Archive | January 17th, 2020

Killing Iran’s Qassim Soleimani: Rule of law or rule of the jungle?

Killing Qassim Soleimani
By James M. Dorsey

International law may not be a major consideration in debates about the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassim Soleimani, yet the legality of the assassination could prove to have long-term consequences for whether the rule of law or the law of the jungle dominates a new world order.

The Trump administration has asserted that killing Soleimani was necessary to avert an imminent attack on US targets that allegedly was being planned by Soleimani and Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, who also died in the attack.

The assertion, yet to be backed up by evidence, served to justify the attack and fend off allegations that the targeted killing violated both US and international law.

The implication was that Soleimani’s death would thwart an unspecified imminent attack and stop the Iranians in their tracks, an assumption that has little foundation in reality given Iran’s track record, most recently its refusal to buckle under following the imposition in 2018 of harsh US economic sanctions, some of the harshest ever imposed.

The notion that the killing of Soleimani amounted to rule of the jungle rather than rule of law was reinforced by assertions by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd-al-Mahdi that he had been asked by Trump to mediate with Iran and that the Iranian military leader had been carrying Iran’s response to a Saudi initiative to defuse tension when he was assassinated.

Abd-al-Mahdi’s allegation that Soleimani was involved in efforts to de-escalate tensions came in a debate in parliament in which lawmakers called in a resolution for the removal from Iraq of foreign forces, the bulk of which are American.

Abd-al-Mahdi’s assertion that Iran was responding to a Saudi initiative was all the more noteworthy given that the kingdom had reportedly recently put its indirect outreach to Iran on hold as anti-government protesters in Iraq and Lebanon targeted Iranian influence in their countries.

“Americans, once the most prominent proponents of international law as the regulator of relations between nations, have now fully validated the law of the jungle. We are now likely to experience it,” said Chas W. Freeman Junior, a former career US State Department official, in an email to a private mailing list.

Conservative commentator Robert Kagan warned in a book published last year, bemoaning America’s withdrawal as an enforcer of international law, a notion challenged by an array of critics, that chaos was the world’s historical norm. “The jungle will grow back, if we let it,” Kagan argued.

The sense that Trump, like many of the world’s leaders, has no regard for international law was evident, particularly to Iranians, in his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliates for the killing of Soleimani.

Trump did not specify what he meant by cultural. Some analysts suggested the president may have been referring to symbols like the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic republic.

Legal experts nonetheless warned that attacks on cultural sites amount to a war crime.

With millions in the streets to welcome the return of Soleimani’s body, Iranians used the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites to respond to the threat by posting online pictures of mosques, museums, monuments, archaeological sites, and other Iranian architectural marvels.

Similarly, with Iraq perceiving the US strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, Iraqis may, alongside Iranians, be one of the few who, perhaps self-servingly, factor adherence to international law in their debates.

In line with the comments of Messrs. Freeman and Kagan, the legal aspects of Soleimani’s killing take on a significance that goes far beyond the Middle East, in an environment in which leaders like India’s Narendra Modi, China’s Xi Jingping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Myanmar’s Win Myint flout international law with impunity.

Violations of international law grounded in propagation of concepts of a civilizational rather than a nation state that defines its borders not in terms of internationally recognised frontiers, but blurry lines of civilisational reach, have occurred in recent years fast and furious.

Iraqi assertions of a US violation of sovereignty echo Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine. Trump has ignored United Nations Security Council resolutions by unilaterally recognising Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Mynt stands accused of ethnic cleansing by the United Nations that has prompted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Massive evidence documents Jinping’s authorisation of the brutal repression of Turkic Muslims in the troubled north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, while Modi appears to be progressively disenfranchising his country’s Muslim minority.

For his part, Soleimani is believed to have been responsible for numerous incidents of political violence, including a 2012 attack on tourists in Bulgaria executed by a Lebanese suicide bomber. Five of the six casualties were Israelis.

Adopting the principle of might is right, abandonment of international law, including guarantees of basic and minority rights, risks creating a global jungle in which wars, political violence, marginalisation of ethnic and religious groups, and destabilising mass migration contribute to rule of the jungle rather than rule of law…

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In Honor of Martin Luther King: “The Pursuit of Peace” and MLK’s Historic Analysis of “American Militarism”

By Barry Kissin

Global Research,

Consider some of what the Reverend MLK proclaimed about American militarism:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

“A few years ago there was a shining moment in the struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

The assassination of Qassem Soleimani and seven others including a top Iraqi commander was “mad on war.” Soleimani was both an Iranian general and an Iranian diplomat at the highest level, a hero throughout the mid-east for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Literally millions of Iranians demonstrated in four different Iranian cities in mourning and in solidarity against the U.S.

Soleimani did not pose an “imminent danger,” the only possible way to justify the murders under international law. Just another bold-faced lie to justify American aggression. On Jan. 13, NBC News reported that Trump authorized the killing seven months ago.

The drone attack on Soleimani happened at Baghdad Airport – without notice to, much less permission from the Iraqi government. Two days later, the Iraqi Prime Minister addressed the Iraqi Parliament stating that Soleimani was in Baghdad to meet with him at Trump’s request so as to discuss a Saudi proposal to de-escalate the volatile situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran; in other words, Trump lured Soleimani to Baghdad on a mission of peace.

The Iraqi Parliament thereupon voted to expel all American troops from Iraq. Sec. of State Pompeo’s response? We’re staying anyway. So much for the cause of freedom and democracy.

This illegal, self-defeating, counter-productive, barbaric attack put us right back on the brink of a tit-for-tat escalation with no end in sight.

Pompeo, former CIA director, “the loudest voice pushing Trump to kill Soleimani” (NY Times, 1/7/20), identifies himself as an “evangelical Christian.” Pompeo has stated that the Bible “informs everything I do” and that Trump just might be selected by God to “save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace, just like Queen Esther [in the Bible].” Evangelicals believe in the prophecy that the gathering of Jews in Israel will be followed by apocalyptic “end times” and the “rapture,” which is the ascent of true Christians into the kingdom of God.

Also, see “Mike Pompeo Is the Most Dangerous Man in the World Right Now” (Adam Weinstein, New Republic, 1/6/20):

“For more than a year now, [Pompeo] has systematically led Trump and the Pentagon onto a war footing with Iran with shocking, unprecedented moves. These include designating a foreign government arm as a terrorist group; taking trips without his Pentagon counterpart to consult with America’s Mideast combatant commanders; defying Congress to arm the Saudis and other Iranian antagonists in the region; and publicly blaming regional attacks on Tehran with little evidence but heavily edited, ambiguous videos.”

More MLK:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation … Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war … There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

The problem is not just Trump. The problem is systemic. Both parties cater to the military-industrial complex. MLK was protesting a Democratic administration. Three days after Soleimani’s murder, Jesse Jackson issued a statement in which he acknowledged that “Obama added to the mess, seeking regime change in Syria and in Libya, spreading the chaos.”

Most telling is the consistent support of both parties in Congress for funding preposterous Pentagon budgets, half of which now enrich profiteering contractors, what MLK referred to as a “demonic destructive suction tube.

” The Pentagon eats up more of the federal government’s discretionary budget … than all other discretionary spending combined … At the same time, the Pentagon is unable to pass an audit …  The result is that we are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars, fueling endless war and diverting money from other vital needs.” (Robert Weissman, Pres. of Public Citizen, 1/11/20)

“Some 140 million Americans are living in poverty or on the brink, while more than a third of us report not getting health care because it costs too much. Our infrastructure, with $2 trillion in unfunded needs, gets a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. A poll last fall found that three-quarters of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — don’t want a war with Iran.” (Lindsay Koshgarian, Institute for Policy Studies, 1/10/20)

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China’s Growing Economic Miracle… Cracks and Bubbles?! Realties of China’s Banking and Finance

By Brett Redmayne-Titley

Global Research,

In emulating the American economic raison d’etre, China has attempted to develop its unique capitalist model while ignoring that it too will soon suffer the same fate for the same reason: Unsustainable debt.  When examining the recent realities of Chinese banking and finance over the past year it seems the steam that president Xi Jinping touts as powering the engine of his purported economic miracle of a master-planned economy is only a mirage, now almost completely evaporated before his eyes.

Like the many other similarly foolish western nations, China seeks only one path out of this fiscal death spiral, one that will likely spell doom and/or revolution in many countries soon: More debt.

China is becoming increasingly unable to continue to pay into the base of the world’s largest pyramid scheme of an economy and the cracks in the bubble are showing. This past year, saw three of the 4,279 Chinese lenders almost fail, if not for the massive intervention by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of immediate liquidity via more debt. The Chinese economic miracle is built on unsustainable debt-based infrastructure projects over the past two decades that have provided China with a face of prosperity to show the world, but this is only a mask to hide the limited countrywide success of the Chinese miracle into the rural areas. The injection of $Trillions in capital has seen China distribute these sums across the base of its economy creating a GDP that hit a high of 14.2 % in 2007 then averaged nearly 9% for the next decade before dropping yearly to 6.1% in 2018. All this growth had produced a personal affluence to a sub-set of Chinese society that has stoked this appearance of a flourishing economy.

This Chinese economic Keynesian trick of interjection of liquidity into national infrastructure is somewhat similar to the TVA and national works projects funded under Roosevelt’s depression-era New Deal. In this approach employment and therefore a growing tax base accelerated year after year as workers and corporations received the short-lived benefits of this massive windfall of available liquidity.

China’s method of stimulus is of course distinguished from today’s American model that merely shovels the injection of its own manufactured $Trillions by using multiple fiscal tricks to by-pass the citizenry and instead shovel the cash straight into the wallets of the already super-wealthy. Meanwhile, the US peasant once again pines in the “Hope”of yet another election.

The Metrics of a Failing Economy

Many analysts have for nearly a decade opined that China’s belief in national fixed-asset investment, the biggest engine of China’s economy, has long been the fundamental contributor to Chinese GDP growth, which was directly proportional to an ongoing increase in public and private debt. “China has relied on export and debt-financed fixed asset investment for growth for over two decades,” said Ho-Fung Hung, Professor in political economy at the Johns Hopkins University.

But as the world economy slows while the metrics show a recession looming China’s economy is already cooling rapidly. “And as the central government and banking system keeps producing new loans to absorb the debt, it leads to the continuous debt buildup,” Maximilian Kärnfelt, an analyst with the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, told news service DW, adding that infrastructure investment still largely drives China’s economic growth since fixed investment contributed to 45 per cent of China’s GDP in 2016.

In a sign of the disaster to come, the first Bank to almost fail was Baoshang Bank Co. in May 2019. In this instance, for the first time in twenty years, the government took over control and seized the bank. This progression next took form when Chinese regulators took a different approach by ordering three state-owned financial institutions to buy significant stakes in Bank of Jinzhou Co. When, Shandong-based Heng Feng Bank, which had failed to disclose its financial statements for two straight years, required a bail-out, the bank sold new shares for about $14 billion to a group of investors including a unit of China’s public sovereign wealth fund and a local government-backed asset management firm.

Although these were some of the smaller rural banks, as shown this past month in Chinese reports, their economy is following the world in a quantified slowdown that has seen GDP slip yearly since 2012. Making the matter worse a similar world slow-down in purchasing is already affecting China’s manufacturing-based economy. The three bank failures were only the tip of a huge iceberg.

China’s $40 Trillion banking system dwarfs the American system at double the size, with over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks. The world’s four largest banks, including behemoth ICBC ($4TN), are all Chinese.

The failure of just three banks was important enough that Chinese regulators submitted Chinese banks to a stress test and the results were shocking. China’s central bank admitted that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain.” The stress tests had revealed that over 13% of China’s 4,379 lenders were designated “high risk” by the central bank’s report. With this amounting to over 570 banks, and thus multiplied by the three existing examples of bank bail-out funding, with the Chinese economy following the world into recession, the financial numbers and likelihood of any future series of bail-outs are truly biblical. If not, fiscally impossible.

Separately, the PBOC also stress-tested 30 medium- and large-sized banks in the first half of 2019. In the base-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 5.3% – or well above where China’s realGDP is now – nine out of 30 major banks failed and saw their capital adequacy ratio drop to 13.47% from 14.43%.In the worst-case scenario, assuming GDP growth of 4.15%, or just 2% below the latest official Chinese GDP reportseventeen out of the thirty of these major banks failed the test. Separately, a liquidity stress test at 1,171 banks, representing nearly three-quarters of China’s banking sector by total assets, showed that ninety failed in the base-case and 159 in the worst-case scenario. The metrics of any collective bail-out indicates that  China has upwards of an insurmountable $20 trillion problem rapidly approaching.

In reaction to these first three bank failures, the stress tests and poorer economic news China did what centrally planned economies do: Chinesepolicymakers focused on strengthening oversight and regulation by the PBoC and gave it authority to write new rules for much of the financial sector. The China Banking Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission will now be merged as part of an overhaul aimed at resolving existing problems such as unclear responsibilities and cross-regulation as well as closing regulatory loopholes and curbing risk in the $40-43 trillion (€34.78 trillion) banking and insurance industries.

With the metrics of China’s banking system already pause for considerable concern to the tune of $20 Trillion, this huge obligation is as much a mirage as the economy since it fails to add to the account the very large and un-tabulated Shadow Banking loans which would add $Trillions in debt to China’s already highly leveraged systemic banking risk.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which provides- despite its predatory legacy- some excellent yearly analysis of worldwide economic developments has warned China’s problems could lead to “financial distress” in the world’s second-biggest economy. China is seen as one of the economies most vulnerable to a banking crisis, although Beijing has repeatedly assured that the risks are under control. In response to the PBoC reports, Chinese Finance Minister Xiao Jie echoed that the situation “was under control.”How to Pay for It All: Central Banking Asia Style

China’s Economic Tricks of Sustainability

As the world economic body politic runs out of any remaining gas to keep a pilot light under the rapidly cooling metrics that show their long forestalled recession is near and certain, China is also contracting.

The national debt of China, which is the total amount of money owed by the Chinese government and all organizations and branches stands at nearly CNY 38 Trillion ( $5.4 TN) and 54.44% of GDP.

Chinese debt has been accumulating ever more rapidly. The Institute for International Finance (IIF) reported that year-on-year, in Q1 of 2019 China’s corporate, household and government debt increased 6% more from 297% of GDP to an incredible 303%. However, this is also more than a 100% increase since 2008 and amounts to 15% of all global debt.

These figures do not include the off-the-books “Shadow Banking loans that some estimates predict would triple that debt percentage to much closer to $16 Trillion. The problems are most serious in China’s rural banking sector where an ever nervous public has reacted with two late-2019 bank runsat China’s Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank and then at Yingkou Coastal Bank.

At the end of 2018, the budget deficit of the Chinese government was close to five per cent. However, if the off-balance-sheet (“shadow”) financing of local governments is taken into consideration, the budget deficit rises to over 11 per cent. However, at the end of 2014, the official government deficit stood at  less than one per cent, but an accounting which includes local “shadow” funding was around five per cent.

China’s shadow banking system is so-called since this myriad of endemic lending trickery is believed to be massive in total and kept off the books. These risky, undisclosed loans entered China’s financial system in 2009 throwing open the doors to debt for a Chinese population hungry for investment in order to pay for all those Chinese and internationally made western goods.

The main kind of shadow deposit is generally offered as a wealth management product (WMPs). Chinese banks offer these via aggressive marketing of high-interest-rate accounts as their alternative to savings accounts which are regulated to a maximum return of 3 %. Since these sanctioned shadow loans advertise a return of as much as 8% or more, normal banking customers have been throwing their miraculously large paychecks into these funds by the billions.

One reason WMPs offer higher rates is that they are based on much riskier bank loans, much like the precursor to the late ’80s, early ’90’s American savings and loan meltdown. Incredibly, banks don’t hold these loans on their balance sheets or set aside capital against their potential defaults. Instead, they typically extend this debt via intermediaries called trust companies—firms that are not allowed to accept deposits or formally loan out money but are allowed to manage it. The trust companies create investment products like WMPs, which banks market for them in return for a commission.

With some smaller Chinese banks having already found themselves either getting bailed out or the subject of a bank run, one reason is that, like America, China’s interbank/repo rates have surged amid growing counterparty concerns of the many banks seeking depleting available liquidity. This has forced many banks to rely almost entirely on new deposits to fund themselves, forcing them to hike their deposit rates to keep their funding levels stable. Like any Ponzi trick in banking, new cash is required to sustain these thousands of lending pyramids. With the economy in decline, this need has lead to some desperate regional banks offering incentives for depositor’s cash that would make the long-ago American “free toaster”seem ordinary.

China has a massive pork famine that has seen disease wipe out 40% per cent of its pig population in 2019. With China being the world leader in pork consumption these bank’s desperations have created some interesting incentives to attract depositors. The SCMP reports that new clients who deposited 10,000 yuan (US$1,430) or more in a three-month time deposit at the Linhai Rural Commercial Bank in Duqiao in Zhejiang province were then eligible to enter a lottery to win a portion of pork ranging from 500 grams (18 ounces) to several kilograms.Other rural commercial banks in northern China’s Hebei province and western China’s Guizhou province have also launched similar pork rewards programs. Dushan Rural Commercial Bank, located in the remote mountainous county in Guizhou, offered a coupon for 10 yuan (US$1.4) worth of pork for every 10,000 yuan of new deposits.

This solution has been touted as uniquely beneficial to these banks since,instead of offering higher rates which only accelerate the bank’s insolvency due to requiring higher payouts on deposits, the bank is instead making a one-time payment, and the unusual incentive is enough to garner substantial new deposits.

PBoC cuts in its key lending rates in August ’19 designed to stimulate a slowing economy have only exacerbated net interest margin pressures on these banks. With less income from returns on their loans and without the many funding options available to China’s much larger banks, these increasingly high-interest rates that China’s smaller banks have to offer in order to attract new cash deposits could further lead to their insolvency.

It’s been over four years since the last official Chinese benchmark rate cut. With America leading the way across the globe with rate cuts aplenty and China still having a base rate of far higher than the US rate of < 1.5%, it was only a matter of time for China to also drop rates.

With the new authority given to the PBoC, this key Loan Prime Rate (LPR) has become the new Benchmark Reference Rate to be used by banks for lending. This, like most recent decisions are designed to interject further liquidity in the form of debt once again into a still failing economy by lowering borrowing costs for small businesses. This rate will be now set monthly (20th of every month) and will be linked to the Medium-term Lending Facility rate. The current 1 year LPR stands at 4.15% after its latest cut on Nov 30 versus the Benchmark Rate of 4.35%. This number is sure to continue to shrink and can be considered a key indicator of Chinese frustration at retaining needed annual GDP growth since the result of this one move lowered the costs of the roughly 152 trillion yuan ($21.7 trillion) in yuan-denominated outstanding loans held by financial institutions (that are actually on the books) in a further hopeful attempt to again boost economic growth.

Just mere days after the 20 bps cut the PBoC further highlighted its desperate need for capital, announcing that it will be lowering the required reserve ratio (RRR) – or the amount of money banks are required to have on hand – by 50bps for commercial lenders. Currently, the required reserve ratio is 13% for large banks and 11% for small banks.The cut, which is the first since September, will bring the blended reserve ratio for Chinese banks to the lowest level since October 2007.  In doing so PBoC effectively released about 800 billion yuan ($115 billion) in instant liquidity from out of the already cash-strapped financial system.

All these adjustments by China and the PBoC do little to control or pay-off increasing debt and are designed to maintain the Chinese miracle of TVA style infrastructural improvements that has been the employment engine of its economic growth. China’s new development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), although a masterstroke in Eurasian commerce, also serves to continue the illusion.

As traditional monetary policy becomes ineffective to boost the economy, Chinese President Xi has installed twelve former executives at the state-run financial institutions across the country who will support the communist government’s ability to combat banking and debt difficulties, reported Taipei Times.

These appointments are in response to growth collapsing to a three-decade low in 2019. New manufacturing orders did increase but this was in large- and medium-sized enterprises. Small enterprises continued deeper into contraction and new non-manufacturing orders slowed, pushing employment further into quantified contraction.

An easier to understand recessionary metric, passenger car vehicle sales, fell yet again in December, plunging 3.6% to 2.17 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association. This marks the 18th drop in the past 19 months for the country.Sales fell 7.5% in 2019 and 6% in 2018. GM said that its sales were down 15% in Chinaand said that pressure into 2020 would likely continue.

Meanwhile, local Chinese manufacturers’ numbers are also down. BYD Co. posted an 11% drop in 2019 sales and SAIC Motor reported a “similar decline”.

Worse, exports to the United States were down 23% from the prior year.

Running from the Piper’s Call

But, it seems that China has no choice but to carry on with the façade of financed infrastructure projects as the only path to survival.  Said Victor Shih, an associate professor of political economy at the University of California in San Diego:

“Because it [infrastructure investment] already is a large contributor to growth, the slowing investment will substantially reduce growth rates. This is not what the leadership wants.”

Shih’s assertion seemed confirmed when last year, President Xi said Chinese banks would lend 380 billion yuan ($55.09 billion) to support Belt and Road cooperation, and Beijing would also inject 100 billion yuan into a Silk Road Fund. Some observers view the project as an instrument designed to help the Chinese economy, with state-owned companies in specific sectors expected to profit massively from its implementation.

But they still need funding and Chinese banks on their own volition may be reluctant to get involved when already having troubles of their own. Andrew Collier, managing director at Orient Capital Research, says

“The banks [may] remain leery of these projects because they doubt they will be profitable and they will be stuck with bad loan. In the end, we are going to see increasing defaults among smaller institutions, the collapse of private loans via wealth management products, and growing layoffs in areas of the country with less political power.”

Making matter worse, a study conducted by the Center for Global Development estimates that the initiative could increase debt sustainability-related banking problems in eight countries also involved in the BRI.

 “I still think that if growth falls below a certain level, the top leadership will order a stimulus, which involves acceleration in debt growth,” said Victor Shih. “That is the only viable tool in China’s arsenal if the economy slows too much.”

As noted in a recent article by University of Helsinki economics professor Tuomas Malinen,  China has stimulated its economy aggressively in Q1 and Q3 2019 but interestingly has not continued its past emphasis on infrastructure investments as in 2015/2016. Q3 of 2019 saw record-breaking stimulus programs, however, China concentrated instead on providing loose credit to enterprises through both conventional and “shadow” banks.

As Malinen forewarns:

“What is notable is that even with this record stimulus, China has kept its economy growing barely above the ‘official rate’. This tells us that the Chinese economy has reached or is very close to reaching the point of debt saturation, where households and corporations simply cannot absorb any more debt, and any new debt-issuance fails to stimulate the economy.”

Though a massive infrastructure-spending program could revive growth, the ability of China to issue fiscal stimulus is starting to be seriously limited. This effectively means that China is fiscally unable to underwrite massive infrastructure projects and so any new world-economy-saving stimulus from China, as in 2015/2016, will be practically impossible. New infrastructure initiatives- if recessionary metrics continue to deteriorate- could only be realized if those costs are directly monetized by the PBoC. This would be the weapon of last resort for China but , when considering a declining economy, may soon be inevitable.

As Goes China…?

China is just one more working example of the failure of the many globalist economies worldwide that are already similarly suffering in the grip of massive unsustainable- if not orchestrated- debt. Which country becomes the first to trigger the almost certainly pending domino effect of global economic collapse, is merely a rhetorical question at this point. As goes China…?

This week in an interview, former Reagan OMB director David Stockman highlighted the global economic link to China, saying,

The world economy would be not nearly as good as it looks had the Chinese not been borrowing like there’s no tomorrow and building regardless of whether its efficient or profitable.”

Stockman added, in summation,

“The whole global economy is really dependent on China piling even more debt onto the $40 trillion pile they already have.”

China economically continues to play the financial role of Kenneth Lay to its American mentor’s Bernie Madoff. But in the last few months China has shown, like so many other so-called first world economies, that it too is now all-in at the casino and using only borrowed money in a desperate effort to stay at the table…or starve.

Worldwide, many countries already burn in political turmoil of their own debt-ridden making as their own  primal forces of nature squeeze their populations with the resultant new mantra of ever increasing austerity while the IMF and World Bank waits in the wings, salivating to gobble-up the carcass.

Alas, when it comes to unsustainable national endemic debt one primal truth is now being heard clearly in China, as in other Central bank boardrooms across the globe, and the empty dinner plates of their public…

When the time comes to pay the piper, that debt willbe paid, no matter…but the Piper will take, in lieu of payment, pork, flesh, blood, or… dreams!

(Special thanks to Tracy Turner for providing additional research for this article.)

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A War on Iran Would be Different From Iraq, and Far, Far Worse

by ZOLTAN GROSSMAN


Since President Trump’s assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, widespread alarm has centered on whether he is again dragging us into another war like Iraq, to detract from his impeachment. The bad news is that the situation is even more potentially disastrous.

As a political-cultural geographer who has long studied the history of U.S. military interventions, I’m alarmed that his action could set into motion a regional conflagration, the violent break-up of Iran into ethnic enclaves, and a death toll that would make the Iraq War look like a warm-up exercise. The good news is that Americans can and have stood in the way of such a war, and we can do so again.

Most Americans concur with the country singer Alan Jackson, who sang in 2002, “I’m not a real political man… I’m not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran.” But Iran has always been more geographically pivotal than Iraq, in land area, population, and economics. It was one of the few countries that retained independence through the colonial era, and one of the only Third World societies to successfully reject Western corporate domination.

Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and seizure of hostages in the U.S. Embassy, Washington has sought to topple the Shi’a revolutionary government in Tehran. That moment was when the demonization of Muslims replaced anti-Communism as the main selling point for military interventions. U.S., Israeli, and Saudi threats have also encouraged a siege mentality among Iranian leaders, who repeatedly used them as a rationale for limiting internal dissent.

The U.S. has already been at war with Iran, during the Iran-Iraq War. In 1987-88, the U.S. Navy actively sided with Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, by escorting tankers carrying Iraqi oil, attacking Iranian boats and oil rigs, and “accidentally” shooting down an Iranian civilian jetliner. A war with Iran is not a hypothetical possibility, but a continuation of a long-simmering conflict.

Geopolitical Scenarios

Trump’s actions may lead to a full-blown World War I-style regional war in the Middle East, between two blocs that have emerged in the past decade. On one side are the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, most Gulf states (UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman), Syrian Sunni insurgents, and southern Yemen. On the other side are Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen.

Every major war has been preceded by early rumblings, such as in Morocco before World War I, or in Spain, Ethiopia, and China before World War II. The horrific civil wars in Syria and Yemen—as well as conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain—have partly served as proxy wars (with local origins) between these two emerging blocs. We may now be living in August 1914, when similar alliances propelled Europe to World War I, also sparked by an assassination.

The nightmare scenario of a regional war has been played out in Central Command strategic planning since the 1980s. The regional blocs have been oversimplified in the western media as merely a Shi’a vs. Sunni rivalry, but Iran has also supported Sunni forces, such as Hamas in Palestine. What is at stake in the Middle East is usually about oil and state power, not simply about religion.

Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, and other countries could play both sides, but Trump’s overreach makes it more difficult for them to back the Pentagon. Just at a time that Iraqis have protested Iranian influence, the assassination has undermined their protest movement and forced their government to choose sides, just as Trump’s action and his threats against Iran’s ancient cultural treasures has undercut Iranians rising up for human rights. The evacuation of Americans from Baghdad, and the Iraqi expulsion of U.S. troops, may have the same shattering effect on U.S. foreign policy as the tumultuous 1975 exit from Saigon.

A war against Iran, with the U.S. and Russian nuclear powers on opposite sides, could even lead to World War III. This may be what Stephen Bannon had in mind as the apocalyptic “Fourth Turning” point in U.S. history (after the Revolution, Civil War, and World War II). Although Trump may yet fall, he may bring down the world with him.

What’s Next?

The Houthi-claimed attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, direct exchange of missiles between Iranian forces in Syria and Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights, the U.S. bombing of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, and a short siege of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad have all taken place since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, but their origins are far more complex and local than the Washington-Tehran rivalry.

This conflict could quickly mushroom out of control, such as in confrontations over islands contested by Iran and the Gulf states, as well as U.S. military brinkmanship with Iranian vessels in the Straits of Hormuz, and with Russian and Iranian forces in Syria. Juan Cole has pointed out that even in the Iran-Iraq War, neither side attacked oil refineries because they knew they were vulnerable to a counterattack, but the assassination of an Iranian general is also unprecedented.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Mohammad Bin Salman have been itching for the U.S. to launch strikes against Iran for some time, ostensibly over the nuclear program, but actually to roll back the Tehran-led regional alliance. Trump’s tilt toward Russia has been welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia, as he tries to “decouple” Moscow from Tehran, in order to make Iran more vulnerable.

It’s possible that Trump is building up war fever as a set-up, in order that he can later reverse it and portray himself as a peace candidate. But if he does spark a war, he will use it to the hilt to question the loyalty of anyone who opposes it, and many congressional Democrats would probably rally around the flag.

Even if Iran reacts militarily to the assassination, Mayor DeBlasio’s hysterical warning of terrorist retaliation in New York is utter B.S. In four decades of conflict, Iran has never sponsored an attack within the U.S., even as the U.S. has attacked its allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and directly attacked its own forces in the Gulf. Only Sunni terrorists (also opposed by Iran) have attacked targets inside the U.S.

Ground War or Air War?

Unlike Iraq, the U.S. has limited options to invade Iran. One of the most important differences between Iran and Iraq is in their physical geography. Iraq has largely flat terrain, and so has been repeatedly invaded by foreign armies. Iran has natural defensive barriers in the Zagros and Elburz mountain ranges, and a political advantage in having complex neighbors that may not be willing to host invading forces.

Part of the neocon agenda for occupying Iraq was to have a staging area for regime change in Iran, but that is clearly no longer possible. Ground forces invading Iran from Kuwait would have to pass through a slice of Iraqi territory. An invasion from Afghanistan or Pakistan would be untenable because of on-going Islamist insurgencies (even though Iran has tended to back the U.S. against the Taliban and ISIS). The U.S. has not built bases to the north in Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan, but Trump’s recent tilt toward Turkey may be partly to put more pressure on Iran’s northwestern border.

Trump also is aware that U.S. civilians and even the military will be wary of another Middle East war. Like President Obama in 2013, Trump pulled the Pentagon back from strikes against Iran and Syria earlier in 2019, understanding (at least before his impeachment) that voters would not want another war. In a recent Pew Center poll, 62 percent of civilians and 64 percent of veterans say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. A recent Military Times poll shows that half of active-duty military personnel are unhappy with Trump, and Bernie Sanders actually leads in donations from them.

These limited options means that a U.S. ground invasion of Iran is very unlikely, so there would not be a repeat of the 2003 Iraq invasion, followed by an occupation of the entire country. At least in its initial stages, a war on Iran would be largely an air war of bombs, missiles, and drones, launched by the Navy and Air Force, with minimal “boots on the ground.”

That’s why it may be dangerous for the antiwar movement to warn that an Iran War would be a repeat of the Iraq War, with massive U.S. casualties and a legacy of combat injuries and PTSD. During the Vietnam War, facing huge protests because of bodybags coming home, President Nixon switched from a ground war to an air war, reducing U.S. troop casualties, but vastly increasing civilian casualties.

President Bush employed a similar strategy in the 1991 Gulf War, sanitizing air strikes on Iraq as a detached video game. Clinton’s 1999 air war on Serbia and Obama’s 2011 air war on Libya were the first time in human history that a one side in a major war had zero deaths by enemy fire. Trump has inherited these technological tactics of imperial impunity. If the antiwar movement mainly emphasizes the possibilities of U.S. military casualties, it only plays into the Pentagon’s hands and reinforces high-tech warfare that claims even more civilian lives.

Playing the Ethnic Card

But there is one scenario that I fear could lead to a ground invasion of Iran. Watch for the U.S. stoking ethnic divisions in the diverse country, where ethnic minorities form about 40 percent of the population. The most dangerous sign would be encouraging a rebellion in the Arab province of Khuzestan, called “Ahwaz” by its Arab inhabitants.

Back in 2005 I wrote about the possibility that the U.S. would use such an uprising as an excuse to occupy Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province (next to southern Iraq), with the “humanitarian” rationale of protecting its ethnic Arab population from “ethnic cleansing.” Like back then, Tehran’s repression of Ahwazi Arab protests and insurgent attacks have recently been increasing, and the possibility again exists of the U.S. exploiting their legitimate grievances for its own interests.

My color map makes it clear that the ethnic Ahwazi Arab province of Khuzestan, which Saddam Hussein invaded at the start of the Iran-Iraq War, contains Iran’s largest oil reserves (actually about 85% of Iran’s oil). In a 2008 New Yorker article, journalist Seymour Hersh exposed CIA assistance to Ahwazi Arab and other ethnic insurgents, later advocated by John Bolton, and a CIA analysis declassified in 2013 referred to Khuzestan as “Iran’s Achilles Tendon.”

The U.S. and Saudis may feel that in this “Khuzestan Gambit,” they could land Marines and paratroopers on western Khuzestan’s flat terrain, and hold its massive oil fields hostage for concessions from Tehran, without having to push through mountainous barriers and occupy the rest of Iran.

Like Saddam in 1980, they may be deluded that that Ahwazi Arabs will welcome them in Khuzestan, much as they thought that Iraqi Shi’as would welcome foreign occupiers in 2003. Backing an Arab secessionist movement could easily set into motion the violent “Balkanization” of Iran, which would make Yugoslavia pale in comparison, and even tear apart neighboring countries.

Even if ethnic grievances are legitimate, the timing of western interest in their grievances coincides too neatly with the larger desire to pressure and isolate Iran. Washington has a long history of championing the rights of ethnic minorities against its enemies (such as in Vietnam, Laos, Nicaragua, and Syria), then abandoning or selling out the minority when it is no longer strategically useful. We love ‘em, we use ‘em, and then we dump ‘em.

Fighting the Last War

Whether Trump carries out an air war or a ground war, attacking Iran would be far more disastrous than attacking Iraq. It would destroy any chance of political reforms in Iran or Iraq, and rally even Iranian and Iraqi reformers around their governments. Iranian military forces and Revolutionary Guards could counterattack, block oil lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, or melt into an insurgency far deeper and longer than in Iraq. Trump’s War would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it could stimulate the terrorism and nuclear weapons programs it claims to oppose.

The American public has developed a healthy “Iraq Syndrome” that abhors endless wars, much as the “Vietnam Syndrome” temporarily scaled back U.S. military interventions. Even though Iran is very different from Iraq, that strong public sentiment previously prevented both Obama and Trump from attacking Iran. If that sentiment can again be mobilized into an organized antiwar movement in the coming weeks, it can be even more effective.

But to be effective, the movement has to focus on the horrendous effects of such a war on Iranian civilians, not only on U.S. troops. And it should understand that this war may unfold in unpredictable ways that differ from previous invasions. Just as “generals always fight the last war,” antiwar movements will lose if they merely fight against the last war.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iran, IraqComments Off on A War on Iran Would be Different From Iraq, and Far, Far Worse

The Return of the Antiwar Movement: Memories and Intimations

by PAUL BUHLE

Photograph Source: Debra Sweet – CC BY 2.0

The turnout in Madison, Wisconsin, for an antiwar rally on Jan.4, was not bad, considering the students are out of town, many local Bernie devotees are busy canvassing in Iowa, and the weather was about as forbidding as usual in the Winter (it could always be worse). Somehow, the icy wind always sweeps off Lake Mendota toward us assembled at the Capitol.

The first group to sign the local Call happened, perhaps inevitably, to be the organizational grandchildren of the late Sam Marcy and his Workers World Party, today’s Party for Socialism and Liberation. Long ago, within Trotskyist circles, they were known as the “Lakes Tendency,” because of their unusual numbers in Buffalo and Milwaukee. That might explain a rebirth here in the inland seas, make that former wetlands raised up into lakes by dint of nineteenth century engineering. An affable young chap handed me their leaflet of the day, quipping, “We’re known as the Pisels.” A little humor is always appreciated.

Their signs were much as anticipated, likewise the chants, the word and curse “imperialism” hardly ever absent from either. But most everybody else with an interest in sign-carrying brought their own, hard-made or a few dozen of the same item offset, like the 8×5” sheet handed to me with the DSA messaging. Looking around, I saw a diorama of the Madison Left—the former leader of the state AFL, a city council member or two,  youngsters that I’d never seen before and oldsters that I had seen many times. Only days since New Years,  “Auld Lang Syne” went though my head as I took note of the absent-because-dead, generations of lefties and peaceniks since I first got to town in 1967. My favorite home-drawn sign, seen now many times over the years, was probably “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”—the tone of the legislature being dominated by hypocritical white evangelical  Republicans. Even better is the one I did not see at this demonstration, “What Would Bob La Follette Do?” because hardly anyone even now fails to recognize the visage and message of our great antiwarrior, 1917 style, sometime governor and Senator to boot.

A lively but erudite talk by the savant of DSA book discussions—we used to call him the atheist rabbi of the local Solidarity branch—pinpointed the issues as Trump’s attempt to change the headlines, and push the history of US manipulation of Iranian society out of sight. We Americans have our own war criminals, by gum, and how had they escaped without so much as a parking ticket? And so on. All good, delivered with the crispness of a historian who had written the saga of the once-famed socialist publisher, the Charles H. Kerr Company, in the days when American socialist propaganda reached millions.

Thirty years ago, every peace demonstration in Madison were likely to recall the old joke-localization: how many people did it take to put in a lightbulb? One to install, three to tell how it had been done in the Sixties. These days memories go back to the crowds of fifty thousand to a quarter million, walking around and around the Capitol, 2011-12. We had the numbers and stayed in formation until the Pols warned us to get off the streets and get ready to vote. That proved a disappointment all around.

Or is it ever a mistake to rally against overwhelming forces? I do not think so, and it is those Vietnam Days as well as so much since that make me think so. The Cataclysm has now descended upon all living things, in a hundred different ways. Bernie is with us to get the troops out of the Middle East entirely—although I do not depend on the fidelity of any other candidate to hold fast to the antiwar position.

In closing, looking for a laugh, I now recall that I forgot the funniest and most morbid of signs from around the country, evidently adapted from a Meme: An anguished Hillary Clinton saying, “THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MY WAR ON IRAN!”

And so we march.

Posted in Middle East, USA, IranComments Off on The Return of the Antiwar Movement: Memories and Intimations

Britain, France and Germany (E3) Trigger JCPOA Dispute Mechanism, a Hostile Action Against Iran

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research,

The nuclear deal dispute resolution mechanism and sanctions snapback provision can take effect if one JCPOA signatory claims another failed to meet its obligations under the deal — depending on the specific complaint, along with following required procedures. They’re complicated.

The so-called Working Group on the Implementation of Sanctions Lifting, coordinated by the EU’s high representative, has 30 days to resolve the issue in question.

If impasse follows, a Joint Commission comprised of eight representatives from the P5+1 countries, the EU and Iran is convened to try resolving what’s disputed.

If resolution fails, the foreign ministerial level of the parties would get involved to try breaking the impasse.

Its members, in turn, could refer the matter to a three-member Advisory Board, including an independent representative from a non-signatory nation.

If impasse persists, the issue would go back to the Joint Commission.

If it remains unresolved after the above steps, the party raising it may cease observing its JCPOA commitments, and/or refer the matter to the Security Council for resolution.

If things go this far, the SC has 30 days to resolve impasse among the P5+1 countries.

If agreement still isn’t reached, previously removed SC sanctions would automatically be reimposed, nations with veto power not permitted to use it for this issue.

If the above process sounds confusing, it surely is.

If impasse persists throughout the above process, Iran may formally withdraw from the JCPOA before SC sanctions are reimposed. Either way, things appear headed in this direction.

Further complicating things are parts of the JCPOA that are subject to interpretation.

Here’s where things stand now. On Tuesday, Britain, France and Germany (the E3) triggered the JCPOA dispute resolution mechanism, the first step toward reimposing SC sanctions, a joint statement saying:

“(W)e (are) left with no choice (sic), given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments under the JCPoA (sic) and to refer this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism…”

“We do this in good faith (sic) with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue (sic).”

The full statement contained disinformation and Big Lies. The Trump regime unlawfully withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018.

In response, Britain, France, Germany, and the EU breached their mandated obligations under the deal, falsely claiming otherwise.

Under JCPOA Articles 26 and 36, Iran may cease observing its voluntary commitments.

It may increase uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes beyond levels agreed on if other signatories fail to fulfill their obligations under the agreement.Do EU Nations Side with the US over Iran on the JCPOA?

That’s precisely what happened by Trump’s illegal withdrawal, along with breach of the agreement by Britain, France, Germany and the EU.

Iran remains in full compliance with its obligations as stipulated by JCPOA provisions.

The US is a lost cause. So are European signatories for siding with the Trump regime, breaching their mandated commitments while wrongfully blaming Iran for their own unlawful actions.

Yet their joint statement falsely said they “fully upheld (their) JCPOA commitments (sic).”

They did not! Further disinformation followed, saying:

“(W)e have worked tirelessly to support legitimate trade with Iran (sic).”

Polar opposite is true!

“The E3 have worked hard to address Iran’s concerns (sic).” They did not by breaching their obligations since May 2018, doing nothing constructive to change things.

“…Iran has continued to break key restrictions set out in the JCPoA (sic).” Iran is in full compliance with its provisions.

“Iran’s actions are inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement (sic)” — a willfully false statement.

“We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPoA.”

As E3 nations know, Iran acted legally under Articles 26 and 36, the US and Europe illegally.

On July 20, 2015, Security Council members unanimously adopted Res. 2231, making the JCPOA binding international law

In the US, it’s also binding constitutional law under its Supremacy Clause (Article VI, clause 2).

Iran, Russia and China remain in compliance with their JCPOA obligations. The US, E3, and EU breached theirs.

What took years of negotiations to conclude is close to officially unravelling because European signatories side with hostile US policies toward Iran.

If unlawful US sanctions are lifted and Europe comes into compliance with its mandated obligations, Iran will again adhere to its voluntary commitments.

As things stand now, Europe’s breach effectively killed the deal.

Iran has no legal obligation to voluntarily adhere to commitments that Western signatories violated, showing no intention of reversing policy.

Iranian officials stressed that if European signatories remain in noncompliance, the landmark JCPOA will no longer exist.

In response to the E3’s action on Tuesday, triggering the dispute resolution mechanism, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the following:

“(A)fter a year, the European side was not successful in fulfilling its obligations and this made Iran to reduce its JCPOA commitments in five interval steps taken under sections 26 and 36 of the nuclear deal,” adding:

“The Islamic Republic…is ready to preserve the nuclear dear and will support the related efforts done by other partners.”

“But Iran will give appropriate and serious response to any destructive measures” or other hostile US or E3 actions.

The Trump regime’s assassination of General Soleimani and failure of EU countries to fulfill their JCPOA obligations heightened regional tensions, increasing the chance for greater confrontation.

A Final Comment

A statement by Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the following:

“We reaffirm the stand that it is unacceptable to activate the mechanism under paragraph 36 of the JCPOA,” adding:

“We believe that the EU trio’s actions are inadmissible, as they contravene the goals and the sense of the JCPOA.”

Iran’s UN envoy Majid Takht-Ravanchi said his nation’s observance of JCPOA provisions was foiled by getting “almost nothing in return” from its Western signatories.

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted:

“For 20 months, the E3-following UK appeasement policy-has bowed to US diktat.”

“That hasn’t gotten it anywhere-and it never will.”

“E3 can save JCPOA but not by appeasing the bully & pressuring the complying party”

“Rather it should muster the courage to fulfill its own obligations.”

Nothing indicates what Europe hasn’t fulfilled since May 2018 is about to change.

Whatever happens ahead, the Islamic Republic of Iran no doubt will defend its sovereign rights while complying with its international law obligations — how it operated throughout the past 40 years.

Posted in France, Germany, Iran, UKComments Off on Britain, France and Germany (E3) Trigger JCPOA Dispute Mechanism, a Hostile Action Against Iran

America, An Empire on its Last Leg: To be Kicked Out from the Middle East?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

America’s hegemonic military agenda in the Middle East has reached a dangerous threshold.

The assassination of  IRGC General Soleimani ordered by the President of the United States on January 3, 2020 is tantamount to an Act of War against Iran.

President Donald Trump accused Soleimani  of “plotting imminent and sinister attacks”: “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war…. we caught him in the act and terminated him.”

US Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described it as a “decisive defensive action” while confirming that the operation ordered by POTUS had been carried out by the Pentagon. “The game has changed” said Esper.  

What the media has failed to acknowledge is General Soleimani’s central role in countering ISIS-Daesh and Al Qaeda terrorists in both Iraq and Syria. 

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC) under the helm of General Soleimani consisted in waging a real counter-terrorism campaign against ISIS-Daesh mercenaries, who from the outset were funded, trained and recruited by the US and its allies.

Trump’s action plan to “stop a war” consists in “protecting” America’s ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliated foot-soldiers.

US Extrajudicial Assassinations

While the assassination of General Soleimani constitutes a criminal act on the part of President Trump,  the US practice of extrajudicial assassinations of foreign politicians has a long history.

What distinguishes the assassination of General Soleimani from previous extrajudicial killings, is that the president of the US has formally announced that he gave the order.

This sets a dangerous precedent. It was “overt” rather than “covert”, i.e. a covert operation by the CIA or by a US sponsored Al Qaeda affiliate acting on behalf of Washington.

It is important to note that it was not Trump but in fact Obama who formalized (“legalized”) the practice of extra-judicial assassination (ordered by the president):

And if the president [Obama] can kill anyone, including US citizens, without judicial review, what power does he not have? Any but the most formal distinction between democracy and presidential dictatorship is swept away. (Joseph Kishore, wsws.org, October 31, 2012)

Trump’s Response: More Troops to the Middle East

While the Pentagon announced that it is “sending thousands of additional troops to the Middle East”, a unanimous vote in Iraq’s parliament was reached demanding the immediate withdrawal of all US forces.

The legislation requires the Iraqi government to “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason”.

Note: Death to  America: refers to the US Government, Not the American People

Backflash: A Digression. The Obama Air Raids (2014-2017)

Concurrently the Iraqi parliament suspended the corrupt 2014 agreement with the Obama administration which invited the US to lead a fake counterterrorism operation directed against the Islamic State (ISIS-Daesh), made up of mercenaries who are funded, trained and recruited by US-NATO, with the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The decision of the Iraqi parliament is in this regard fundamental. This operation was used by the Obama administration as a pretext to justify a third phase of the Iraq War (1991, 2003, 2014). Initiated in June 2014 by Obama under the disguise of a counterterrorism operation, a new phase of killing and destruction was launched.

Why was the US Air Force unable to wipe out the Islamic State which at the outset was largely equipped with conventional small arms not to mention state of the art Toyota pickup trucks?

F-15E Strike Eagle.jpg

From the very outset, Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama’s air campaign was NOT directed at ISIS.  The evidence confirms that the Islamic State was not the target. Quite the opposite. The air raids were intended to destroy the economic infrastructure of Iraq and Syria.

Look at the following image which describes the Islamic State convoy of pickup trucks entering Iraq fromn Syria and crossing a 200 km span of open desert which separates the two countries.

This convoy entered Iraq in June 2014.

What would have been required from a military standpoint to wipe out an ISIS convoy with no effective anti-aircraft capabilities?

Without an understanding of military issues, common sense prevails. 

If they had wanted to eliminate the Islamic State brigades, they could have “carpet” bombed their convoys of Toyota pickup trucks when they crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in June 2014. 

The  Syro-Arabian Desert is open territory (see map right). With state of the art jet fighter aircraft (F15, F22 Raptor, F16) it would have been  –from a military standpoint–  “a piece of cake”, a rapid and expedient surgical operation, which would have decimated the Islamic State convoys in a matter of hours.

But if that had happened, they would not have been able to implement their “Responsibility to Protect” (P2R) bombing campaign over a three year period (2014-2017).

Instead what we witnessed were drawn out relentless air raids and bombings which culminated with the so-called liberation of Mosul (February 2017) and Raqqa (October 2017) by the US led coalition.

And we were led to believe that the Islamic State had the upper hand and could not be defeated by a powerful US led military coalition of 19 countries.

The people of Iraq and Syria were the targets. Obama’s bombing raids were intent upon destroying the civilian infrastructure of Iraq and Syria.

ISIS-Daesh were never the target of US aggression. Quite the opposite. They were protected by the Western military alliance.

US Troop Withdrawal: Yankee Go Home (2020)

While a major US troop withdrawal is unlikely in the foreseeable future,  “America’s War on Terrorism” is in jeopardy. Nobody believes that America is going after the terrorists.

In Iraq and Syria, everybody knows that all Al Qaeda, ISIS-Daesh affiliated entities are supported by US-NATO.A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

The “Yankee Go Home” process has commenced.  The US is not only being ousted from Iraq and Syria, its strategic presence in the broader Middle East is also threatened. And these two processes are intimately related.

In turn, several of America’s former allies including Turkey, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Egypt have normalized their relations with Iran.

Trump’s Punitive Bombings. Will They be Carried Out?

In recent developments, Trump has warned that if Tehran responds to the assassination of General Soleimani, he will “target 52 Iranian sites” intimating that they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

Donald Trump wants to hit back. But he has a serious logistical problem on his hands of which he may not even be aware of.

Normally a punitive operation of this nature directed against Iran would be entrusted to USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters in the Middle East located at the Al Udeid Air Force base in Qatar.

“CENTCOM controls US forces based across the Middle East and some of Central Asia – in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s main headquarters are located in Tampa Florida but it runs its daily combat operations from Al-Udeid air base 

With 11,000 US military personnel, the al-Udeid Air Force base close to Doha is “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It was also involved in Syria.

But there is a problem: The forward base of USCENTCOM at the al-Udeid Air Force base is in Qatar. And since June 2017 Qatar has been “sleeping with the enemy”. Qatar has become a staunch ally of Iran.

What both the media, as well as foreign policy and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s Forward Base headquarters at the al-Udeid military base de facto “lies in enemy territory”And it would seem that POTUS is totally unaware of this situation.

Barely a few months ago, (October 2019), The Pentagon took the decision NOT to move USCENTCOM’s forward base at Al Udeid to another location in the Middle East.

“Qatar has always been an exceptional partner, and this base from which we are operating is a great base, and CENTCOM has no intention of moving anywhere,” said CENTCOM’s deputy commander, Chance Saltzman.

Sloppy intelligence, flawed military planning? Qatar is not an “exceptional partner”. Since June 2017 Qatar has become a de facto ally of Iran.

More recently, they have been discussing the establishment of Iran-Qatar bilateral military ties.

Having decided that Al Udeid (located in enemy territory) could not be moved to another location in the Middle East, the Pentagon then envisaged a scenario of moving Al Udeid air and space operations to South Carolina: “to 7,000 miles away in South Carolina”. It was a simulation. “The temporary switch” lasted only 24 hours.

Lessons Learnt: You cannot effectively “wage war” in the Middle East without a “Forward Base” in the Middle East. This “South Carolina Test” borders on ridicule.

Are US military planners desperate?

Since May 2017, following the break up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) the Pentagon has NOT BEEN ABLE TO MOVE USCENTCOM FORWARD BASE (including its air force striking capabilities) OUT OF ENEMY TERRITORY (QATAR) to a “friendly location” (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Israel) in the broader Middle East region.

Military analysts now admit that in the case of a conflict with Iran, Al-Udeid would be an immediate target. “The base’s defence system is said to be ill-equipped to defend itself against the low-flying cruise missiles and drones…”

Mr. President: How on earth can you launch your punitive bombings on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran? 

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

While the bombing and missile attacks can be dispatched from other US military bases in the Middle East (see diagram below) as well as from Diego Garcia, US aircraft carriers, submarines, etc, the regional USCENTCOM Forward Base at Al-Udeid, Qatar, plays a key role in the command structure in liaison with USCENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) at the Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Source: Statista 

While Qatar and the US have a longstanding bilateral cooperation agreement pertaining to the al-Udeid Air Force base, Qatar has military cooperation agreements not only with Iran but also with Hamas and Hezbollah, all of which are “enemies” of the USA:

The challenge for Washington is that while Qatar hosts al-Udeid, it’s also friendly with the Gaza-based Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), it is close to the Hezbollah’s leadership … [Qatar also] has cozy relations with Iran. Indeed, if Qatar didn’t host America’s largest air base in the Middle East, it would be under pressure from the U.S. to cease much of this behavior.”

And to top it off, Qatar is also friends with Russia. A military technical cooperation agreement pertaining  to air defense was signed with Moscow, immediately following Qatar’s rift with Saudi Arabia in June 2017.

Turkey’s Incirlik Air Force Base 

“A sleeping with the enemy situation” also prevails with regard to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Force base which was established in the 1950s by the US Air Force. Incirlik has played a strategic role in all US-NATO led operations in the Middle East.

With about five thousand airmen, the US Air Force is now hosted in a country (aka Turkey) which is an ally of both Russia and Iran. Turkey and Iran are neighbouring states with friendly relations. In contrast, US and Turkish supported rebels are fighting one another in Northern Syria.

In mid-December 2019, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu  dropped a bombshell, intimating  “that the United States could be barred from using two strategic air bases [Incirlik and Kurecik] in retaliation to possible US sanctions against his country” regarding Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system.

America’s Conventional Warfare Capabilities

For several reasons, US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened in part as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

America’s command capabilities have been weakened. Two of the region’s largest strategic Air Forces bases, namely Incirlik (Turkey) and Al-Udeid (Qatar) are no longer under the control of the Pentagon.

While war against Iran remains on the drawing board of the Pentagon, under present conditions, an all out Blitzkrieg (conventional theater war) involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility.

While the US does not have the ability to carry out such a project, various forms of “limited warfare” have been contemplated including targeted missile attacks, so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons), as well as acts of political destabilization and color revolutions (which are already ongoing) as well as economic sanctions, manipulations of financial markets and neoliberal macroeconomic reforms (imposed via the IMF and the World Bank(.

The Nuclear Option against Iran

And it is precisely because of US weaknesses in the realm of conventional warfare that a nuclear option could be envisaged.  Such an option would inevitably lead to escalation.

Ignorance and stupidity are factors in the decision making process. According to foreign policy analyst Edward Curtin “Crazy people do crazy things”. 

Who are the crazy people in key decision-making positions?

Trump foreign policy advisers: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Brian Hook, (Special Representative for Iran and Advisor to Pompeo), could “advise” President Trump to authorize  a “bloody nose operation” against Iran using tactical (B61 bunker buster) nuclear weapons, which the Pentagon has categorized as “harmless to civilians because the explosion is underground”.

The bloody nose operation” as designated by the Pentagon, conveys the idea of a military op (using a low yield “more usable” tactical nuclear weapon) which allegedly “creates minimum damage”. It’s a lie: the tactical nuclear weapon has an explosive capacity between one third and 12 times a Hiroshima bomb.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (July 2019):

Tensions between the United States and Iran are spiraling toward a military confrontation that carries a real possibility that the United States will use nuclear weapons. Iran’s assortment of asymmetrical capabilities—all constructed to be effective against the United States—nearly assures such a confrontation. The current US nuclear posture leaves the Trump administration at least open to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in conventional theaters. Some in the current administration may well think it to be in the best interest of the United States to seek a quick and decisive victory in the oil hub of the Persian Gulf—and to do so by using its nuclear arsenal.

We believe there is a heightened possibility of a US-Iran war triggering a US nuclear strike…

Of significance, the use of tactical nukes does not require the authorization of the Commander in Chief. That authorization pertains solely to so-called strategic nuclear weapons.

Despite the warnings of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, present circumstances do not favor the conduct of a  US “bloody nose” tactical nuclear weapons’ operation.

The US Air Force’s tactical nuclear weapons arsenal is stored and deployed in five non-nuclear European countries including Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey at military bases under national command.  

According to Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 2019 report), the US possesses an estimated 230 tactical nuclear weapons of which 180 are deployed in the five non-nuclear European countries. Some 50 B61 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads (gravity bombs) are stored and deployed at the Incirlik air force base which is under Turkey’s jurisdiction. (see table above)

Conclusion:

  • A US president committed to war crimes.
  • A failing  “War on Terrorism” narrative,
  • Weakened military command structures,
  • Failing alliances,
  • Sleeping with the enemy,
  • Unpredictable foreign policy analysts,
  • Deception and mistakes.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on America, An Empire on its Last Leg: To be Kicked Out from the Middle East?

Iran’s ‘Deep State’ Struggle Will Intensify After the UIA-752 Cover-Up Was Exposed

By Andrew Korybko

Global Research,

There’s little doubt that Iran’s “deep state” struggle will intensify after a senior IRGC commander from the country’s “principalist” faction took responsibility for his country accidentally shooting down UIA-752 and thus exposing the “reformist” government’s previous efforts to cover up what happened, especially since his press conference revealed that the authorities were made aware of this accident right after it occurred and that the military’s earlier request for a no-fly zone which could have prevented this tragedy was rejected.

The No-Fly Zone That Never Was

A senior IRGC commander from the country’s “principalist” faction took responsibility for his country accidentally shooting down UIA-752, which was a mea culpa moment for Alt-Media which had hitherto largely repeated Tehran’s previously vehement claims that any such accusation of its complicity in this tragedy is “big lie…(a) psychological operation…adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families”.

Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh was reported by RT to have “stated that the IRGC notified the authorities that it had likely hit the plane back right after the incident, yet this information was not disclosed to the public while the crash site was being investigated”, which is why he said that “neither IRGC nor the country’s military sought to hide the incident”. The “reformist” government, however, isn’t so innocent since it pushed the now totally debunked narrative that nothing of the sort transpired despite allegedly having been informed from the get-go about this accident. In fact, The Guardian reported on a twitter thread by Reza Khaasteh, a journalist with Iran Front Page news, who translated more of the commander’s comments during his press conference and shockingly revealed that he also said that “we had requested the establishment of a no-fly zone given the war situation. But it was not approved for certain considerations.” All of this deserves to be analyzed more in depth because it seems like the cover-up is much deeper than initially thought.

A Carefully Choreographed Stunt…

If Commander Hajizadeh’s claims are to be believed, and there’s no reason at this point to doubt them, then there’s a serious “deep state” struggle occurring in Iran at the moment which threatens the country’s stability at this very sensitive geopolitical time. In the author’s earlier piece titled “The US vs. Iran: Who Won & Who Lost?“, it was argued that Iran carefully choreographed its promised response to the US’ assassination of Maj. Gen. Soleimani, relying on the Iraqi Prime Minister’s own public acknowledgement that the Iranians informed him of their planned missile strike in advance, after which he in turn tipped off the US so that there wouldn’t be any casualties. Reuters later reported that Denmark, which had troops stationed at one of the attacked bases, was warned of what would happen a full six hours before it occurred, further adding credence to the author’s conclusion that Iran’s response was intended more for “face-saving” purposes at home and went to great lengths to ensure that the US wouldn’t militarily react. Commander Hajizadeh himself basically admitted this when he said that “We didn’t seek to kill. We sought to hit the enemy’s military machine.” Thus, there shouldn’t be any question that the attack itself was just an elaborate soft power stunt for mostly domestic political reasons since both the “reformist” and “principalist” factions didn’t want to risk provoking millions of patriots into the streets for protests had they not done something dramatic after Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination.

…Gone Wrong

That much appears to be clear for the aforementioned reasons, but what’s unknown is why the “reformist” government refused the “principalist” IRGC’s request to impose a no-fly zone which would have made this charade all the more “convincing”. It can’t be known for sure, but it might simply be the case that the “reformists” were so arrogant that the US wouldn’t militarily respond as a result of their tacitly coordinated action that they didn’t see the need to go that far and thus deprive the sanctions-beleaguered and cash-strapped state of valuable revenue from overflight taxes. If that’s the calculation that was made in ultimately deciding not to ground all flights over the country, then it would speak to just how economically desperate the country has become since the onset of the US’ unilateral sanctions regime and its threatened “secondary sanctions” against all violators. That, however, doesn’t explain why the IRGC would be at the ready to defend the country’s airspace per its duty if it was really convinced that no US counter-strike would be forthcoming and which supposedly contributed to its forces overreacting to the misidentification of an ascending civilian airliner as an incoming enemy missile. Considering that many flights were landing and taking off in the hours since Iran’s carefully choreographed stunt, as well as the fact that planes and missiles clearly give off different signatures to relevant military equipment, it’s all the more bewildering how this tragedy transpired.

Blood On Both Hands

Something clearly doesn’t add up. The “principalist” IRGC was obviously in on the “reformist” government’s game of indirectly coordinating a bloodless response to Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination, yet this knowledge was probably kept on a need-to-know basis and therefore only known by the highest echelons of that institution. The lower rank-and-file manning its defense systems likely didn’t know about this and thus sincerely expected an overwhelming US response, so much so that one of their operators anxiously overreacted ten seconds after their equipment mistakenly identified a civilian airliner as a cruise missile and thus shot the plane out of the sky. That could have predictably been avoided by simply imposing the no-fly zone and going along with the charade in order to make it even more “convincing”, which would also have prevented any such accident from occurring. After all, Commander Hajizadeh did indeed claim that a no-fly zone request was submitted but it was ultimately rejected by the government, so the question comes down to why that decision was made and who should be held responsible. That fateful choice led to the deaths of 176 innocent people, eventually exposed the “reformist” government’s cover-up thereof, and resulted in bringing shame to the IRGC, to say nothing of drawing so much attention to the carefully choreographed response that it’s entire purpose has been defeated. Both factions have blood on their hands, but they’ll likely fight among themselves over who is guiltier as part of an opportunistic power play to put an end to their “deep state” struggle once and for all.

Posted in IranComments Off on Iran’s ‘Deep State’ Struggle Will Intensify After the UIA-752 Cover-Up Was Exposed

British press runs fake news on General Soleimani assassination

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

The British press has a long history of making up stories about Iran

The UK appears to have developed a three-pronged strategy in relation to the fallout from the terrorist-style assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the US government.

At an official level, the UK has endorsed the assassination, as foremost demonstrated by the statements of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and foreign secretary, Dominic Raab.

At a more practical level, the UK is maneuvering to support the US in any potential military action against Iran. The Sun newspaper ran a well-sourced article yesterday claiming that a nuclear-powered British submarine is in “striking position” of Iran.

The third prong of the strategy consists of propaganda and the planting of fake stories in the press. The best example is the following headline in today’s The Times newspaper: “We will kill UK troops, warns Iran”.

The Times relies on a single alleged source for the article, namely an unnamed commander in Iran’s Quds force. This is almost impossible to believe as neither the Quds force, nor any other part of the Iranian military, are allowed to give unauthorised interviews or information to foreign media.

Indeed, the story has been strenuously denied, notably by the Iranian ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad.

Hamid Baeidinejad@baeidinejad

As the Ambassador and high representative of my country in the UK, I strongly condemn the vicious lie and provocative news by #Times today. I will ask the concerned UK authorities to take swift action to stop such malicious false propaganda in this very sensitive time.

View image on Twitter

2,67510:05 AM – Jan 6, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,439 people are talking about this

On closer inspection, this three-pronged UK strategy is better thought-out than it would initially appear, especially as the second and third components are mutually complementary.

The UK media make up lies about Iran’s purported intention to target UK troops, whereas in actual fact it is the UK military which is taking important steps to support its US ally in any potential military operation against Iran.

Posted in Campaigns, MULTIMEDIA, MediaComments Off on British press runs fake news on General Soleimani assassination

The China-US Phase One Trade Deal: Deep Seated Crisis Unresolved

By Stephen Lendman

Trade War

The phase one deal leaves major bilateral differences unresolved. Further talks could continue intermittently for years without resolution.

The US aims to weaken China economically, financially, industrially, technologically and militarily, part of its Indo/Pacific strategy to dominate the region.

China’s President Xi Jinping was noticeably absent from Wednesday’s signing ceremony, declining Trump’s invitation, Vice Premier Liu He representing Beijing in the White House East Room.

Beijing long ago agreed to much of what’s included in the phase one deal. Negotiations could have been concluded in 2018 if the Trump regime accepted then what’s agreed on now.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), details of the deal weren’t available in China for over eight hours after Wednesday’s signing ceremony.

According to the official People’s Daily broadsheet, the phase one deal “came 22 months after trade tensions flared between the world’s top two economies in March 2018,” adding:

Wednesday’s signing ceremony temporarily “reduce(s) uncertainties that have dampened business investment moods in both countries and beyond.”

Resolving the toughest issues lies ahead. China clearly won’t bend to US interests at the expense of its longterm development goals.

Under terms of the deal,

“China will increase imports of US agricultural products, and the US will gradually eliminate its tariffs on Chinese goods,” the People’s Daily explained, adding:

“The deal covers intellectual property rights, technology transfers, food and agricultural products, financial services, exchange rates and transparency.”

According to China Center for International Economic Exchanges vice president Wei Jianguo, both countries will likely “step on each other’s feet” ahead, but further dialogue will follow the agreement reached.

The official Xinhua news agency said the phase one deal is only “a good start” in a dispute that’s “longterm, complicated and arduous.”

Wednesday’s signing ceremony came at a time when the Trump regime is preparing new restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s access to US technology, along with pressuring Britain, Germany, and other European countries to distance themselves from the company.China-US “Phase One” Trade Deal: The Devil in the Unannounced Details and Implementation

According to academic Wang Heng, phase two negotiations “may involve more difficult domestic regulatory issues such as subsidies, state-owned enterprises, and internet supervision,” adding:

“Due to the complexity of the negotiations, it remains to be seen whether the two parties can reach a second-stage agreement.”

“If market competition rules such as subsidies are not agreed upon, economic and trade frictions may continue and affect the two countries and the international economy.”

Economist Shen Jianguang stressed that considerable obstacles lie ahead, future disputes likely, adding:

“Since the trade war started, the strategic mutual trust between China and the United States has retrogressed.”

“Frictions and disputes in other areas have also occurred frequently. We need to prepare comprehensively for the complexity of Sino-US relations and long-term battle.”

What both countries agreed to and what unfolds ahead may diverge greatly, depending on how major bilateral differences between both countries are handled and global economic conditions.

According to the US released phase one text, China agreed to buy increased amounts of US soybeans, oilseeds, beef, pork, grains, cotton, other agricultural products, as well as billions of dollars worth of US oil, gas, coal, nuclear power equipment, other manufactured goods, and services.

Under terms of the phase one deal, China will buy $32.9 billion worth of US manufactured goods this year and $44.8 billion in 2021; $12.5 billion in US agricultural goods this year and $19.5 billion in 2021; $18.5 billion in US energy products this year and $33.9 billion in 2021; and $12.8 billion in US services this year and $25.1 billion in 2021.

The total amount of Chinese purchases are to be at least $200 billion more from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021 than the amount of US goods bought in 2017.

Beijing earlier said its imports will depend on internal needs. Its ruling authorities also have commitments with other trading partner nations they likely wish to maintain.

The US and China recognized the importance of establishing a legal system to protect intellectual property.

Both countries agreed not to engage in competitive currency devaluation.

US-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch is skeptical about how Sino/US trade will play out ahead, tweeting:

“Trump believes his phase one #China deal will yield great benefits for US farmers, producers and other exporters. But his deal may not amount to more than a hill of soybeans.”

What’s officially called “fully enforceable” may not turn out as expected.

The US and China are rivals, not partners. Growing prominence of other nations on the world stage conflicts with US geopolitical aims.

Its rage to dominate other nations, fueling distrust in Beijing and elsewhere, may be the greatest obstacle in the way of resolving major differences ahead.

Despite agreement on a phase one deal, major irreconcilable differences between both countries may remain unresolvable no matter how many more rounds of talks are held.

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on The China-US Phase One Trade Deal: Deep Seated Crisis Unresolved

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