migrants.

According to the report, the international organ trafficker had already contacted some Syrian migrants in Istanbul to buy their organs, while he was also making arrangements to have the illegal operations in some small private hospitals in Turkish cities.

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This is a rumination on lies — layer upon layer of lies — told by US intelligence agencies and other officials about what Lee Harvey Oswald, or someone pretending to be him, was allegedly doing in Mexico City just weeks before the Kennedy assassination. The original goal, it seems, was to associate Oswald, in advance of the events of Dealey Plaza, with the USSR and Cuba.

The essay focuses on tales told by Richard Helms, a top official of the CIA in 1963 who later became its director — and  is based on a talk given by Peter Dale Scott.

Scott is the popularizer of the expression, “Deep Politics,” and a virtuoso when it comes to what sometimes seems like grabbing smoke — capturing proof, however elusive, of motives and objectives that could explain  the machinations of US intelligence agencies — and then analyzing the residue.

Not all of the chicanery Scott describes is subtle. For example, in an apparent attempt to bring the Russians into the picture, someone delivered to the FBI’s Dallas office a purported audiotape of Oswald calling the Soviet embassy in Mexico City. That failed, though, when FBI agents decided that the voice did not seem to be Oswald’s.

Then,  two days later, the FBI got on board the subterfuge by falsely reporting that “no tapes were taken to Dallas.” Because of this lie, an investigation more than a decade later by the House Select Committee on Assassinations would erroneously declare that there was no “basis for concluding that there had been an Oswald imposter.”  (The existence of an Oswald impersonator in the months before the president’s murder would in and of itself have been prima facie evidence of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death.)

And then there was the attempt to set up a Soviet agent…

You will probably not be able to keep up with each tall tale, nor does it matter. They have a cumulative effect, one that explains why it is impossible to study these documents without coming away believing in conspiracy.

There is dark humor here — reminiscent of the television sit-com of the 1960’s, “Get Smart” —

about a secret agent who was always telling one lie after another, blissfully unaware that each new lie not only undermined the last one, but any new one that came after:

Smart:      I happen to know that at this very minute seven Coast Guard cutters are converging on this boat. Would you believe it? Seven.

Mr.Big:     I find that pretty hard to believe.

Smart:      Would you believe six?

Mr.Big:     I don’t think so.

Smart:      Would you believe two cops in a rowboat?

Would you believe that the US intelligence community has been telling us the truth all of these years?

Essay based on talk given by Peter Dale Scott at Third Annual JFK Assassination Conference in Dallas, 2015. (Produced by TrineDay Books, Conscious Community Events, and the JFK Historical Group.)

—WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Milicent Cranor

(This is Part 2 of a three-part series. For Part 1, please go here, and for Part 3, go here.)

Helms’s Rationale for Committing Perjury

We can begin to understand Helms’s behavior from his repeat performance in the Watergate era, when he was fined $2,000 and given a suspended sentence of two years in jail, for failing to tell the Senate Foreign Relations committee about CIA operations in Chile. As the Washington Post reported at the time, Helms’s oath to the committee to tell the truth was at odds with an earlier oath he had taken when he was CIA director never to divulge classified information.

Helms had no hesitation in choosing to protect the CIA and its secrets, rather than serve the goals of truth and law and an open society. After exiting from the court, Helms promptly “described the conviction to the media as ‘a badge of honor.’”[1]  (Although the Post did not mention this, the CIA was also charged by the National Security Act of 1947 with the protection of its “sources and methods”.)

Helms faced the same legal dilemma after he swore to the Warren Commission to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (5 AH 121). Helms was then asked “Can you tell the Commission as to whether or not you have supplied us all the information the Agency has, at least in substance, in regard to Lee Harvey Oswald?” Helms’s answer was, “We have, all” (5 AH 122).[2] This was, I submit, both perjury, and obstruction of justice.[3] In 1964 the CIA secrets he protected concerned an operation involving the name of the man reported to have been the president’s assassin.[4]

I am certain that lawyers had prepared the qualified question about “all the information the Agency has, at least in substance.” It echoes Helms’s earlier lawyerly language about “substantive developments… in the matter of Lee Harvey Oswald,” that had bearing “on the substance of the Commission’s request.”[5] From the CIA’s perspective, it was was not a “substantive” fact that the CIA, five weeks before the assassination, was engaged in an operation involving Lee Harvey Oswald. But for those seeking a solution to the assassination, this fact was, and still is, not only substantive, but crucial.

This can be said confidently on the basis of records since released. But there is also strong evidence that there were still more CIA records regarding Angleton’s Oswald operation than the ones up to October 16 that the CIA chose to release in CD 347. A classified memo of 1975 from Angleton’s newly appointed successor, George Kalaris, noted that “subsequently [to these records] there were several Mexico City cables in October 1963 also concerned with Oswald’s visit to Mexico City, as well as his visits to the Soviet and Cuban Embassies.”[6] However, as of 2015, the CIA has not yet released any cables which talked of Oswald in the Cuban embassy.[7]

As John Newman has noted, Win Scott, the CIA Chief in Mexico City, later wrote that he had sent cables on Oswald’s contacts “with both the Cuban Consulate and with the Soviets.”[8] But Ed Lopez of the HSCA staff stated in the Lopez Report that if any such cable was sent, “it is not in the files made available to the HSCA by the CIA.”[9] In a 1994 interview, Newman asked Helms if it would be fair to say that in fact there hadbeen “several cables” about Oswald’s being in “both the Soviet and Cuban places.” Helms’s nonchalant reply was, “Sure.” Helms’s nonsensical explanation of their non-release: “they [sic, “they,” not “I”] didn’t want to blow their source.”[10]

James Jesus Angleton Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from National Counterintelligence Center / Wikimedia

James Jesus Angleton Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy fromNational Counterintelligence Center / Wikimedia

It will be most interesting to see if the CIA will finally release such cables in 2017, as required by law. Almost certainly, I believe, they would throw more light on the Angleton operation involving Oswald. Almost certainly, also, some key mysteries will probably remain.

Was the Lee Harvey Oswald of Dallas also the man identifying himself as Lee Oswald in Mexico City; or was the latter, as I strongly believe, an impostor who spoke broken English as well as broken Russian?

Was the Lee Oswald in Mexico City himself part of the Angleton operation, or was he someone sent by the assassination plotters to blackmail the CIA into a cover-up?

Did the Lee Oswald in Mexico talk in the Cuban Consulate about assassinating President Kennedy, as many have independently alleged, including former FBI director Clarence Kelley?[11]

Answers to these three questions would, I believe, lead us much closer to understanding both the assassination in 1963, and the cover-up ever since.

Even if we ignore the alleged missing cables, Helms was guilty of perjury that had a major political consequence. If he had told the truth, I doubt very much that the American public, already doubtful, would have been satisfied with the Warren Commission’s banal assurance that it “found no evidence that…Lee Harvey Oswald… was part of any conspiracy” (WR 21). Helms’ behavior, while understandable and even predictable given his institutional loyalty, was part of what I would have to call a systematic obstruction of justice.

Obstruction of Justice by Others in the CIA

 For Helms was assuredly not alone in concealing relevant information about Oswald. According to an FBI Report, CIA Counterintelligence Officer Birch D. O’Neal, on November 22, 1963, told the FBI that “there is nothing in CIA file regarding Oswald other than material furnished to CIA by the FBI and the Department of State.”[12] John Newman’s book, Oswald and the CIA, gives examples of CIA dissembling and outright falsehoods extending over the subsequent decades.[13]

Here is another relevant example. To obscure the outright CIA lie about “Latest HDQS info was… dated May 1962,” someone rearranged the order of documents in the file prepared for the Warren Commission.

One cannot tell that from Warren Commission Document 692, “CIA Helms Memo to Rankin of 06 Mar 1964 with CIA’s Official Oswald Dossier,“ at least not in the hopelessly garbled form of CD 692 that was deposited in the National Archives in 1975.

Here pages have been randomly shuffled, so that, for example, one page of a 1961 Moscow Embassy dispatch is page 93 of the file, and the next is page 108. The first UPI story about Oswald in Moscow, which should have been page 2 of CD 692, is instead page 122.[14]

We could not know the true order of the file prepared for the Warren Commission until it was re-released by the CIA in 1992. Then it became clear that the September 24 FBI report on Oswald’s arrest had been relocated out of chronological order, to make it appear that it had been received after, and not before, the cable about “latest HDQS info.”

This deception was compounded by an outright falsification, if not forgery. The FBI report had actually been read in the CIA in September and October.[15] However it was now preceded by an FBI cover slip from another report (the so-called de Brueys report), dated November 8.[16] To the November slip was added the CIA’s label of the September report, DBA 52355.[17]

I would submit that whoever falsified the cover slip was also part of a systematic obstruction of justice.

Moreover the October 10 cable to the FBI made a significant omission, one that demands explanation. Ostensibly the message was to inform the FBI and other agencies that “an American male, who identified himself as Lee Oswald,” had “contacted the Soviet embassy in Mexico City.”[18]

One would expect that what the FBI most urgently needed to know was that the contact had perhaps been with Kostikov, whom the FBI believed was from the “wet” or assassination section 13 of the KGB. Yet the cable, inexplicably, suppressed any reference to Kostikov, while transmitting misleading details about the American’s age and height.

This omission is highly suspicious. If the FBI had known about Kostikov, one would normally expect Oswald to be, at a minimum, placed on the Security Index and put under surveillance by the FBI in Dallas, and for the Secret Service to be warned about him.[19] If these events had happened, the events in Dallas would have been different; and Oswald could not have served as (what I believe him to be) the “designated culprit” in the assassination plot.

(The whole process is very reminiscent of the CIA’s culpable failure, in 2000, to notify the FBI of the presence in America of two al-Qaeda members, Mohamed al-Mihdhar and Nawaz al-Hazmi, who would later be two of the alleged hijackers, or “designated culprits,” on 9/11.)[20]

It would appear that the Angleton operation, for whatever reason, wanted Oswald not to be surveilled or detained. We cannot leap to the conclusion that the intention was for Oswald to be a free man in Dallas on November 22; the ostensible purpose could well have been, for example, to protect the behavior of “Lee Oswald” in Mexico.

But here the illicit assassination plot may have been piggy-backed on the Angleton operational plot. For it is clear that, if there was an assassination plot against Kennedy with Oswald as designated culprit, Oswald needed to be free of detention or surveillance in Dallas on November 22.

The three cables suppressed and lied about by Helms were most relevant to an investigation of the assassination. Shortly before it the FBI had intercepted a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, allegedly from Oswald. The letter referred to “my meetings with comrade Kostin” and noted that “had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana as planned, the embassy there would have had time to complete our business.”[21]

Whether you believe this letter to be genuine or (as I do) false, it is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy – either a conspiracy involving Oswald and the Soviets (if true), or a conspiracy to frame Oswald (if false).

The Warren Commission came up with an elaborate explanation that the letter was both genuine and innocuous, by relying on a belatedly discovered “draft” of the letter that I believe to be even more demonstrably false than the letter itself.[22] To sum up, this conspiratorial letter from Oswald should have been more fully investigated, and it was inextricably linked to the cables suppressed by Helms.

I believe that some of those involved in all of this, possibly including Angleton, may have been culpably involved, not just in the cover-up, but in preparations for the assassination itself. And Helms may have known this, for he certainly took deliberate steps to protect whatever machinations CI was up to with the suppressed CIA cables.

We know that after the assassination, contact with the Warren Commission was initially assigned to John Whitten of the CIA’s Mexico desk, one of the signers of one of the October 10 cables. Then Helms, according to Whitten, transferred this responsibility to Angleton and the CI staff.[23]

We have a CIA memo written after a meeting chaired by Helms in March 1964, reaffirming “the CI staff’s responsibility for coordinating all aspects of the Agency’s work on the Oswald case.”[24] A key person assigned to this task was Ann Egerter of CI/SIG, the Counterintelligence Special Intelligence Group.[25]

Ann Egerter had previously been one of the three people who signed off on both of the two mutually contradictory cables on October 10. In other words, those we know to have been responsible for lying about Oswald (in the two conflicting cables of October 10) were among those picked out by Helms to be in charge of the CIA’s response to the Warren Commission.

.Notes

[1] Timothy S. Robinson, “Helms Fined $2,000, Term Suspended,” Washington Post, November 5, 1977.

[2] Helms’s reply requires the belief that all the substantive information in the cables was contained in the CD 347 summary. I submit that the most important information was not transmitted: the suppressed evidence that information that Oswald’s name was being used in an operation was not only substantial, it was most pertinent to determining Oswald’s status in the weeks before the assassination.

[3] In lying to the Commission, Helms may have been mindful of a decade-old agreement with Eisenhower’s Attorney General, exempting the CIA from reporting crimes of which it was aware to the Justice Department. This agreement was so secret that for almost two decades successive Attorneys General were unaware of it. See Scott,Dallas ’63, 11; citing Dorothy J. Samuels and James A. Goodman, “How Justice Shielded the CIA,” Inquiry (October 18, 1978), 10-11. Samuels and Goodman summarized a little-noticed Report from the House Committee on Government Operations that I (even with the help of university librarians) have been unable to locate in Congressional Research Service indices. I have however located a second, follow-up report: U.S. Cong., House, Committee on Government Operations, Justice Department Handling of Cases Involving Classified Data and Claims of National Security. 96th Cong., 1st Sess.; H. Rept. No. 96-280. Washington: GPO, 1979.

[4] In lying to the Commission, Helms was following the precedent of Allen Dulles, who in the early 195os had “lied to Congress about the agency’s operations in Korea and China” (Weiner, Legacy of Ashes, 107).

[5] Warren CD 692, 3.

[6] Confidential Memorandum of September 14, 1975, for Executive Assistant to the DDO, from George J. Kalaris, Chief, CI Staff, re Lee Harvey Oswald, NARA #104, 20051-10173; in Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 462.

[7] Here, and elsewhere in this talk, one must keep in mind that Angleton allegedly had his own communications network. This was established for the legitimate purpose of counterintelligence, which amounted in practice to spying on the CIA itself.

[8] Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 416.

[9] Lopez Report, 176; Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 417.

[10] Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 417-18; citing interview with Richard Helms, August 23, 1994. The source for the missing records was presumably the same as for the records released.

[11] Scott, Oswald, Mexico, and Deep Politics, 93-99; citing Clarence Kelley, Kelley: The Story of an FBI Director (Kansas City: Andrews, McMeel & Parker, 1987), 268-69.

[12] Warren CD 49, FBI Graham Report of 02 Dec 1963 re: Oswald/Russia, 22. In addition to the cables, the 201 file also contained a CIA memo on “Oswald, Lee Harvey” CD 692, p. 112 (in Newman, 470, cf. 466)]

[13] E.g. the February 1995 reply to Jefferson Morley from the CIA Public Affairs Office concerning the October 10 cable discussed in this talk: “The cable referred to in your letter appears to focus only on the status of Oswald’s citizenship” (Newman, Oswald and the CIA, 404).

[14] The order of documents in the NARA serial sequence 104-10015- (where records from the Oswald 201 file are deposited) is also garbled.

[15] Cover slip for FBI Letterhead Memorandum of September 23, 1963, NARA #104-10015-10046.

[16] That November 8 is the date for the de Brueys report can be learned from the Russ Holmes work file, 104-10406-10096. In CD 692, the de Brueys report lacks its cover slip, which has been moved.

[17] Oswald 201 File, Pre-Assassination File, September 1992 release, p, 177; Warren CD 692, p. 72.

[18] NARA #104-10015-10052.

[19] Without giving any reasons, the Church Committee categorically denied this in 1976: “It is important to note, however, that under the procedures then in effect, the inclusion of Oswald on Security Index would not have resulted in the dissemination of Oswald’s name to the Secret Service“ (Church Committee, “Final Report, Book V – The Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Performance of the Intelligence Agencies,” 51n29. One would like to know the process by which they arrived at this unexplained conclusion.

[20] Scott, The American Deep State, 86-95.

[21] Warren Report, 309; Warren CE 15, 16 WH 33; Scott, Deep Politics and he Death of JFK, 39-40.

[22] See my argument in Dallas ’63, 26-28.

[23] Philip Shenon, A Cruel and Shocking ActThe Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination(New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2013)..

[24] Memo for the Record by Lee Wigren, C/SR/CI/R, March 16. 1964, NARA #104-10007-10205: “Dooley also mentioned a meeting with Mr. Helms…. Dooley [C/CI/R&A] reiterated the CI staff ‘s responsibility for coordinating all aspects of the Agency’s work on the Oswald case.”

[25] See e.g. “Office of Security Report Re Lee Harvey Oswald Address Book,” Memo for the Record of 31 January, 1964, by Ann Egerter, CI/SIG, NARA # 104-10021-10009.

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Israel has announced the construction of a new, Jewish-only road that will connect two Jewish colonies, according to a report by the Middle East Monitor.

“The new proposal includes banning the Palestinians from using the road,” said Hannna Sweed, director of the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning.

Sweed added that Jewish-only roads already exist in the occupied West Bank.

The proposal comes as no surprise to scholars well versed in the supremacist ideology of Judaism, on which the state of Israel is founded.

According to the Talmud, all intermixture between Jews and non-Jews is strictly forbidden by divine law, except in cases in which Jewish men rape non-Jewish children, a behaviour explicitly permitted in the Talmud.*

In Talmudic belief, non-Jews are made only in the “likeness” of humans. They were created, says the Talmud, for the sole purpose of serving Jews, as it is beneath the dignity of a Jew to be served by anything that looks like an animal. Since non-Jews are not humans, they are not protected by divine law. It is even permissible to kill non-Jews. The Jewish Encyclopaedia quotes the Talmud as stating, “Even the best of the goyim [non-Jews] should be killed”.

It is thus not by accident that segregation is openly practiced by the Israeli government; that Palestinians are regularly murdered by Jewish settlers; and that over 50% of Palestinian children that have been sent to Israeli detention centres claim to have been sexually molested by Israeli police officers. Racial supremacism, genocide and child molestation are all behaviours that follow inevitably from Jewish ideology, as explicated in the Talmud.

Notes

* The reasons given are threefold: 1. Children cannot produce offspring; 2. Even Jewish toddlers are not yet humans, and therefore may be freely molested. 3. Non-Jews are not humans. Since toddlers and non-Jews are not humans, according to Judaism, they cannot receive the protection of divine laws; a Jew can therefore use them for his own sexual gratification.

Ariyana LoveI have a mission to bring a voice to, and put a face on, the reality of the suffering of the citizens of the Middle East. Not what you see on The Mainstream Media, or what is heralded by Western Governments, but reality as reported by journalists who live and see this deadly injustice daily. Tune in for Middle East Rising live broadcasting via The Liberty Beacon Radio network, brought to you by The Liberty Beacon project. The truth must be told! Follow me at Twitter: @wbgazafree & @mideastrising

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On January 1, 2016 the bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army (FARC-EP) comes into effect. A final peace accord by March 23, 2016 is, however, unlikely due to the complicated final issues that have to be resolved after more than five decades of civil war. 

Colombia has had peaceful Christmas holidays, as much without fear as it is possible in a country that has experienced more than five decades of civil war. The relative calm during the holidays is widely regarded as a positive sign, suggesting that the bilateral ceasefire may come into effect and be kept. Both the government and the FARC-EP agree that the most serious threat to security is posed by ultra-right-wing militants.

Jesus Santrich, member of the FARC-EP‘s peace negotiators in the Cuban capital Havana stressed, however, that expectations that a final peace accord would be reached by March 26, 2016, as agreed, may be overly optimistic. In statements aimed at the public both the government and the FARC-EP position one another as being responsible for stalling the peace process. The matter of fact is that there remain a number of immensely complicated issues that cannot be easily resolved. Issues which cannot be rushed without risking a backlash.

The final point that is currently being negotiated pertains the end to the conflict, and among the issues that need to be resolved are:

The logistics of the disarmament of the FARC-EP. Both sides recognize that the issue is complicated and that the disarmament of FARC-EP units makes both FARC-EP members as well as populations in FARC-EP controlled areas vulnerable to violence and atrocities committed by right-wing militants. There are practical issues which cannot be rushed without risking serious unintended consequences – besides the fact that there is need for trust-building. The government insists that the FARC-EP guerrilla surrender their weapons to the State while the FARC-EP insists that the weapons be surrendered to a third-party.

The FARC-EP also stresses the need for decisive government action with regard to dismantling right-wing neo-paramilitaries which were established after the demobilization of the AUC between 2003 and 2006.

Fmr Colombian President Uribe. Will his house of cards come down?

Fmr Colombian President Uribe. Will his house of cards come down?

The government and the FARC-EP have agreed to maximum prison sentences for war crimes committed during the over five decades-long civil war. One point of serious contention, however, is that President Juan Manuel Santos is seeking presidential immunity as part of the final peace accord.

This immunity would not only exempt Santos from eventually facing justice. More importantly, it would exempt former president Alvaro Uribe who stands accused of involvement in or responsibility for massacres committed in 1997.

Another issue is economic compensation for the victims of the conflict. The FARC-EP insists that it does not have the finances to pay economic compensation. International experts have recommended a government-funded compensation fund as a possible solution. Tax revenues from now FARC-EP controlled regions could in part finance the fund.

Depression and Bereavement Photo Baker 13333One further and important issue is the interference of foreign NGO’s like Human Rights Watch who insist that the final peace accord should follow the Anglo-American understanding of justice rather than an approach based on Colombian initiatives and concepts of justice. Human Rights Watch accused the government and the FARC-EP of “agreeing on impunity” to find a solution to end the civil war and recommended that both Colombia’s Constitutional Court and the International Criminal Court (ICC) carefully review the situation.

Ironically, HRW would not mention any of the atrocities committed by the United States, which include child sexual abuse, thousands of rapes and other serious war crimes. No US citizen is subject to prosecution by the ICC. Internationalizing the peace process according to an Anglo – American concept of international justice would, according to several experts in conflict resolution – the author included, complicate actual justice and reconciliation after more than five decades of civil war where crimes and atrocities have been committed by all of the conflicting parties.

 – Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. His work with traumatized victims of conflict has led him to also pursue the work as political consultant. He is a lifelong activist for peace and justice, human rights, Palestinians rights to self-determination in Palestine, and he is working on the establishment of international institutions for the prosecution of all war crimes, also those committed by privileged nations. On 28 August 2011 he started his blog nsnbc, appalled by misrepresentations of the aggression against Libya and Syria. In March 2013 he turned nsnbc into a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at [email protected]

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Since 1991, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, which authorized the US-UK attack on Iraq, which, in the words of Marti Ahtissari  “destroyed the infrastructure necessary to support human life in Iraq,” the United Nations has been dragged into destructive “adventures” that have literally created the crises it is now trying to resolve. 

In 2011, the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized NATO’s attack on Libya.  The attacks and sanctions in Iraq and Libya have so devastated both countries that it is impossible to resurrect a viable government in either country, and both remain incubators of terrorism which is spreading throughout the Middle East, Africa and beyond.

While Syria and Iran have been demonized by US-NATO powers, and until December 18, and the adoption of SC Resolution 2254, relentless efforts were made by US-NATO to repeat the same pattern of ravaging Syria by a military approach which resembles the scourge of Attila the Hun, the recognition of the limits of hegemonism is  beginning to be shared by UN member states witness to this ill-advised militarism.  This was stated, explicitly, when the Security Council celebrated the success of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which confirmed Iran’s commitment to eschew efforts to construct a nuclear weapon.  The Security Council meeting 7488, July 20, 2015, announcing this success was not, however, free of the contentious accusations and counter-accusations which characterize many important Security Council meetings.  The Iranian delegate pushed back eloquently, stating:

“It is ironic that the Ambassador of the United States accused my government of destabilizing the region and of terrorism.  The country that invaded two countries of our region and created grounds favorable to the growth of terrorism and extremism is not well placed to raise such accusations against mine.  The feckless and reckless actions of the United States in our region over many years are at the root of many challenges that we are now facing in our neighborhood.”

On November 25, the Security Council held a meeting that addressed some of the tragic and deadly consequences of destructive UN authorized interventions in the Middle East.  The meeting, 7566 on Peace and Security in Africa:  Report of the Secretary-General on the Progress Towards the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (S/2015/866) described the menace to surrounding countries and throughout the entire area that Libya has become following the US-NATO attack authorized by UNSC Resolution 1973.  Following UN authorized “regime change,” Libya is an incubator of terrorism so lethal that the representative of Chad stated:

“The major source of the terrorist threat in the Sahel is Libya, which is engulfed in total chaos and where a multitude of heavily armed terrorist groups find safe haven and flourish.  Moreover, the absence of a government of national unity that is capable of restoring security in the country is fueling the threat to security in the Sahel.  In that regard, Chad is deeply concerned by the establishment and entrenchment of a Daesh stronghold in Southern Libya.”

Venezuela’s representative, Mr. Ramirez Carreno stated:

“These efforts should be focused on sustainable development in the region and not purely a military vision.  It is only with sustained attention to the root causes of conflict – such as poverty, lack of access to basic services and education, can we ensure strong and sustainable peace and security.”

Ms. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Sahel powerfully addressed the root cause of the problem in her report:

“Up to 41 million young people under 25 years of age in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and the Niger alone face hopelessness and are at risk of radicalization or migration.  If nothing is done to improve access to education and increase employment, integration and opportunities for young people, the Sahel, I am afraid, will become a hub of mass migration and recruitment and training of terrorist groups and individuals, which, as Council members know, will ultimately have grave consequences for global peace and security.”

The United Nations is at a crossroads.  There is increasing recognition of the disastrous consequences of the UN Security Council authorization of the US-NATO instigated military onslaught on Iraq and Libya.  This is undeniable even by the US-NATO countries themselves, and even had there not been the Benghazi attack on the US Embassy, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and three other personnel.  Prior to the US-NATO attack, both Iraq and Libya were implementing progressive social programs, in many areas, and had viable state infrastructure, albeit somewhat independent of multinational corporate control.  Both countries are now in a devastated condition that may be beyond repair.

The three Russian-Chinese vetoes of US-NATO’s attempt to gain Security Council authorization for yet another abhorrent military adventure, this time blowing up Syria, were sanctimoniously deplored by the West, as the cause of inactivity and paralysis at the Security Council.  Now, with the December 18 adoption of Security Council Resolution 2254, affirming the imperative of a political solution as the only acceptable method of resolution of the crisis in Syria, the wisdom of the Russian-Chinese vetoes must be obvious.  With Russia’s, China’s and Iran’s participation, it may be possible to salvage what was once an important country, Syria, and prevent the further noxious spread of chaos and terrorism throughout the region.  Russia’s and China’s principled opposition to wanton militarism, opposition hitherto deplored  by the West, may have served to halt the deadly march toward World War III.

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Last weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies continued their counter-attack at the Al-Sina’a District (Industrial District) in the Deir Ezzor province’s capital, striking ISIS militants at east of this area. According to the ground reports, the Syrian forces advanced at the Al-Sina’a District, capturing several buildings including the welding and sewing factories. The clashes are continuing.

The Syrian forces have continued offensive operations in the Deir Hafer Plains in the Aleppo province. Since last Friday, the pro-government forces seized the villages of Jarouf, Tal Al-Sharbi, and ‘Umm Kharwah and continued their advance towards Al-Bab. Additionally, the SAA is adancing in the direction if the city of Deir Hafer.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which include Syrian Kurds supported by separate Arab units have been continuing military operations to capture the area of the Tishreen Dam which links the Aleppo and Al-Raqqa provinces. By Dec.26 the SDF has captured the Tishreen Dam and continued offensive operation in the direction of the Aleppo province. Separately, the SDF took contol of several villages in the province including Al-Waysi located near the vast Euphrates River, in few kilometers from the Turkish border.

The most possible aims of the SDF in East Aleppo are the ISIS stronghold of Menbeij near the Turkish border and the Jarabulus border-crossing. Thus, the US-backed forces are clearly threatening Ankara’s interests in Syria. It could lead to a new phase of cooling of the US-Turkish relations. Also it provokes Turkey into additional militarybuild-up and into increasing its support of terrorists on Syrian territory.

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2015 has proven to be a monumental year full of geopolitical surprises, with Russia’s anti-terrorist intervention in Syria being chief among them. The old world order is changing at a rapid pace as rising multipolar forces push outwards against the resistant unipolar establishment. Just as much as Russia, China, and Iran are endeavoring to change the global system, the US and its Lead From Behind proxies are ferociously fighting to retain it, and this engenders a serious escalation of geopolitical tensions that can appear to be largely unpredictable to many. Nevertheless, while accounting for unexpected developments that are always guaranteed to pop up, it’s still possible to identify some of the most impactful international processes that are currently reshaping the world and use them as the starting point for forecasting upcoming events.

The exercise is formatted whereby all of the Eurasian supercontinent is analyzed in five separate chapters. The first part of each section begins by describing the overall state of play there before pinpointing a couple key trends that have defined the past year there. Afterwards, it then segues into a forecast about where the aforementioned processes are headed and lists a few disruptions that could occur to offset the course of events. Whenever possible, it also highlights key geopolitical fault lines and hot spots that interested individuals can monitor throughout the coming year.

I Europe: State Of Play

The homeland of Western Civilization has seen its fair share of turbulence and destabilization throughout the past year, largely owing to the large-scale and purposefully intended geopolitical blowback of the US’ regime change operations in the Mideast. The overwhelming “refugee” crisis has unbalanced the origin, transit, and destination states, and in each instance, it works out to the US’ grand strategic advantage. Concurrent with the internal weakening of Europe via the ambitious demographic transformation that the US has been engineering over the past year, American control over the continent was also promulgated via the direct form of NATO expansionism. The establishment of NATO command centers in the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and the Eastern Balkans were a move in entrenching Washington’s supremacy over the EU. So as to safeguard its full-spectrum hegemony for decades into the future, the US also made progress in pushing forward the TTIP, a coercive ‘economic governance’ tool designed to prevent Brussels from ever negotiating any independent trade agreements outside of Washington’s explicit purview. In more ways than one, 2015 can be described as the year that the US made one of its strongest power plays against Europe ever since the end of World War II.

The “Refugee” Crisis:

This US-designed and Turkish-assisted operation aims to demographically plant the seeds for long-term identity conflict in key EU states, most of all Germany, so that Color Revolution-like social conditions can be manufactured upon demand as a form of ‘bottom-up’ pressure against any forthcoming uncompliant administrations. Along the way, the disruption that this created in the Balkans upset the social and political equilibrium (already tenuous as it was) in Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, thus furthering the chaotic conditions under which American influence is best promoted.

Schengen Shutdown:

In a surprising about-face, Germany, the EU’s most fervent guardian of the organization’s supposedly ‘cherished’ principles, essentially dismantled the Schengen Zone in one swift move when it re-established ‘temporary’ border checkpoints with Austria. This was a direct repercussion of the “refugee” crisis and served to demonstrate the enormous pressure that it had placed on the EU if even its most staunch advocate and de-facto leader would be compelled to retreat somewhat from part of its long-standing ideological convictions.

Hyper Liberalism Is On The Run:

All told, Germany’s relative backtracking from hyper-liberal policies set the stage for its affiliated ideological adherents to do so as well. Sweden reintroduced border checks and said it would no longer follow its blanket-acceptance policy for “refugees”, while Denmark went as far as order the confiscationof money and valuables from “refugees” as compensation for their taxpayer-provided accommodation in the country. Tellingly, there’s no denying at this point that hyper liberalism is on the run and that EU-member states are generally tempering their previously blind conviction to such radical ideals.

Anti-Establishmentarianism Grows:

Growing elements of the public in some of the most key EU states are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their leaders and the former manner of handling affairs. This in turn has supported the rise of anti-establishment parties and voices all across Europe, with Le Pen’s National Front being the most recent posterchild. Syriza had the potential for manifesting such strongly held sentiment in Greece, but it discouragingly proved itself to be an alternative (albeit electorally exciting and rhetorically innovative) form of conventional establishment politics, showing that such movements can successfully be hijacked. The anti-establishment fraud of Viktor Orban is an excellent case in point as well.

Russophobia Is Revived In Full:

Ironically, while some Western, Southern, and Central Europeans are pushing back against the EU establishment (whether sincere in these efforts or fraudulently doing so like Orban and Syriza), their Eastern European and Eastern Balkan counterparts have fully embraced the historical hate of Russophobia and are actually playing a vanguard role in lobbying the rest of the establishment to follow their lead. Nowhere is this more evident than in US-occupied Ukraine, the Baltics, and Romania, but it’s also powerfully felt in Poland as well. Finland and Sweden have jumped on the bandwagon as of late, too, although they’re slightly (key word) less obsessive than their peers.

Europe: Where It’s Headed

Broadly speaking, Europe is becoming even less independent than it’s ever been before. Internal divisions between the elite and the electorate, and “Old Europe” and “New Europe” are evident in all ways, and it’s clear that the continent is undergoing a systemic transformation. The institutional (normative, political, economic, etc.) monopoly that Germany used to have over its subordinates is now lessening to a degree, and this is creating opportunities for other aspiring leaders to assert themselves in their respective historical spheres. The consequence of this process is the fulfillment of the Intermarum project of dividing Europe from Russia by means of a contiguous belt of Russophobic and German-skeptic states stretching from Sweden to Romania, and considering recent developments, one can even include Turkey into this geopolitical construction. The Intermarum has already succeeded in cancelling South Stream and suspending Balkan Stream, and it’s thus predicted to strike at the third and last large-scale prospective energy project that remains, and that’s Nord Stream II. Poland, now equally Russophobic and German-skeptic under the PiS leadership, is leading the Intermarum’s charge against this pipeline, and while it’s uncertain whether or not they’ll full succeed, it’s already self-evident that it’s created a polarizing problem that is turning anti-Russian “New Europe” even further away from their “Older” peers.

The “New Europe”-“Old Europe” Divide Widens:

For the reasons explained above, the Intermarum members of the EU will continue moving progressively further away from Germany and Western Europe. Normatively speaking, they will publicly espouse of a form of “conservatism” that stands at odds with “Old Europe’s” traditional liberalism, and the attractive appeal that this has will pressure the latter to continue moderating its policies so as to ideologically compete in this changing ‘values-based’ environment (which includes promotion of the Russophobic “value” as well).

France Splits From Germany:

Paris has largely been seen as the junior partner to Berlin for quite a few years already, but that’s all beginning to change nowadays. While Germany will clumsily try to ‘balance’ between progressive and so-called ‘conservative’ ‘values’ and embarrassingly fail in doing so, France will bunker down in support of the liberal rhetoric that normatively endears it to the general public in the PIGS states of Southern Europe. France wants to carve out its own sphere of influence along the Mediterranean, but this of course isn’t anything new in fact.

What’s changing, however, is that France is differentiating itself from Germany in rhetorical, economic, and military manners, with the latter evidenced by its enthusiastic role in the Wars on Libya and Syria. Paris’ recent moves against Syria are the reason why Berlin felt compelled to up its aggression there as well and play catch-up, in probably the first-ever observable instance in a very long time of Germany undoubtedly following France’s lead. Although far-sighted as of now, there is of course the potential for this to create an intra-EU division between the bloc’s two leaders that would hamper its already-derailed efficiency and inadvertently facilitate the continued rise of the Intermarum.

The Underbelly Bursts:

The Balkans are under tremendous and unprecedented pressure as a result of the “refugee” crisis and the chain reaction of distrust that this unleashed between most of its regional states. The only two that are not presently in some sort of spat with one another are Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, the geo-critical members of the Central Balkans that incidentally are the key transit points for China’s Balkan Silk Road project. They are, however, exceptionally vulnerable to internal destabilizations within their borders, brought about by a combination of Color Revolution technology, “refugees”, and Islamic-affiliated terrorism (most likely practiced by the Albanian ethnicity). Macedonia’s upcoming early elections at the end of April 2016 present a perfect scenario for reheating the frozen Hybrid War attempt from last May via a renewed Color Revolution/Albanian Unconventional War combination.

Montenegro’s people are also presently struggling to free themselves from Djukanovic’s yoke, urgently realizing that the longer they reside under his decades-long rule, the more their traditional spiritual and geopolitical identity is being eroded. The protest movement in this country could potentially escalate into a civil war if excessive state brutality continues to be used. It’s not for sure that this will happen, but it can’t of course be discounted. Montenegrins know that they absolutely must act before their country formally joins NATO in order to preserve their Orthodox Christianity and historically fraternal ties with Russia, while similarly the ruling clique understands how imperative it is for them to make sure NATO membership happens so as to destroy these two forms of national identity. The friction between the two could realistically give way to all-out conflict between both parties, ergo the fears of civil war.

Finally, Bosnia is being pushed into an unbearable domestic crisis, with Sarajevo obsessively doing whatever it can to infringe on Republika Srpska’s sovereignty. The country is currently in its worst crisis since the end of the 1994 civil war, as the Serbian representatives proudly cut ties with SIPA, the nation-wide court and prosecution organ, in protest after the latest blatant infringement against their entity’s sovereignty. The US is pushing the country back to the brink of warfare, seeing the incitement of regional violence as dually accomplishing the goals of sabotaging China’s Balkan Silk Road project through the enticement of Serbian involvement and the resultant geopolitical consequences this will entail and weakening the EU via an explosion of conflict and a renewed humanitarian crisis. As with the previous forecasts, it’s not for sure that this will fully transpire as feared, but the signs are undoubtedly there that this is a trend that should surely be monitored in the coming months. In all three instances, the use of terrorism could be strategically applied in order to set off a domino chain of destabilization.

Europe: Disruptors

The following are three events that could change the game in Europe:

Belarussian Backstabbing:

Lukashenko has been cozying up quite close to the West over the past year, having gained enough of their approval to even have some of the sanctions suspended against his country. It’s not known whether there’s a link between the two, but it was also around that time that Belarus began fussing about the air base that Russia had purportedly wanted to open up there. While Moscow publicly appears unmoved by the stalemate, it’s bound to have resulted in the Kremlin reconceptualizing the nature of relations that it has with its nominal “ally”. The West wants nothing more than to drive a wedge between the two and Russia is fully aware of this, hence why it doesn’t publicly respond to Lukashenko’s ego-tripping outreaches to Europe, but it’s possible that the Belarussian leader might overstep his position one day and disastrously himself in a situation where the West prompts him to choose sides. Predictably, he may let his ambitions of personal glory get the best of him and opt to join forces with the West if the economic price is right, and doing so would completely disrupt Russia’s post-Soviet integrational projects with the Eurasian Union and the CSTO.

Ukrainian Uprising 2.0:

First written about in August, the author still holds true to the thesis that Ukraine is progressively becoming more susceptible to a legitimate people’s revolution against the Kievan authorities. Whether it’s of Neo-Nazis turning on their former patrons, the country’s disparate regions pushing for federalization, or average citizens that have just plain had enough of the economic and physical destruction of the past two years, it’s more likely than ever that some sort of domestic disruption aside from a renewed civil war against Donbass (which is also a possibility) could occur. No matter which form it takes, this would instantly become Europe’s number one foreign affairs priority and would temporarily reorient (or rather, disorient) attention from the Mideast back to Eastern Europe. The effects that this would have on the New Cold War are dependent on the circumstances under which this event transpires, so if it’s a civil war against Donbass, it would be to Russia’s disadvantage, but if it was a patriotic rebellion against the Western-controlled government, then it would play to Russia’s benefit.

Croatian-Serbian Conflict:

The last disruption that might (but does not necessarily mean it will) happen would be a Croatian-Serbian War provoked by a breakdown of stability in Bosnia and exacerbated by both sides’ current missile race. For the moment, this isn’t doesn’t seem to be a likelihood for 2016, but the odds could turn against this forecast’s favor if unexpected developments (i.e. Western-supported terrorist attacks) break out in the country and quickly unravel the peace between all parties. A domestic destabilization in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and/or the Republic of Macedonia (separately or in some sort of combination) would be unsettling enough for the EU and would already greatly undermine whatever remaining independence (mostly in name only at this point) it retains, but a conventional state-on-state conflict between two Balkan nations would maximize the respective effects even more.

II Eurasia: State Of Play

In this context, Eurasia refers to the former Soviet space and concerns Russia’s reintegration efforts over this wide region. Belarus and Ukraine were already mentioned in the previous section, so this one speaks on the Russian Federation itself, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Overall, one can see that Moscow has successfully consolidated its position, although two significant holdouts refuse to enter into pragmatic cooperation with it. These are Georgia and Uzbekistan, with the latter engaging with Russia through the SCO but not at all in the formerly close nature that it once did when it was part of the CSTO. These two states are the US’ ideal points of strategic entry in their respective regions, and more progress has been made on this front with Tbilisi than Tashkent. Other than the competing institutionalism between the Eurasian Union and EU in the Caucasus and Uzbekistan’s stubbornly ‘independent’ position, things in general have been very positive for Russia. The Pivot to Asia is proceeding apace, although of course this is a long-term strategic complementary diversification to Russia’s foreign policy and will take a lot more than a single year or two to physically actualize. That said, the commencement of the first-ever Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok was a welcome sign, and Russia looks to be advancing towards the fulfillment of the “Asian Sea Arc” project in enhancing maritime trade with ASEAN.

Eurasian Union Enlargement:

2015 was important for the Eurasian Union because it saw the formal incorporation of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan into the economic bloc. This gave the group a presence in the South Caucasus and expanded its position along the Chinese border, along with bequeathing it with the institutional experience necessary for managing future enlargements. The fact that both of these cases proved to be a success without any notable problems or bottlenecks demonstrates that the Eurasian Union is working effectively at its highest levels.

Tbilisi’s Intransigence:

Armenia is formally a member of the Eurasian Union and CSTO and rival Azerbaijan has been moving a lot closer to Russia over the past year, but Tbilisi has yet to improve its ties with Moscow. President Putin said during his yearly press conference recently that he’s ready to move forward with this process, provided that his Georgian counterparts seize the moment and move forward with him, but despiteformally agreeing to his visa-abolishment proposal, they seem unwilling to moderate their pro-NATO stance. Earlier this year, the military bloc even opened up a joint training base in the country, demonstrating the extent of influence that Brussels has over Tbilisi at the moment. When speaking of Brussels, that can be taken in more ways than one, since Georgia still wants to join the EU, which has the distinct possibility of creating a customs crisis in the Caucasus in the future.

CSTO/SCO Security Interplay In Central Asia:

Both integrational organizations rehearsed their contingency planning for dealing with a breakout of terrorist violence in Central Asia. ISIL’s expansion to Afghanistan and the Taliban’s latest propensity for renewed offensives raises the risk of chaos spilling across the borders and into the former Soviet periphery. Thankfully, as The Saker noted in his detailed piece from May, Russia has hardened her southern border and is prepared for dealing with most conventional scenarios that could transpire. China’s involvement vis-à-vis the SCO is important as well, since Beijing has enormous energy and forthcoming market interests there that it is eager to have defended.

The Caspian Takes Central Stage:

Complementing Russia’s anti-terrorist intervention in Syria, the Caspian Flotilla has played a very strategic and supportive role, one which transcends its counter-terrorist success and sends larger statements to the rest of the world. Russia is signaling that the inland lake, previously written off by Western military ‘experts’ as near-useless in the modern-era, is actually quite an advantageous position for launching operations in the Mideast and potentially even Central Asia. The munitions that were used surprised and the accuracy with which they were fired surprised Western observers and proved just how wrong they were in earlier harking on about Russia’s ‘decrepit’ naval resources.

The Pacific Pivot:

Russia has resolutely shifted a large amount of its formerly European-concentrated attention towards entering into tighter relations with the Pacific economies, specifically in ASEAN. Working with China is wonderful, but by itself it cannot function as a full-on pivot unless diversified to other partners as well. Vietnam forms the lynchpin of Russia’s ASEAN strategy, but even this could be endangered due to its partner’s cooperation with the US-led TPP. Be that as it may, Russia has clearly demonstrated its intent to engage the Pacific states and re-establish a mild presence in the region, be it in the diplomatic,military, and/or economic senses.

Eurasia: Where It’s Headed

The present security configuration in Central Asia is disproportionately dependent on the continued and stable rule of the countries’ leaders, but with transitions being inevitable sooner or later due to the advanced age of the various Presidents, it’s possible that everything Russia has worked for could become undermined if this changing of the guard descends into a bloody inter-factional battle. This isn’t so much a risk in Kazakhstan, and one could even perhaps say in Tajikistan (which has the memory of a recent civil war behind it), so much as it is in Uzbekistan, where the clan-based nature of society is prime for external manipulation. There are only two ways in which power transfers can take place in these three states, and that’s through de-facto ‘succession’ (the predecessor appoints a political heir before passing and/or stepping down) and/or a Color Revolution, both of which could intertwine once a ‘successor’s’ legitimacy is put to vote afterwards. These destabilization scenarios could occur at any time, not just next year, but because they the situational trip wire might be broached with one of the elderly statesmen’s passing, it’s worthy to have offered those view words about the possibility.

The Russian-Iranian Strategic Partnership Integrates Azerbaijan:

Long seen as the West’s prized partner in the Caspian, 2015 saw a remarkable cooling of Azeri-Western relations over the latter’s strong criticism of Baku’s human rights record. While political and non-energy economic ties (e.g. EU membership) appear to be at a standstill, oil and gas still flow unimpeded through its territory, and Azerbaijan is expected to be the main source for the EU’s anti-Russian Southern Energy Corridor. Interestingly enough, Azerbaijan has moved considerably closer to both Russia and Iran in the past year, excitedly raising the prospects that a trilateral partnership between the three (perhaps via the North-South Corridor) could neutralize the unipolar intentions of the US and EU and flip Baku into a becoming a multipolar pump of energy influence towards the West. Of course, the US would never allow Azerbaijan to become a strategic weapon against it, Turkey, or Israel’s interests (the latter of whichreceives 40% of its oil needs from the country) without some sort of Color Revolution disruption first, so as this realignment scenario moves forward, one can simultaneously expect more Western hostility towards Azerbaijan and friendly outreaches towards Armenia.

Barbarians At The Turkmen Gates:

The author wrote a prognosis in summer 2014 about the institutional vulnerability that Turkmenistan has towards any ISIL-like offensive streaming across its joint border with Afghanistan, and the assessment is still very relevant going into 2016 (and it could also affect Uzbekistan and Tajikistan too, especially if they’re in the midst of their own domestic crises at the time). Just in October there was an incident with the Taliban being caught in no-man’s land along the Turkmen border, and as the terrorist group regroups for what seems to be an imminent series of offensives earlier next year, it’s likely that their presence will only increase along the shared frontier. Any spillover of terrorist bedlam into Turkmen territory could quickly lead to a spike in global energy prices, principally because the world’s second-largest gas field in Galkynysh is very close to Afghanistan and could be affected by the turmoil. Even if the terrorists don’t occupy or destroy any of its facilities, but simply make a move in that direction, it’s predictable that gas prices (and in turn, perhaps even the oil prices to which they’re pegged) could increase, since speculators might prepare for Beijing to commence the emergency purchase of LNG to substitute for any forthcoming disruptions from its main foreign energy supplier. Although the LNG sales would take time to finalize and deliver, if a China made a large enough play in this market at a single, concentrated time, then it would inevitably have an impact on price.

Russian-Japanese Outreaches:

While it may seem unlikely to many, there’s a strong chance that the two sides will engage in behind-the-scenes diplomacy to pragmatically rectify their outstanding bilateral issues (if they haven’t begun such talks already). Shinzo Abe is indisputably a pro-American stooge that’s currently overseeing one of the US’ most cherished Lead From Behind proxies, but there are still apolitical non-governmental interests that are eager to intensify ties between the two. Russia’s Pivot to Asia needs foreign investment and management experience in order to be fully successful, hence the reason why Vladivostok and the nearby environs were recently declared a free port in order to assist with this. It’s not to suggest that a breakthrough needs to be reached on the Kuril Islands issue in order for this to happen either, as the only thing that needs to occur is for the profit-minded business elite in Japan to successfully lobby their government backtrack on their unreasonable anti-Russian policies out of economic motivations, convincing them that there is more self-interested gain in working with Russia than working against it.

From the Russian perspective, aside from the Far Eastern foreign investment interests that it has, Moscow would like to strategically and pragmatically diversify its Asian Pivot beyond China and to the Pacific’s third-largest economy, Japan. Additionally, some in the Russian establishment conceivably hope that progress could be made in exporting the country’s resources to the energy-deprived island chain. On a grander level, the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership tacitly implies that both sides can cooperate with the other’s rivals (in this case, Russia working with Japan just as it does with Vietnam and India) out of the shared vision of using its newfound position to promote its partner’s interests wherever possible. This policy doesn’t always work as theorized and isn’t infallible, but the general concept is that each of the two trusts the other enough so as not to be perturbed by their external dealings and to never suspect treacherous intentions from them. If anything, such interactions can boost the cohesiveness of the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, but this is only because of the unique nature of their bilateral relations. The same template, for example, can’t be superimposed on Russian-Belarussian relations, as was earlier discussed.

Eurasia: Disruptors

Other than the Hybrid War regime chance scenarios touched upon earlier, here are several ways in which the ongoing trends in Eurasia could severely be disrupted:

Nagorno-Karabakh Continuation War:

This was previously elaborated upon by the author before, but it still remains an ever-present possibility. The specifics of a 2016 scenario would probably be a bit modified than what was earlier written, making due for the changed geopolitical position of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia’s Eurasian Union and CSTO ally is moving towards the West at the same time that the West’s energy-exporting bastion is looking towards Russia and Iran. While Azerbaijan routinely threatens Armenia and continuously boasts about its military potential, it realistically doesn’t seem inclined to provoke Russia, which has a contingent of troops based there. It’s possible that a second hurrah of Western influence and/or false-flag provocations could be used to lure Baku into this anti-Russian trap, but it’s more feasible that a second round of Color Revolution fervor would hit Armenia and destabilize its government. In the event that it falls to Ukrainian-style hard-core nationalists, then the presumably pro-Western authorities that would take their place could likely initiate the catastrophic scenario on their own, thereby opening up a new anti-Russian hot front in the New Cold War and potentially turning Moscow and Baku against one another.

Uzbekistan Goes Full-On Rogue:

Islam Karimov has been somewhat courting President Putin’s approval over the past year, trying to convince him that Uzbekistan isn’t going to totally turn against Russian interests and actively disrupt them in the region. The Russian leader visited the Central Asian state in December 2014 and wrote off some of its debt, and he even invited Karimov to visit Russia after the two met in Ufa over the recent summer. Still, these friendly and welcome outreaches don’t change the fact that Uzbekistan is looking to warm up its military relations with the US and potentially becomes its Lead From Behind partner in the region in exchange. Uzbekistan might even be under some form of implicit blackmail, getting the hint that failure to work with the US would guarantee that a Hybrid War scenario breaks out after Karimov’s passing. Whatever the reason may be, there’s plenty of reason to suspect that Uzbekistan could one day play a similarly anti-Russian position as its unipolar Ukrainian and Turkish counterparts presently do.

Japanese-Russian Naval Tensions:

Disturbingly, it appears as though the world has entered a renewed era of naval tensions, with the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Turkey’s foreboding potential in the Bosporus being the prime examples. In a similar vein, it’s possible for the US to command its Japanese satellite to enact a comparable provocation against Russia just as it does against China at the moment. It’s not guaranteed that Japan would fall for this bait, but Abe might be tempted to go along with this in order to create the ‘convincing’ justification that Japan needs to unreservedly and immediately revise its pacifist constitution. Staging some kind of stunt in the Kuril Islands would create the global fanfare necessary to ride the anti-Russian wave into general international (Western) acceptance of his actions, and it might even be enough to scare the Japanese population into largely accepting his dictates on this matter. The media-manipulated and absolutely false perception of Russia and China ‘teaming up’ against Japan would also excite American military planners into beefing up their presence in archipelago on the fabricated grounds of ‘protecting an Asian democracy’.

III Mideast: State Of Play

The latest year was one of the most historically transformational for the region ever since the 2003 US War on Iraq, with the argument perhaps being made that 2015 was even more impactful because it heralded Russia’s long-awaited return to the Mideast and the formal (key word) end of the US- and Israel-manufactured Iranian nuclear ‘scare’. There’s no debating that the entire regional paradigm was turned upside down by these two developments, and the author’s earlier analysis about “The New Middle East: Russian Style” goes in-depth by explaining what’s changed and what it will likely lead to. Therefore, this section is mostly a reiteration of that research, albeit partially modified for the specifics of the 2016 Trends Forecast. Other than these two globally renowned events whose impact doesn’t require any further explanation beyond the afore-cited link, there were three other developments that marked the key Mideast processes of 2015:

The War On Yemen:

Saudi Arabia fell into a tantalizing trap after it decided to invade its poorer and comparatively weaker neighbor to the south. The Ansarallah had been waging a liberation struggle against the pro-Western and Saudi-imposed proxy that was controlling the country, but the Saudi establishment fell for their own prejudices and sincerely thought that this was some sort of covert Iranian conspiracy against their interests. That definitely wasn’t the case whatsoever, but the fact remains that this paranoid fear is what prompted the Kingdom to enter into what could indisputably be labeled as a quagmire right now. In the over 9 months since their bombing campaign and invasion started, Saudi Arabia and its contracted GCC allies and other mercenary partners have not been able to achieve their main objective of defeating the Ansarallah and regaining total control over the country. In response, the Saudis felt pressed to further internationalize the War on Yemen under the pretext that it’s a subsect of the larger “War on Terror”, hence the recent creation of the Riyadh-led “anti-terrorist coalition” (examined in-depth by the authorhere). Going into the new year, there’s no concrete indication yet of whether or not this will change the Saudis’ disastrous fortunes and be enough to turn the tide of the war to their favor, although it will likely fulfill some role in trying to do so.

Kurdistan Calling:

Having been predicted years ago and previously with much Western backing (although now with possible Russian-Iranian support as well), it now looks like the time has come for “Kurdistan” to take on a heightened international role (even if sub-national and spread across Syria-Turkey-Iraq). The Iraqi Peshmerga and Syrian-based Kurdish militias have been very successful in fighting against ISIL, and this has won them international approval from all forces except Turkey, which is fearful that this sizeable minority group (estimated to be around a quarter of the country’s population) may rebel against Ankara once more for increased rights, representation, and perhaps even autonomy or independence. It was this fear, combined with Erdogan’s catastrophic electioneering efforts, that led to Turkey provoking the Kurds into restarting their military operations against the state, all with the intent of sparking a preplanned offensive to cripple that ethnic community. The resultant Turkish Civil War that followed and Erdogan’s divisive efforts to split the transnational community by buying out their Iraqi counterparts will obviously be major factors in determining the legal status of transnational “Kurdistan” in the coming future.

Turkey Backstabs Russia:

One of the most dramatic events to happen ever since the end of the Old Cold War occurred when Turkey shockingly shot down a Russian anti-terrorist bomber over Syria. This unparalleled aggression was especially jaw-dropping given that the two sides, despite their disagreements over Syria, were steadily moving towards a pragmatic partnership with one another. In the aftermath that followed, Russia maturely resisted the legitimate urge for war that it had and patiently set about planning the long-term destabilization of Erdogan’s government, with travel and trade sanctions being but the first counter-salvo in what is expected to become a protracted proxy struggle between both sides. The US ultimately benefits from this, but curiously enough, it also seems inclined to passively turn a blind eye to what Russia might be planning against Turkey, with the afore-cited link providing more details about this interesting development.

Mideast: Where It’s Headed

The Mideast will continue its geopolitical transformation in the coming year, with ongoing events helping to reshape its overall contours. This next year will be but one in a series of several coming more that will determine what will then be the lasting status of the Mideast. This transitional time is turbulent and racked with violence, and it can be said to have begun in earnest in 2014 with the rise of ISIL. It’s not known exactly when this period will end, but the region could realistically stabilize by 2018 or 2019, depending of course on whether or not key pillars (Turkey and Saudi Arabia) implode, which in that case could indefinitely prolong this history-making era.

Reaching A Syrian Settlement:

The dynamic interplay of various global forces that have converged over Syria is totally unparalleled in recent history but also completely untenable in its present form. There are now three coalitions nominally fighting terrorism in Syria (with only the Russian one being sincere in its stated objective, while the US- and Saudi-led ones actually support terrorism) and a slew of foreign aircraft flying over its skies. The accelerated diplomacy that’s been happening as of late indicates that all sides want to see some sort of settlement soon, likely agreed to by the middle of next year, in order to de-escalate and pull back from the brink of all-out conflict. Each side will probably resort to non-conventional means to support their given side(s) after the conventional de-escalation begins, meaning that any possible surface indication of a settlement might be illusory and misleading. Nonetheless, it seems like an agreement between most of the Great Powers currently involved in the war in one capacity or another will come sooner or later, and it’s very probable that 2016 will be the year they finally hammer the details out.

It’s impossible at this moment to fully articulate a post-conflict vision for Syria since so much is dependent on the Race for Raqqa. The respective coalition that gains control over ISIL’s ‘capital’ will have a deciding voice in stipulating the constitutional direction of the country afterwards, and with that document’s legal revision being a central element of the UNSC’s conflict resolution efforts, it means that control over this city will be pivotal. The US would ideally like to create a transnational sub-state “Sunnistan” (likely through a ‘federal’ model) between eastern Syria and western Iraq in order to revive the Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline that had originally been at the root of the war in the first place, while Russia and Syria want to preserve the unity of the state. It’s appropriate at this moment to remind the reader that Turkey’s recent invasion of northern Iraq was likely meant to further the goal of a “Sunnistan” in that theater in anticipation of a complementary unit being constructed in Syria.

Turkish Turmoil:

The author has written about this on many occasions before, but the gist is that Turkey is leaping towards an all-out domestic crisis as anti-government sentiment spikes and the Civil War wages on. With Russia now opposed to Erdogan’s government, it’s likely that it will take some moves to increase the level of domestic dissent against the authorities (e.g. sanctions and potential gas disruptions), but it must be reminded that Turkey’s present turmoil is all Erdogan’s fault. A dangerous cocktail of destabilization is now brewing inside the country, and it’s very probable that the civil war could spill over out of the southeast and into the heartland and/or coastal areas. It doesn’t even have to be Kurdish-inspired in this case, as if the legitimate institutional opposition continues to feel oppressed to the strong degree that they presently do, some of their members might peacefully organize against the government. If the state brutally crushes their demonstrations (which is all but guaranteed), some of the protesters might resort to taking up arms against the government, with a few possibly linking up with radical left-wing militants in the process. As violence spreads across the land, Erdogan might feel compelled to enact a wide-ranging martial law decree, but doing so would also place the military in a heightened position to enact a coup against him if they were both inclined to do so and physically capable of it (after Erdogan ‘cut their wings’ in the past). It doesn’t look like things will calm down anytime soon in Turkey, and even if they appear to do so, there’s a definite level of intense discontent lying just below the surface that could be reactivated at any time.

The Saudis’ Sinking Ship:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never been in such dire straits before. The country is embroiled in an unnecessary, bloody, and ever-expanding quagmire in Yemen, and its own borders are now being threatened by the blowback overspill that it unintentionally engendered. The Saudis can’t even fight the war they started on their own and have been pressed into assembling an “anti-terrorist” coalition (in reality a ‘legitimated’ and integrated mercenary marketplace) to provide the necessary backup support that its forces need to sustain their aggression. Concurrent with this, falling energy prices have forced the Kingdom into its largest-ever deficit that raises serious questions about the potential for social unrest in the future. Along with that, there’s also the prospect of a broad Shiite uprising in the Eastern Province if the Kingdom’s authorities continue to blatantly disregard that minority’s basic human rights and interests. All told, the Saudi ship appears to be sinking, but it doesn’t mean that its problems can’t theoretically be patched up. As difficult as it might be, they may find a way to avert what looks to be a looming disaster, although at present it’s unknown exactly how they could realistically do this (but they never tire the world with their ‘surprises’). Therefore, the Saudis’ forecast for 2016 is unusually grim, and it’s predicted that one or more of the aforementioned destabilizing factors will contribute to a larger systemic crisis inside the country, perhaps culminating in a royal and/or military coup attempt (whether or not it succeeds is another matter).

Mideast: Disruptors

The Saudis Win The War On Yemen:

This does not seem all that possible at this given point, but if the Saudi’s “anti-terrorist” coalition is somehow able to provide the necessary personnel and firepower support that Riyadh so desperately needs, then it’s conceivable that it might irreversibly change the balance of power there and lead to a full-out ethnic cleansing campaign against Shiites and northern-based Yemenis. That’s probably the only way that the Saudis could ever secure their ‘win’ over Yemen, and they know they can only do it if they have multilateral support and partners in crime. Doing it by themselves, which they’re theoretically capable of it, isn’t something that they want to do primarily since they want to forge a ‘blood bond’ between their mercenary forces in committing them to further anti-Shiite genocidal campaigns afterwards. A Saudi ‘win’ in the War on Yemen would be a loss for the multipolar world and would immediately raise the chances that the “anti-terrorist” coalition is redirected northwards against Syria and Iraq with full force. These two targets might see some low-scale, light-intensity engagements prior to this, but the real nightmare would occur after the ‘problem’ in Yemen is ‘dealt with’ according to the Saudis’ vile designs.

Omani Sultan Qaboos Passes Away:

The leader of Oman, the most pragmatic and non-radical member of the GCC, has been sick for years and is already of advanced age. He will eventually pass away, whether it’s next year or sometime afterwards, but there’s no apparent heir or elaborated successionist process for what will come next. The author wrote about the possible scenarios in an earlier piece for The Saker, but to concisely summarize, one of three possibilities will happen – succession will occur unimpeded and Oman will remain a pro-Saudi (albeit pragmatic) kingdom; the Muslim Brotherhood attempts to sabotage the leadership transition; or Islamic Republicanism (in the vein of the Iranian manifestation) takes hold among the populace and becomes a rallying cry for change. The latter two events would likely result in some form of a Saudi military intervention, whether unilaterally or through the “anti-terrorist” coalition (minus the Muslim Brotherhood-supporting states of Qatar and Turkey). This is a whole new can of worms that the Saudis definitely do not want to deal with at the moment, and it could be the decisive straw that breaks the camel’s back. On the other hand, if a rabidly pro-Saudi ruler comes to power in Qaboos’ wake, it’s possible that he may reorient the Kingdom’s foreign policy away from its pragmatic base and more towards the unipolar subservient status of his royal peers, which would thus have direct consequences for bilateral ties with Iran (including in the energy sphere).

Muslim Brotherhood-Wahhabist Fallout 2.0:

Most of 2014 was marked by a the Gulf Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that was finally ended when the latter strategically surrendered to Riyadh and was forced to kick the Muslim Brotherhood outto Turkey. Since then, however, and with Saudi Arabia’s relative weakening over the past year, Qatar has moved so close with Turkey (the new formal patron of the terrorist movement) that it’s going to host a military base for Erdogan in the coming future. This is obviously aimed at making sure that the US doesn’t ever sell Qatar out to Saudi Arabia in whatever forthcoming Mideast realignment it may be planning, so Emir Thani is trying to proactively secure his survival in the face of changing American strategic priorities. Remarkably, both Turkey and Qatar are part of Saudi Arabia’s “anti-terrorist” coalition, but sooner or later, it’s all but certain that the two ideological strands of competing Islamic terrorism will come to blows again, perhaps in the abovementioned Omani scenario. No matter how it eventually plays out, the stakes are a lot higher now than they were in 2014, since Qatar is now aligned with Turkey, which foolishly doesn’t understand when it’s necessary to back away from a flawed policy (the aggression against Russia being the premier case in point). Erdogan’s arrogance would play out to the advantage of the multipolar world, however, since a Turkish-Saudi conflict (whether physical or played out via a region-wide Cold War) would further weaken the US’ two pillars of regional support and create unprecedented opportunities for the Resistance Bloc. It might even speed up one or both of their internal disintegrations if the scenarios proceed along a certain trajectory.

IV South Asia: State Of Play

The situation in South Asia has changed dramatically over the past year, although most people likely have been oblivious to this owing to the relative lack of global news coverage that all but the most dramatic events receive. Mostly everyone is aware of the Taliban and its steady advances in the Afghan countryside, as are they knowledgeable about India and Pakistan’s ascension to the SCO, but comparatively less people heard about the Indian-Chinese Cold War that’s progressively unfolded throughout 2015 or about the heated proxy rivalry between the two over Nepal. These interconnected events are very important, yet they regretfully didn’t receive the widespread exposure that they deserve. Along the same vein, Bangladesh’s rising Islamic terrorist problem has also been swept under the rug, despite clear indications that it is turning into ISIL’s latest frontline state.

When assessing the year in review as it relates to South Asia, one mustn’t also forget to speak about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, perhaps one of the most critical spokes of the New Silk Road, nor must the stunning pro-Western electoral reversal in Sri Lanka go undescribed either. The Hybrid War threat in the Maldives only made the news because the island chain is a popular and elite tourist getaway, but aside from that, most people would never have heard about developments in this geostrategic Indian Ocean state. Last but not least, the long-held dream of constructing a pipeline from Turkmenistan to India (what some have suggested was partially behind the US’ decision to occupy Afghanistan) finally moved forward for the first time in its history with the project’s official consecration in early December.

It’s worthwhile to shed some additional light on these neglected geopolitical developments in order to educate the reader about their existence and significance, and also to set the stage for explaining how they’ll impact on the region in the year to come.

Taliban On The March:

To refresh everyone’s memory, the US and NATO severely decreased the size of their occupation forces in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, meaning that 2015 was bound to see an increase in Taliban activity one way or another. To clarify, the West did not fully withdraw their forces, but merely reduced their presence out of strategic considerations, but this was enough to embolden the terrorists later on in the year. During the fall, the Taliban shocked the world by temporarily capturing their first provincial capital since the 2001 invasion ousted them from power. This dramatic event captured global attention and proved that the Taliban was significantly more powerful (both in terms of physical forces and intelligence networks) than was previously thought, and their follow-up attacks all throughout the country at the end of December took most experts off guard. After all, the Taliban previously ‘hibernated’ during the winter, with the spring and summer being routinely identified as the traditional ‘fighting season’, but it seems as though the group is switching up its strategy so as to score unexpected battlefield ‘points’.

It’s incontestable that the Taliban are in the process of undertaking a nationwide offensive aimed at finally overthrowing the Kabul government, but this has significantly destabilizing consequences for all of Afghanistan’s neighbors. As was discussed in the earlier section about Eurasia, there’s the real risk of terrorist violence spilling over into Central Asia, especially in the event that any of the border countries experience their own separate forms of destabilization. Likewise, the violence could also spill across into Pakistan, which has traditionally felt the brunt of the Taliban’s wrath over the past decade. And, making matters even more complicated, ISIL has finally established a presence in the country and is lethally competing with the Taliban. It’s very probable that if these two groups don’t cooperate (and even if they do so, it would be under ISIL’s leadership, not the Taliban’s), then they’ll savagely be at each other’s throats in a bloody terrorist civil war.

This could create the opening needed for Afghanistan’s anti-terrorist forces to eliminate both groups in one fell swoop, but unfortunately the national forces are largely corrupted and trained to insufficient standards to take advantage of this opportunity, and more than likely the two terrorist sides would fight to the death with one another. If ISIL emerges victorious, then the territorial expansionism that’s been trademarked by the group in Syria and Iraq will likely become transplanted in the Afghan theater, raising the very real risk that that a transnational ‘caliphate’ could emerge between Afghanistan and Central Asia (perhaps making its first inroads in Turkmenistan and/or Tajikistan), Afghanistan and Pakistan, or between all three regions in connecting Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhstan, Afghanistan’s Wakkhan Corridor and nearby environs, and Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. If the Taliban is really as divided as some rumors speculate, then it’s possible that ISIL could gain the upper hand against them in any prospective conflict and take steps to actualize these transnational terrorist plans.

Pakistan And India Join The SCO:

This was a huge move and one that should likely reverberate for years to come. The two regional nuclear-armed rivals began their ascension into the Russian- and Chinese-led organization during the SCO Summit in Ufa back in July. On paper at least, this was supposed to herald a new political-strategic order in Eurasia, with all of the continent’s primary forces (save for the EU, of course) party to the group in one capacity or another. It still remains to be seen whether the optimistic assessments about the SCO will bear any major fruit, as the Indian-Chinese Cold War (which will be described shortly) threatens to put all of that on hold for the indefinite future except for select publicly presentable statements and cooperative efforts (like multilateral humanitarian and social programs. On the other hand, India and Pakistan’s joint ascension to the SCO may have played a role in New Delhi trusting Islamabad enough to go forward with the TAPI Pipeline project, which in and of itself is a very historic development.

TAPI:

This far-reaching project has finally seen the light of day after its formal beginning at the start of December. If everything goes according to plan (a big “if”, of course), then the gas pipeline from the world’s second-largest field should go online by 2019. TAPI’s saliency cannot be overstated, since not only would it bring Turkmen gas on to the global market via LNG near Gwadar, but it would also make India partially dependent on Pakistan’s goodwill in supplying its partial energy demands. Never before have the two rivals agreed to cooperate so closely, which of course harbors well for the future stability of the subcontinent. Anything can come up between then and now, however, so it’s not a guarantee that the project itself will be completed or that India and Pakistan will enjoy the level of trust necessary to actualize their envisioned energy plans, but the idea itself is unprecedented and certainly deserves mention in this end-of-the-year review of South Asia.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor:

One of the largest economic announcements made in 2015 came from President Xi Jinping’s proclamation that his country would be investing $46 billion in constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) between the two countries, thus confirming China’s desire to fully integrate its decades-long Pakistani ally into its New Silk Road dreams for the supercontinent. Importantly, the successful completion of this project would not only add to the development of Xinjiang (already the hub of Chinese-Central Asian trade and through which Chinese-Pakistan trade would also pass), but it would de-facto give China an Indian Ocean presence in the southern port of Gwadar. Strategically speaking, although being a long-stretched overland detour, this would partially (but not fully) ease China’s dependence on the US-controlled Strait of Malacca and increasingly unipolar-crowded South China Sea, thus signaling that CPEC is of the highest significance for Beijing. Somewhat for this reason, it can be expected that the US will do its best to continue the destabilization of Pakistan, but in a way so that the Indian-destined TAPI isn’t that negatively affected. Considering these self-imposed situational constraints, it’s possible that the Province of Balochistan (the location of Gwadar) might undergo a renewed period of unrest sometime in the future.

The Indian-Chinese Cold War:

In speaking about unrest and destabilization, it’s timely to raise general awareness about the Indian-Chinese Cold War. The author meticulously explored the details of this South Asia-wide proxy rivalry in anearlier piece for Oriental Review, but the overall idea is that the two Asian Supergiants are fiercely competing in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, and that while neither of them makes this fact public, it’s impossible for objective observers to deny the existence of their mutual geopolitical tension in these areas. Due to the rapidity in which the competition spread (four countries over the course of only one year), it’s logical to conclude that this state of strained relations will carry over into at least the next couple of years, if not outright develop into a ‘formal’ Asian Cold War sometime in the future. The relevant article mentioned above has information about the specifics of the how this power struggle has played out in each of the aforementioned states.

Bangladesh Turning Into Bangla-Daesh:

As was spoken about in the lead-in, Bangladesh is quickly turning into a frontline state in the War on Terror, with ISIL feverishly working to build a few nests within the country. It’s relevant to note that Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country and is overwhelmingly almost entirely Muslim, meaning that not only could ISIL wrack absolute havoc with even the most ‘small-scale’ terrorist attack, but that there’s bound to be a statistically significant percentage of the population that sympathizes with the group.

Even if this is only 1% of them, in a country of over 150 million people, that’s still one and a half million people, which is a wildly uncontrollable number of terrorist supporters to have in general, let alone in the same country at the same time. Bangladesh is critically located between India’s state of West Bengal and its ‘Seven Sisters’ in the Northeast (whose stability is a prerequisite for India’s “Act East” towards ASEAN), thus translating into the country having a unparalleled importance on India’s geostrategic security as well.

Any large-scale terrorist chaos inside Bangladesh, not to mention if this produces a massive humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands of refugees, would directly have a destabilizing impact on these Indian territories, and thus, on India’s own national security. The quirk here is that despite India being so vulnerable to Bangladeshi-originated destabilization, it is almost powerless to directly determine the course of events there and remains somewhat of a ‘geopolitical hostage’ to whatever transpires. It goes without saying that this fact is obviously understood by outside powers as well, and it can’t be precluded that the US might seek to take advantage of it in order to increase the leverage that it has over India in the future.

South Asia: Where It’s Headed

The Asian Cold War Heats Up:

India and China are not expected to significantly improve their bilateral relations in the coming year. Of course, they might make highly publicized statements of rhetorical support for one another in one of the two major multilateral organizations that they’re a part of (BRICS and the SCO), but bilaterally, little will probable change between the two. Furthermore, the Cold War between them isn’t going to go away on its own, and both sides are increasingly viewing the other as an emerging security threat to their respective interests. The Indians likely harbored this sentiment ever since their defeat in the 1962 war with China, but it’s only this year that those feelings have returned front and center for both camps. The way that the Indians see it, China is encroaching in their traditional sphere of civilizational interests in South Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives), while China sees the latter three states as essential nodes in its One Belt One Road (“New Silk Road”) policy. Inevitably, given these competing interests (India wants China out of South Asia, China sees a pressing need to boost its presence there), the two Asian Supergiants are bound to continue their Cold War no matter what.

Pakistan Becomes More Multipolar, India Goes Unipolar:

As a consequence of the Indian-Chinese Cold War, it’s likely that Pakistan will move closer to the multipolar camp at the same time as India drifts towards the unipolar one. The reason for this is obviously, and it’s that there will probably be a direct correlation between a worsening of Indian-Chinese ties and Indian-Pakistani ones, with China and Pakistan correlating their actions as per the strategic partnership between them. Nobody wants to see South Asia become a flashpoint in the New Cold War, and it’s not to say that it’ll become a ‘hot spot’ necessarily, but that each of the two sides (China/Pakistan and India) will progressively diverge in their strategic visions until it becomes clear after a few more years that India is a lot more closely aligned with the US and Japan (foreseeably in containing China, perhaps even in the South China Sea) than it is with China and Russia in BRICS. India will probably still remain in BRICS and the SCO, and ties with Russia might be largely unaffected by everything, but it’s the bilateral issues between India and China that will be disruptive for the world.

As a strong example in proving the direction that India’s headed, Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, probably the most anti-Chinese leader in the world today, visited New Delhi earlier this month and signed a raft of strategic agreements with his Indian counterpart, Modi. As a result, Japan will now be supplying India with military technology, cooperating with it in nuclear energy projects, and building its first high-speed railroad. In one quick move, India demonstrated to the rest of the world that it was unreservedly siding with Japan (and by implied extension, the US) against China, even going as far as directly addressing“freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea in a euphemistic swipe against Beijing. The Indian establishment has made its choice and charted its future for the next couple of years at least, so there’s no use speaking about any substantial Indian-Chinese détente in the coming future. It doesn’t mean that they’ll come to direct blows or have a dramatic falling out akin to the Sino-Soviet one of the Old Cold War (although that’s certainly possible with time, with India becoming the West’s ‘China’ in this neo-era of containment), but that their cooperation in BRICS and the SCO is predicated solely on the least common denominator of self-interest and that all other pretenses of ‘friendship’ and ‘cooperation’ are mere illusions.

Nepal Cracks:

Concerning Nepal, the circumstances of the Indian-Chinese Cold War are slightly different and take on a unique form. The only reason that China has been able to make sure strategic headway in the Himalayan state over the past couple of months is because of the flat-out failure of India’s foreign policy there. New Delhi enacted a de-facto blockade in support of the culturally, religiously, and ethnically similar Madhesi group that was protesting against the country’s new constitution, ostensibly on the grounds that it dilutes their political power. India, likely wanting to institutionally deepen its grip over its proxy, sought to aggressively blockade goods (and especially fuel) from entering the state, hoping that this would pressure the government enough that it would quickly backtrack and amend the constitution. Long story short, Kathmandu pushed back and quickly pivoted to China to help, which has now formally broken the decades-long monopoly that Indian fuel suppliers had over the Nepalese market, thus irreversibly taking the former Kingdom out of India’s full sphere of influence. Even if Nepal does tactically backtrack on the constitution and implements the pro-Madhesi ‘reforms’ that India supposedly wants (which is whatappears to be happening), then that still can’t shake off the strategic hold that China has now gained.

Instead, a resolution of the Nepali Constitutional Crisis according to India’s vision could paradoxically prompt a civil war inside the country. If the Madhesi use their possibly newfound powers to obstruct state mechanisms and/or make a pro-Indian power play against the government, then Kathmandu would be forced to fight back in one way or another. Similarly, if the Madhesi are successful in carving out their own ethnic-based federal state, then this would inspire other, smaller groups to do the same thing, thus potentially catalyzing the Somali-like decentralization of the country along ethnic-regional lines. The federal forces probably wouldn’t let it get to that point, and the other ethnic groups have weaker economic levers to pull in pressuring Kathmandu, but all the same, the destabilization would have to be dealt with, and the course of events that could predictably ensue might exacerbate domestic tensions even more push the country further along the path to another civil war, albeit this time ethno-regional based as opposed to a Maoist ideological struggle.

Bangladesh Begins Its Descent:

Barring a miracle (which can of course happen), it doesn’t seem likely that Bangladesh will pull out of the destabilization trap that it’s seems to inevitably be descending towards. The political crisis between the ruling government and the ‘opposition’ has already led to an increase in tension between both camps, and the involvement of ISIL-related terrorism is one of the most inopportune developments that could happen to the country at this critical time. The pace and intensify at which Bangladesh slips into chaos is dependent on the following factors: the level of violent Islamist infiltration and sympathy levels in the country (no reliable quantitative data exists although it’s presumed that the ‘opposition’s’ supporters are favorable towards these ideologies); the ‘opposition’s’ desire to seize power and possibly resort to violent means in doing so; and the involvement of the US in destabilizing the present Bangladeshi government (which, while being pro-India at the moment, is ‘uncomfortably’ too ‘pro-Chinese’ for Washington). It already seems as though all of the criteria are reached to some degree or another, meaning that it’s quite likely that Bangladesh will experience a wave of destabilizing events sometime next year, with Saudi Arabia and/or Qatar fulfilling the necessary Lead From Behind roles in clandestinely supporting the Islamist ‘opposition’ (be it ‘legitimate’ political figures or outright terrorists).

Struggling With The ‘Seven Sisters’:

India’s seven Northeast Provinces are the most unstable region in the country, located in a geographically inconvenient area for the central government to enforce and comprised of many different (and oftentimes, feuding) ethnicities. While there are many ethnic-based insurgencies and terrorist groups active in the region, two of the most notorious are the Bodo and the Naga. The author wrote extensively about the former one year ago when they launched their last high-profile attack, while the latter were discussed in June after India staged a cross-border raid into Myanmar as a reprisal for the group’s last anti-government ambush. While both groups have laid low ever since their respective headline-grabbing attacks, it doesn’t mean that they’ve technically gone anywhere, and the threat that each of them represents is still very real. The Nagas are particularly dangerous because they are part of an umbrella separatist/terrorist organization called the United Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW). The author also examined this topic in-depth in an earlier piece for Oriental Review, with the main conclusion being that the union of ethnic anti-government forces represents a very destabilizing development in Northeast India that New Delhi must neutralize at all costs. Failure to do so would absolutely undermine its Act East strategy and stall any forthcoming effectiveness of the ASEAN Highway to Thailand.

It might not necessarily be next year, but there’s a high probability that the ethnic cauldron that’s brewing in Northeast India will naturally overflow sometime soon, and if large-scale inter-ethnic fighting commences, it might be very difficult for the central government to quell. The Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, and Naga might become entangled in a horrific humanitarian catastrophe if the armed groups among them experience a falling out, although for now everything seems relatively stable between them owing to the existence of the umbrella UNLFW. This is yet another reason why the situation is so particularly tricky for New Delhi: on the one hand, it needs to defeat the separatists/terrorists, but on the other, by breaking the militant bonds that unite each of these disparate ethnic groups, it might unintentionally prompt a nightmare scenario where they turn against one another in a deadly blame-game and start wantonly killing each other’s civilian population. One of the only ways to preempt this, aside from militarily squashing the groups, is to place a heightened military focus on the area and commence renewed anti-insurgent operations for rooting out these movements and their supporters, but that might unintentionally provoke even more endemic anti-government suspicion that could serve to further legitimize the demands of the separatist non-terrorist voices there. All in all, India’s Northeast is definitely it’s most vulnerable region, and one could go as far as saying that it’s perhaps the entire country’s Achilles’ heel it not properly dealt with.

Sri Lanka Stays The Course:

While not as “sexy” of a forecast to make as any of the earlier ones, it should still be documented that the author believes that Sri Lanka will not drift from its current pro-Western course. Rajapaksa’s political comeback was sorely squashed earlier this year in a clear sign that the current administration has largely succeeded in blackening his name and maligning his reputation ever since they came to power. However, there is also the possibility that the present leadership might be convinced to pragmatically reengage with China in developing select projects, but they’d have to walk an extraordinarily fine line in doing so in order to not anger their new Indian and American patrons. For the most part, despite China’s earlier plans for Sri Lanka to be a its Indian Ocean ‘jewel’, it’ll now likely only be a routine stop-over point with much less of a strategic significance than was previously assumed. The only thing that could change this is a worsening of Indian-Sri Lankan ties and/or a revival of the Sri Lankan nationalist movement, but both don’t seem to be on the horizon going into 2016.

The Maldives Move To The Middle Of A Saudi-Chinese Rivalry:

It may come off as surprising to some, and it will be admitted that the author himself also didn’t quite see it coming until after the fact, but the Maldives are now smack dab in the middle of a Saudi-Chinese rivalry. In explaining how this came to be, it’s relevant to quote the author’s latest article from Katehon that touches on why the island nation decided to join the Saudis’ “anti-terrorist” coalition:

“The Maldives are another member of the Saudi-led coalition, and its incorporation is equally controversial for how it raises questions about the country’s strong partnership with China. The author exhaustively elaborated on the Maldives’ geopolitical role and relationship with China in a previous three-part series for Oriental Review, but to summarize, Beijing has made rapid and strategic inroads in the island chain nation that have resulted in a close geostrategic partnership between both countries.

All of that’s being endangered now because of the Saudis’ outreaches to the archipelago, and it’s very probable that the forces behind the assassination conspiracy that earlier wracked the country might have made one of their demands to stop conditional on the government moving away from China and closer to Saudi Arabia instead.

Riyadh announced in early 2014 that it would invest $100 million in the country and it opened its first-ever embassy in the Sharia-adhering state back in August. Almost right after the assassination scare suddenly ended, the two states signed an agreement to boost religious ties (i.e. institutionalize Wahhabist influence) and the Maldives then asked Saudi Arabia to develop a special economic zone in the country.  All told, just like in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is wrestling with China for influence in a state that had hitherto been under Beijing’s sway.”

When one thinks about it, this makes for a very interesting dynamic, as Saudi Arabia and China have never previously entered into a proxy competition anywhere, let alone out of both of their respective home theaters. It’ll be curious to see how this develops in the future. The Saudis are obviously ingraining themselves deep enough in the Maldives so as to make their future departure all but impossible without massive bloodshed and a spree of terrorist attacks, but at the same time, the Chinese are such prized partners of the island nation’s elite primarily because they present an alternative to otherwise inevitable Indian domination.

If the Chinese ever got dislodged, perhaps through a similar neck-and-neck pro-Western electoral shift like in Sri Lanka or an outright Color Revolution, then the Saudis could easily compensate for the lost capital investment, thus meaning that Chinas’ only real anchor in the country is the loyalty that certain elite have towards it. One would like to believe that the Maldivian elite fear Saudi Wahhabism just as much as they do Indian domination, but that regretfully doesn’t seem to be the case, and Riyadh might just gradually push Beijing out with the wink-and-a-nod approval of their newest bought-and-paid-for lackeys there. It’s still too early to tell if this is exactly what can happen, but all indications seem to point in this direction, thereby making it worthwhile for the interested observer to casually monitor events in this geo-strategic island nation.

South Asia: Disruptors

“The Asian Frown”:

The author’s neologism refers to the shape of the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal between the Indian state of West Bengal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This patch of territory is also inhabited almost completely by ethnic Bengalis, with the exception of Rakhine State where they form a substantial and much-publicized minority otherwise known as the “Rohingya”. It’s not the aim of this piece to debate the merits of Myanmar’s citizenship law and this group’s lack of legal status in the country, but simply to raise awareness of the potential for Islamic radicalization among them. As regards Bangladesh, this has already been elaborated upon earlier, but there’s also the eventuality that a transnational ‘patriotic’ movement forms between Bangladesh and the majority Bengali/”Rohingya”-inhabited borderland areas of Rakhine State in the future, whether in response to any Buddhist nationalist-driven violence or a state-directed crackdown (no matter if it’s provoked or unprovoked). If this demographic is pushed or tricked into taking up arms against the state, then there’s a high likelihood that cross-border supporters in Bangladesh will be assisting them to some capacity (even if they are not state-sanctioned), thus internationalizing what otherwise would have been a local and largely isolated domestic crisis into something much larger.

West Bengal is included in the analysis because of the ethnic and of course civilizational similarity that it has with Bangladesh proper. The key difference, however, is that most West Bengalis are Hindu, not Muslim, and that with Bangladesh on the edge of descending into an Islamic pit, it’s possible that some of the ‘anti-infidel’ violence might predictably migrate cross-border against the Hindu-espousing Bengalis. For convenient reference, Wahhabis fiercely hate Hindus more than any other group because they believe in multiple gods, thus making them infinitely higher level of ‘evil’ than Christians, Jews, or Shiites/Alawites/other Muslim minorities that believe in the same God from the Holy Books. Hindus are even seen as worse than atheists who plainly reject god, as they believe it is worse to worship multiple gods than to reject the one true God. The ethnic similarities but confessional discrepancies between the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh might spur Wahhabi-affiliated terrorists in the latter (or even indigenous to West Bengal) to go on a fierce jihad against their compatriots. Bengali-on-Bengali violence (prompted by Wahhabi-on-Hindu motives) would present yet another domestic headache for India to deal with and could lead to the rapid deterioration of positive relations that it the Modi government has thus far cultivated with Bangladesh.

Additionally, as regards all of the preceding “Asian Frown” scenarios, a crisis in one could lead to a humanitarian crisis in the others with Bengali refugees fleeing for safety in one direction or the other, and these resultant human flows could further exacerbate domestic tensions in the host area and trigger the said conflicts that were just discussed. For example, a large-scale outbreak of terrorism in Bangladesh could lead to Muslim Bengalis flooding into majority-Hindu West Bengal or Bengali/”Rohingya”-minority Rakhine State, disrupting the present balance and enflaming sectarian/ethnic tensions there. Likewise, if the Bengalis/”Rohingya” in Rakhine State were pushed out towards Bangladesh, Bengali nationalists would allege ethnic cleansing and possible genocide and these non-state actors might intervene in the situation and contribute to its spiraling deterioration. In West Bengal, if Hindu nationalists get on the ascent, any anti-Muslim violence or provocations linked to them could trigger pro-Islamist sympathies among the minority population or even the entirety of Bangladesh, undermining bilateral relations and raising the chances of identity (and perhaps even state) conflict.

A Serious Security Dilemma Between India and China/Pakistan:

This disruption possibility isn’t that likely in 2016, although it may become an eventuality further down the line, but since it’s theoretically possible given the current trend of proxy hostility in Indian-Chinese relations, it should at the very least be mentioned in this analysis. It doesn’t see all that likely, barring an unforeseen event such as a state-sponsored terrorist attack (even if the state sponsoring it isn’t native to the region, such as the US), that India and Pakistan will naturally deteriorate the recovering relations between them, especially since so much money and strategic benefit depends on their positive cooperation in TAPI.

Therefore, it looks more probable that Indian-Chinese relations would be the ones that lessen to the point of creating a massive security dilemma between the two parties, possibly even involving border buildups or outright skirmishes. In any event and regardless of which party is responsible, China is predicted to call upon its Pakistani ally in coordinating its supportive response, and it’s very likely that Islamabad will be there to assist its ally out of decades-long loyalty, no matter if this might temporarily endanger its own self-interest through TAPI.

Beijing wouldn’t’ call upon this ‘favor’ unless it was serious about sending a message because it understands the strategic benefit that TAPI indirectly provides to it by having its ally control part of India’s energy flow, so only under certain circumstances would it ask Pakistan to join it and basically freeze the project as a result. Should it happen, though, that India gets into a serious security dilemma with China/Pakistan, then it would only accelerate New Delhi’s unipolar shift and result in the Indian-Chinese Cold War going public. At this stage, it would become all but irreversible and might even lead to India’s full-fledged and formalized membership in the China Containment Coalition.

Even though India is already a de-facto member (especially after Abe’s visit), it hasn’t yet sent its forces to the South China Sea or engaged in any of the border provocations that Japan and its ASEAN allies (Vietnam and the Philippines) have, which it theoretically could do along the disputed frontier that it has with China. On the other hand, it might even be for these reasons (border provocations as a means of proving loyalty to the Chinese Containment Coalition) that India decides to initiate conventional tensions with China and set the whole security dilemma into stage-managed motion. In such an event, the US would surely find a way to strategically capitalize off of it and might even try to have India host some of its military forces.

The Maldives Get Mangled By Hybrid War:

It looks for now like the Maldives’ political crisis (earlier discussed in full here) has subsided for the time being, with the earlier-cited Saudi-affiliated deal probably having something to do with it. Even though things appear calm on the surface, there’s always the risk that the Saudis have a seemingly unexpected trick up their sleeve and might be plotting the islands’ full-scale destabilization this very moment. One of the reasons might be to drive out all Chinese investment and replace it with capital from the Saudi royal family. Another possibility might be that India wants to support the already existing Color Revolution forces there out of the general uneasiness that the ‘pro-Chinese’ leadership makes it feel. At any rate and no matter the motivation, India and/or Saudi Arabia could each initiate their own or joint destabilization, with New Delhi focusing more on the Color Revolution aspect and Riyadh on the Unconventional War one. Put together in a chaotic continuum, then this creates the perfect recipe for Hybrid War. Not only would this probably succeed in dislodging the Chinese from their geostrategic Indian Ocean outpost, but the resultant fight for the spoils might even put Saudi Arabia and India directly at odds with one another, thereby increasing the chances that the Kingdom supports Wahhabi terrorism in West Bengal or elsewhere.

V ASEAN: State Of Play

Southeast Asia didn’t just experience another year of robust economic growth (as it always does), but this time it saw the US doubling down in its “Pivot to Asia” and tangibly affecting the regional security architecture there. Although not a geographic part of the region, Japan began to take on an enhanced role there through its militant revision of the pacifist constitution. It now seems likely that Tokyo will deepen its military partnership with the Philippines and perhaps even expand it to Vietnam as well, witharms sales expected to play a leading role in Japan’s “Pivot to ASEAN”. Speaking of the former American colony, the US and the Philippines inked a deal euphemistically called the “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement”, which basically heralds the formal return of military occupation to the island chain under the auspices of ‘countering China’.

Parallel to this, the US has sought to expand its strategic dealings with the other side of the South China Sea by pledging $18 million worth of patrol boats to Vietnam. A symbolic and insubstantial gesture to be sure, but one which indicates that the two formerly bitter enemies are now close enough in their shared anti-China policies to enhance their cooperation to further unprecedented heights in the coming year. Taken together, the US-supervised gathering of Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam composes the core of the China Containment Coalition (CCC), a proto-‘Asian NATO’ that it hopes will become the proxy vanguard force in offsetting Beijing. In a more asymmetrical sense, the US’ ‘electoral coup’ in Myanmar via the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi advances Naypyidaw’s several-years-long policy of moving away from China, representing yet another emerging geopolitical complication for the People’s Republic.

Economically speaking, there’s also been a lot of activity in ASEAN that quite naturally takes on New Cold War contours. India and Japan are ‘tag-teaming’ China in the Greater Mekong Subregion (the Tokyo-led Asian Development Bank’s neologism for mainland ASEAN) through a series of complementary East-West infrastructure projects. India is making progress on the trilateral highway with Myanmar and Thailand (referred to by the author as the ASEAN Highway) while Japan is clinching deals to build a high-speed rail network along the East-West and Southern Corridors (map of all projects here, with the ASEAN Highway being referred to as the Western Corridor). At the same time, however, China is rushing to break out of the containment trap being set up against it and is streamlining the North-South Corridorthrough Laos and Thailand in order to connect to Singapore, possibly even planning to detour the route to Thailand’s Indian Ocean coast if unforeseen disruptions occur (Southern Thai terrorist insurgency, Malaysian Color Revolution) that prevent it from linking with its terminal destination. As part of this overall grand strategy, China and others are deepening their partnerships with Thailand, the anticipated infrastructure hub for the Greater Mekong Subregion.

The final big move that happened in ASEAN over the past year was on the institutional front. The TPP made significant headway in growing acceptance among the Vietnamese, Bruneian, Malaysian, and Singaporean members of the US-controlled trade pact, showing that American influence is deeply is about to become deeply entrenched in part of the overall trade bloc. This bodes quite ominously for ASEAN as a whole, since the entire organization is integrating into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and may try to ‘standardize’ its trade pacts by applying the TPP to each of its members. While the AEC has the potential to become a multipolar, or at the very least, relatively neutral actor in the New Cold War, this possibility becomes more diminished as the TPP continues to make inroads throughout the bloc.

The Empire Of The Rising Sun Returns:

Up until this year, it wasn’t guaranteed that Japan would return to its militaristic pre-1945 roots, but Shinzo Abe made it his primary objective to make sure that this revisionist objective was achieved. Not only has Japan unilaterally ‘reinterpreted’ its pacifist constitution to enable international military operations, but it’s also lifted its self-imposed moratorium on arms exports as well. These two historic decisions mean that Japan is taking determined steps to assert its military presence abroad, most likely with the intent being to focus on ASEAN (which it had formerly colonized in full during World War II) and the South China Sea. Already, Japan has partaken in provocative joint exercises with the Philippines and signed a new military deal with it back in November. Similarly, Tokyo has moved a lot closer to Hanoi as well, showing that its vision of an ‘ASEAN Pivot’ has concrete policy applications to back it up. Last but not least, Abe just returned from a visit to India where he signed a bunch of agreements with Modi, erasing all doubt that an Indian-Japanese anti-Chinese partnership is definitely in the works.

The US Is Back In The Philippines:

The Pentagon was ingloriously kicked out of it colony in 1991, but it made a stunning return in 2015 with the so-called “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement”. The specifics are that the US isn’t allowed to have its own sovereign base in the country, but that it can ‘rotate’ troops in and out of at least 8 different Filipino facilities. For all intents and purposes, this amounts to the exact same thing as basing rights and should accordingly be treated as such. The US knows that the Philippines is by far the weakest of the anti-Chinese states, but the opportunity that this provides Washington is to sell it battered, second-hand military wares that other states would ashamed to purchase. It also gives the US the opportunity to retrain the Filipino Armed Forces ‘from the ground up’, thus providing them with valuable experience in ‘nation building’ from the military-structural sense. As a final point, the Philippines present the perfect convergence point for all the other elements of the China Containment Coalition (CCC) to coalesce, and any preplanned provocation on that country’s part (carried out at the US’ behest, of course) could be the trigger that’s necessary to kick the CCC into high, formalized gear in Southeast Asia just as Ukraine’s aggression against Donbass was for NATO in Eastern Europe.

The Chinese Containment Coalition Takes Shape:

The author explored this geopolitical project in a recent publication for Oriental Review and will elaborate on it more specifically in an upcoming article, but to briefly rehash the idea, the US has assembled a diverse array of Asian states in jointly working to contain China. For the most part, it involves Japan and India as the Lead From Behind partners , Vietnam and the Philippines as the geopolitical proxies, and Australia and Indonesia as auxiliary support members. The general concept is that Vietnam and the Philippines, as the two South China Sea states having the strongest maritime disagreements with China, form the vanguard component of this undeclared alliance, and the US, Japan, and to a degree, India, support them to varying degrees, with the first two providing military equipment while the latter seems poised to diplomatically enter the fray sometime soon. Australia’s contribution is more symbolic than substantial, and Indonesia’s role is expected to only be purely economic and as an emerging regional counterweight to China. As was said, this will be described more in a forthcoming Oriental Review piece, but for the meantime, it’s simply important to understand that 2015 was the year in which the CCC finally began to take significant shape and dole out its envisioned roles among the selected participants.

Myanmar Moves Westward:

This process was in the works ever since the 2010 election, but it uncontrollably accelerated with Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory. It’s still not yet 100% sure that Myanmar will completely abandon its formerly close ties with China (Beijing courted Suu Kyi over the summer in an unprecedented outreach to a foreign “opposition” candidate), but it can be safely assumed that the relationship is irreparable and that the country has ‘opened up’ to a wide enough degree that Chinese businesses are being dislodged and replaced by their Western, Indian, Japanese, and ASEAN competitors. China still has its oil and gas pipeline corridor running through the country and which opened only in January, but with all of the political changes that have taken place since it was originally conceived of a years ago and the rate at which it’s happened, it looks to be an insurmountable challenge for China to convert this into a full-scale economic corridor akin to India’s ASEAN Highway. So long as the pipeline infrastructure remains secure, then China doesn’t have too much to seriously fret about, but if Suu Kyi’s government starts trying to blackmail Beijing by using this infrastructure project as a vulnerable soft target, then bilateral relations could suddenly deteriorate to the point where Naypyidaw formally joins the CCC (which might be the predetermined point of any provocation).

The Indo-Japanese ‘Tag-Team’ Arrangement vs. The ASEAN Silk Road:

India and Japan are entrenching themselves into mainland ASEAN through the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects meant to promote their interests. India’s ASEAN Highway is slated to be completed in 2019 and will intensify New Delhi’s influence in this neighboring region, while Japan just completed the East-West and Southern Corridors earlier this year. Taken together, these two Lead From Behind partners in the CCC are aiming to branch ASEAN’s trade off to the west and east, respectively, in an effort to siphon it off from its conventional northern route in order to economically compete with China. As it stands, China is currently the number one trading partner for ASEAN, but the whole point of the Indian and Japanese ‘tag-team’ arrangement is to change that through the construction of facilitative infrastructure, thereby presenting an asymmetrical containment of Beijing’s influence predicated on stopping or diminishing the impact of the ASEAN Silk Road from Kunming to Singapore.

Concerning China’s ambitious designs, it just began the first step of its project by breaking ground in Laos, with further plans to link the envisioned road to Thailand, Malaysia, and finally to Singapore. Theoretically speaking, it’s possible for the unipolar (the Indo-Japanese ‘tag-team’ arrangement) and multipolar (ASEAN Silk Road) projects to peacefully coexist in the same region, but the US has a strategic interest in seeing China’s be stopped dead in its tracks. India and Japan’s projects can’t directly do that (only a regime change or Hybrid War in the transit states is capable of this), but they could possibly become so lucrative that they shift Thailand’s decision-making priorities and lead to the North-South Corridors indefinite stalling. It doesn’t look like this will happen right away, but it’s certainly on the mind of strategists in Tokyo and New Delhi.

All Roads Lead Through Thailand:

Continuing off of the analysis above, it’s clear that Thailand is at the literal center of every non-regional Great Powers’ interests. The US is furious that it’s previously preeminent position was downgraded after the military coup against its proxy designate, and China knows that this is the precise window of opportunity for it to deepen its full-spectrum relations with this geostrategic state. Similarly, India and Japan recognize Thailand’s importance in also accommodating their respective regional infrastructure visions and thus can’t be too publicly harsh on it for Bangkok’s warm ties with Beijing. Russia’s even involved in this to a minor extent, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev offering Thailand a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Union during his visit to the country last April. No commitment was made at the time, but the two sides agreed to study it further in the future.

Intermixing The TPP With The AEC:

Some of the most crucial regional developments to occur in Southeast Asia took place at the tail end of the year, with the four regional TPP-party states agreeing to move forward with the US-led project and the entire ASEAN organization finally making the decision to integrate into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Like with many of the most important stories of 2015, the author also analyzed both of this in yet another of his Oriental Review articles, with the earlier warning that the TPP might take over the AEC being the dominant theme throughout. Without a doubt, the US’ efforts to integrate the rest of the AEC into the TPP (using the organizational states already party to the agreement as valuable instruments) will become a defining theme in the coming years.

ASEAN: Where It’s Headed

The State Of Play section located just above touched heavily upon the direction that the existing regional trends are headed, but to expand slightly on what was mentioned, the following is necessary:

The CCC Gets Stronger:

The interaction between the US, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines is expected to become one of the most defining elements of Southeast Asia’s political development in the next year. Both regional states (Vietnam and the Philippines) will predictably feel more emboldened by the international support that they’re receiving, especially since it’s coming from such big-name actors as the US and Japan, and might even take more aggressive moves in asserting their South China Sea claims. Bilateral, trilateral, or quadrilateral military drills could take place here, too, and this would definitely be done in as flamboyant of a manner as possible so as to irk China to the maximum. All of the sides will continue coordinating their policies in ‘containing’ China, and the CCC is expected to get stronger as a result.

This will make it a lot easier for Australia and India to play more active roles when they’re ready, and some quasi-formalization of this military bloc might also occur next year as well. With the US now back in the Philippines and Japan’s pacifist constitution ‘reinterpreted’ and allowing for arms sales to these two states and perhaps even a military presence in the Philippines, the two Pacific Powers won’t be able to help themselves and will exploit the situation as much as they can. China, as anyone could predict, will be very upset by all of this and will begin to fully feel the pressure of containment in the South China Sea, thereby prompting it to accelerate its plans for the ASEAN Silk Road as a suitable ‘escape plan’ from the maritime containment belt being built around it.

Vietnam Retraces Its Cold War Sphere Of Influence:

Buoyed by the support it’s receiving from the US and Japan, Vietnam will feel confident enough to reassert itself in its Cold War-era sphere of influence in Laos and Cambodia. Hanoi is still a strong actor in each, but its influence has been on the decline since the end of the Cold War and each of its two neighbors’ strategic and economic realignment towards China. However, these two are also part of the East-West and Southern Corridors, both of which are financed by Japan, so Vietnam has the potential to use its East Asian ally’s infrastructure investments as a springboard for reinserting its pecuniary influence into these states. In relation to this, Vietnam just announced a “Development Triangle” between itself and its two neighbors, and this trend of Hanoi’s shift to the west will definitely grow stronger in the next year. The whole point of it, one must remember, is to compete with China to the point of making both countries ‘contested’ geopolitical territory between the two and hopefully offset the viability of the ASEAN Silk Road through Laos. Concerning Cambodia, Vietnam would like for the government to be wooed away from China and brought closer to India, Japan, and itself, with the Southern Corridor being envisioned vehicle for doing so.

Myanmar Continues Its Pro-Western Pivot, Relations With Military Get Tense:

There’s no way that Aung San Suu Kyi will not behave as the West’s most vehement advocate in mainland ASEAN, but the only question is the pace and degree to which she pivots away from China. It’ll probably be that she takes moves to restrict China’s resource extraction businesses in the frontier regions, but she might even do more than that by trying to quickly seal trade deals with other parties, all as part of a larger effort to replace Chinese investment with that of her new patrons. The one thing that needs to be watched is how she interacts with the military and how pliable they are to her rapid foreign policy shifts. Of course, they were the ones who took the decision to ‘democratize’ and move away from China in the first place, but it could be that they naively underestimated the quickness with which certain changes would be made once they formally lost control of the government. If they feel themselves being sidelined too much (and the self-enrichment that their highest leaders have made since ‘opening up’ isn’t satisfactory ‘compensation’ to ‘stand down’), then they might make an attempt to push back. It probably won’t take the form of a coup (there’d be too much international condemnation and they’d lose all the ‘progress’ they believe they’ve made so far), but they could possibly take to ‘playing the game’ in parliament to undermine anything Suu Kyi wants to pass through.

Additionally, there’s always the lingering threat of a military conflagration between the warring ethnic parties along the periphery. The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (analyzed here) that was signed in October didn’t have the full participation of several key anti-government groups, and the nightmare scenario would be if these parties team up to take on the military and/or government. More than likely, if they do in fact coordinate past the nominal sense, they’d fight back against the military, but it would make for an interesting development if some of them, feeling ostracized by the new authorities or unhappy with Suu Kyi’s lack of progress in ‘reforms’ (a keyword for federalization, and potentially stonewalled by the military via the previously mentioned scenario), could revolt against her government. Even more curiously would be if the military refused to squash the rebels as they normally would be accustomed to doing and instead allowed the crisis to spiral more out of control in order to delegitimize Suu Kyi and pave the way for a forthcoming return to martial law. The chances for this aren’t likely, but developments in Myanmar’s civil war are always difficult to predict, and with scant reliable information coming out of this theater, observers should be prepared to read between the lines and decipher what may be truly going on behind the scenes. Nonetheless, Myanmar’s Civil War, the longest-running domestic conflict in the world, didn’t go away just because Suu Kyi won, and it should continue to be monitored going into the next year.

Thai Tumult:

Things might not go so smoothly for Thailand next year, but it wouldn’t be because of lack of trying on its part or that of its partners. If anything, despite being geopolitical rivals, China and Japan & India want to see the crucially located infrastructure hub remain stable and peaceful for the years to come, owing to each of their respective investments (quite literally) in its key transit role status. The only actor that would be content with its destabilization is the US and it already looks to be testing the water. 2015 saw a suspicious instance of Uighur terrorism occur in Central Bangkok and Shinawatra’s “Red Shirts” seem ready for a renewal of their ritual destabilization. Interested readers are strongly suggested to follow Tony Cartalucci’s writings, since this Thai-based journalist has done an unparalleled job at exposing the US’ destabilization mechanisms in his host country. Keeping in mind that the US both wants to punish Thailand’s military leaders and create the conditions to where China’s ASEAN Silk Road is unviable, it’s conceivable that it’ll resort to its tried-and-tested tactics of Uighur terrorism, Color Revolution incitement, and Hybrid War threats.

To very briefly elaborate on the last one, the northeast province of Isan is known as a bastion for the Shinawatra clan and its “Red Shirt” cronies, and it could become the center of a concentrated anti-government push. The distinct regional identity (somewhat more comparable to Thailand’s civilizationally similar Laotian neighbor than the rest of Thailand itself) could be used as a rallying cry for encouraging “separateness” and enflaming (NGO-riled up) ‘grassroots’ anger against the authorities. This same template can be used by regime change-supporting NGOs in the country’s south, albeit much more violently. The Muslim and ethnic Malay population there already feels sidelined from the rest of the state for a variety of reasons, although terrorist attacks there haven’t been as frequent as in years past. However, with the rise of ISIL in the region, it’s possible that the group’s template of transnational territorial-administrative expansion might transplant itself along the Thai-Malay border if the structural conditions are amenable. Transnational ethnic-affiliated terrorism would be a major destabilizing force in the region and could seriously jeopardize bilateral relations between Thailand and Malaysia, especially as neither government wants any part in this pandemonium.

Ultimately it would be the US that would benefit from either (or both) of these scenarios if they come to fruition, since it wants to undermine the military government so as to return the “Red Shirt” proxies to power, whether they are led by a Shinawatra figurehead or some ‘new blood’. The US is also not beyond sabotaging its Lead From Behind allies’ infrastructure projects if they become ‘necessary’ collateral damage to fulfill the regime change goal and stop China’s ASEAN Silk Road.

ASEAN: Disruptors

Each of the three regionally disruptive scenarios mentioned below involved Indonesia, the ‘rising giant’ upon whose shoulders ASEAN’s macroeconomic stability depends. The author endeavors to explain some of these scenarios and their strategic impact in a more detailed fashion later on next year:

The Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc:

The author raised awareness of this geopolitical concept as part of a larger article written back in June, but it was originally articulated at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier in the year when a participant voiced nervousness that terrorists might seek to exploit this regional ‘blind spot’. To succinctly bring the reader up to speed, the tristate maritime region between the southern Philippines, the Malaysian state of Sabah, and the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has a comparatively lesser governing and security presence than anywhere else in insular Southeast Asia, and there’s already the precedent of Filipino terrorists trying to storm Sabah in 2013. Malaysian authorities were on alert for a repeat of this scenario just at the end of November, showing that the threat still remains. Additionally, the island of Sulawesi might provide terrorists (be they Filipino, native Indonesians, or non-regional ones) with a relatively unrestricted access point to the rest of the Indonesian archipelago owing to proximity of this location to Mindanao and Sabah, so it’s possible that a tristate terror threat might take shape in this region one day.

A Sumatra-Java Terror Spree:

While being geographically large, the vast majority of Indonesia’s population is concentrated mostly on the neighboring and densely concentrated islands of Sumatra and Java. Australia has voiced concernabout ISIL trying to establish a caliphate here and Indonesia is “keeping an eye open” for terrorist returnees from the Mideast. Russia has even raised the terror alert for its citizens at the end of December, fearing an imminent attack. All of these factors, including the countless soft targets available around Jakarta, point to a terrorist incident occurring sometime next year in Indonesia, with it mostly be a matter of time before one of the many threats is actually carried out in practice. It was earlier analyzed that Bangladesh might become the next front line state in the War on Terror, but the same could likewise also be said about Indonesia, although mostly in this sense restricted to Sumatra-Java and northern Sulawesi (with the former being more likely than the latter). An eruption of terror in one of the most population dense places in the world and the economic engine of ASEAN/AEC would easily have global repercussions.

West Papua Revolts:

The West Papua conflict is decades-old but is one of the world’s least well-publicized issues. Basically, it boils down accusations that the local population is being oppressed (and sometimes outright killed) so that the Indonesian state can continue harvesting valuable mineral deposits from their land. It’s an unfortunate twist of fate that both Papuas (Indonesian-controlled West Papua and the independent state of Papua New Guinea) are dirt poor despite their well-endowed mineral wealth, but it can largely be attributed to poor governmental planning. Jakarta has progressively taken steps to split the western part of Papua into three separate states so as to dilute the formerly unified identity there, but that hasn’t fully quelled the separatist movements endemic to the area.

Without outside patronage, they’ll likely never achieve any substantial victories, but if an outside force decides to support it and throws their full weight behind it (such as the US, foreseeably in that case using Australia as the Lead From Behind actor), then it could severely unbalance the Indonesian military at the precise time that they need to be concentrating on Wahhabist terrorist threats. It’s therefore not forecasted that a renewed revolt in West Papua would occur in isolation, but that it could be provoked so as to distract the Indonesian authorities from a forthcoming terrorist offensive in order to create maximum destabilization. That being said, there’s no clear indicators that this could happen next year or even at all, which is why it’s in the disruptor category and not the previous one, but interested individuals should still keep an occasional eye on developments in this part of ASEAN for next year.

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Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Monday sent two letters to the UN Secretary-General and President of UN Security Council regarding the persistence of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations in committing crimes against civilians in Syrian cities.

The Ministry said that terrorist organizations are targeting Syrian cities with suicide bombing and arbitrary shelling in a bid to disturb the state of tranquility and stability which had prevailed in several Syrian cities that witnessed successful national reconciliation efforts in recent days.

The letters asserted that this terrorism is the result of the open and generous support in funds, arms, and munitions provided to terrorists by states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, who are complicit in the terrorist attacks carried out against the Syrian people.

Foreign Ministry went on to say that on Monday, terrorist explosions took place in the cities of Aleppo and Homs, claiming the lives of many civilians, while the terrorist gangs of so- called “Jaish al-Islam”, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, targeted Damascus city with different forms of mortar and rocket shells.

The ministry added that on Monday morning, terrorists blew up an explosive device in a car in al-Zahraa neighborhood in Homs city; saying that the explosion was followed by another attack with an explosive belt that went off amid the crowds of civilians and members of civil defense and medical teams who rushed to the place to rescue the wounded civilians.

The two explosions claimed the lives of 19 civilians while 43 others were injured.

The letters affirmed that today’s attacks come after many terrorist bombings, most recently, an explosion which targeted medical clinics on Saturday December 12th, killing 16 civilians and injuring 54 others and causing massive material damage to private and public properties.

The ministry said that the terrorists on Monday also targeted Aleppo city with various shells, killing 11 citizens, including a child and injuring more than 40 others, 11 of them are in a critical condition.

It added that Government of the Syrian Arab Republic affirms that terrorism which has targeted Syrian cities and villages for more than four years, is an outcome of support provided by countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to terrorist organizations, in a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions, mainly No. 2170, 2178, 2199 and 2253.

The ministry said that the continuation of US, Britain and France, which are permanent member states at UN Security Council, in preventing the council from adopting stances that condemn those terrorist crimes encourage terrorists to mount their attacks and reflect the non-seriousness of these countries in the fight against terrorism.

It concluded by saying that the Syrian government, while affirming its commitment to combat terrorism and assume its constitutional and legal duties to protect its people and sovereignty, calls on Security Council and UN Secretary-General to condemn the terrorist acts and assume responsibilities in combating terrorism.

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“‘Trust Me’ might be just the most manipulative thing a politician can say.  It means leave me alone in secret to operate without proper challenge.” Tom Watson, UK Deputy Labour Leader, Dec 18, 2015

Many government policies are advertised as useful for broader safety – till they are reversed to apply to the very officials who create them.  The UK Home Secretary is very much of that school. Readers will be aware what Theresa May has done her invaluably bit to undermine privacy on the broader pretext of protecting security.

Central to this is the Home Office’s insistence on the Investigatory Powers Bill that seemingly insists on more intrusion than investigation.  The bill, in rather futile fashion, will compel phone and web companies to retain records of every citizen for at least a year, providing a data pool which police and security services could access when required.  The legislation goes further, enrolling the relevant service providers in a pseudo-police role that will override encryption if needed.

May has found herself having to sugar coat the bill with some decent premise, and has decided to go the cyber bullying card, a view she outlined to South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge.[1]

The tactic is standard: if people are misbehaving on the internet, those on facilitating its use should be made responsible for moral behaviour.  Accordingly, “Internet connection records would update the capability of law enforcement in a criminal investigation to determine the sender and recipient of a communication, for example, a malicious message such as those exchanged in cyberbullying.”

The response by The Independent has been an attempt to pull the history of Theresa May’s browsing history for the last week of October, a freedom of information request that purposely excludes any information directly concerned with security matters.

What is good for the goose of inquiry is also grand for the gander placed under the scrutinising eye of the state.  In short, if you are going to be equal before the law, then by golly even ministers should have their browsing history on the internet made available for the public gaze.

Not so, according to the Home Office.  The FOI request has been dismissed as vexatious. In other words, the request was dismissed on grounds of an action “brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant.”

The Home Office’s response, drawing upon section 14(1) of the Act, insisted that the department had “decided that your request is vexatious because it places an unreasonable border on the department, because it has adopted a scattergun approach and seems solely designed for the purpose of fishing for information without any idea of what might be revealed.”

The response provides a suitable template for critics of the surveillance state, if only because it demonstrates the hopeless rationale for the entire metadata retention regime.  If the request by The Independent was, by its nature, scattergun, one could hardly assume that the security state’s behaviour in this regard is anything but scattergun.

This legal excuse remains one of the least convincing in the area of information law.  It is, however, used repeatedly by states who have freedom of information regimes, providing slivers when asked, but generally withholding the bulk of what is deemed too sensitive for release.

The point is often the same: we will have a regime to allow information for the public precisely because we are intent on disallowing much of it. Regulation, in other words, is constriction, measured in the name of protecting that great, inscrutable fiction known as the public interest.  You are kept in the dark because ignorance is necessary bliss.

In the case of the Home Office, there could be few things more fundamentally vexatious than a metadata retention regime premised on the nonsense of combating trolls and bullies on the world wide web.

The efforts on the part of The Independent have at least demonstrated to British citizens that this regime has other purposes, managing to get some egg onto the faces of Home Office officials.  It is by no means the only quarter targeting the potential consequences of the bill.  Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson has argued that the bill’s supposed self-guarding mechanisms and oversight simply do not go far enough in protecting privacy.

In Watson’s mind, there was merely a “very limited review of the Home Secretary’s warrants by a judge appointed by a Commissioner who is appointed by the prime minister.”  It was a “false choice to say that these massive extensions of state power must be introduced without checks and balances.”

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook finds its provisions similarly repellent for privacy.  “We believe it would be wrong,” went a company statement, “to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat.”[2]Given this government’s supposed love of the corporate sector, big business and all, David Cameron and his Home Secretary have their work sharply cut out for them.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes

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US Elections: What’s A Regular Voter Like Me to Do?

December 29th, 2015 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I wonder how many Americans find themselves in the same predicament as I do:—there’s an election next week and we have little idea about the issues being debated there and whom we might vote for.

Yes, elections are happening all across this country now. But would we know about it from our mass media? No.

In my upstate New York district, it’s not always apparent which candidate is Democrat and which is Republican. Some places have legislative elections; some don’t; my county has a state senate seat up for election, but I don’t vote there. Elsewhere (in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi) important races for governorships and some US senate seats are being contested. If it weren’t for Rachel Maddow’s discussion on national TV http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-2015-gubernatorial-races-enter-the-home-stretch , out-of-staters wouldn’t know about them at all.

Meanwhile, through this bizarre American system of early party primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire, both small states, seem to dominate and skew our current democratic process. Ignoring local races which affect our daily lives (this mythical middle-American family beloved by all politicians), tens of millions of Americans obsessively watch, debate and quote statements by presidential candidates, men and women whose success down the road will have little to do with this week’s nationwide elections.

Who are those residents of Iowa and New Hampshire who get so much attention from the big parties and our media and the political analysts? Why do two low population (IA with 3,100,000 and NH with barely 1,300,000)  http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/states/population.shtml arguably marginal states, define our presidential nominees? If they really do. Outside of these presidential campaigns every four years, one hears little from them. How could their views of presidential contenders be as critical to the rest of us as the fierce competition underway suggests they are? And why can’t the major parties assign some of the tens of millions in their campaign coffers to local contests?

Two weeks ago, lawn signs began to appear on roadsides in my neighborhood; they were announcing candidates for local judgeships, and for town mayors, councilmen and road supervisors. Thus I learn an election is imminent.

I normally vote by party, but none of those candidates’ flyers specify party affiliation. What about information from a local paper? I find only personal ads in this week’s edition. So I turn to my county Board of Elections webpage; on its home page appear the names of a bunch of committee heads. I click the link to my town but information is sparse. On the ballot I’ll mark next Tuesday are 12 candidates running for 9 posts. Six of these candidates, all on the Republican ticket, are unopposed. None are from my party. I’ve not found even a resume of any candidate.

A neighboring county held a public candidates’ night with the local radio station airing contestants’ statements and Q&As from the public. Some of those candidates are running for seats in the county legislature. Hmmm, I consider jealously: what about my county legislature? There is none, I learn. We have what’s called a Board of Supervisors. So are those seats up for election this week? It’s uncertain.

Can you blame me for turning to the national scene? I’ve been watching the Republican presidential debates (the Democratic too) for the past 2 months–it seems like longer– followed by hours comparing my responses to the endless musings of our multitude of talk show pundits. (They keep themselves gainfully employed through this process.) The candidates –we all know the handful of four or so who stand out– are certainly entertaining and at times infuriating, even frightening, to any non-Republican. And if they can’t provide the level of comedy we need, corporate media will find a way to arouse us. And however outrageous, limp or impoverished these candidates may be, it’s our income-generating media that will keep this circus spinning for another year, all 365 of it.

In case I become excited over someone to cast my vote for, from among the finalists who survive through to next autumn, I’ll be told that the outcome for the post of the “most powerful person in the world” will be in the hands of residents of the “swing states”-Florida, Pennsylvania and perhaps Colorado or Virginia–where competition is always close. We in the remaining 46 states will not count much. So, our costly, time-consuming election process comes down to media offerings. It’s good entertainment, I give our democracy that.

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worldeconomyWar, Terrorism and the Global Economic Crisis in 2015: Ninety-nine Interrelated Concepts

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, December 25 2015

Everything is interrelated: war, terrorism, the police state, the global economy, financial fraud, corrupt governments, poverty and social inequality, media disinformation, war propaganda, WMD, international law,

paulcrobertsWhy World War III is on the Horizon

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, December 28 2015

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave birth to a dangerous American ideology called neoconservativism. The Soviet Union had served as a constraint on US unilateral action. With the removal of this constraint on Washington, neoconservatives declared their agenda of US world hegemony.  America was now the “sole superpower,” the “unipower,” that could act without restraint anywhere in the world.

IMF_450478c-400x266The “Dirty Work” of the International Monetary Fund, Lays the Groundwork for Worldwide Financial Conquest

By Prof. James Petras, December 28 2015

The IMF assumes the burden of doing all the dirty work through its intervention.  This includes the usurpation of sovereignty, the demand for privatization and reduction of social expenditures, salaries, wages and pensions, as well as ensuring the priority of debt payments.  The IMF acts as the ‘blind’ for the big banks by deflecting political critics and social unrest.

The United Nations Security Council:  An Organization for InjusticeSchizophrenia at the UN: “The Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda”, No More Poverty, No More War…

By Carla Stea, December 28 2015

With great fanfare, last September the United Nations adopted the “Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda,” a seemingly laudable agenda…

Michael SpringmannVisas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World – An Insider’s View.

By J. Michael Springmann and Bonnie Faulkner, December 28 2015

Michael Springmann was Chief of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1987 to 1989. In his position in Jeddah, he was routinely overruled by superiors when he denied VISA applications submitted by unqualified travelers to the United States…

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Why World War III is on the Horizon

December 28th, 2015 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Image: Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave birth to a dangerous American ideology called neoconservativism. The Soviet Union had served as a constraint on US unilateral action. With the removal of this constraint on Washington, neoconservatives declared their agenda of US world hegemony.  America was now the “sole superpower,” the “unipower,” that could act without restraint anywhere in the world.

The Washington Post neoconservative journalist Charles Krauthammer summed up the “new reality” as follows:

“We have overwhelming global power. We are history’s designated custodians of the international system. When the Soviet Union fell, something new was born, something utterly new–a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe. This is a stagering new development in history, not seen since the fall of Rome. Even Rome was no model for what America is today.”

The staggering unipolar power that history has given to Washington has to be protected at all costs.  In 1992 top Pentagon official Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz penned the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which became the basis for Washington’s foreign policy.

Paul Wolfowitz

The Wolfowitz Doctrine states that the “first objective” of American foreign and military policy is “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat [to US unilateral action] on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” (A “hostile power” is a country sufficiently strong to have a foreign policy independent from Washington’s.)

The unilateral assertion of American power begin in ernest during the Clinton regime with the interventions in Yugoslavia, Serbia, Kosovo, and the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq.  In 1997 the neoconservatives penned their “Project for a New American Century.”  In 1998, three years prior to 9/11, the neoconservatives sent a letter to President Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq and “the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.”  Neoconservatives set out their program for removing seven governments in five years.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166

The events of September 11, 2001, are regarded by informed people as “the new Pearl harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary in order to begin their wars of conquest in the Middle East.  Paul O’Neil, President George W. Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, has stated publicly that the agenda of President Bush’s first meeting with his cabinet was the invasion of Iraq.  This invasion was planned prior to 9/11. Since 9/11 Washington has destroyed in whole or part eight countries and now confronts Russia both in Syria and Ukraine.

Russia cannot allow a jihadist Caliphate to be established in an area comprising Syria/Iraq, because it would be a base for exporting destabilization into Muslim parts of the Russian Federation. Henry Kissinger himself has stated this fact, and it is clear enough to any person with a brain.  However, the power-crazed fanatical neoconservatives, who have controlled the Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes, are so absorbed in their own hubris and arrogance that they are prepared to push Russia to the point of having their Turkish puppet shoot down a Russian airplane and to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Ukraine that was on good terms with Russia, substituting in its place an American puppet government.

With this background, we can understand that the dangerous situation facing the world is the product of the neoconservative’s arrogant policy of US world hegemony.  The failures of judgment and the dangers in the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts are themselves the consequences of the neoconservative ideology.

To perpetuate American hegemony, the neoconservatives threw away the guarantees that Washington gave Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch to the East. The neoconservatives pulled the US out of the ABM Treaty, which specified that neither the US nor Russia would develop and deploy anti-ballistic missiles.  The neoconservatives re-wrote US war doctrine and elevated nuclear weapons from their role as a retaliatory force to a pre-emptive first strike force.  The neoconservatives began putting ABM bases on Russia’s borders, claiming that the bases were for the purpose of protecting Europe from non-existent Iranian nuclear ICBMs.

Russia and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, have been demonized by neoconservatives and their puppets in the US government and media.  For example, Hillary Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, declared Putin to be “the new Hitler.”  A former CIA official called for Putin’s assassination.  Presidential candidates in both parties are competing in terms of who can be the most aggressive toward Russia and the most insulting toward Russia’s president.

The effect has been to destroy the trust between nuclear powers.  The Russian government has learned that Washington does not respect Washington’s own laws, much less international law, and that Washington cannot be trusted to keep any agreement.  This lack of trust, together with the aggression toward Russia spewing from Washington and the presstitute media and echoing in the idiotic European capitals, has established the ground for nuclear war. As NATO (essentially the US) has no prospect of defeating Russia in conventional war, much less defeating an alliance of Russia and China, war will be nuclear.

To avoid war, Putin is non-provocative and low-key in his responses to Western provocations. Putin’s responsible behavior, however, is misinterpreted by neoconservatives as a sign of weakness and fear.  The neoconservatives tell President Obama to keep the pressure on Russia, and Russia will give in.  However, Putin has made it clear that Russia will not give in. Putin has sent this message on many occasions.  For example, on September 28, 2015, at the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, Putin said that Russia can no longer tolerate the state of affairs in the world. Two days later Putin took command of the war against ISIS in Syria.

The European governments, especially Germany and the UK, are complicit in the move toward nuclear war. These two American vassal states enable Washington’s reckless aggression toward Russia by repeating Washington’s propaganda and supporting Washington’s sanctions and interventions against other countries.  As long as Europe remains nothing but an extension of Washington, the prospect of Armegeddon will continue to rise.

At this point in time, nuclear war can only be avoided in two ways.

One way is for Russia and China to surrender and accept Washington’s hegemony.

The other way is for an independent leader in Germany, the UK, or France to rise to office and withdraw from NATO.

That would begin a stampede to leave NATO, which is Washington’s prime tool for causing conflict with Russia and, thereby,  is the most dangerous force on earth to every European country and to the entire world.  If NATO continues to exist, NATO together with the neoconservative ideology of American hegemony will make nuclear war inevitable.

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The US Department of Homeland Security is preparing to unleash widespread raids on Central American immigrants, mainly women and children, once the new year begins, according to unnamed Obama administration officials who spoke with the press last week.

It would be the first ever program of mass deportations to target Central American refugees specifically. Most are women and children who have sought to escape gang attacks, drug-related violence and brutality by US-backed security services in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Raids are expected in Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles and the Washington, DC area, which have the largest concentrations of Central American immigrants. Other cities are likely to be targeted as well.

The DHS has begun adding capacity to handle increased detentions during the raids, since those arrested will be held in federal facilities in the days preceding their deportation. The agency recently opened two new “shelters”—actually detention centers—in Texas, one with 700 beds and the other with 300 beds. A third, 400-bed facility is being readied in California as well.

The Washington Post first reported the mass deportation plan on December 24, noting that hundreds of immigrants facing current deportation orders would be targeted for arrest and returned to the countries from which they have fled.

According to the Post,

“The ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge… The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.”

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen issued a statement in response to the Post report reiterating that it was DHS policy to focus on individuals “who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.” The reference to “border security” amounts to targeting anyone who crosses the border without US government permission, including women and small children fleeing violence, rape and the threat of death.

A follow-up report in the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the campaign of repression will begin early in 2016, once it receives the expected final approval by the Obama administration. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was said to be pushing hard for the decision.

“Starting early next month, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS unit, plans to start rounding up hundreds of families that entered the US illegally and who have ignored a final order to leave the country,” the Journal reported.

According to the press accounts, there are two immediate factors behind the new campaign. First is the series of court defeats for the Obama administration over the brutal conditions in which Central American women and children have been held at recently opened camps in Arizona and Texas.

A federal district judge in August ordered DHS to begin discharging women and children who have been detained in violation of a consent decree issued during the Clinton administration barring the imprisonment of children, whether held with or without adult companions. The Obama administration is complying with the order pending appeal, but apparently intends to rearrest those released and deport them as soon as possible.

The second factor is the sharp increase in the number of new refugees from Central America crossing the US border in Texas and Arizona during October and November, up 173 percent from the same period a year ago. While the overall refugee flow does not yet compare to the summer of 2014, when tens of thousands crossed the border each month, the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America topped 5,000 a month for October and November, reaching half the level of 2014.

More significant than these factors, however, is the political context in which the decision has been made to unleash sharply increased repression against Central American refugees. The Obama administration has been under fire from right-wing critics in both the Republican and Democratic parties over its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to the United States in the coming year. A measure aimed at banning Syrian refugees won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives earlier this month.

On December 15, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered Texas National Guard troops to remain at the Mexico border, extending a deployment ordered by his predecessor Rick Perry during the refugee influx in the summer of 2014. Both Perry and Abbott are Republicans.

Billionaire Donald Trump has forged a significant lead in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination based on racist diatribes against immigrants and refugees, first smearing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, then denouncing Syrian refugees as likely terrorists, finally calling for a ban on any Muslim entering the US.

The DHS move against Central American refugees is a green light to Trump and other ultra-right anti-immigrant forces, and Trump quickly embraced the proposed raids as a triumph for his campaign. Immigrant rights groups, for their part, pointed out that it made no sense to proclaim sympathy for Syrian refugees fleeing violence and brutality, while locking up and deporting Central American refugees seeking to escape similar conditions.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all issued for-the-record statements opposing the planned escalation of repression against Central American immigrants. But Clinton has previously demanded in 2014 that the unaccompanied migrant children from Central America “should be sent home.” All the Democrats are jointly responsible for the atrocious record of the Obama administration, which has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other in American history.

According to a report released earlier this month, during the 2015 fiscal year (October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015), the ICE deported 235,413 people and the Border Patrol apprehended 337, 117 people nationwide. Both figures, while staggering in terms of mass repression and individual suffering, were actually the lowest since Obama entered the White House in 2009.

The Obama administration has a cumulative deportation total of nearly 3 million people, plus several million more who were “returned”—detained and forced back across the southern border. Those figures alone make nonsense of the claims that the Democratic Party represents any alternative to the anti-immigrant racism of the Republicans, spearheaded by Trump.

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Washington y la crisis migratoria cubana

December 28th, 2015 by Salim Lamrani

Desde hace más de un mes, miles de cubanos que desean viajar a Estados Unidos, cuya legislación favorece la emigración procedente de la isla, se encuentran varados en Costa Rica.

Cerca de 6.000 cubanos, candidatos a la emigración hacia Estados Unidos, se encuentran varados en Costa Rica sin posibilidades de proseguir su viaje hacia el Norte. Tras viajar a Ecuador, entonces único país de América Latina que no exigía visado a los cubanos, emprendieron un largo periplo a través del continente para ir a La Florida. Pero tuvieron que detenerse en Costa Rica. Los países de América Central, de Nicaragua a México, se niegan a dejar pasar a los migrantes, blancos de las redes criminales, y exigen una respuesta política de Washington, principal responsable de la situación.[1]

En efecto, los cubanos que entran ilegalmente a Estados Unidos son acogidos con los brazos abiertos, mientras que los clandestinos de otras naciones son inmediatamente arrestados y expulsados a su país de origen. Esta especificidad se debe a la voluntad histórica de Estados Unidos de usar la problemática migratoria para socavar la Revolución Cubana.[2]

Desde su llegada al poder en 1959 Estados Unidos manifestó su hostilidad hacia el Gobierno de Fidel Castro. Abrió las puertas a los herederos del antiguo régimen militar de Fulgencio Batista, incluso a las fuerzas de seguridad implicadas en crímenes de sangre. Washington también acogió a la elite económica del país y favoreció la salida del personal altamente cualificado con la meta de desestabilizar la sociedad.

El impacto fue duro para Cuba. En un sector tan vitad como la salud, cerca de la mitad de los médicos cubanos, o sea 3.000, escucharon la llamada de las sirenas estadounidenses que les prometían una vida mejor. Ese episodio hundió al país en una grave crisis sanitaria. Las autoridades estadounidenses también incitaron a otros profesionales altamente cualificados a abandonar la isla para ofrecerles oportunidades económicas más lucrativas en Florida[3].

En su guerra contra Cuba, Washington decidió usar la problemática migratoria para desestabilizar el país. En 1966 el Congreso adoptó la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, única en el mundo, que estipula que todo cubano que emigre legal o ilegalmente, pacíficamente o por la violencia, el 1 de enero de 1959 o después, obtiene automáticamente el estatuto de residente permanente al cabo de un año y un día, distintas ayudas sociales (vivienda, trabajo, cobertura médica, etc.) así como la posibilidad de conseguir la ciudadanía estadounidense al cabo de cinco años. [4].

Se trata de una formidable herramienta de incitación a la emigración ilegal. Así,  desde hace más de 50 años el país más rico del planeta abre sus puertas a la población de un pequeño país del Tercer Mundo, con recursos limitados y víctima además de sanciones económicas sumamente severas. La lógica exigiría que la embajada de Estados Unidos en La Habana concediera una visa a todo candidato a la emigración en virtud de esa ley. Pero no es el caso. Al contrario, Washington limita severamente el número de visas otorgadas cada año a los cubanos con el fin de estimular la emigración ilegal y peligrosa e instrumentalizar las crisis con fines políticos. Así, sin visa, los cubanos que desean emigrar a Estados Unidos tienen que arriesgar la vida a bordo de embarcaciones de fortuna, con la esperanza de no ser interceptado por los guardacostas, o realizar largos periplos a través del continente a merced de los traficantes de personas y bandas criminales de toda índole.

El New York Times lanzó un llamado a favor de la abrogación de la Ley de Ajuste Cubano:

“Es tiempo de acabar con esta política, una reliquia de la Guerra Fría, que constituye un obstáculo a la normalización de las relaciones entre Washington y La Habana […] Este sistema hace el negocio de los traficantes de personas en América Latina y ha creado graves problemas a los países de Ecuador a México […] La administración de Obama debe negociar un nuevo acuerdo con el Gobierno cubano para que la emigración ordenada sea la norma […] Las autoridades estadounidenses son incapaces de explicar el tratamiento especial reservado a los cubanos, el cual contrasta con la fuerza que usa Estados Unidos contra los centroamericanos, incluso menores, cuando muchos de ellos huyen de su país para preservar su vida”.[5]

Por otra parte, desde hace cerca de 10 años, Washington aplica también una política destinada a saquear a Cuba –país reconocido mundialmente por la excelencia de su sistema de salud– de sus médicos. En 2006 la administración Bush adoptó el Programa Médico Cubano cuyo objetivo es favorecer la emigración de los profesionales de la salud cubanos a Estados Unidos, ofreciéndoles la posibilidad de ejercer allí su trabajo. Este programa se dirige particularmente a los 50.000 médicos cubanos y otro personal sanitario que ejercen su profesión en las regiones rurales de 60 países del Tercer Mundo, brindando ayuda a las poblaciones desheredadas. El presidente Obama, en el poder desde 2009, no ha eliminado dicho dispositivo, a pesar de sus declaraciones favorables a una normalización de las relaciones con Cuba.[6]

La abrogación de la ley de Ajuste Cubano y del Programa Médico Cubano es indispensable para alcanzar una relación apaciguada entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Washington no puede esperar un entendimiento cordial con La Habana manteniendo legislaciones hostiles que ponen en peligro la vida de ciudadanos cubanos.

Así, a un año del acercamiento histórico del 17 de diciembre de 2014 entre Cuba y Estados Unidos, quedan muchos puntos de discordia entre ambos países. A guisa de ejemplo, el presidente Obama, a pesar de sus declaraciones positivas, todavía no ha usado sus prerrogativas para poner término a las sanciones económicas. Éstas afectan a las categorías más vulnerables de la población cubana y constituyen el principal obstáculo al desarrollo de la isla.

Salim Lamrani 

 

Fuente de la foto : sputniknews.com

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba, parole à la défense !, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2015 (Prólogo de André Chassaigne).

Contact : [email protected] ; [email protected]

Page Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

 


[1]El Nuevo Herald, “Presidente de Costa Rica viajará a Cuba en medio de crisis por migrantes”, 19 de diciembre de 2015.

[2]U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Cuban Adjustment Act”, 1996. http://www.uscis.gov/green-card/other-ways-get-green-card/green-card-cuban-native-or-citizen (sitio consultado el 25 de diciembre de 2015).

[3]Elizabeth Newhouse, «Disaster Medicine: U.S. Doctors Examine Cuba’s Approach», Center for International Policy, 9 de julio de 2012. http://www.ciponline.org/research/html/disaster-medicine-us-doctors-examine-cubas-approach (sitio consultado el 18 de julio de 2012).

[4]United States Congresse, “Cuban Adjustment Act”, 2 de noviembre de 1966.https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-80/pdf/STATUTE-80-Pg1161.pdf (sitio consultado el 25 de diciembre de 2015).

[5]The New York Times, «A New Cuban Exodus», 21 de diciembre de 2015.

[6]United States Department of State, «Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program», 26 de enero de 2009.http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/fs/2009/115414.htm (sitio consultado el 25 de diciembre de 2015).

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Financial Times, September 24, 2015 title:  “Rise in World Bank Poverty Threshold Set to Push Millions More Below the Line”

With great fanfare, last September the United Nations adopted the “Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda,” a seemingly laudable agenda containing 17 goals from “End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere,” through Goal 16, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels,”  Goal 17:  “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”

These 17 ambitious goals, if achieved, would lead to a paradise on earth.  However, there is an elephant in the room that the architects of these post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals are ignoring, and which will, if left unaddressed, prevent the attainment of these goals.  Under the section entitled:  “Means of Implementation and the Global Partnership,”  is stated:

“5.  ‘We note the critical importance of private finance and we call on businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to engage as partners in the development process.’”

The document enumerates resources for achievement of these post 2015 Development Goals, which include, vaguely worded,

“domestic public resources, private business, philanthropists and foundations, parliaments, local authorities and other stakeholders, etc.”

These enumerated “resources” for implementation of these development goals are disparate and not necessarily reliable or adequate sources of financing for implementation of this new  Post-2015 Development Agenda.  Conspicuously ignored is the huge and  greatest potential source of financing, which is contained in the astronomically large investment many countries are making in their military budget.  There is absolutely no mention of the military budgets as a potential source of financing of this development agenda.  In fact, 5% of the world’s military budget could completely fund the entire Post-2015 Sustainable Development goals.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) for 2015, world military expenditure for 2014 is estimated at $1776 billion, an almost inconceivably huge amount.  Armaments and the military-industrial complex are among the most profitable of all industries, and constitute an enormous investment in destruction, human agony and mass murder.  This is, obviously, the virtual annihilation of any possibility of achieving the “Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.”

At a UN press briefing I raised the question of this dilemma which confronts the architects of the Post 2015 Development Agenda:  while the UN is attempting to build sustainable infrastructure to provide decent lives for all global citizens, the massive investment in the military, and war profiteering, leads to war, and  the destruction of entire nations, and, indeed civilizations, so that while the UN is attempting to construct and create, a ruthless war industry is simultaneously destroying innumerable nations, making the task of construction and reconstruction endless.

This is a mutually exclusive situation, a win-lose dilemma, which ultimately renders futile and  unattainable the entire Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.  Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General For Economic and Social Affairs,  added that wars also cause enormous environmental destruction, which prevents the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals # 13, 14 and 15, which focus on protection of the environment.

The United States heads the list of main exporters of major weapons, with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon topping the list of the 10 largest weapons producing companies.  While the UN Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals are admirable, the method and possibility of their implementation remains precarious as long as certain of the most powerful and influential member states of the UN are based on an economy driven by profit-maximization as their paramount concern and overriding interest.  And war is one of the most profitable of all activities.

Unless the UN can prevail upon all their member states to restrain investment in the military, and transfer these destructive and wasteful  investments to support human development, poverty will continue, failed states will continue, terrorism will increase, and the global quality of life will deteriorate even further.   There is no mechanism within the UN, nor any attempt being made to confront these mutually exclusive “interests.”  The success of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals will require a restructuring of the global economic architecture, a restructuring currently opposed by the United States and other capitalist powers.

Carla Stea is Global Research’s Correspondent at the United Nations headquarters in New York

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Michael Springmann was Chief of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1987 to 1989. In his position in Jeddah, he was routinely overruled by superiors when he denied VISA applications submitted by unqualified travelers to the United States.

The events of September 11th gave him a more profound understanding of the troubles he experienced in that job. He is the author of “VISAs for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World – An Insider’s View”. He describes the American VISAs For Terrorists Program and the Arab-Afghan Legion.

 

 

Transcript:

This is Guns and Butter.

I think it’s bigger than I even suspected. I had thought originally that it was a small, rogue operation and as time went by and I talked to people and started researching the book I saw that it was bigger than ever. Given the pushback and the blocking of people, I really think that it goes wider and deeper than even I suspect. I think one of the reasons for this is that nobody wants to believe the entire government is corrupt from top to bottom, that you can talk about Edward Snowden or Tom Drake or William Binney and the very focused, very tightly organized situations for a particular person for a particular item. What I’m saying is that the United States of America and all of the branches – the executive, the judicial, and the legislative – know about this and are covering up essentially state sponsored terrorism, and nobody wants to hear this. Nobody wants to go any deeper in it than I’ve got.

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, J. Michael Springmann. Today’s show: Visas for Al Qaeda.

Michael Springmann is a former diplomat in the State Department’s Foreign Service, with postings to Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in Washington, D.C. He was Chief of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1987 to 1989. In his position in Jeddah, he was routinely overruled by superiors when he denied visa applications submitted by unqualified travelers to the United States. The events of September 11th gave him a more profound understanding of the troubles he experienced in that job. He is the author of Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World – An Insider’s View. His articles on national security themes have been published in Covert Action Quarterly, Unclassified, Global Research, OpEd News, The Public Record and Foreign Policy Journal. He is now an attorney in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area.
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Bonnie Faulkner: Michael Springmann, welcome.

Michael Springmann: Thank you. I’m pleased and honored to be able to talk to you and talk to your listeners.

Bonnie Faulkner: Your book, Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World – An Insider’s View, is a blockbuster starting from the first page. I’d like to read the dedication of your book. “This opus is dedicated to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Syria and Yugoslavia. I offer it as a small commemoration to both the living and the dead of those unfortunate countries, particularly those who were murdered in their millions by the United States of America.”

According to what you write, you’ve come a long way in your thinking about American foreign and now domestic policy. You are a former US diplomat having worked in many foreign posts, most significantly as a visa officer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 1987 to 1989. How did you come to work in the Foreign Service and what different posts were you assigned to?

Michael Springmann: I had gotten very much interested in foreign affairs when I was in high school. I had read Lederer and Burdick’s book, The Ugly American, and thought the State Department needed somebody who wasn’t quite so hide-bound and wearing blinders.

So after I went to Georgetown University School of Foreign Service I graduated and tried to take the Foreign Service exam, passing the written test but failing the oral. Unfortunately, I drew the former ambassador to Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker, who was a war hawk and when they asked me, “What kind of foreign policy problems do you see in the world today?” I mentioned Vietnam and said that the American government was keeping its actions in Southeast Asia from the American people but the folks in Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and the Laotians, they all knew they were being bombed to hell. And boy, the interview went downhill from there. I wasn’t the right kind of person they wanted.

So over the next few years I kept re-taking the exam and always passing the written but never the oral. I sort of wondered sometimes whether I was the right person since I didn’t come from the upper-class, Ivy League educated elite that normally goes into the Foreign Service, the folks from Harvard and Yale and come from big money. So in my situation, I went abroad with the State Commerce Exchange Program, which was a program set up to give Washington assignments to State Department people who needed to be in DC for some reason, and in return, Commerce Department employees got positions as Foreign Service officers abroad. I was sent to Stuttgart.

Later, when they created the Foreign Commercial Service, taking it away from the State Department, I went to India as commercial attaché in New Delhi. Then eventually, presumably citing my background in the State Commerce Exchange Program and the Foreign Commercial Service, I eventually got through the oral exam and then was commissioned to Foreign Service officer, and as a reward, was sent to Saudi Arabia, which was not on any of my lists of perspective assignments and, in fact, I had been told I was going to the embassy in what was then East Berlin.

Bonnie Faulkner: In your introduction, “What is this about?” you discuss al Qaeda. What is al Qaeda?

Michael Springmann: Well, al Qaeda is one of the brand names for the American visas for terrorists program. Initially, they were the mujahedeen, the people who recruited around the world and sent to the US for training and to Pakistan for training and then sent to Afghanistan to shoot things down and blow things up, hopefully with Soviet soldiers inside.

They then became al Qaeda in another brand change, but it was basically the same fanatical Muslims who were doing America’s bidding in destabilizing first Yugoslavia and then Iraq and then Libya and then Syria. And now they’re calling them ISIL or ISIS or Daesh and it’s the same people. It’s the Arab Afghan Legion, it’s the guys originally recruited as the mujahedeen 25 years ago or more.

They’re not as organized as the Marine Corps but they are crazy people that have been recruited and trained by the Americans and supplied by the Saudis and the Gulf states and others, and they’re turned loose to destabilize, de-house, de-culturalize and destroy countries the United States doesn’t like or governments the United States doesn’t like.

They did it in Iraq, they did it in Yugoslavia, they did it in Libya, which had one of the highest standards of living in all of Africa, and they’re doing it to Syria, which I think is in a worse condition now after four years of American-sponsored war than Iraq was or is. There are at least a million dead in Iraq and still four million people as refugees or internally displaced, and Syria has the same problem. There are four million people outside the country.

Bonnie Faulkner: One of your introductions is entitled “Why did I write this book?” Why did you write this book?

Michael Springmann: Well, I wrote the book because more than 20 years of speaking out against what was being done to me and the rest of the world, analyzing the disastrous American foreign policy, the imperial American foreign policy, and not getting a whole lot of response, I said, well, all right. I had done Freedom of Information Act requests with the State Department and got nowhere. I did that in 1992 when I was fired and wanted to find out why, and when State stalled me for two years and gave me no information I filed a lawsuit in US District court. It was sealed and shut down as a threat to national security – and I still wonder why finding out what was going on about my firing was a threat to national security, but I think now we know.

The second impetus to this was several years ago when I filed another Freedom of Information Act request and again got stonewalled by the State Department. I wanted the original visa applications I had refused years ago and had been repeatedly overruled by Jay Freres who I believe to be a CIA official. And he was the driving force behind all of these illegal visas, people had no ties to their own country or Saudi Arabia yet wanted to go to America for reasons none of them could articulate. That was shut down because the State Department claimed, “Well, we can’t find any of these records. They’ve all been shredded.” I said, “Well, that’s not true because we interviewed 45,000 applicants a year and we had, when I was there, filing cabinets filled to overflowing with applications 5, 10, 15 years old. If they had been shredded,” which I doubted, “I want to know the names of the people who shredded them, their rank and the dates they were shredded.” State would never do this and Reggie Walton, the judge who was also on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, simply closed down my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit as having used up all of my administrative remedies.

So I said, all right. I’ve had enough. I’m going to write a book. I’m going to try and tie this all up together and I’m going to get it out to people who really need to know about this. And that’s what I’ve been doing since February 6th.

Bonnie Faulkner: Is that February 6th of this year?

Michael Springmann: Of this year, that’s right. I closed down the research in December of last year, 2014, and said I can’t do this. I’m going to keep going on forever. This book is timely, it’s important, people need to know about it and sent it off to the printers and was done with it February 6th and it was on the street I think later that month.

Bonnie Faulkner: What kind of people does the US government hire to formulate and manage its imperialist foreign policy?

Michael Springmann: Idiots, and they’re generally people who do not work for the Department of State. State claims it wants the best and the brightest, but some of the ones I’ve met aren’t the best and the brightest anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, most of the people who work for the State Department work for the intelligence services. I had a former chief of station and a real Foreign Service officer, Jay Hawley, tell me that the average is about one in three Foreign Service officers work for one of the American intelligence services. There was a former ambassador, who’s now died, he said about half of the people in many Foreign Service posts work for the intelligence services. When I was in Jeddah, out of 20 Americans there were only 3 people, myself, Mike Springmann, Lonnie Washington, the only State Department communicator, and Jim Page, an administrative officer, we were the only people who had no ties professional or familial with any of the American intelligence services.

According to a book that was published in Canada that ran about 12 pages, that I’ve not yet seen but found on Namebase.org, two-thirds of the people who work for the State Department as Foreign Service officers are really intelligence officers. These are the people who are incredibly arrogant, self-centered and contemptuous of everybody else in the world.

Bonnie Faulkner: With regard to some of your experiences in Jeddah, didn’t you discover things yourself going on there that the US government itself wasn’t even aware of?

Michael Springmann: Yes and no. When I was in Jeddah I was getting some really strange people as visa applicants and later found out they were sent to me by the intelligence services. But in one instance my ability to make contacts and talk to people brought in a major revelation. The Saudis, beginning about 1988, had been very much interested in buying Chinese made silkworm missiles. These were intermediate range ballistic missiles. I was going out to dinner with some Europeans one day and they came over to the house for a couple of beers before we went out and this guy said, “Well, you know, I’m working down at the port and you know those Chinese silkworm missiles?” I said, “Yeah.” “Well, they’re bringing them in. they’re unloading them and they’re moving containers around to block the sight lines.”

As luck would have it, the air attaché was down from Riyadh and I called him up the first thing the next morning and told him what I had gotten from the fellow, and he said, “That’s news to me. I’m not down here about this. I came down to do scuba diving.” So he went and got pictures taken either through a satellite, overhead imagery, or through a flyover with a reconnaissance plane, and the National Security Agency hadn’t heard about that, and the CIA, Karen Sasahara, the case officer whose diplomatic cover was political officer, she didn’t know about it. The State Department’s secretary for the consul general who had once worked with the CIA, she was mad because she had to come in on her day off and write the cable about this. As a footnote, Karen Sasahara is now deputy chief of mission in Sana’a and she’s working with her husband, Michael Ratney, who had been consul general in Jerusalem and is now American ambassador to Syria. So they’re keeping terrorism and warfare in the family.

Bonnie Faulkner: What’s it like in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

Michael Springmann: Well, Lonnie Washington, the communicator, said that, well, the Saudis put a lot of restrictions on everybody and the Americans put restrictions on top of them. You had to take your liquor bottles and beer cans to be crushed so the Saudis wouldn’t know you were drinking beer even though Saudis came to American functions on the compound where everybody was drinking and they drank, too. The place was amazing. If you had the right connections, if you had what the Arabs call “wasta,” you could get almost anything done you wanted. I had dinner at a high-level Saudi fellow’s house and he said before dinner, “Mike, would you like whiskey before dinner or would you want an apéritif of some kind? We can get you sherry or you name it, we’ve got it.” I said, “Wow.”

But it was an amazing place. You could do anything if you kept it hidden. If you went out and influenced Muslims to drink you’d get tossed in jail and lashed and deported, but if you had the right connections you could do anything you wanted. They had undercover priests saying mass at J. Phillip Frerer’s house. He was the American consul general and supposedly a devout Catholic. It was kind of like Europe at the time of Henry VIII. You had hidden priests posing as travel agents, doing their ministry there. You had Protestants having religious services on the American consulate compound. It was absolutely astonishing.

Bonnie Faulkner: You talk about how the US Foreign Service was professionalized and merged with the Central Intelligence Agency. You’ve started to talk about this. How does the CIA operate within the Foreign Service?

Michael Springmann: They have people called “under official cover.” They are supposedly real Foreign Service officers with black diplomatic passports. There were two CIA case officers in my A-100 class, the class teaching you how to be a Foreign Service officer, when I was hired by State. They simply go out and they’re given assignments in the political section, the economic section, the commercial section, the administrative section, but they don’t necessarily work full time in those sections. For example, Andy Weber, who is now assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, he was a CIA case officer in Jeddah supposedly assigned to the consular section, but he worked there maybe half a day and we really only had him in there full time when we had a flood of visa applicants after the end of major holidays in Saudi Arabia.

Bonnie Faulkner: I tend to think of terrorist training as taking place in foreign countries, such as Jordan or Turkey or wherever. In fact, a lot of the training of terrorists took place right here in the United States. What was or is the visas for terrorists program?

Michael Springmann: That’s essentially what I called what I was being told to do in Jeddah. It was the mujahedeen recruits that they were brining from all over the Middle East and even as far as East Asia. They were people who wanted to be taught to shoot things down and blow things up. They brought them by the thousands to the US to be taught in US military training facilities, either in North Carolina with the Navy or near Williamsburg, Virginia with the CIA organization called The Farm. They’re also being fought in Jordan now. There are a number of American bases there that are teaching them how to do this. There are apparently bases in Turkey that are giving them the full treatment on how to destroy Syria and before, how to destroy Libya. It’s amazing. You would have thought they would have done it easier and cheaper abroad but who knows what goes on in these people’s minds?

Bonnie Faulkner: In your chapter “Enter the Patsy,” I assume that you were the patsy.

Michael Springmann: Exactly. Had they told me what they wanted me to do, I probably would have been dumb enough at the time to say, “Yeah, we work for the same government. Yeah, you want a visa for a guy to overthrow the evil, godless Soviet empire? Sure. I’ll stamp the visa for you.” But they never did that.

I had this bizarre conversation with the then American ambassador, Walter Cutler. I was in Area Studies at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. They were training an education arm. I got a call from one of the desk officers for Saudi Arabia, the people who follow what goes on in the country and are essentially the State Department’s embassy in Washington for Saudi Arabia or India or Germany or whatever country you’re talking about. He said, “Cutler’s in town. Do you want to meet him?” I said, “Yeah, sure.”

I figured it would be a five-minute hello and goodbye session, and Cutler kept me there for 45 minutes talking about all the problems my predecessor, Greta Holtz, had created for him and the embassy in Riyadh. She was refusing visas to servants for rich Saudi women who couldn’t travel to the US without seamstresses, hairdressers and other factotums. I said, this is the most bizarre thing. He’s telling me my predecessor is an absolute incompetent and a trouble maker and he wants me to do something but I can’t quite figure what it is he wants me to do or what message he’s trying to get across.

Once it was over, I asked the desk officer who was there with me, “What was that all about?” He said, “Well, I don’t know. Cutler was just a queer duck.” Well, Greta Holtz, who refused to answer three letters asking about what was life in Jeddah, what she wished she had known before she got there and so forth, told me on the phone one day after I was out of the Foreign Service, “Oh, I was so upset I couldn’t tell you about this.” I found this really peculiar because Greta Holtz is now American ambassador to Oman, and if she had all these problems how is it that she’s in the Foreign Service still and I’m out, when all I was doing was my job, which was essentially to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

So far as I’ve seen in my career in the State Department and since then, the only enemies there are around are domestic enemies, and they generally work for the United States government.

Bonnie Faulkner: Now, what were the three recruiting offices in Saudi Arabia? You worked in Jeddah. Weren’t there two other centers?

Michael Springmann: There was one in Dhahran at the consul there, but I’ve never been able to figure it out, and one in Riyadh. Nobody’s been able to tell me their exact addresses. It was just, yeah, the cities, they were there, but they never really gave me any concrete information. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anybody who would tell me otherwise.

Bonnie Faulkner: The problem that you ran up against professionally in your job is that you were actually denying visas. Isn’t that right?

Michael Springmann: Yeah. With a visa application you’ve got to establish some kind of connection to the place of application or your own country. You have a job, you’re going to school, you’re running a business, you have an investment, whatever that’s going to be strong enough to bring you back from the United States for whatever reason you’re going here. For example, people go for tourism, to visit relatives, to sign a contract with a business in the United States, whatever. Then they can’t stay here. They have to go back to managing their own business, they have to graduate from their university, they have to manage their job, they’re either a manager in a company and they just can’t go away and leave it.

None of these people had any of those ties. They were people that couldn’t name the city they were going to, couldn’t tell me why they were going there, had absolutely no information available to me as to what they were doing or why they were going. I thought once I had yelled and screamed and filed lawsuits that this had all stopped. Yet after September 11th, and in researching the book, I found that Shayna Steinger had been the consular officer in Jeddah who had issued 11 visas to people who were participants in the September 11th attacks, and I was thunderstruck at this. Shayna Steinger, who from my research on the Internet had given equivocable answers to the 9-11 Commission, she still has a job and has gotten promotions.

Bonnie Faulkner: You’re saying that 11 of the, what, 19 …

Michael Springmann: Twenty. I think 19 or 20. 15 got their visas in Saudi Arabia and 11 of the 15 got them in Jeddah.

Bonnie Faulkner: I see, at the very office where you worked.

Michael Springmann: Exactly.

Bonnie Faulkner: You complained because you were being overruled when you denied visas, right? Who did you complain to?

Michael Springmann: I complained first to Justice Stevens, and Justice is the given name. He was head of the consular section. I complained to Jay Frerers. I complained to Stephanie Smith, who I have since found out is a CIA official. When she was counsel for consular affairs in Riyadh and she told me, “This is a very bad thing. When you go back to Washington, tell the Bureau of Consular Affairs about this,” which I did and they had absolutely no interest.

Once I was out of the State Department I complained to the Government Accounting Office, as it was known at the time. I complained to the Justice Department and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They told me after September 11th, after I called office after office at headquarters, to call the Washington District office and when I did, they said, “Well, we’ll get back to you. That was 15 years ago and I’m still waiting.

Bonnie Faulkner: So how massive would you say the cover-up is?

Michael Springmann: I think it’s bigger than I even suspected. I had thought originally that it was a small, rogue operation and as time went by and I talked to people and started researching the book I saw that it was bigger than ever. Given the pushback and the blocking of people, like Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow! and Tom Devine at the Government Accountability Project, I really think that it goes wider and deeper than even I suspect.

I think one of the reasons for this is that nobody wants to believe the entire government is corrupt from top to bottom, that you can talk about Edward Snowden or Tom Drake or William Binney and the very focused, very tightly organized situations for a particular person for a particular item. What I’m saying is that the United States of America and all of the branches – the executive, the judicial, and the legislative – know about this and are covering up essentially state sponsored terrorism, and nobody wants to hear this. Nobody wants to go any deeper in it than I’ve gotten, and I think there’s a lot more to be uncovered if you can ever find the right person to talk.

Bonnie Faulkner: You write, “What I was protesting was in reality an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama bin Laden, to the United States for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets.”

Michael Springmann: Exactly. They went all in with the mujahedeen. They had recruited them, they had trained them, and along the way I think they realized that, hey, we’ve got a cadre of people who are really good at destroying governments and countries. Why don’t we apply this group to other countries where we have an interest in having an unstable government with a failing economy? And I think they brought them to Yugoslavia first. They had Osama bin Laden and 5,000 or more Saudis there. They had people that they had trained and had worked with NATO in Yugoslavia to destroy the country, and according to this guy, John Schingler, who had been with the National Security Agency and the Naval War College in Providence, Rhode Island, they got a lot of help from the American government to get them there, to keep them there, and provide them with intelligence and weapons and training and so forth.

After that, they sent them to Iraq and we’ve all seen what’s happened to Iraq. It’s been split into virtually three pieces with no functioning government and no functioning economy. They moved them to Libya. They had more arms amongst the so-called rebels in Libya than they had in the British Army’s inventory. Once they had gotten these people there and had killed the American ambassador because he was apparently in the middle of their efforts to move weapons from Libya to Syria to help destabilize the country there, they had this great opportunity to just shift people and weapons to other countries they wanted to get rid of, and the Turks are helping. The Turks ship planeloads and shiploads of arms and ammunition. They were shipped in Saudi aircraft, as well. They were shipped in Turkish aircraft and Jordanian aircraft.

Bonnie Faulkner: President Carter and his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, authorized, at the urging of the CIA, the secret American backing for Afghans resisting the Soviet support communist government in Kabul. This then triggered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was predicted by Brzezinski, so the arming of the mujahedeen was not in response to a Soviet invasion but the cause of it. Isn’t that right?

Michael Springmann: That’s right. They were working on this before the Soviets invaded on, what was it, December 24th 1979 or thereabouts – or earlier. Anyway, yeah. They drew them in and this was the beginning of the mujahedeen and the visas for terrorists program, which is now called ISIL, after another brand change.

Bonnie Faulkner: How would you characterize what you refer to as the Arab Afghan Legion, and what was its origin?

Michael Springmann: These are the people – I picked the name up after looking at this perhaps as something of a clever play on words, but it’s basically the terrorists the Americans recruited along with the help of the Saudis and the Pakistanis to fight in Afghanistan. There were these people called the Afghan Arabs. They were not Afghans but they were Arabs and other people from other countries such as Indonesia or the Philippines who were brought into Afghanistan and were trained to fight the Soviets. They were thought to be easier to work with than the Afghans, and they sort of gave them the sobriquet The Arab Afghans, which I turned into the Arab Afghan Legion.

But it’s the same crowd of really fanatical Arabs and Muslims and Arabs who, as Cheryl Benard, the wife of Zalmay Khalilzad, the former American ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, we went out, and saw the only way to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan was to find the wildest, most fanatical crazies we could and that’s why there are no moderates in the country, that’s why there are no left-wing people in the country, that’s why all we have in Afghanistan is a bunch of fanatical Muslims.

Bonnie Faulkner: Isn’t it also a fact that certain countries actually emptied their jails and sent the criminals there?

Michael Springmann: Exactly right. They did that in Egypt and I would imagine other places as well. You want wild men? You want troublemakers? Well, we’ve got whole prisons full of them.

Bonnie Faulkner: Who is Abdullah Azzam, cofounder of the Services Office, and what was his role in creating international terrorism?
Michael Springmann: He was the guy who worked with Osama bin Laden. In fact, he was Osama’s mentor, as I recall. I’m trying to remember his ethnic identity. I want to say North African but I’m not sure. He was a fellow who worked with Osama bin Laden to create the support for the Arab Afghan Legion, to support the people who were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Bonnie Faulkner: What is the Services Office that he cofounded?

Michael Springmann: That was basically an administrative office that handled recruiting, it handled publicity. He had said in one of his newsletters that the people who have the money are in the United States. The people who don’t have the money are in poor Arab and Muslim countries around the world, and that we want help from these people, and the best way to get help is to get it from the US.

Bonnie Faulkner: I recall from your book, didn’t he also publish some sort of a jihad magazine?

Michael Springmann: Yeah, that’s right. That circulated all over the world, and in various languages. They set up the Services Office to manage recruitment, training and weapons, and they handled the Arab Afghan transfer to Bosnia, for example. He was their think tank. He set up the Al Kifah center in Brooklyn at the mosque there that worked also with Bosnia to recruit people for the war in the Balkans.

Bonnie Faulkner: What is Operation Cyclone, and what role does it play in the Arab Afghan Legion?

Michael Springmann: According to John Pilger, the Australian journalist, CIA director William Casey had given his backing to this crazy plan produced by Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence agency to recruit people from all around the world to join the Afghan jihad. In addition to training them in Pakistan, they trained also people here at the CIA camp in Virginia at Camp Perry, or The Farm, which is near Williamsburg. That was Operation Cyclone, and it continued long after the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989.

Bonnie Faulkner: As far as you know, is Operation Cyclone still in existence?

Michael Springmann:
 Well, I would imagine so, given that they’re training people in Jordan by the CIA’s paramilitary arm, along with the US military forces and they’re doing this in Turkey, so I think it’s still going on. They just gave a different name for it maybe and they’re probably doing it now more abroad than here, but until somebody comes clean we’re never going to really know.

Bonnie Faulkner: Where were the terrorists trained in the US and who trained them? Now, you mentioned one place.

Michael Springmann: At Camp Perry, yeah. They trained in them in North Carolina at military facilities, as well, and I would imagine the Blackwater people were somehow involved, and they operated out of North Carolina.

Bonnie Faulkner: Who else do you think was training them? Didn’t you mention the Green Beret in your book?

Michael Springmann: Yeah. The US Special Forces were involved in that. I think that they would have the skills and abilities to disrupt a given government using small group forces, much like T.E. Lawrence did in Saudi Arabia.

Bonnie Faulkner: You write, “Not even Adolph Hitler and the Nazis brought terrorists to Germany trained them thoroughly and then allowed them to operate against the German people. The United States did, though, and used its foreign ministry and intelligence service to help, and then covered it up and still works very hard to keep the lid on.”

Michael Springmann: Yeah, I think that’s unfortunately true. Adolph Hitler is not the world’s kindest, most gentlest person but I think that he kept the fanatics out of Germany. But the Americans brought them here, trained them, and then used them against American interests around the world. I think it’s outrageous. I’ve met real live Nazis during my five years in Germany and I swear to God, some of the ones I met were a lot better than people I dealt with in the American government.

Bonnie Faulkner: What do we know about taking the Afghan war into the former Soviet Union?

Michael Springmann: That’s another bit of craziness. The guy involved in that was a fellow who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, and his daughter married the uncle of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamilan Tsarnaev. His daughter, Samantha, married Ruslan Tsarnaev, their uncle. These were the guys who supposedly were responsibility for the Boston Marathon bombing.

But Graham Fuller, the CIA officer, he managed the attacks on the Muslim republics in the Soviet Union. They sent the crazies across the Amu Darya River and they trained them and funneled the CIA’s supplies for scattered strikes against various military installations, factories and storage tanks in the old Soviet Union. I think that’s remarkably dangerous given that the Soviets had half the supply of the world’s atomic bombs.

Bonnie Faulkner: You also point out in your book the similarities between the former Yugoslavia and the former USSR in that they both contained a very diverse population, ethnically, religious-wise, so then I guess it would have been easier to stir up trouble in these areas.

Michael Springmann: Oh, yeah. For example, in Yugoslavia the Americans set the Orthodox and the Catholics against the Muslims and the Slovenes and the Croats against the Serbians. You pick your nationality and minority group and the Americans were backing somebody on the other side. When Germany, I guess with the encouragement of the United States, recognized the two most economically viable sections of Yugoslavia, such as Slovenia and Croatia, to secede and form their own country, that helped immensely with the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Michael Parenti in his article about the breakup of Yugoslavia talked about how even the American government got Congress to block funding for any organization that still adhered to the old Yugoslav government and didn’t declare themselves an independent country, which I think is absolutely madness.

Bonnie Faulkner: What is the Maktab al-Khidamat?

Michael Springmann: That’s the Arabic for the Services Office that Abdullah Azzam and Abdul Anas were running to support the Arab Afghans, the people they recruited to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan who were not Afghan nationals.

Bonnie Faulkner: Didn’t Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik, himself get a tourist visa to come to the United States?

Michael Springmann: Yes, indeed.

Bonnie Faulkner: And what role had he been playing with the CIA?

Michael Springmann: Well, nobody really talks about what he was doing. He supposedly was this bad boy, yet traveled on American visas all around the world and in going in and out of the United States despite being on a watch list. The interesting thing is that when he got the visa in the Sudan the deputy chief of mission at the time was the fellow who gave me such problems in Saudi Arabia, Joseph P. O’Neill Jr. He had gotten his job there through a CIA family and according to his statement in the Georgetown University Oral History Project, there was another CIA agent like the blind sheik who got a visa and nobody talks about him. And O’Neill blamed the local staff for doing this when it was a CIA case officer who was there who supposedly didn’t bother to check the microfiche lookout book for names of terrorists and other bad boys.

Bonnie Faulkner: It seems to me with regard to the blind sheik that we often see the people that work with the government then become the enemy, and they turn around and attack them or accuse them of something. I mean, the blind sheik is doing life, isn’t he?

Michael Springmann: Yeah. He’s down in, I think, Texas. He had been at the al Farouk mosque in Brooklyn at the al Kifah center and they just simply let him go back and forth with no problem whatsoever. The thing of it was the blind sheik isn’t by himself. Osama bin Laden was another CIA recruit, and he suddenly became on their outs when he had served his purposes.

I once interviewed this Toto Constant, this murderer, war criminal and human rights violator in Haiti that was one of the CIA people in place down there, and when they were tired of him they threw him in jail. So they’re like Kleenex. You use them to blow your nose and when that’s done you throw them away.

Bonnie Faulkner: How was the al Farouk mosque in Brooklyn used?

Michael Springmann: It was a transfer point for recruits. It was a transfer point for money. They sent them funds and operatives to Bosnia. They found this out after the war in Yugoslavia was over. And it’s by and large a way station. They got money from the US, Muslims and Arabs in the United States, they laundered it there and they sent it on to Afghanistan and to Bosnia and to other places in the former Yugoslavia.

Bonnie Faulkner: Are the Arab Afghan Legion, al Qaeda and ISIS all one in the same?

Michael Springmann: 
Pretty much. They’re rebranded. You’ve got roughly the same fanatical people that are recruited and trained and armed with American, Saudi, Gulf, Turkish, Jordanian and Israeli help. These are the same people. They may not be the guys they recruited 25 years ago but they may be the people that they trained, or people that they trained who then later trained somebody else.
I put that question to former Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska, and also to retired Army officer, Colonel Tony Shaffer. I said to them, “Are these the same guys that we trained here who are now fighting American soldiers?” and both of them said, “Yes, these are the same folks.” They’ve been rebranded, they changed their name, they’ve got different people. I won’t say it’s as organized as the United States Marine Corps but they are a pretty good shotgun. You load them and you aim them and fire in the general direction of something you want to hit and sooner or later, you fire enough pellets, you’ll hit something.

Bonnie Faulkner: You write that the visas issued in Jeddah for the mujahedeen and ultimately al Qaeda and ISIS were not a one-off program. Could you explain that? Were there other centers doing this and continue to issue these visas?

Michael Springmann: I think that at the time I thought it was an original, one-time deal and then I began hearing about the recruiting offices in Dhahran in the eastern province and I said, “Wait a minute.” And then as time went by and I was out of the State Department and started hearing about al Qaeda, I said, “Well, this is still going on.” And when I read about Shayna Steinger binger at the CIA’s Jeddah consulate issuing visas to 11 of the 20 hijackers for September 11th I said, “My God, it’s still going on.” When I read in John Schindler’s book, Unholy Terror, he had drawn links between Bosnia and Afghanistan and the September 11th people. He names names in his boo,k which I repeated in mine, of people who were tied in with the September 11th planning and execution. I said, “My God, this is still going on,” and from what I could see in the daily newspapers, they haven’t given up recruiting these characters.

Bonnie Faulkner: So then, is the Arab Afghan Legion still marching?

Michael Springmann: I think they are. They just have a different brand name. They’re no longer the mujahedeen and they’re no longer al Qaeda. They’re now ISIL or ISIS or IS or Daesh, pick it.

Bonnie Faulkner: The US has supported Muslim fundamentalists and opposed Arab secular nationalism. What has been the overall effect of this foreign policy?

Michael Springmann: Disaster. Who was it, Robert Dreyfuss wrote in his book, The Devil’s Game, that originally the Americans saw Islam as a shield against the godless communists. And then they came around to the idea of, well, you know, let’s use them as a sword against the godless communists. And up until the Afghan war, using these people as a sword and as a shield was kind of an ad hoc thing. If you wanted to try and get rid of the government of Egypt and try and get Gamal Abdel Nasser assassinated in Damascus, well, you hired somebody to do this. If you wanted to destabilize Syria because it was too socialist you tried to hire someone in the intelligence services there to overthrow the government.

But that was a catch as catch can thing. It was a one-off business, but with the creation of the Arab Afghan Legion, the many rebrands of the mujahedeen, you’ve now got a cadre of people available any time, any where the United States government wants to de-house, destabilize,
de-culturalize a country.

Bonnie Faulkner: Michael Springmann, thank you so much.

Michael Springmann: Well, thank you. I am honored and delighted and quite happy to have helped to get the word out to people who are interested in hearing it.

** * * *

I’ve been speaking with J. Michael Springmann. Today’s show has been: Visas for Al Qaeda. Michael Springmann is a former diplomat in the State Department’s Foreign Service, with postings to Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in Washington, D.C. He was Chief of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1987 to 1989. He is the author of Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World – An Insider’s View. He is the published author of several articles on national security themes, particularly those dealing with relations between the CIA and the Department of State.  He is now an attorney in private practice, admitted to the bars of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Contact him at [email protected] Visit his website at www.michaelspringmann.com .

Guns and Butter is produced by Bonnie Faulkner, Yarrow Mahko and Tony Rango. Email us at [email protected] Visit www.gunsandbutter.org to sign up for our email list and receive our newsletter. Guns and Butter online now includes a new website, an active Twitter feed, show archives and a blog. Follow us at #gandbradio. 

The transcript is made available through Global Research.

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Relevant article first published by GR on December 28, 2015.

***

The visit took place on May 27, 2013.

According to news reports:

Arizona Senator McCain crossed into Syria form Turkey with General Salem Idris, who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, and stayed there for several hours before returning back.

The senator met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units in both Turkey and Syria.

McCain with al-Baghdadi from TV report

Mugshot of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

According to AP, McCain crossed the border near Kilis, Turkey, and spent two hours meeting with ‘rebel leaders’ near Idlib, Syria. The article further states that McCain made the trip in order to demand “aggressive military action in the 2-year-old Syrian civil war, calling for the establishment of a no-fly zone and arming the rebels”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/john-mccain-syrian-rebels_n_3368036.html

Presidential Spokesman Jay Carney said “the White House was aware in advance of McCain’s plans to travel to Syria. Carney declined to say whether McCain was carrying any message from the administration, but he said White House officials looked forward to hearing about his trip”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/john-mccain-syria_n_3346886.html

Here is an ABC News report on the visit, posted to YouTube: it speaks for itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbfsTcJCKDE

McCain’s two-hour visit has garnered a lot of attention because some bloggers claim that two of the rebel leaders seen in the photos that McCain posted to his Twitter account look very much like leaders of the Islamic State: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Muahmmad Noor.

https://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/senator-john-mccains-whoops-moment-photographed-chilling-with-isis-chief-al-baghdadi-and-terrorist-muahmmad-noor/

Al-Baghdadi profile

The New York Times, on Sept. 11, 2014 mentioned the blog Socioeconomic History in an article  that attempted to help McCain by simply claiming that the Internet “rumors” were “false”; however the Times didn’t provide any details: only a denial by McCain’s communications director and another denial by the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a DC lobbying organization led by a Palestinian employee of AIPAC, which arranged the senator’s visit.

http://www.voltairenet.org/article185085.html

(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/world/middleeast/try-as-he-may-john-mccain-cant-shake-falsehoods-about-ties-to-isis.html)

While information about Muahmmad Noor is hard to find, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the alleged leader of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).

Other blogs have denied that the man seen talking to McCain is al-Baghdadi, pointing to decoy photographs provided afterwards by the US and the Iraqi government.

However, the photographs that McCain posted to his Twitter account and a video published by the IS on July 5, 2014, in which al Baghdadi is leading Friday prayers in Mosul, are eerily alike.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SZJMMdWC6o)

Al-Baghdadi in meeting with McCain

Closeup of al-Baghdadi speaking to McCain 

Not only that, the man in the first photograph of Al-Baghdadi released by the U.S. in 2011 looks identical to the man who met with McCain.

Mugshot of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Closeup of al-Baghdadi outside with McCain

The United States held al-Baghdadi in a military prison in Iraq named Camp Bucca from 2005 to 2009 (or 2010) and then released him, allegedly at the request of the Iraqi government. As he was being turned over to the custody of the Iraqi government, he reportedly told his US military captors, “I’ll see you in New York”. (quoted by Fox News)

http://insider.foxnews.com/2014/06/13/next-bin-laden-isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi

Camp Bucca is worth more attention, as it may have been a recruiting and training center for fighters who would go on to lead the IS.

Right after al-Baghdadi was freed, the Islamic State emerged out of nowhere and rapidly took over important swaths of Iraq and Syria. The U.S. officially designated al-Baghdadi a terrorist on October 4, 2011, and offered the $10 million reward for his capture or killing. This was when the U.S. released its first photograph of its former prisoner.

Subsequently, the U.S. released another mug shot from Camp Bucca, which doesn’t look like the first, partly because the man has glasses and a heavy beard. A really bad photograph released by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, like the second US mug shot, also seems to be a decoy intended to cover up al-Baghdadi’s connections with the U.S. government. It doesn’t appear to be the same man.

The details about al-Baghdadi’s background are as blurry as the Iraqi Interior photograph. He is reported to have been born in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on July 28, 1971. According to an article in The Telegraph, he was a Salafi, who became al-Qaeda’s point man in Qaim in Iraq’s western desert. The article states:

“Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim”, says a Pentagon document. “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10566001/Meet-al-Qaedas-new-poster-boy-for-the-Middle-East.html

Al-Baghjdadi would be only 43 when he was filmed leading prayers in Mosul in 2014, and 42 when he met with John McCain in 2013. The McCain photos and the Mosul videos show a man of about that age.

Al-Baghdadi in Mosul

Senator McCain has a long relationship with the CIA as the president of the State Department-funded International Republican Institute. The IRI organized the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and has been involved in many other overthrow operations, including the coup in Ukraine.

According to journalist Thierry Meyssan, who is based in Damascus, McCain participated in every color revolution over the past 20 years. Also according to Meyssan, McCain chaired a meeting held in Cairo on February 4, 2011, which NATO had organized to launch the “Arab Spring” in Libya and Syria. The so-called uprising in Syria began shortly afterward. http://www.voltairenet.org/article185085.html

Meyssan’s claim that McCain is intimately involved with CIA-organized overthrows makes lot more sense than the fiction that nobody knows who Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is or how this violent Iraqi al-Qaeda leader ended up meeting of ‘Syrian rebels’ with the senator inside of Syria. The inescapable conclusion is that all of the men at the meeting, including al-Baghdadi are CIA assets, and that IS is a CIA creation.

GR. Editor’s Note: The author of this article has requested that his name not appear due to the sensitive nature of this text.  While GR has verified the sources and evidence presented herewith, the usual disclaimer applies (see below). 

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GR Editor’s Note: This incisive article with foresight by author Frank Morales originally published by GR in 2003 describes a process which is now culminating in the militarization of law enforcement in the US and the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act.

*    *    *

To further prepare for new “law enforcement” missions for the military within America, overseen by the Northern Command, the Center for Law and Military Operations, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently published the legal rationale for these developments.

Entitled, Domestic Operational Law Handbook for Judge Advocates, the document reflects the growing momentum towards the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act. Virtually unreported in any media, and published prior to 911, the document states that although “the Founding Fathers’ hesitancy to raise a standing army and their desire to render the military subordinate to civilian authority” is “rooted in the Constitution,”

“exceptions to the restrictions on employment of federal armed forces to assist state and local civil authorities are also grounded in the Constitution, which provides the basis for federal legislation allowing military assistance for civil disturbances.”

(See Domestic Operational Law Handbook for Judge Advocates, https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/JAGCNETInternet/Homepages/AC/CLAMO-Public.nsf )

The JAG handbook attempts to solidify, from a legal standpoint, Pentagon penetration of America and it’s “operations other than war,” essentially providing the U.S. corporate elite with lawful justification for its class war against the American people, specifically those that resist the “new world law and order” agenda.

Militarization of law enforcement (right)

The handbook notes that “the Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan, named GARDEN PLOT, provides guidance and direction for planning, coordination, and executing military operations during domestic civil disturbances.”

Operation Garden Plot, originating in 1968 and continually updated, is according to the JAG handbook, tasked with the mission of conducting “civil disturbance operations throughout the United States,” providing “wide latitude to a commander to use federal forces to assist civil law enforcement in restoring law and order.”

And it’s exactly this type of “wide latitude” that we’ve witnessed at recent protests [2003] in NYC and Oakland.

United States Army Field Manual 19-15, entitled Civil Disturbances, issued in 1985, is designed to equip soldiers with the “tactics, techniques and procedures” necessary to suppress dissent. The manual states that “crowd control formations may be employed to disperse, contain, or block a crowd. When employed to disperse a crowd, they are particularly effective in urban areas because they enable the control force to split a crowd into smaller segments.”

(See  http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/19-15/CH8.htm )

Sound familiar?

If you were at the February 15 [2003] NYC Peace Rally it certainly does. The manual goes on to state that “if the crowd refuses to move, the control force may have to employ other techniques, such as riot control agents or apprehensions…”

The Army’ “civil disturbance” manual, correlated to present day realities, also makes the point that “civil disturbances include acts of terrorism,” which “may be organized by disaffected groups,” who hope to “embarrass the government,” and who may in fact “demonstrate as a cover for terrorism.”

The sophistry involved in turning a peace rally into a pro-al Qaeda rally is precisely the logic that is operative within Pentagon driven civil disturbance planning situated within the broader context of so-called “homeland defense.” In fact, rather than protest being the occasion of “terrorism,” the “war on terrorism” is the cover for the war on dissent. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center spokesman Mike Van Winkle had to say recently to the Oakland Tribune (5/18/03):

“You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest…You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”

(See http://fact.trib.com/1st.lev.inquisitionUSA.html )

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By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, December 27 2015

One of the most destructive and powerful earthquakes in recorded history, more than a quarter of a million recorded deaths, local economies destroyed, the lives of entire communities shattered, and no serious investigation into the flaws of the global seismic warning system is contemplated.

Declassified Documents Reveal Pentagon’s Planned Nuclear Holocaust: “Systemic Destruction” and Annihilation of Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Moscow … Beijing

By Wayne Madsen, December 27 2015

Publicly available military documents confirm that pre-emptive nuclear war is still on the drawing board  of the Pentagon. Compared to the 1950s, the nuclear weapons are more advanced. The delivery system is more precise.

The United Nations and the Houla Massacre: The Information BattlefieldThe U.S. versus the World, A Majority of One, A Minority of 192 UN General Assembly Resolutions. “Put Your Vote Where Your Rhetoric Is”

By Carla Stea, December 27 2015

For decades, and again this year, the United States votes “no” on most United Nations General Assembly resolutions supporting meaningful disarmament and economic justice.

Kerry IranCongress Seeks to undermine Iran Deal by Linking Iran with ISIS

By Philip Weiss, December 27 2015

One of the consequences of the Iran Deal was the declaration by countless politicians that they were going to crack down on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.

putin2Russia Counts 12,000 Turkey-Bound ISIS Oil Trucks from Iraq and Syria…

By Eric Zuesse, December 26 2015

According to Russian Television on December 25th, Russian intelligence has counted “up to 12,000” tanker trucks filled with oil “on the Turkish-Iraqi border,” and “the final destination remains to be Turkey.”
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Politique: on est pas sorti de l’auberge!

December 27th, 2015 by Mondialisation.ca

résolution 2254Du Communiqué de Genève à la Résolution 2254- Les relations Washington-Moscou

Par Thierry Meyssan, 25 décembre 2015

Les termes de la Résolution 2254 confirment pour l’essentiel ceux du Communiqué de Genève adopté il y a trois ans.

djadistesMise à jour d’une nouvelle filière de trafic d’armes pour les jihadistes

Par Valentin Vasilescu, 25 décembre 2015

Une enquête du BIRN montre que, depuis 2011, les États-Unis, l’Arabie saoudite et les Émirats arabes unis ont acheté en Bulgarie pour plus de 600 millions de dollars de matériel de type soviétique pour les groupes armés luttant contre la République arabe syrienne.

Par Selma Benkhelifa, 25 décembre 2015

Ces images ne sont pas prises en Syrie, mais dans l’est de la Turquie où l’armée assiège des quartiers et les villes kurdes de Cizre, Silvan, Nusaybin et Mardin. De telles exactions n’avaient plus eu lieu depuis les années 90, époque où la Turquie était unanimement décrite comme une dictature militaire.

Par Bruno Adrie, 26 décembre 2015

Pablo Iglesias laisse clairement entendre qu’il n’est plus question de quitter l’Alliance. Son projet consiste maintenant à « reformuler les fonctions de cette organisation ». Il souhaite dorénavant doter l’Europe et l’Espagne d’une « plus grande autonomie stratégique » au sein de l’organisation « en approfondissant la Politique européenne de sécurité et de défense (PESC) pour faire face aux relations avec notre voisinage et aux problématiques globales depuis une perspective exclusivement européenne ».

Par Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, 28 décembre 2015

(…) alors que c’est une excellente nouvelle pour le monde que la Chine et d’autres pays, ayant des taux de croissance élevés du produit intérieur brut (PIB), aient réussi à obtenir une participation accrue au sein du FMI et ont deux sièges de plus au Conseil d’administration, qui en compte vingt-quatre, les États-Unis continuent d’exercer une domination écrasante.

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GR Editor’s Note

Publicly available military documents confirm that pre-emptive nuclear war is still on the drawing board  of the Pentagon.

Compared to the 1950s, the nuclear weapons are more advanced. The delivery system is more precise. In addition to China and Russia, Iran, Syria and North Korea are targets for pre-emptive nuclear war.  

Let us be under no illusions, the Pentagon’s plan to blow up the planet using advanced nuclear weapons is still on the books. 

Should we be concerned?  Blowing up the planet through the use of nuclear weapons is fully endorsed by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who believes that nuclear weapons are instruments of peace-making. Her campaign is financed by the corporations which produce WMDs. 

Scientists on contract to the Pentagon have endorsed the use of tactical nuclear weapons: they are “harmless to civilians because the explosion is underground.”

The people at the highest levels of government who make the decision regarding the use of nuclear weapons haven’t  the foggiest idea as to the implications of their actions. 

Michel Chossudovsky, December 27, 2015

*        *       *

Recently-declassified nuclear targeting documents from 1959 describe how Washington planned to obliterate the capital cities of what are now America’s NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe. The revelation casts doubt on Washington’s Cold War commitment to the protection of what it referred to as «captive nations» in Europe. The documents are contained in a report titled, «SAC (Strategic Air Command) Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959».

The US Air Force study called for the «systematic destruction» of such major population centers as Warsaw, East Berlin, Prague, Bucharest, Tallinn, and others, as well as Peiping (Beijing), Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and Moscow.

Excerpt of list of 1200 cities targeted for nuclear attack in alphabetical order

Atomic bombs eight times to destructive force of that dropped by the United States on Hiroshima were trained on a number of targets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There were 179 «designated ground zeros» for atomic bombs in Moscow and 145 in St. Petersburg.

US atomic weapons would have laid waste to Wittstock, just upwind of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hometown of Templin in Brandenburg in the former East Germany. It is most certain that had the US launched an atomic attack on Europe, Merkel, her parents Horst and Herlind Kasner, and brother Marcus would have been vaporized in the massive pre-targeted strike on East Berlin and the regions surrounding it.

Budapest would have been completely destroyed after the US hit the Tokol military airfield on the banks of the Danube River with one of its «city-busting» nuclear weapons. The blast would have rendered the Danube a radioactive drainage ditch and anyone exposed to the poisonous Danube waters downriver would have succumbed to an agonizing death from radiation sickness. Adding to the misery of anyone living alongside the Danube was the fact that Bratislava, also on the banks of the Danube, was also targeted for nuclear annihilation. The first major urban center casualties outside of Hungary and then-Czechoslovakia from the radioactive Danube would have been in Belgrade, the capital of neutral Yugoslavia.

The nuclear targeting of Vyborg on the Finnish border would have brought death and destruction to the border region of neutral Finland. Four atomic bombs were targeted on the former Finnish city: Koyvisto, Uras, Rempeti airfield, and Vyborg East.

Nuclear weapons, as the United States knew in 1959 and very well knows today, are not «precision-guided munitions».

For all of its propaganda beamed to Eastern Europe on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the United States was willing to sacrifice the very peoples it proclaimed to want to «free» from the Soviet bloc. America’s «mutually assured destruction» policy was based on increasing the «mega-death» count around the world by having the ability to hit the enemy with more nuclear «throw weight».

Increasing the mega-death count was why the United States targeted such large population centers as Peiping (Beijing), Shanghai, Mukden (Shenyang), and Tientsin in China. The pummeling of metro Moscow with atomic bombs was also designed to increase body count. The formerly Top Secret nuclear targeting document lists the following areas of Moscow for nuclear bombardment: Bykovo airport, central Moscow, Chertanovo, Fili, Izmaylovo, Khimki, Kuchino, Lyubertsy, Myachkovo airport, Orlovo, Salarevo, Shchelkovo, and Vnukovo airport.

Eighteen nuclear targets were programmed for Leningrad: Central Leningrad (including the historic Hermitage), Alexandrovskaya, Beloostrov, Gorelovo, Gorskaya, Kamenka North, Kasimovo, Kolomyagi, Kolpino, Krasnaya Polyana, Kudrovo, Lesnoy, Levashovo, Mishutkino, Myachkovo, Petrodvorets, Pushkin, Sablino, Sestroretsk, Tomilino, Uglovo, and Yanino.

Bucharest, Romania, was the target for three city busters aimed at Baneasa, Otopeni airport, and Pipera. Ulan Bator, the capital of the present America-idolizing Mongolia, would not have been spared. The Pentagon nuclear target list does not even list Mongolia as a separate country. The entry for the nuclear strike reads: «Ulaan Baatar, China».

Two uncomforting facts stand out from the disclosure of the targeting list. First, the United States remains as the only country in history that used nuclear weapons in warfare – hitting the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Second, some Pentagon officials, notably Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer, called for a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. In fact, while the USSR, China, and France rejected the first use of nuclear weapons, NATO and the United States, on the other hand, chiseled in stone the first use of tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. But, as seen with the wishes of LeMay, Lemnitzer, and others, a massive pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union and its allies, including China, was on the wish list of the Pentagon’s top brass.

Because the Soviet Union had virtually no intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 1959 and hinged its nuclear warfare capabilities on strategic bombers, the Pentagon brass wanted to hit the Soviet Union in a pre-emptive strike before they reached missile parity with the United States. At the heart of the crazed Pentagon reasoning was what the nuclear warfare champions called the «missile gap».

There is not much of a leap from the «black comedy» nuclear Armageddon film «Dr Strangelove» to actual Cold War era meetings on pre-emptive nuclear strikes held in the White House and Pentagon. Attorney General Robert Kennedy walked out of one such meeting in disgust while Secretary of State Dean Rusk later wrote: «Under no circumstances would I have participated in an order to launch a first strike». In 1961, President John F Kennedy questioned the motives of his generals and admirals after one such nuclear war pep talk from the Pentagon brass by stating, «And we call ourselves the human race».

Kennedy and his brother Robert had every reason to be fearful that the Pentagon would circumvent civilian authority and launch a nuclear strike either against Cuba, the Soviet Union, or both during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. According to Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs, Robert Kennedy told Soviet ambassador to Washington Anatoly Dobrynin during the height of the crisis that «the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power. The American military could get out of control».

Today, the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe continue having their love affair with NATO and the Americans. Yet, it was the same NATO and the forefathers of the present gung ho military interventionists in Washington who once wanted to rain nuclear fire upon the cities of Warsaw (six ground zeroes: Ozarow, Piastow, Pruszkow, Boernerowo, Modlin, and Okecie), Prague (14 designated ground zeroes at Beroun, Kladno, Kralupy nad Vltavou, Kraluv Dvor, Neratovice, Psary, Radotin, Roztoky, Slaky, Stechovice, Velvary, Kbely, Ryzyne, and Vodochody), Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia (three ground zeroes: Bozhurishte, Kumaritsa, and Vrazhdebna),  Bratislava, Kiev (three nuclear targets: Bortnichi, Post-Volynskiy airport, and Svyatoshino airport), Leipzig (where seven atomic bombs were targeted on Altenhain, Boehlen, Delitzsche, Grimma, Pegau, Wurzen, and Brandis), Weimar, and Wittenberg.

Also not to be spared nuclear annihilation were Potsdam, Vilnius (five nuclear ground zeroes: Novo Vilnya, Novaya Vileyka, Vilnyus (Center), Vilnyus East, and Vilnyus Southwest), Lepaya (Latvia), Leninakan (Gyumri) in Armenia, Alma Ata (Kazakhstan), Poznan, Lvov (three ground zeroes: Gorodok, Lvov Northwest, and Sknilov), Brno, Plovdiv in Bulgaria, Riga (four ground zeroes: Salaspils, Skirotava, Spilve, and Riga West), Ventspils in Latvia (two targets: Ventspils South and Targale), Tallinn (two ground zeroes: Lasnamae and Ulemiste), Tartu, Tirana, Vlone (Albania), Berat/Kucove (Albania), Kherson (Ukraine), Baku/Zabrat, Birobidzhan in the Jewish Autonomous Republic, Syktyvkar in the Komi Autonomous Republic, Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic on the Iranian border, Osh in Kyrgyzstan, Stalinabad (Dushanbe) in Tajikistan, Tashkent in Uzbekistan, and Tbilisi (seven ground zeroes at: Tbilisi central, Agtaglya, Orkhevi, Sandar, Sartichala, Soganlug, and Vaziani).

NATO and neo-conservative propagandists continue to paint Russia as an enemy of the peoples of central and eastern Europe. However, it was not Russia that had nuclear weapons once trained on the cities of the Eurasian land mass but the United States. Had the Pentagon generals and admirals had their way, today the eastern front of a rapidly expanding NATO would have been nothing more than a smoldering and radioactive nuclear wasteland, all courtesy of Uncle Sam’s nuclear arsenal.

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Israeli occupation planes have sprayed crop-killing chemicals on farmlands across besieged Gaza Strip, killing off crops in the coastal enclave.

It is the third time the Israeli occupation planes have targeted Gaza farms, killing massive amounts of crops,

An estimated 371 acres of farming land in central Gaza and 50 acres of land in eastern Khan Younis have been affected.

Farmers in Johr al-Deek, south of Gaza city, Al-Qarara town, north of Khan Yunis, and Wadi Al-Salqa agricultural town, south of Deir al-Balah, complained of the effects of the Israeli unknown chemicals on their crops.

“Several farmers informed us that Israeli planes had sprayed their lands with pesticides,” Wael Thabet, head of the plant protection department at Gaza Agriculture Ministry, said.

Israeli occupation planes have sprayed crop-killing chemicals on farmlands across besieged Gaza Strip, killing off crops in the coastal enclave.

Thabet said an estimated 371 acres of farming land in central Gaza and 50 acres of land in eastern Khan Younis have been affected.

Saleh al-Najjar, a farmer from Al-Qarara, said he lost some 7.4 acres of spinach and pea crops as a result of the spraying.

Another farmer, Wael al-Shami, said he lost crops of parsley and beans, which he had planted near the town.

It is worth mentioning that this is not the first time for the Israeli occupation to do this. On April this year, the Israeli occupation sprayed poisonous gases on the Palestinian farms in the east of the Gaza borders.

On May this year, too, the Israeli occupation opened fire at Palestinian farms in the east of the Gaza Strip, burning huge amount of wheat crops.

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Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ,  original source (Russian, Vz.ru)

The Defense Ministry of Turkey is providing assistance in Ukraine by creating a volunteer battalion named “Noman of Celebicihan”, said the coordinator of the ‘civil action by blockade of Crimea‘, Lenur Islyamov.

“Now we will form a new volunteer battalion named “Noman of Celebicihan”. Further, we expect a number of military units, which we must assign, but we are already receiving volunteer assistance for the battalion”, writes “Odessa crisis media center”.

“On Friday we received the first batch of Turkish military uniforms. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine still itches to help, but the Turkish Ministry of Defense are already beginning to support us. We produced 250 sets of uniforms and shoes,” said Islyamov.

“Soon we will have the appropriate number of military units, I think, by January 15th, we will gather at Chongar for the world Congress of Crimean Tatars, and the Executive Committee will be here. We will gather all Crimean Tatars from all over the world i.e. from USA, Canada, Poland, Romania, Turkey, some 43 countries,” he said.

According to him, “the battalion will consist of 560 people,” which “will be engaged in the tasks set by the General staff”. “But the main task is the protection of the border of Crimea. We will bring security to Crimea as soon as possible. The task of this battalion is to operate in the same way, the only way we know”, he said.

In December, the Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Mustafa Dzhemilev, during his visit to Turkey, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and asked for funding for military units on the border with Crimea.

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The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution demanding Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources under Israeli occupation. 

The draft solution, “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” was adopted with 164 votes in favor and five against.

Member states that voted against the measure included Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, and the United States. Ten other states abstained from the vote. 

The resolution is the latest to be adopted through ongoing efforts by Palestinian leadership to take measures against Israel in the international arena following decades of failed peace talks.

The adopted resolution demands that Israel cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of Palestinian natural resources, and recognize the right of Palestinians under military occupation to claim restitution.

A recommendation report for the resolution discussed Israel’s “extensive destruction” of Palestinian agricultural land and the economic and environmental repercussions of the policy.

The report cited the destruction of Palestinian water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, noting that the elimination of “vital infrastructure” was at its most severe in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s military operations in the summer of 2014.

The UN General Assembly reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlement enterprise and its monopoly over Palestinian resources citing the “detrimental impact of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and the forced diversion of water resources.”

Water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory almost entirely under Israeli control under the Oslo Accords, and around 85 percent of water is allocated to Israelis, according to the Palestinian Water Authority.

The resolution comes as the European Union last month targeted Israeli exploitation in the occupied West Bank by boycotting products made in illegal settlements.

Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka released a report shortly after the EU decision, citing that in addition to water, Israeli settlement activity has also dispossessed Palestinians from quarries, mines, Dead Sea resources, and other non-renewable natural resources.

Israeli leadership has long condemned attempts by Palestinian leadership to rely on international mechanisms in the place of negotiations, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referring to the move in the past as “diplomatic terrorism.”

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For decades, and again this year, the United States votes “no” on most United Nations General Assembly resolutions supporting meaningful disarmament and economic justice. 

In fact, it has a consistent record of votes contradicting its professed rhetoric of concern for peace and human rights, as the UN General Assembly votes to adopt resolutions crafted to address the urgent need for disarmament, and for a more equitable global economic architecture. 

US Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has supported the adoption of many of these resolutions, and his voice, along with the majority of the member states of the developing world has gone unheeded. 

The huge and growing economic inequality both within and among nations is contributing to global destabilization, deadly conflicts, terrorism, the refugee crisis, now threatening to disrupt the core of Europe itself, and an escalation of barbaric violence which threatens to turn the clock of civilization back to the stone age. 

Nevertheless, the US continues to vote in opposition to many, if not most of the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly, where the developing world holds a majority of votes, and the US vote does not hold veto power,  as it does in the Security Council, and cannot therefore prevent the adoption of these resolutions.   

The resolutions, however, have no enforcement power, as do Security Council resolutions.  The US “no” vote is, however, a barometer of how and where it will use its influence to obstruct or prevent actual implementation of these resolutions in any meaningful way, in those venues where the US does have decisive influence.  While paying lip-service to “democracy,” “human rights,” etc., the US “no” vote in these numerous developing world sponsored resolutions betrays its actual contempt for these values in any meaningful sense.

An examination of this year’s voting patterns in the UN General Assembly’s First, Second and Third Committees illustrates this pattern, which is a greater indicator of the causes of the stalemate or paralysis at the United Nations than has been the inaction at the UN Security Council, so deplored by the US-NATO faction.

For almost 10 years, China and the Russian Federation have co-sponsored a treaty in the First Committee on Disarmament, on the “Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space.”  The US has consistently opposed this treaty, and on November 3, 2015, in the First Committee 70th session Plenary Meeting, Resolution A/C.1/70/L.47 on “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” was adopted by a majority vote of 122 member states, including China, Russia, the DPRK, Iran, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and a majority of other member states.  China’s vote is consistent with its declaration that it will not be the first to initiate a nuclear attack.  The US voted “no” on this resolution, along with only 3 other states, including Ukraine and Israel, which is alarming, since it indicates that the US reserves for itself the “right” to place its weapons in outer space, despite the fact that most other nuclear states, including India, Pakistan, China, the DPRK and The Russian Federation have eschewed the “right” to place weapons in outer space.

The related resolution A/C.1/70/L.3 entitled:  “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” has an equally interesting recorded vote, with 173 UN member states voting “yes,” including all states which supported the resolution on “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” and the US, Israel and Palau abstained.  It seems probable that, although most nuclear weapon states pledged not to be the first to place weapons in outer space, and the US reserved to itself the “right” to be the first to place weapons in outer space, the US is hedging its bets, and in the event that another state first places weapons in outer space, the US reserves to itself the “right” to engage in an arms race in outer space.

The very idea of placement of weapons in outer space, or an arms race in outer space, is insane, yet this is consistent with the US military doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance,” which asserts the US right to “Control of land, sea, air and outer space.”

On November 5th, the First Committee adopted Resolution A/C.1/70/L.18 on “Implementation of the Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace.”  The resolution was adopted by a majority of 116 member states, and opposed by only four countries, the US, UK, France and Tuvalu.  As usual, the EU abstained, voting as a bloc.  This voting pattern reflecting diametrically opposed interests was similarly repeated throughout the entire spectrum of UN General Assembly resolutions from disarmament to development.

On November 23, at the Third Committee Plenary, Resolution A/C.3/70/L.30 “Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order” was adopted by a majority vote of 121.  The US which espouses the rhetoric of “democracy” more than any other state, voted “no.”  The European Union, voting as a bloc, also voted “no” in opposition to most countries of the developing world, including China, the Russian Federation, the DPRK, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Argentina, etc.

On November 24, the Third Committee adopted Resolution A/C.3/70/L.37/Rev.1 on “The Right to Development.”  The resolution was adopted by a majority vote of 136.  Only 4 nations voted “no,” including the USA, the UK, Canada and Israel.

On November 23, the Third Committee Plenary adopted Resolution A/C.3/70/L.58 on the “Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self Determination.”  The resolution  was adopted by a majority vote of 121.  The US, Ukraine and most of the Europeans voted “no,” which is an appalling revelation of their willingness to adopt unscrupulous measures to suit their perceived “interests,” or the interests of their ruling “elites.”

This is merely a sampling of the voting record of the US and often the EU, which reveals their readiness to violate the economic, social, civil and political rights of the “developing world,” which comprises the majority of member states belonging to the United Nations.  Scrutiny of the majority of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament, Second Committee on Economics, Third Committee on Human Rights reveals the same pattern of the US and EU consistently voting in opposition to the will and the interests of the developing world, many of whose states are former colonies of the EU states, and are currently in a form of “debt bondage” to the US and the West, trapped by IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” “conditionalities,” and other onerous and exploitative arrangements.

These UN General Assembly Resolutions without enforcement mechanisms merely express the gross contradiction between the “interests” of the West’s “1%” and the needs of the huge populace of the other “99%” of humanity.  As the income inequality increases, as described by French economist Thomas Piketty and US Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, these voting patterns will most probably continue unchanged, absent a global insurrection to eliminate the gross injustice in the distribution of power and resources that is currently entrenched, globally, and which the huge disparities in these votes reflects.

Carla Stea is Global Research’s Correspondent at UN headquarters, New York 

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NATO: Seeking Russia’s Destruction Since 1949

December 27th, 2015 by Gary Leupp

In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. president George H. W. Bush through his secretary of state James Baker promised Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that in exchange for Soviet cooperation on German reunification, the Cold War era NATO alliance would not expand “one inch” eastwards towards Russia. Baker told Gorbachev: “Look, if you remove your [300,000] troops [from east Germany] and allow unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east.”

In the following year, the USSR officially dissolved itself. Its own defensive military alliance (commonly known as the Warsaw Pact) had already shut down. The Cold War was over.

So why hasn’t NATO also dissolved, but instead expanded relentlessly, surrounding European Russia? Why isn’t this a central question for discussion and debate in this country?

NATO: A Cold War Anti-Russian Alliance 

Some challenge the claim that Bush’s pledge was ever given, although Baker repeated it publicly in Russia. Or they argue that it was never put in writing, hence legally inconsequential. Or they argue that any promise made to the leadership of the Soviet Union, which went out of existence in 1991, is inapplicable to subsequent U.S.-Russian relations. But it’s clear that the U.S. has, to the consternation of the Russian leadership, sustained a posture of confrontation with its Cold War foe principally taking the form of NATO expansion. This expansion hardly receives comment in the U.S. mass media, which treats the entry of a new nation into NATO much as it does the admission of a new state into the UN—as though this was altogether natural and unproblematic.

But recall the basic history. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in April 4, 1949, initially consisting of the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Portugal, as a military alliance against the Soviet Union, and principally the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

It was formed just four years after the Soviets stormed Berlin, defeating the Nazis. (As you know, Germany invaded Russia six months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor;  the U.S. and USSR were World War II allies versus the fascists; the key victories in the European war—Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk—were Soviet victories over the Nazis; that U.S. soldiers only crossed the Rhine on March 22 as the Red Army was closing in on Berlin, taking the city between April 16 and May 2 at a cost of some 80,000 Soviet dead. If you don’t know these things, you’ve been denied a proper education.)

In the four-year interim between Hitler’s suicide and the formation of NATO, the two great victors of the war had divided Europe into spheres of influence. The neighboring Soviet Union had contributed disproportionately to the fascist defeat: over eight million military and over 12 million civilians dead, as compared to the far-off U.S., with losses of around 186,000 dead in the European theater and 106,000 in the Pacific.

It might seem strange that the lesser hero in this instance (in this epochal conflict against fascism) gets all the goodies in the battle’s aftermath: the U.S. created a bloc including Britain, France, Italy, most of Germany, the Low Countries, Portugal, and most of Scandinavia, while the Soviets asserted hegemony—or tried to—over their generally less affluent client states. But the Soviets were not in any case interested primarily in drawing the richest nations into their fold; were that the case, they would not have withdrawn their troops from Austria in 1955.

Rather Russia, which had historically been invaded many times from the west—from Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, France, and Germany multiple times—wanted preeminently to secure its western border. To insure the establishment of friendly regimes, it organized elections in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and elsewhere. (These had approximately as much legitimacy as elections held under U.S. occupation in Iraq or Afghanistan in later years, or at any point in Latin America). They brought the Eastern European “people’s republics” into existence.

The U.S. and British grumbled about the geopolitical advances of their wartime ally. In March 1946 former British Prime Minister Churchill while visiting the U.S. alluded to an “iron curtain” falling across Europe. (Perhaps he was unwittingly using the expression that Josef Goebbels had used just thirteen months earlier. The German propaganda minister had told a newspaper that “if the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets…would occupy all of Europe…An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory…”) Very scary.

But the U.S. was working hard at the time to consolidate its own bloc in Europe. In May 1947 the U.S. CIA forced the Italian and French governments to purge Communist members of cabinets formed after electoral successes the previous year. (The U.S. had enormous clout, bought through the $ 13 billion Marshall Plan begun in April 1947, designed to revive European capitalism and diminish the Marxist appeal.)

The CIA station chief in Rome later boasted that “without the CIA,” which funded a Red Scare campaign and fomented violent, even fatal clashes at events, “the Communist Party would surely have won the [Italian] elections in 1948.” (Anyone who thinks Soviets rigged elections while the U.S. facilitated fair ones as a matter of principle is hopelessly naïve.)

Meanwhile—before the establishment of NATO in April 1949—the U.S. and Britain had been fighting a war in Greece since 1946 on behalf of the monarchists against the communist-led forces that had been the backbone of the anti-fascist movement during the World War II. The Communists had widespread support and may well have won the civil war if the Soviets had only supported them. But observing the understanding about spheres of influence agreed to at Yalta and Potsdam, Stalin refused appeals for Soviet aid from the Greek (and Yugoslav) Communists. The Greek partisans surrendered in Oct. 1949, six months after the formation of NATO. (But NATO was in fact not deployed in this military intervention in Greece, seen as the first Cold War U.S. military operation under the broadly anticommunist “Truman Doctrine.”)

Just a month after NATO was formed, the pro-U.S. leaders in west Germany unilaterally announced the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. (The pro-Soviet German Democratic Republic was declared only six months later. As in Korea, the Soviets promoted reunification of occupied sectors. But the U.S. was intent on establishing client states, and dividing nations if necessary to stem Soviet inroads. This was also the case with Vietnam.)

Four months after the creation of NATO the Soviets conducted their first successful nuclear test. The Cold War was underway in earnest.

NATO was thus formed to aggressively confront the USSR and exploit fears of a supposed threat of a westward Soviet strike (to impose the Soviet social system on unwilling peoples). That threat never materialized, of course. The Soviets cordoned off East Berlin from the west by the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent embarrassing mass flight.  But they never invaded West Germany, or provoked any clash with a NATO nation throughout the Cold War. (Indeed, in light of the carnage visited on Europe since 1989, from civil wars in the Balkans and Caucasus to terrorist bombings in London, Madrid and Paris to the neo-fascist-led putsch in Ukraine last year, the Cold War appears in retrospect as a long period of relative peace and prosperity on the continent.)

Comparing U.S. and Russian/Soviet Aggression during the Cold War

NATO expanded in 1952,  enlisting the now-pacified Greece and its historical rival, Turkey. In 1955 it brought the Federal Republic of Germany into the fold. Only then—in May 1956, seven years after the formation of NATO—did the Soviets establish, in response, their own defensive military alliance. The Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance (Warsaw Pact) included a mere eight nations (to NATO’s 15): the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Albania.

Warsaw Pact forces were deployed only once during the Cold War, to crush the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968. (They were not used during the suppression of the “Hungarian Revolution” of 1956, occurring five months after the founding of the alliance. That operation was performed by Soviet troops and loyalist Hungarian forces.) The Czechoslovakian intervention occasioned Albania’s withdrawal from the pact, while Romania protested it and refused to contribute troops. Thus practically speaking, the Warsaw Pact was down to six members to NATO’s 15. The western alliance expanded to 16 when Spain joined in 1982.

Between 1945 and 1991 (when the Warsaw Pact and the USSR  both dissolved themselves), the U.S. had engaged in three major wars (in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf); invaded Grenada and Panama; and intervened militarily in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Haiti and other countries.

During that same period, the Soviets invaded eastern European nations twice (Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968), basically to maintain the status quo. Elsewhere, there was a brief border conflict with China in 1969 that killed around 150 soldiers on both sides. And the Soviets of course invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to shore up the secular regime faced with Islamist opposition. That’s about it. Actually, if you compare it to the U.S. record, a pretty paltry record of aggression for a superpower.

That Islamist opposition in Afghanistan, as we know, morphed into the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the group founded in Iraq by one-time bin Laden rival Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that’s now called ISIL or the Islamic State. Referred to—almost affectionately—by the U.S. press in the 1980s as the “Mujahadeen” (“those engaged in jihad”), these religious militants were lionized at the time as anti-communist holy warriors by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Brzezinski told the president six months before the Soviets sent in troops that by backing the jihadis the U.S. could “induce a Soviet military intervention.” The U.S., he declared, had “the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War” and could now “bleed” the Soviets as they had bled the U.S. in Vietnam.

(Linger for a moment on the morality here. The Soviets had helped the Vietnamese fight an unpopular, U.S.-backed regime and confront the horrors of the U.S. assault on their country. Now—to get back, as Brzezinski out it—the U.S. could help extreme Islamists whose minds are in the Middle Ages to “induce” Soviet intervention, so as to kill conscript Soviet boys and prevent the advent of modernity.)

The anti-Soviet jihadis were welcomed to the White House by President Ronald Reagan during a visit in 1985. Reagan, perhaps already showing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, trumpeted them as “the moral equivaent of America’s founding fathers.” This is when the great bulk of U.S. (CIA) aid to the Mujahadeen was going into the coffers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a vicious warlord now aligned with the Taliban. One of many former U.S. assets (Saddam Hussein included) who had a falling-out with the boss, he was the target of at least one failed CIA drone strike in 2002.

Thus the Soviets’ one and only protracted military conflict during the Cold War, lasting from December 1979 to February 1989 and costing some 14,000 Soviet lives, was a conflict with what U.S. pundits have taken to calling “Islamist terrorism.”

The Soviets were surely not facing anticommunists pining for “freedom” as this might be conceptualized in some modern ideology. The enemy included tribal leaders and clerics who objected to any changes in the status of girls and women, in particular their dress, and submission to patriarchal authority in such matters as marriage.

The would-be Soviet-backed revolutionaries faced religious fanatics ignorant about women’s medical needs, hostile to the very idea of public clinics, and opposed to women’s education, (In fact the Soviets were able to raise the literacy rate for women during the 1980s—a feat not matched by the new occupiers since 2001—but this was mainly due to the fact that they maintained control over Kabul, where women could not only get schooling but walk around without a headscarf.)

Those days ended when the Soviet-installed regime of Mohammad Najibullah was toppled by Northern Alliance forces in April 1992.  Things only became worse. Civil war between the Pastun Hekmatyar and his Tajik rivals immediately broke out and Hekmatyar’s forces brutally bombarded the capital—something that hadn’t happened during the worst days of the Soviet period.

As civil war deepened, the Taliban emerged, presenting itself as a morally upright, Sharia-based leadership. Acquiring a large social base, it took Kabul in September 1996. Among its first acts was to seize Najibullah, who had taken refuge in the UN compound in the city three years earlier, castrate him, and hang him publicly, denying him a proper Muslim burial.

Just as the neocons were crowing about the triumph of capitalism over communism, and the supposed “end of history,” the Frankenstein’s monster of Islamism reared up its ugly head. There were no tears shed in western capitals for Najibullah. But the Taliban were viewed with concern and distaste and the UN seat remained with the former Northern Alliance regime controlling just 10% of the country.

How the Cold War Encouraged “Radical Islam”

Surely the U.S.—which had packed up and left after the Soviet withdrawl, leaving the Pakistanis with a massive refugee problem and Afghanistan in a state of chaos—had bled the Soviets, and anyone daring to ally with them. And surely this experience contributed to the realization of Brzezinski’s fondest wish: the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But it also produced Islamist terrorism, big time, while the U.S.—having once organized the recruitment and training of legions of jihadis from throughout the Muslim world to bleed the Soviets—was and is now obliged to deal with blow-back, and in its responses invariably invites more terror.

Is it not obvious that U.S. military actions against its various “terrorist” targets in the “Greater” Middle East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya have greatly swelled the ranks of al-Qaeda branches as well as ISIL?

And does not the course of events in Afghanistan—where the Kabul government remains paralyzed and inept, warlords govern the provincial cities, the Supreme Court sentences people to death for religious offenses, much of the countryside has been conceded to the Talibs and the militants are making inroads in the north—convince you that the U.S. should not have thrown in its lot with the jihadis versus the Soviet-backed secular forces thirty-five years ago?

In a 1998 interview by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn Brzezinski was asked if he regretted “having given arms and advice to future [Islamist] terrorists.”

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

In other words, winning the contest with Russia—bleeding it to collapse—was more important than any risk of promoting militant Islamic fundamentalism. It is apparent that that mentality lingers, when, even in the post-9/11 world, some State Department officials would rather see Damascus fall to ISIL than be defended by Russians in support of a secular regime.

NATO to the Rescue in the Post-Cold War World

Since the fall of the USSR, and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, what has NATO been up to? First of all, it moved to fill a power vacuum in the Balkans. Yugoslavia was falling apart. It had been neutral throughout the Cold War, a member of neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact. As governments fell throughout Eastern Europe, secessionist movements in the multiethnic republic produced widespread conflict. U.S. Secretary of State  Baker worried that the breakup of Yugoslavia’s breakup would produce regional instability and opposed the independence of Slovenia.

But the German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl—flushed with pride at Germany’s reunification and intent on playing a more powerful role in the world—pressed for Yugoslavia’s dismantling. (There was a deep German historical interest in this country. Nazi Germany had occupied Slovenia from 1941 to 1945, establishing a 21,000-strong Slovene Home Guard and planting businesses. Germany is now by far Slovenia’s number one trading partner.) Kohl’s line won out.

Yugoslavia, which had been a model of interethnic harmony, became torn by ethnic strife in the 1990s. In Croatia, Croatians fought ethnic Serbs backed by the Yugoslav People’s Army; in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs quarreled over how to divide the land. In Serbia itself, the withdrawal of autonomy of the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina produced outrage among ethnic Albanians. In 1995 images of emaciated Bosniak men and boys in Serb-constructed prison camps were widely publicized in the world media as Bill Clinton resolved not to let Rwanda (read: genocide!) happen again. Not on his watch. America would save the day.

Or rather: NATO would save the day! Far from being less relevant after the Cold War, NATO, Clinton claimed, was the onlyinternational force capable of handling this kind of challenge. And thus NATO bombed, and bombed—for the first time ever, in real war—until the Bosnian Serbs pleaded for mercy. The present configuration of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a dysfunctional federation including a Serbian mini-republic, was dictated by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his deputy Richard Holbrooke at the meeting in Dayton, Ohio in November 1995.

Russia, the traditional ally of the Serbs, was obliged to watch passively as the U.S. and NATO remapped the former Yugoslavia. Russia was itself in the 1990s, under the drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin, a total mess. The economy was nose-diving; despair prevailed; male longevity had plummeted.  The new polity was anything but stable. During the “Constitutional Crisis” of September-October 1993, the president had even ordered the army to bombard the parliament building to force the legislators to heed his decree to disband. In the grip of corrupt oligarchs and Wild West capitalism, Russians were disillusioned and demoralized.

Then came further insults from the west. During Yeltsin’s last year, in March 1999, the U.S. welcomed three more nations into: Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, and Poland. These had been the most powerful Warsaw Pact countries aside from the USSR and East Germany. This was the first expansion of NATO since 1982 (when Spain had joined) and understandably upset the Kremlin. What possible reason is there to expand NATO now? the Russians asked, only to be assured that NATO was not against anybody.

The Senate had voted to extend membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1998. At that time, George Kennan—the famous U.S. diplomat who’d developed the cold war strategy of containment of the Soviet Union—was asked to comment.

I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” averred the 94-year-old Kennan. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever… It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expansion advocates] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are–but this is just wrong. 

NATO Versus Serbia

In that same month of March 1999, NATO (including its three new members) began bombing the Serbian capital of Belgrade, the first time since World War II that a European capital was subjected to bombardment. The official reason was that Serbian state forces had been abusing the Albanians of Kosovo province; diplomacy had failed; and NATO intervention was needed to put things right. This rationale was accompanied by grossly exaggerated reports of Serbian security forces’ killings of Kosovars, supposedly amounting to “genocide.”

This was largely nonsense. The U.S. had demanded at the conference in Rambouillet, France, that Serbia withdraw its forces from Kosovo and restore autonomy to the province. Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic had agreed. But the U.S. also demanded that Belgrade accept NATO forces throughout the entire territory of Yugoslavia—something no leader of a sovereign state could accept. Belgrade refused, backed by Russia.

A “senior State Department official” (likely U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) boasted to reporters that at Rambouillet “we intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. . . . The Serbs needed a little bombing to see reason.”Henry Kissinger (no peacenik) told the press in June: “The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, and excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”

The U.S. had obtained UN approval for the NATO strikes on Bosnia-Herzegovina four years before. But it did not seek it this time, or try to organize a UN force to address the Kosovo problem. In effect, it insisted that NATO be recognized as the representative of “the international community.”

It was outrageous. Still, U.S. public opinion was largely persuaded that the Serbs had failed to negotiate peace in good faith and so deserved the bombing cheered on by the press, in particular CNN’s “senior international correspondent,” Christiane Amanpour, a  State Department insider who kept telling her viewers, “Milosevic continues to thumb his nose at the international community”—because he’d refused a bullying NATO ultimatum that even Kissinger identified as a provocation!

After the mass slaughter of Kosovars became a reality (as NATO bombs began to fall on Kosovo), and after two and a half months of bombing focused on Belgrade, a Russian-brokered deal ended the fighting. Belgrade was able to avoid the NATO occupation that it had earlier refused. (In other words, NATO had achieved nothing that the Serbs hadn’t already conceded in Rambouillet!)

As the ceasefire went into effect on June 21, a column of about 30 armored vehicles carrying 250 Russian troops moved from peacekeeping duties in Bosnia to establish control over Kosovo’s Pristina Airport. (Just a little reminder that Russia, too, had a role to play in the region.)

This took U.S. NATO commander Wesley Clark by surprise. He ordered that British and French paratroopers be flown in to seize the airport but the British General Sir Mike Jackson wisely balked. “I’m not going to have my soldiers start World War III,” he declared.

I think it likely this dramatic last minute gesture at the airport was urged by the up-and-coming Vladimir Putin, a Yeltsin advisor soon to be appointed vice-president and then Yeltsin’s successor beginning in December 1999. Putin was to prove a much more strident foe of NATO expansion than his embarrassing predecessor.

Cooperation Meets with Provocation

Still, recall how two years later—after 9/11, 2001, when the U.S. invoking the NATO charter called upon its NATO allies to engage in war in Afghanistan—Putin offered to allow the alliance to transport war material to Afghanistan through Russian territory. (In 2012 Foreign Minister Lavrov offered NATO the use of a base in Ulyanovsk to transport equipment out of Afghanistan.) This Afghan invasion was only the third actual deployment of NATO forces in war, after Bosnia and Serbia, and Moscow accepted it matter-of-factly. It even muted its concerns when the U.S. established military bases in the former Soviet Central Republics of Uzbekistan and Kirghizia.

But in 2004, NATO expanded again—to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which had been part of the USSR itself and which border Russia. At the same time Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia were admitted, along with Slovakia, which had become separate from the Czech Republic. Russians again asked, “Why?”

In 2007 the U.S. began negotiating with the Poles to install a NATO missile defense complex in Poland, with a radar system in the Czech Republic. Supposedly this was to shoot down any Iranian missiles directed towards Europe in the future!  But Moscow was furious, accusing the U.S. of wanting to launch another arms race. Due largely to anti-militarist sentiment among the Poles and Czechs, these plans were shelved in 2009. But they could be revived at any time.

In 2008, then, the U.S. recognized its dependency Kosovo, now hosting the largest U.S. Army base (Camp Bondsteel) outside the U.S., as an independent country. Although the U.S. had insisted up to this point that it recognized Kosovo as a province of Serbia (and perhaps even understood its profound significance as the heartland of Serbian Orthodoxy), it now (through Condoleezza Rice) proclaimed Kosovo a “sui generis” (one of a kind) phenomenon. So forget about international law; it just doesn’t apply.

In this same year of 2008, NATO announced boldly that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” ThereuponGeorgia’s comical President Mikheil Saakasvili bombarded Tskhinvali, capital of the self-declared Republic of South Ossetia that had resisted integration into the current Republic of Georgia since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this instance Russia defended South Ossetia, invading Georgia. It then recognized the independence, both of South Ossetia and of the Republic of Abkhazia, from Georgia. (This may be seen as a tit-for-tat response to the U.S.’s decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia six months earlier.)

It was a six-day war, resulting in about 280 military fatalities (including 100 on the South Ossetian-Russian side) and about 400 civilian deaths. And there has been no Russian war since. Crimea was not “invaded” last year but simply seized by Russian forces in place, with general popular support. And there’s little evidence that the regular Russian military is confronting Ukrainian state forces; ethnic Russians are doing so, receiving no doubt support from cousins across the historically changeable border. But the charge of a “Russian invasion of Ukraine” is a State Department talking point—propaganda automatically parroted by the official press sock-puppet pundits, not a contemporary reality.

Georgia’s Saakasvili perhaps expected the U.S. to have his back as he provoked Moscow in August 2008. But while he received firm support from Sen. John McCain, who declared “We are all Georgians now,” he received little help from the George W. Bush State Department wary of provoking World War III. Georgia was not yet a NATO member able to cite the NATO charter’s mutual defense clause

Saakasvili left office in 2010 and is now under indictment by the Georgian courts for abuses in office. After a brief stint at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy in 2014, he acquired Ukrainian citizenship—losing his Georgian citizenship as a result—and (as one of many examples of how crazy the current Kiev leadership including Yatsenyev and Poroshenko can be) was appointed governor of Odessa last May!

Given the debacle of 2008, countries such as Germany are unlikely to accept Georgian admission any time soon. They do not see much benefit in provoking Russia by endlessly expanding the Cold War “defensive” alliance. Still, Croatia and Albania were added to NATO in 2009, in the first year of the Obama administration—just in time to participate in NATO’s fourth war, against Libya.

Again there was no reason for a war. Colonel Gadhafy had been downright cordial towards western regimes since 2003, and closely cooperated with the CIA against Islamist terrorism. But when the “Arab Spring” swept the region in 2011, some western leaders (headed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, but including the always hawkish Hillary Clinton) convinced themselves that Gadhafy’s fall was imminent, and so it would be best to assist the opposition in deposing him and thus get into the good graces of any successors.

The UN Security Council approved a resolution to establish a no-fly zone for the protection of civilians from Gadhafy’s supposedly genocidal troops. But what NATO unleashed was something quite different: a war on Gadhafy, which led to his brutal murder and to the horrible chaos that has reigned since in Libya, now a reliable base for al-Qaeda and ISIL. Russia and China both protested, as the war was still underway, that NATO had distorted the meaning of the UN resolution. It’s unlikely that the two Security Council permanent members will be fooled again into such cooperation.

We can therefore add the failed state of Libya to the dysfunctional states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan, to our list of NATO achievements since 1991. To sum up: Since the collapse of the USSR,  the U.S. and some allies (usually in their capacity as NATO allies) have waged war on Bosnian Serbs, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, while striking targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere with impunity. Russia has gone to war precisely once: for eight days in August 2008, against Georgia.

And yet every pundit on mainstream TV news tells you with a straight face that Putin’s the one who “invades countries.”

What Is the Point of NATO Expansion?

So while NATO has expanded in membership, it has showing a growing proclivity to go to war, from Central Asia to North Africa. One must wonder, what is the point?

The putative point in 1949 was the defense of “Western Europe” against some posited Soviet invasion. That rationale is still used; when NATO supporters today speak in favor of the inclusion of Lithuania, for example, they may state that, if Lithuania had remained outside the alliance—the Russians would surely have invaded by now on the pretext of defending ethnic Russians’ rights, etc.

There is in fact precious little evidence for Russian ambitions, or Putin’s own ambitions, to recreate the tsarist empire or Soviet Union.  (Putin complained just a few days ago, “We don’t want the USSR back but no one believes us.” He’s also opined that people who feel no nostalgia for the Soviet Union—as most citizens of the former USSR young enough to remember it say they do—have no heart, while those who want to restore it have no brains.)

As NATO expanded inexorably between 1999 and 2009, Russia responded not with threats but with calm indignation.

Putin’s remarks about the dissolution of the Soviet Union being a “geopolitical tragedy,” and his occasional words addressing the language and other rights of Russians in former SSRs, do not constitute militarist threats. As always the neocons cherry-pick a phrase here and there as they try to depict Putin as (yet) “another Hitler.” In fact the Russians have, relatively speaking, been voices of reason in recent years, Alarmed at the consequences of U.S. actions in the Middle East, they have sought to restrain U.S. imperialism while challenging Islamist terrorism.

In August 2013 Obama threatened to attack Syria, ostensibly to punish the regime for using chemical weapons against its people. (The original accusation has been discredited by Seymour Hersh among others.) Deft intervention by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the refusal of the British House of Commons to support an attack (insuring it would not, like the Iraq War, win general NATO endorsement), and domestic opposition all helped avert another U.S. war in the Middle East.

But it’s as though hawks in the State Department, resentful at Russia’s success in protecting its Syrian ally from Gadhafy’s fate, and miffed at its continued ability to maintain air and naval facilities on the Syrian coast, were redoubling their efforts to provoke Russia. How better to do this than by interfering in Ukraine, which had not only been part of the Soviet Union but part of the Russian state from 1654 and indeed was the core of the original Kievan Rus in the tenth century?

NATO had been courting Ukraine since 1994—five years before the alliance expanded to include Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Kiev signed the NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008 when Viktor Yushchenko was president, but this was placed on hold when Viktor Yanukovych was elected in 2010. Enjoying the solid support of the Russian-speaking east, Yanukovich won what international observers called a free and fair election.

Yanukovich did not want Ukraine to join NATO: he wanted a neutral Ukraine maintaining the traditional close relationship between the Ukraine and Russia. This infuriated Victoria Nuland, the head of the Eurasia desk at the State Department, who has made it her life’s project to pull Ukraine into NATO. This would be NATO’s ultimate prize in eastern Europe: a country of 44 million well-educated people, the size of France, strategically located on the Black Sea historically dominated by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. An ethnically divided country, with a generally pro-Russian and Russian-speaking east, and a more western-oriented Ukrainian-speaking west with an unusually vigorous and fiercely anti-Russian neofascist movement—just there waiting to be used.

Nuland, a former Cheney aide whose neocon worldview drew Hillary Clinton’s favorable attention, resulting in her promotion, is the wife of neocon pundit and Iraq War cheerleader Robert Kagan. (Kagan was a founding member of the notorious Project for a New American Century “think tank”.)  The couple represents two wings of incessant neocon plotting: those who work to destroy Russia, and those who work to destroy the Middle East, consciously using lies to confuse the masses about their real goals.

At the National Press Club in December 2013, Nuland boasted that the U.S. (through such “NGOs” as the National Endowment for Democracy) had spent $ 5 billion in Ukraine in order to support Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”  This deliberately vague formulation is supposed to refer to U.S. support for Kiev’s admission into the European Union. The case the U.S. built against Yanukovich was not that he rejected NATO membership; that is never mentioned at all. She built the case on Yanukovich’s supposed betrayal of his people’s pro-EU aspirations in having first initialed, and then rejected, an association agreement with the trading bloc, fearing it would mean a Greek-style austerity regime imposed on the country from without.

From November 2013 crowds gathered in Kiev’s Maidan to protest (among other things) Yanukovich’s change of heart about EU membership. The U.S. State Department embraced their cause. One might ask why, when the EU constitutes a competing trading bloc, the U.S. should be so interested in promoting any country’s membership in it. What difference does it make to you and me whether Ukraine has closer economic ties to Russia than to the EU?

The dirty little secret here is that the U.S. goal has merely been to use the cause of “joining Europe” to draw Ukraine into NATO, which could be depicted as the next natural step in Ukraine’s geopolitical realignment.

Building on popular contempt for Yanukovich for his corruption, but also working with politicians known to favor NATO admission and the expulsion of Russian naval forces from the Crimean base they’ve had since the 1780s, and also including neo-fascist forces who hate Russia but also loath the EU, Nuland and her team including the ubiquitous John McCain popped up at the Maidan passing out cookies and encouraging the crowd to bring down the president.

It worked, of course. On Feb. 22, within a day of signing a European-mediated agreement for government reforms and new election, and thinking the situation defused, Yanukovich was forced to flee for his life. The neofascist forces of Svoboda and the Right Sector served as storm troops toppling the regime. Nuland’s Machiavellian maneuverings had triumphed; a neocon Jew had cleverly deployed open anti-Semites to bring down a regime and plant a pro-NATO one in its place.

It seemed as though, after 14 years of expansion, NATO might soon be able to welcome a huge new member into its ranks, complete the encirclement of Russia and, booting out the Russian fleet, turn the Black Sea into a NATO lake.

Alas for the neocons and “liberal interventionists”—the new regime of Nuland’s chosen Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Svoboda Party allies immediately alienated the eastern Russian-speaking population, which remains up in arms making the country ungovernable, even as its economy collapses; and the notion of expelling the Russians from Sevastopol has become unimaginable.

But what do NATO planners want? Where is all the expansion and reckless provocation heading?

Russia:  an “Existential Threat”?

First of all, the NATO advocates, however often they repeat that “We’re not against Russia, this isn’t about Russia,” do indeed posit an enduring Russian threat. Thus General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the most senior British officer in NATO, stated last February that Russia poses “an obvious existential threat to our whole being.” Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command told the Aspen Security Forum in July that “Russia could pose an existential threat to the United States.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) warned Obama to sign a military appropriations bill because Russia poses “an existential threat” to the U.S.  Philanthropist George Soros (who likes to finance “color revolutions”) wrote in the New York review of Books in October that “Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence.”

These are wild, stupid words coming from highly placed figures. Isn’t it obvious that Russia is the one being surrounded, pressured and threatened? That its military budget is a fraction of the U.S.’s, its global military presence miniscule in relation to the U.S. footprint?

But anyone watching the U.S. presidential candidates’ debates—and who can perceive the prevalence of paranoia about Russia, the unthinking acceptance of the “Putin as Hitler” theme, and the obligatory expression of determination to make America more “strong”—can understand why the expansion of NATO is so horribly dangerous.

People who do not think rationally or whose minds are twisted by arrogance can look at the maps of NATO expansion and think proudly, “This is how it should be! Why would anyone question the need for nations to protect themselves by allying with the United States? It’s alliances like NATO that preserve peace and stability in the world.”

(Some are able to believe that, perhaps, but the fact is the world has become less peaceful and far less stable than it was during the Cold War when the two superpowers checked one another’s moves. Thereafter the U.S. emerged as what a French diplomat has called an “hyper-puissance” or hyper-power intervening with impunity in multiple countries and producing new, often ugly forms of resistance.)

People looking at the NATO map of Europe can mentally color in Montenegro too. A tiny republic on the Adriatic with under 650,000 people, it was formally invited by NATO to submit its membership application on December 2. What other countries have yet to sign?

As mentioned, in 2008 NATO announced that Georgia and Ukraine would join. But their cases actually seem to be on hold. Belarus, wedged between Poland and Russia, has been under the self-styled “authoritarian” President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. The regime, considered close to Moscow, was targeted by an abortive U.S.-funded “color revolution” in March 2006. The U.S. favored Mikhail Marynich, a former ambassador to Latvia and proponent of NATO membership. (He participated in a closed-door NATO “War and Peace” conference in Riga in November 2006.)

Then there is Moldova, the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic located between Rumania and Ukraine. To its east is the breakaway republic of

Transnitria, where ethnic Moldovans are a minority and Russians and Ukrainians make up almost 60% of the population. It is a “frozen conflict” zone. The neocon dream is to ultimately change all their regimes and draw them all into the warm embrace of NATO.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them

One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

in the Land or Mordor where the shadows lie

What do you do after you complete the western encirclement of Russia? Why, you destabilize the country itself, hoping to slice it up! Russia remains a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation. There are tensions and secessionist movements to exploit in the Caucasus particularly, but also on the Karelian Peninsula and in Siberia.

If Russia is an existential threat, its own existence is a threat, right? So why not cut it up?

Doesn’t the logic of NATO expansion require an enemy, and doesn’t America lead the world in defeating enemies?

Or if not, isn’t NATO itself the real threat?  (After all, didn’t it, in its last major project, totally wreck the modern state of Libya, and as a result destabilize Mali?)

Shouldn’t we welcome tensions within NATO, and failures of member states to devote the required 2% of GDP to military expenses? Shouldn’t we welcome resistance to further expansion, complaints about U.S. arm-twisting, and calls for cooperation with Russia rather than confrontation and destruction?

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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One baby out of eight is being born in a war zone this Christmas.  Almost all of these wars were spawned by the ‘west’, lead by the Land of the Free.  Many mites come in mothers’ arms by inflatable boat to Greece.  Pity dear babies, specks in the  ‘migrant crisis’ unless Angela is your guardian angel.

As the war for the residues of glorious empire was drawing to a close amid the mud, blood, brains and limbs, the scheming slid nicely along.  Cordite Weizmann and fractional-reserve banker Rothschild were invited to produce some words.  These totalled 126 on a half A4 piece, the Balfour declaration of the 2nd of November 1917.  The only Jew in the cabinet, Edwin Montague opposed it.  His elegant, prescient and humane letter says it all. (1) 

The fuse was set and intent recorded.  Balfour stated in private and perfidious correspondence that

‘in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country …. The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land’. 

The ‘Middle East’ was to be set alight.

And after another war to end wars, and the killing of over 700 British soldiers enforcing the mandate rules, came the Palestinian nakba, the ethnic cleansing by armed force and terror of 800, 000 Palestinians, four fifths of their population.

How many little mites died in that cold spring?  The slow, slow, quick, quick slow of genocide continues to this second.  (‘Genocide’ was coined by Lemkin, a Polish Jew, before WW2.)  Over fifteen babies have been born to Palestinian mothers, in the open at checkpoints. Read of Mohammad Khalil.  (2)

The dominance of Zion excluded peace.  With escalating state ‘terrorism’ came the ‘terrorism’ of the trodden, ‘the boot on the face forever’ of George Orwell.  In 1982,  Oded Yinon prepared a paper for Mossad one can presume.  The subject was the decimation of all Arab states and entities into small ones.  The language was ruthless.  Of course, it took no account of how many babies would be decimated too. (3)  Then came Project of the New American Century signed by over four dozen Zionist Jews, with the ‘Clean Break’ to follow and the black Perle in the vanguard.  Iraq was first for the final solution.

The skeletons of over 500,000 children lie in Iraqi soil due to the draconian sanctions imposed by the US, UK and France following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait which had been slant drilling Iraqi oil reserves.  They are at peace now but their suffering in life from thirst, dysentery, cholera and hunger can only be imagined by those with hearts.  Madeleine Albricht thought it was a ‘price worth paying.’  Maybe she sleeps poorly.

Afghan families fled in killing cold in October 2001 to the mountains to escape bombs raining down from B52s at 30,000 ft.  How many tiny sticks were put with the parents’ tears into snowy graves?  The plans were laid in July 2001.  You knew that?  (4)  The pretext was the false flag of the 11th of September 2001, Cheney’s Pearl Harbour.  That phantom, Bin Laden, was supposed to have planned it all from a cave at Tora Bora,  such are the wonders of IT and satellite communication.  The war, still bleeding, opium sap still flowing, US surrogates still ‘governing’ a tribal society, has lasted three times longer than WW2.

 Bush and Blair, the psychopathic pair, with many thousands sharing the same very dangerous personality trait, then focused on that cradle of civilization, a fine irony.  It was in April 2002 when the blood brothers sealed the fate of Iraq in Crawford, Texas. (5)  As always there was a pretext, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.  Vilification of Saddam Hussein ran parallel.  And so on the 18th March 2003, a large force of Australian SAS troops invaded Iraq.  On the 22nd, the formal destruction of Iraq for ever, with massive bombardment and rapid invasion was started.  Mr Blair of the FaithFoundation might tell how many children lost their lives, their limbs, their sight and their minds when they were ‘shocked and awed’?

Symbolic of the Satanic cruelty of these schemers who never see action, is the case of Ali Abbas.  This is the sixth time I have written about him but I have had only ONE comment in response.  His village, Zafaraniya, lay between the Al Rashid military base and Baghdad airport.  Around the tenth day of ‘shock and awe’ there was a tremendous battle for the airport, a bridgehead.  His arms were incinerated and so was his Mum and Dad, and ten other relatives in the house. (Images in 5)  I believe these terrible injuries and the deaths of his relatives were caused by an ‘Enhanced Radiation Weapon’, in this case a neutron shell.  In other words, a WMD was used, the pretended casus belli for the destruction of Iraq and its government.  It is likely that Dr David Kelly was aware of this dynamite.  The ‘sofa cabinet’ would have sat with less comfort and less wine. (6)

Libya was next and the pretext was an ‘opposition’ in Benghazi which was threatened with extinction by Ghaddafi’s planes and bombs.  There was the customary vilification by the free western press of a leader who had gained power from a puppet in a bloodless coup.  There was a ‘news’ blackout as NATO forces ‘pounded’ who knows what and where. (7) Up to 50,000 humans were killed, and especially in Sirte.  The leader was killed against international law, and in the most evil manner.

And so to Syria and the vilification of Dr President Bashar Assad.  Syria was number 2 on Yinon’s plan.  As with Iraq and Libya, it is a secular country but showed respect to the confessions, including its 20% of Christians.  The ‘free’ press, and especially the BBC, has pumped out a vast, black stream of propaganda.  The BBC showed a picture of many dozens of dead children under shrouds in a communal grave.  It was implied they were victims of ‘Assad’.  It turned out it was taken by an Italian photographer in Iraq in May 2004! (8) How many children have been killed since guns were first fired by ‘rebels’ four years ago?  Given there are 5 million ‘displaced’ humans, at least 2 million children have fled their homes.

Two years ago, Cameron sought the support of MPs in the House of Commons for a bombing campaign of Syrian government installations.  ‘Butcher Assad had to be deposed’.  Happily he failed, and the Conservative Mr John Baron was central in the opposition.   Mr Alistair Burt MP, a fervent Christian, insisted the British government “knew exactly what would happen if there was not a strike against Assad over chemical weapons. He goes on. And the only thing that would deflect this man and this regime is if they fear they are going to end up in a storm drain with a bayonet up their backside. If they don’t fear that, they will go on killing as many people as they need to stay in power.”   Such is the psychopath.  The incestuous nature of this seat of power defeated my efforts in unseating this cruel and ignorant man. (9&10)  Now Cameron has won support for bombing IS, a loose and equally evil structure that is supported by a large cabal of nations, mostly within NATO.  The sense of MPs like Leigh, Lewis and Baron was swept away with a ‘rousing’ speech from Mr Hilary Benn.  But he has dual loyalty; he visited ‘Israel’ two weeks ago for three days.  Why?

Cameron’s intention, and many with him including ‘Israel’, remains the violent and unlawful overthrow of President Assad and the destruction, the Yinonization, of yet another Arab country.

*     *     *

Extracts from Christmas messages:

Cameron  – “As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope.”

Archbishop Welby – Caught between the Devil and the Sea, the desperate and hungry, make their way through unimaginable peril. Palestine was very much like that. It was not a place of safety, but of danger, and like those millions today, Jesus himself was carried by anxious parents to the safety of another land. (11)

Catholic Archbishop Nichols – We pray especially for our Christian brothers and sisters who suffer grievously for their faith in Jesus as their Lord, losing life and belongings, suffering torture and unspeakable cruelty for his sake… No to all violence against the innocent!  (12)

The politician and the two men of God persist in picturing the whitey and the Christian as the victim, when instead the Muslim has been crucified from the time of 9/11.  One piece of holy and anti-Muslim propaganda was ‘Christian celebration’ banned in Brunei.  Not so! (13)

O, little town of Bethlehem – A subdued Christmas will only compound an already difficult year for Palestinian Christians, who have suffered the full brunt of Israel’s policies, most notably land seizures and, for those in Jerusalem, the revocation of residency rights. (14)

The Queen’s address – universal and moving in her 90th year.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mzor6Hf1tY  A contrast to the previous.  And listen, at the end, to fine singing by boys from round our wonderful world.

Britain will take 25,000 careful selected refugees over 5 years.  I salute the German nation who has embraced over 800,000.  Bombs R Us but Refugees R Not Us.

David Halpin is a retired orthopaedic and trauma surgeon who knows the suffering of the Palestinian people.  He and Sue have 3 girl grandchildren.  He is not a pacifist but believes strongly in international law which is constantly pushed aside.  All life is sacred, but especially the child’s.  He says ‘No mother and child should be in the least harmed anywhere in our still beautiful world’.

Web sites  http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/    http://www.doveanddolphin.com/  

Notes:

1.  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Montagumemo.html

2.  http://www.doveanddolphin.com/news_detail.asp?ID=166

3.  www.globalresearch.ca/greater-israel-the-zionist-plan-for…/5324815

4.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1550366.stm

5.  http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/41-articles/blair/104-blairs-journey-questions-before-charge

6.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JBYAy1eyZI

7. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/24-articles/libya/112-the-buzzard-the-vulture-and-the-cuckoo-perfidious-albion-in-libya 

8. http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2012/05/bbc-caught-using-iraq-mass-grave-photo-as-syria-propaganda-2198570.html

9. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/2-articles/correspondence-with-politicians/158-letter-to-standards-and-privileges-committee-of-the-house-of-commons

10. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/2-articles/correspondence-with-politicians/159-a-complaint-about-a-barbarous-statement-made-by-mr-alistair-burt-mp

11. http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5654/archbishop-justins-ecumenical-christmas-greeting

12.  http://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/christmas-midnight-mass-2015/

13.  http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/my-account-of-christmas-in-brunei

14.  http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=769191

 

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One of the consequences of the Iran Deal was the declaration by countless politicians that they were going to crack down on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. Even the White House signed on to this idea. Well now some of the backlash has officially begun: Congress is linking Iran with ISIS, even though Iran is fighting ISIS. [and ISIS is supported by the US, GR ed.]

Few mainstream publications have picked up on the fact that in a response to the San Bernardino killings, the Congress last week passed legislation, which the president duly signed, that puts Iran in an axis of international-terrorist evil along with Syria, Iraq and Sudan. The legislation amends our country’s visa waiver program. Iranian dual nationals, as well as US citizens who have visited Iran, will need visas to get into the U.S.

Reuters:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday said it was “absurd” that Tehran should be included on the list.

“No Iranian nor anybody who visited Iran had anything to do with the tragedies that have taken place in Paris or in San Bernardino or anywhere else,” he said in an interview with Middle East-focused website Al Monitor.

Secretary of State John Kerry promptly met with Zarif, his Iranian counterpart, to assure him that the new law doesn’t undercut the Iran deal. But the Iranians say that the legislation is the result of pro-Israel lobbying. And even the State Department describes Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry in Geneva, January 14, 2015 . (Rick Wilking/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry in Geneva, January 14, 2015 . (Rick Wilking/AFP/Getty Images)

 Iranians say the bill reflects pro-Israel lobbying. Reuters:

Iran said on Monday that Israeli lobbying was behind a new measure passed by the U.S. Congress that will prevent visa-free travel to the United States for people who have visited Iran or hold Iranian nationality.

The measure, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday, also applies to Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and was introduced as a security measure after the Islamic State attacks in Paris and a similar attack in San Bernardino, California.

Elham Khatami of the National Iranian American Council says she’s now a second-class citizen:

[In early December,] in a swift move that flew under the radar of many civil liberties and activist groups, the House passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act….

In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, Republicans had fast-tracked the bill to the floor for a vote. In the process, they managed to insert into the legislation discriminatory language against dual nationals of Iraq, Syria and official state sponsors of terror — Iran and Sudan. The legislation has since been lumped into Congress’ annual omnibus appropriations bill and is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Saturday.

More from Reuters‘ description of the Israel lobby angle:

Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim theocracy staunchly opposed to Sunni radicalism espoused by groups like Islamic State, says its inclusion on the list is intended to undermine a deal on its nuclear programme that Tehran reached with world powers, including the United States, in July, known as the JCPOA.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in a televised news conference that the U.S. measure had been passed “under pressure from the Zionist lobby and currents opposed to the JCPOA”.

The administration wants to have it both ways on blaming Iran. Yesterday on National Public Radio, Adam Szubin, the counter-terrorism finance under secretary at the Treasury Department, also put Iran in the category of ISIS, as an international terror deliverer:

if you are familiar with the model of how al-Qaida or groups like Hamas and even Hezbollah have financed themselves, they’ve typically been heavily reliant on foreign donations, whether from state sponsors like Iran or whether from wealthy what we call deep-pocket donors, often in the Gulf. But that financing model is not ISIL. When you have a group that’s raising hundreds of millions of dollars in a year from internal sources, we don’t have those same chokepoints to go after in terms of the foreign flows.

Meanwhile John Kerry is doing fancy footwork, explaining the legislation away, in a letter to Javad Zarif.

we remain fully committed to the sanctions lifting provided for under the JCPOA. We will adhere to the full measure of our commitments, per the agreement.

At the State Department briefing Monday, reporters questioned why the legislation didn’t amount to a violation of the Iran Deal:

QUESTION: So the Iranians are concerned, apparently, that the – that legislation on the Hill, particularly the visa waiver legislation…  that it violates the nuclear deal. I understand that’s not your position, but I’m wondering if you share the concern that the Iranians have expressed about the changes to the Visa Waiver Program in that it could affect or harm the ability of the Iranians to take advantage of the sanctions relief that they will be getting under the deal.

MR [John] KIRBY: Well, certainly, the Secretary noted the concerns by Foreign Minister Zarif. You saw that he addressed that in his letter. You’re right, there’s no violation of the JCPOA or our commitments by dint of this new legislation. And the Secretary further made it clear that we’re going to implement this new legislation so as not to interfere with the legitimate business interests of Iran, such as in areas where the sanctions are going to be lifted when Iran has taken the key steps it needs to take to meet its own commitments under the JCPOA….

QUESTION: there’s a move afoot on the Hill to do all sorts of things Iran-related. And if it’s the Administration’s position that as long as the Iranians uphold their end of the deal, you’re going to hold – uphold your end of the deal, that would suggest to me that anything that you see as compromising the JCPOA you would oppose on the Hill.

MR KIRBY: Let me put it on – a different spin on this. I’d say that we’re going to meet – we have every intention of meeting all our commitments under the JCPOA. I mean, and that’s not going to change. We will meet our JCPOA commitments.

QUESTION: Why was Iran included to begin with? I mean, could you remind us why it was included in this thing, in these countries, among this group of countries?

MR KIRBY: Why what?

QUESTION: Why was Iran included?

MR KIRBY: Because it’s a state sponsor of terrorism.

QUESTION: Okay. But it is not in any way connected to ISIS and what’s going on. I mean, we have not seen —

MR KIRBY: It’s a state sponsor of terrorism —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: — and it’s still on that list. And that’s why travel to Iran was included in this measure.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe that this is maybe a back way to sort of nip at the Iran deal or to scuttle the Iran deal?

MR KIRBY: No, no. We’ve talked about this in the past.

Here is some more blindness in the media on these issues. NPR has continually deceived listeners about Sheldon Adelson’s agenda, and it did so again yesterday. Adelson is a leading opponent of the Iran Deal, as a supporter of Israel. He has called on President Obama to nuke Iran. But in a report on Adelson’s purchase of a Nevada newspaper, NPR once again leaves out the Israel angle of Adelson’s interests. It says blandly:

Adelson is also prominently involved in national politics.

That link is to a story about his on-line gambling concerns. But as Cory Bennett of the Hill said on CSPAN the other day– something I did not know till now– Iran is said to have undertaken a cyber-attack on Sheldon Adelson’s casino last year because of his call to nuke Iran.  The alleged cyber-attack: 

Investigators determined that hacker activists were the ones who broke into servers belonging to the Las Vegas Sands Corporation in February 2014, costing the company more than $40 million in damages and data recovery costs, Bloomberg Businessweek reported Thusday citing a report by cybersecurity firm Dell SecureWorks.

The hackers were acting in retaliation to the company’s CEO, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s statement that Obama should detonate a nuclear bomb in Tehran, which stirred controversy around the world.

This is the battle behind the headlines. And in a transparent effort to get Adelson’s backing, as well as that of the Andrew Herenstein’s of the world, the neoconservative favorite in the Republican race, Senator Marco Rubio, has vowed to tear up the Iran deal on his first day in the White House if he’s elected.

Thus the ideological war over how much the U.S. should support Israel is playing out in global terms; and our media are shying away from the story.

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It was exactly 101 years ago this month when the Christmas Truce of 1914 occurred, when Christian soldiers on both sides of the infamous No Man’s Land of the Western Front, recognized their common humanity, dropped their guns and fraternized with the so-called enemies that they had been ordered to kill without mercy the day before. As mentioned in last week’s column, the truth of that remarkable event has since been effectively covered up by state and military authorities (and the embedded journalists at the time) because they were angered (and embarrassed) by the breakdown of military discipline.

In the annals of war, such “mutinies” are now unheard of. The generals and (as well as the saber-rattling, chest-thumping politicians and war profiteers back home) rapidly developed strategies to prevent such behavior from happening again.

Christmas Eve of 1914 was only 5 months into World War I, and the cold, weary, homesick soldiers found themselves not heroes, as expected, but rather miserable, frightened and disillusioned wretches living in rat- and louse-infested trenches. Most of them had dreamed heroic dreams when they had signed up to kill and die for King and Country a few months earlier, and hey had been fully expecting to be home for the holidays.

Lower echelon officers on both sides of No Man’s Land, who were suffering right along with the troops, allowed a lull in the war – just for Christmas Eve. Then they allowed the troops to sing Christmas hymns, and many of the not-yet hardened soldiers started to recognize the humanity of the demonized “other” that had been fingered as sub-humans deserving of death.

And so the merciful spirit of the season came upon them; and they disobeyed orders that forbade fraternizing with the enemy by laying down their weapons and mingling with them in the area between the trenches.

Unknown to the higher echelon commanding officers – who were enjoying good food and drink in their warm bunkers out of the range of the artillery barrages and machine gun bursts – the grunts on either side of the battle line suddenly sensed the stupidity of killing someone that was just like them and who had never done them any harm.

Many of the men that experienced the moment knew that something deeply profound had happened: a spiritual experience of mutual respect and love that epitomized their mutual Christian upbringing – and they refused to fight and kill when the war was ordered to re-start.

Some soldiers were punished for their disobedience and many of them had to be replaced with fresh troops that had been in the reserve trenches the day before (corporal Adolf Hitler was among the ones who did not experience the front line fraternization.)

The Christmas Truce of 1914 had come close to ending the futile and ultimately suicidal war that destroyed 4 empires and an entire generation of young men that had been bamboozled into joining up.

The truce had occurred at various places up and down the triple parallel lines of trenches that stretched through France for 600 miles from Belgium to Switzerland. The vast majority of the soldier that experienced the unauthorized truce did not survive the war. Many of them had just experienced a bloody battle that had killed tens of thousands of troops on either side, with essentially no territory being gained by either side, and they now knew that they were in for a long war of attrition. They would not be home for Christmas.


The Prelude to “The War to End All Wars”

World War I was referred to in the pre-WWII history books as “The Great War” or, naively and rather laughably, “The War to End all Wars”. In the centuries before, warfare as a means of settling disputes between nations was often regarded as a noble undertaking that only involved professional soldiers. Wars in those days were just larger examples of the common (and equally barbaric) practice of engaging in “honorable” duels (sometimes to the death) when a rival disrespected another with something as simple as an offhand insult.

European military officers came from the landed aristocracy. The careers of the officer class were so familial that they almost seemed hereditary. Part of the attraction of being a military officer in Europe was the unquestioning respect that military officers demanded, not to mention the impressive uniforms and the medals and ribbons that were worn on them.

Military veterans in Europe were universally honored as heroes, whether dead or alive, no matter if they had participated in war crimes or acts of torture, rape, murder or pillage. Military shrines, statues, cemeteries and holidays for “the fallen” are regarded as normal all over the continent. The military service of European veterans seems to have been regarded as worthy of praise – no questions asked – even if the veteran himself felt unworthy.

What most prospective enlistees or conscripts knew about war was what their fathers and the uber-patriotic war literature had selectively told them and what they had learned from the censored, palatable version of war that they read about in their school history books.

Most of the enlistees were looking forward to escaping the boredom of their day-to-day existence and experiencing up close the exhilaration of playing real war games. These unaware, wet behind the ears young men hadn’t been told about the dehumanizing verbal and physical abuse that was to be meted out by their drill sergeants in basic training or the beatings they would suffer later for disobedience or disrespect.

Unbeknownst to the naive grunts on the front line, the ruling elites had ulterior motives. (The kings, queens, emperors, princes, nobles, kibitzers, veterans, the bankers that financed the wars, the weapons makers and assorted other captains of industry all felt that they would somehow profit from the war.) These war profiteers, too old or influential to go to war themselves, knew how much money could be made in wars, and, in addition, they had the assurance that they would be far from the killing fields.

French and British schoolchildren had been indoctrinated for generations in the belief that the German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, was evil incarnate and therefore, if war were to come, the German soldier who took orders from him was deserving of death. German schoolchildren were taught the same about the French and the English rulers and killing soldiers. And each of the leaders, sensing that their honor was at stake, seemed to be spoiling for a fight.

The Powder Keg: Alsace-Lorraine

Most of the civilians living in Europe had very few direct memories of war. The horrors of war had been erased from their memories but, to the professional warrior class, war was a game that could advance their careers and pay grade. Times were relatively good for many Europeans, but the military class was more than willing to get into a good war.

Peace in Europe had actually existed since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo a century earlier, with the exception of the relatively short Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt that ended that war (with France surrendering to the Germans) transferred the disputed territory of French-occupied Alsace-Lorraine back to Germany. Alsace-Lorraine was a rich industrial region located between France and Germany that had alternately been claimed over the centuries by either Germany or France – depending on which nation had lost the last war.

Before WWI erupted, Alsace-Lorraine was a powder keg ready to be ignited. The two historical enemies “knew” that Alsace-Lorraine was rightfully theirs, and they were willing to kill for it or die trying – not to mention earning the right to spell its largest city either Strassburg or Strasbourg.

Authoritarian, Militarized Europe

Most European governments were not democracies. They were authoritarian, paternalistic and anti-democratic, and there were enormous and often widening gaps between the haves (the 1%) and the have-nots of the lower 99%. Attempts at instituting socialism or representative democracy had been brutally put down by the conservative ruling elite’s obedient police and security forces.

Cruelty in child-rearing (and basic training) was the norm in Europe, which contributed heavily to the generational obedience to authority figures, whether parents, school teachers, clergypersons, drill sergeants, generals, corporations or political leaders. Most Europeans therefore accepted the rule of the hereditary kings, emperors, princes, nobles and military generals. And, as is also true of non-democratic institutions, everybody was expected to be obedient to those above them in the chain of command and to demand obedience from those below. Unconditional obedience to authority makes it easy to develop efficient killing soldiers for war departments and dictators.

The Divine Right of Kings

For centuries, most European leaders felt that it was their divine right to colonize other nations and enslave the inhabitants – by any means necessary – especially if those inhabitants were of another color or religion.. Any territory that had valuable natural resources to steal or workers to exploit, no matter where in the world it was, was considered a legitimate target especially if it was militarily weaker than the invader and as long as the citizens of their home nation were uninformed, self-satisfied, arrogant, uber-patriotic, distracted and/or apathetic.

The method of choice for the subjugation of a people targeted for colonization – a la Christopher Columbus – was always the use of overwhelming military force followed by years of brutal occupation and the afore-mentioned systematic looting of natural resources or labor. Killing, torturing, intimidating, imprisoning, silencing, exiling or otherwise “disappearing” the ethical opposition is the norm for empires. The intellectuals, altruists, prophets, poets, artists, singers, songwriters, investigative journalists and other truth-tellers or resistance movement activists had to be silenced.

In the century prior to 1914, all European empires had standing armies and military bases both at home and abroad. Nations often negotiate treaties with potential allies that promise that, if one nation was attacked by another treaty-signatory, each would come to the other’s aid. This reality resulted in a very complex web of treaties that was instrumental in starting World War I.

Living by the Sword/Dying by the Sword

The totally avoidable military madness of WWI resulted in the destruction of four empires and the deaths of upwards of 20 million people, most of whom were young naive patriotic men who had, in retrospect, stupidly welcomed the chance to prove their manhood by engaging in what they thought would be exciting war games. All sides had somehow trusted the ridiculous assertion that everybody would be home by Christmas – welcomed home as conquering heroes! That myth was propagated by the press and foolishly  believed by those of military age.

When Archduke Ferdinand, the heir-apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, the century of relative European peace rapidly unraveled in a series of errors of judgment, bureaucratic snafus, failures of communication and refusals to risk dishonor by “turning the other cheek” or even negotiating in good faith. Within days of the assassination, the saber-rattling heads of European states began mobilizing for war.

Within a month the dominos fell, with each nation honorably living up to their treaty obligations by declaring war on one another. And on August 4, 1914, World War I began in earnest when Austria tipped over the first domino by shelling innocent civilian populations in little Serbia, an action that prompted the declarations of war by Russia, Germany, Britain and France.

The chest-pounding of the deluded, arrogant, out-of-touch leadership on all sides resulted in a war fever that had unstoppable momentum. Their indoctrinated testosterone-laden rookie soldiers soon found themselves, as always, to be the elite’s dutiful trigger-pullers; and an entire generation of young men was wasted in the trenches of the Western Front, either killed or wounded.

Most of those that survived bodily were rendered insane, criminally psychopathic or otherwise psychologically and/or spiritually disabled for the rest of their lives. No one, especially the glory- and power-seeking militarists at the top, had foreseen the coming holocaust or the intolerable stalemates in a new kind of warfare that relied on shovels, machine guns, artillery and poison gas. Heroic cavalry charges with swords drawn were suddenly obsolete. Everyone, especially the out-of-touch generals and the clergymen who were supposed to be in charge of the nation’s souls, had been blinded by the propaganda lie that war was something other than satanic.

As tantalizing as is the story of the Christmas Truce, it is also a reminder of what could have happened if there had been less obedience to authority and more organized opposition to senseless war in the families, schools and churches.

If the well-meaning Christian boys from England, France, Germany, Russia, Austria, et al (who wound up helplessly suffering in that demonic war) had been, in their childhoods, thoroughly exposed to the ethical teachings of their Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, they might have had the capacity to refuse the invitation to kill their co-religionists on the other side of the battle lines. In fact, if they had really absorbed the message of their all-merciful God, they wouldn’t have been able to slaughter anybody at all.

That futile and suicidal war could have ended before it really got up a head of steam if the righteous mutiny had been more widespread, better organized and well-supported by the chaplains at the front and the heavily propagandized, flag-waving civilians back home.

Tragically, the anti-Christic  propaganda machine prevailed, thanks in part to the censorship of the obedient press (that still persists today) by refusing to do good investigative journalism by sanitizing the horrors of war.

What turned out to be a mutual mass slaughter of a degree never before seen in the history of warfare could have ended 100 years ago this Christmas if every soldier had experienced the peace that was present in the trenches and courageously laid down their weapons forever.

One of the lessons of the Christmas Truce story is summarized in the concluding verse of John McCutcheon’s famous song about the event, “Christmas in the Trenches”:

“My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.

Each Christmas come since World War I – I’ve learned its lessons well:
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same.”

Check out the video of McCutcheon singing his song at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJi41RWaTCs

and, for a good pictorial history of the reality of WWI’s  trench warfare, check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTXhZ4uR6rs

The official trailer of “Joyeux Noel” is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXcseNVZGRM

Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN. He has been actively involved in peace, justice and nonviolence issues for much of his adult life and, since his retirement, has written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism and other movements that threaten American democracy.

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Cherishing the British Empire and the Statue of Cecil Rhodes

December 26th, 2015 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Image: Cecil Rhodes

“The university and its students should prefer improving today’s orthodoxies to imposing them on our forebears.” – Tony Abbott, former PM of Australia The Independent, Dec 23, 2015

Attitudes to imperialism vary with their ages.  In their first, and purest form, they assume it to be necessary, a burden (white was the dominant colour over the last two centuries) that takes the form of the “gift” of civilization.  Then, things cool off. Anti-imperial leagues develop.  Critiques come to the fore.  Running an empire is not necessarily such a good idea, least of all for those very subjects whose name it is policed in.

Tony Abbott, the knifed and deposed former Australian prime minister, was a product of that empire.  The British imperium, for him, transmuted the world from barbaric base metal into the solid gold of civilization. 

It is all the same rhetorical baggage that drives post-colonial historians and writers to focused indignation: the rule of law, liberal institutions, protection of property.  To that end, empire builders are to be cherished, not reviled. They are not to be seen as plunderers so much as givers.

One of those figures is Cecil Rhodes, whose spirit must have awoken from a slumber with the news that his statue in Oxford University’s Oriel College, along with a plaque – would be removed.  “Remember that you are an Englishman,” he famously said, “and have consequently won the first prize in the lottery of life.”

The 2,300 signatures of the Must Go Oxford campaign were of different opinion.  The student campaigners claim that this Rhodes tribute “violates the university’s declared aim of fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality.”[1]

Rhodes, whose name ended up being given to a state he did much to create, was so interested in the empire building project he became its caricature, brushing aside opposition, and misreading his enemies.  His miscalculation over Boer resistance in South Africa proved costly.

When the earth had reached a point when terrestrial empires could go no further, Rhodes would lament that limitation, bound, as he was, to the planet.  “To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I could annex the planets if I could; I often think of that.  It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far.”

When Rhodes died in March 1902, The Guardian editorialised that, “The judgment of history will, we fear, be that he did more than any Englishman of his time to lower the reputation and to impair the strength and compromise the future of the Empire.”[2]  This type of man was demagogic, manipulatively cunning, a capacity “which makes men do either good or evil on a great scale.”  According to the editors, he democratised modern political intrigue; he frightened or excited populaces, and misled them when necessary.

Any one with an iota of sense would know that Rhodes Scholarships, the very direct legacy left by the empire builder, are distinctly based on rigging lotteries, rather than letting them function.  Selection of candidates is based on imitation, not novelty: former Rhodes Scholars are less total book worms than the essence of the Commonwealth man.

As the Rhodes testament outlined, the scholarship would create “a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world” with the “perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and for colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise”.

This, at least, was their origin, and while deviations from the norm do and have happened, the establishment principle of this “secret society” remains important for selection committees.  It is one of functioning elites: once there, make sure that everything is controlled to the extent possible.  The colonising motif is never far away.

Abbott should know: he was a member of this society, and graduated from Oxford in 1983.  And he ticked all the boxes of Rhodes’ vision: he could muster a few lines when needed, take to the sporting fields when required and be a good institution man when asked.

His response to the proposed removal of the Rhodes statue cannot be anything else other than a defence of Britain’s greatest empire builder.  Removing the reminder, suggested Abbott would “substitute moral vanity for fair-minded enquiry.”

The various comments, which found their way into The Independent, provide an ample illustration about what Abbott means by such fair-minded enquiry.  “The university should remember that its mission is not to reflect fashion but to seek truth and that means striving to understand before rushing to judge.”

Legacy is everything in this.  Yes, Rhodes was not a good egg when it came to fighting racism. In truth, he was quite open to its tendencies, laying the ground work for racial regimes in the South Africa he loved stomping in. His death, observed the Guardian, “offers a tragic warning to the practitioners of narrowly materialistic statecraft.”

The obituary’s observation about Rhodes is a fine warning for Abbott himself, a creature of that very narrow variant of materialistic statecraft.  His own time as prime minister was demagogic, divisive and dismissive.  But Abbott prefers a neat little twist: the Rhodes Scholarships that came from the pocket of good generous Cecil did much to fund those who opposed racism.  Good eggs can come from imperfect ones.

Abbott might seem crass in his views, but the issue is far more a case of understanding what lies behind the statue.  The Rhodes legacy is an imperial one, and not having his reminder around could give the rather false impression about how empire was built.  We need those dirty reminders, and there are few better places to have them than Oriel College, though others suggest a museum.

To that end, the contemporary Guardian editorial takes a slightly different position on Rhodes from that in 1902, lauding the engagement of the Rhodes Trust with Nelson Mandela Foundation to fund joint Mandela Rhodes scholarships in 2003 and engage with the “Redress Rhodes” movement.  “It is better to have the issue out in the open than to pretend it is mere posturing about symbols.”[3] 

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes:

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/oxford-university-risks-damaging-its-standing-if-is-pulls-down-cecil-rhodes-statue-warns-tony-abbott-a6784536.html

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/from-the-archive-blog/2011/may/19/guardian190-cecil-rhodes-obituary

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/22/the-guardian-view-on-cecil-rhodess-legacy-the-empire-strikes-back-good

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