Ukraine and the grand chessboard

Ukraine and the grand chessboard

By Pepe Escobar
THE ROVING EYE
Asia Times
April 17, 2014

The US State Department, via spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, said that reports of CIA Director John Brennan telling regime changers in Kiev to “conduct tactical operations” – or an “anti-terrorist” offensive – in eastern Ukraine are “completely false”. This means Brennan did issue his marching orders. And by now the “anti-terrorist” campaign – with its nice little Dubya rhetorical touch – has degenerated into farce.

Now couple that with NATO secretary general, Danish retriever Anders Fogh Rasmussen, yapping about the strengthening of military footprint along NATO’s eastern border: “We will have more planes in the air, mores ships on the water and more readiness on the land.”

Welcome to the Two Stooges doctrine of post-modern warfare.

Pay up or freeze to death
Ukraine is for all practical purposes broke. The Kremlin’s consistent position for the past three months has been to encourage the European Union to find a solution to Ukraine’s dire economic mess. Brussels did nothing. It was betting on regime change to the benefit of Germany’s heavyweight puppet Vladimir Klitschko, aka Klitsch The Boxer.

Regime change did happen, but orchestrated by the Khaganate of Nulands – a neo-con cell of the State Department and its assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nulands. And now the presidential option is between – what else – two US puppets, choco-billionaire Petro Poroshenko and “Saint Yulia” Timoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, ex-convict and prospective president. The EU is left to pick up the (unpayable) bill. Enter the International Monetary Fund – via a nasty, upcoming “structural adjustment” that will send Ukrainians to a hellhole even grimmer than the one they are already familiar with.

Once again, for all the hysteria propagated by the US Ministry of Truth and its franchises across the Western corporate media, the Kremlin does not need to “invade” anything. If Gazprom does not get paid all it needs to do is to shut down the Ukrainian stretch of Pipelineistan. Kiev will then have no option but to use part of the gas supply destined for some EU countries so Ukrainians won’t run out of fuel to keep themselves and the country’s industries alive. And the EU – whose “energy policy” overall is already a joke – will find itself with yet another self-inflicted problem.

The EU will be mired in a perennial lose-lose situation if Brussels does not talk seriously with Moscow. There’s only one explanation for the refusal: hardcore Washington pressure, mounted via the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Again, to counterpunch the current hysteria – the EU remains Gazprom’s top client, with 61% of its overall exports. It’s a complex relationship based on interdependence. The capitalization of Nord Stream, Blue Stream and the to-be-completed South Stream includes German, Dutch, French and Italian companies.

So yes, Gazprom does need the EU market. But up to a point, considering the mega-deal of Siberian gas delivery to China which most probably will be signed next month in Beijing when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits President Xi Jinping.

The crucial spanner in the works
Last month, while the tortuous Ukraine sideshow was in progress, President Xi was in Europe clinching deals and promoting yet another branch of the New Silk Road all the way to Germany.

In a sane, non-Hobbesian environment, a neutral Ukraine would only have to gain by positioning itself as a privileged crossroads between the EU and the proposed Eurasian Union – as well as becoming a key node of the Chinese New Silk Road offensive. Instead, the Kiev regime changers are betting on acceptance into the EU (it simply won’t happen) and becoming a NATO forward base (the key Pentagon aim).

As for the possibility of a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok – which both Moscow and Beijing are aiming at, and would be also a boon for the EU – the Ukraine disaster is a real spanner in the works.

And a spanner in the works that, crucially, suits only one player: the US government.

The Obama administration may – and “may” is the operative word here – have realized the US government has lost the battle to control Pipelineistan from Asia to Europe, despite all the efforts of the Dick Cheney regime. What energy experts call the Asian Energy Security Grid is progressively evolving – as well as its myriad links to Europe.

So what’s left for the Obama administration is this spanner in the works – still trying to scotch the full economic integration of Eurasia.

The Obama administration is predictably obsessed with the EU’s increasing dependency on Russian gas. Thus its grandiose plan to position US shale gas for the EU as an alternative to Gazprom. Even assuming this might happen, it would take at least a decade – with no guarantee of success. In fact, the real alternative would be Iranian gas – after a comprehensive nuclear deal and the end of Western sanctions (the whole package, not surprisingly, being sabotaged en masse by various Beltway factions.)

Just to start with, the US cannot export shale gas to countries with which it has not signed a free trade agreement. That’s a “problem” which might be solved to a great extent by the secretly negotiated Trans-Atlantic Partnership between Washington and Brussels (see Breaking bad in southern NATOstan, Asia Times Online, April 15, 2014.)

In parallel, the Obama administration keeps applying instances of “divide and rule” to scare minor players, as in spinning to the max the specter of an evil, militaristic China to reinforce the still crawling “pivoting to Asia”. The whole game harks back to what Dr Zbig Brzezinski conceptualized way back in his 1997 opus The Grand Chessboard – and fine-tuned for his disciple Obama: the US ruling over Eurasia.

Still the Kremlin won’t be dragged into a military quagmire. It’s fair to argue Putin has identified the Big Picture in the whole chessboard, which spells out an increasing Russia-China strategic partnership as crucial as an energy-manufacturing synergy with Europe; and most of all the titanic fear of US financial elites of the inevitable, ongoing process centered on the BRICS-conducted (and spreading to key Group of 20 members) drive to bypass the petrodollar.

Ultimately, this all spells out the progressive demise of the petrodollar in parallel to the ascent of a basket to currencies as the reserve currency in the international system. The BRICS are already at work on their alternative to the IMF and the World Bank, investing in a currency reserve pool and the BRICS development bank. While a tentative new world order slouches towards all points Global South to be born, Robocop NATO dreams of war.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-170414.html

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GEAB N°84: Europe dragged into a division of the world between debtors and creditors – the United States’ desperate solutions for not sinking alone

GEAB N°84: Europe dragged into a division of the world between debtors and creditors – the United States’ desperate solutions for not sinking alone

GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin
April 17, 2014

In the present confrontation between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian crisis, the image of the Cold War inevitably comes to mind and the media are obviously fond of it. However, contrary to what it gives us to understand, it’s not Russia that seeks the return of an iron curtain but really the US. An iron curtain separating the old powers and emerging nations; the world before and the world afterwards; debtors and creditors. And this in the crazy hope of preserving the American way of life and the US’ influence over “its” camp in the absence of being able to impose it on the whole world. In other words, go down with as many companions as possible to give the impression of not sinking.

For the US, these are the current stakes in fact: drag along the whole Western camp with them to be able to continue dominating and trading with enough countries. So, we are witnessing a formidable operation of turning round opinion and leaders in Europe to ensure docile and understanding rulers vis-à-vis the American boss, supported by a blitzkrieg to link them permanently with the TTIP and to cut them off from what could be their lifeline, namely the BRICS, their huge markets, their vibrant future, their link with developing countries, etc. We are analyzing all these aspects in this GEAB issue, as well as the subtle use of the fear of deflation to convince Europeans to adopt US methods.

In the light of the extreme danger of these methods used by the US, it goes without saying that leaving the US ship wouldn’t be an act of betrayal by Europe, but really a major step forward for the world as we have already extensively analyzed in previous GEAB issues (1).

Unfortunately, the most reasonable European leaders are completely paralyzed and the best strategy that they are still capable of currently putting into effect, in the best case scenario, seems to be simply to delay (2), certainly useful and welcome but hardly sufficient…

Layout of the full article:
1. LOWER THE MASKS
2. QUICK A TTIP
3. AN ECONOMIC ABERRATION
4. INSTIL THE FEAR OF DEFLATION IN EUROPE, THE SECOND US WEAPON
5. DEBTORS VERSUS CREDITORS, THE WORLD CUT IN TWO

This public announcement contains excerpt from sections 1 and 2.

 

LOWER THE MASKS

With the internet and “leak” type issues, keeping a secret has become difficult for secret agents and countries with dirty hands. Besides Snowden’s or WikiLeaks disclosures, we have further learned recently that the US was behind a social network in Cuba targeting the destabilization of the government in power (3).

We have been able to watch this video opportunely leaked on YouTube (4) showing the Americans at work behind the coup d’état in the Ukraine. Or again, it would seem that they are not innocent in Erdoğan’s current destabilization in Turkey (5), a country whose situation we will go into in more detail in the next GEAB issue (6)…

The masks are falling… certainly on the evidence, but that nobody can ignore.

But the United States is no longer satisfied with developing countries or banana republics… In Europe, they are also managing to turn round the leaders one after the other, so that they obediently follow American interests. It’s no longer “what’s good for General Motors is good for America” as Charles Wilson (former GM CEO) said in 1953, but “what’s good for the US is good for Europe”. It already has Cameron, Rajoy, Barroso and Ashton’s support… It has succeeded in getting Donald Tusk’s Poland’s whilst he was strongly resistant at the beginning of his term of office (7), Italy’s thanks to Renzi’s opportunist coup d’état (8), and France’s Hollande/Valls thanks in particular to a ministerial reshuffle and a Prime Minister little suspected of anti-Americanism. Unlike the beginning of his term of office when he played the independence card on Mali or on other fronts, François Hollande seems to be completely submissive to the United States. What pressure has been put on him? As for Germany, it’s still resisting somewhat but for how long (9)? We will expand on these remarks in the Telescope.

Europe is thus dragged towards US interests that aren’t its own, neither in terms of politics, geopolitics, or trade as we will see. Whilst the BRICS have chosen an opposite path and are seeking to withdraw from the henceforth profoundly negative influence of the US at any price, Europe is now being taken for a ride. Evidenced, for example, by Belgium’s purchase of $130 billion worth of US Treasuries in three months from October 2013 to January 2040 (latest figures available (10)), being at an annual rate greater than its GDP (11)… It’s certainly not Belgium itself which is responsible for this aberration, but Brussels of course, that’s to say the EU as a little US soldier.

Politically Europe is stifled by the US which can take heart in the absence of any leadership. And the way to permanently seal this American stranglehold over Europe is called the TTIP…

 

QUICK A TTIP

We have already amply documented it: unlike the triumphant discussions of “recovery” based on rising real estate prices and the stock exchange which is at its highest, the real US economy is in dire straits. Food shortages are higher than in Greece.

 

On the right, percentage of the population which can't afford food, by country (on the left, change 2007-2012). Source : Bloomberg / OECD.

On the right, percentage of the population which can’t afford food, by country (on the left, change 2007-2012). Source : Bloomberg / OECD.

Shops, even good value ones, are closing through lack of customers (12). Demand for real estate loans are at their lowest, which bodes ill for what follows next and presages an imminent reversal, as we anticipated in the GEAB n°81.

[...]

But as we have already said, this isn’t the most important thing. The TTIP’s major stake is the Dollar’ s preservation in trade and keeping Europe in the US’ lap in order to avoid the constitution of a Euro-BRICS bloc able to counterbalance the US.

Thus, the Ukrainian crisis, under the pretext of Russian aggression and gas supply, is a good way, in the panic, of imposing the US and the lobbies’ agenda in the face of European leaders who are too weak to act. What wasn’t expected is that the lobbies’ interests are not necessarily going in the direction one thinks…

[...]

———-
Notes :

1 And as China, in particular, asks Europe to do via its swap agreements, for instance.

2 Waiting especially for European elections.

3 Source : The Guardian, 03/04/2014.

4 Source : Reuters, 06/02/2014.

5 Following the US’ use of social networks in Cuba as previously mentioned, it’s not surprising that Erdoğan decided to cut off Twitter in Turkey. Moreover, Fethullah Gülen, founder of the Gülen movement opposed to the Erdoğan government, lives in… the US. Sources : Aljazeera (13/03/2014), Wikipédia.

6 A small digression: our team can’t help thinking that if de Gaulle, so admired in France, were in power today, he himself would also be considered as an autocrat to overthrow, like Erdoğan or Putin… Effective leadership in the interest of one’s country now seems to be considered incompatible with democracy in its current form, which must be weak…

7 Source : Wikipédia. Donald Tusk is now a fervent shale gas supporter in Poland and rising up against Russia. Sources : Wall Street Journal (11/03/2014), DnaIndia (05/04/2014).

8 Read also RT, 01/04/2014.

9 Source : EUObserver, 10/04/2014.

10 Source : US Treasury.

11 With its trade surplus of about 1% of GDP it will struggle to explain this purchasing power all by itself…

12 See, for example ABCNews, 10/04/2014.

http://www.leap2020.eu/GEAB-N-84-is-available-Europe-dragged-into-a-division-of-the-world-between-debtors-and-creditors-the-United-States_a16039.html

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GEAB N°83: Global systemic crisis-escalation in the US reaction for survival – trigger a cold war to make it easier to annex Europe

GEAB N°83:  Global systemic crisis-escalation in the US reaction for survival – trigger a cold war to make it easier to annex Europe

GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin
March 16, 2014

BUILD A TRAP TO DIVERT EUROPE AWAY FROM IT’S OWN DESTINY

When, in November 2013, Russia asked the EU for tripartite negotiations on the Ukraine’s free trade agreements with its two neighbours in order to find areas of common ground for all parties directly concerned (1), what was at stake was stability, integrity and independence for the Ukraine and that it should remain as the natural link between Europe and Russia.

But neither Baroness Ashton, nor Mr. O’Sullivan (2), in charge of the European External Action Service, nor Mr. Fule who, at the head of the Directorate General for Enlargement, spends his time trying to integrate everything that moves in Eastern Europe (3), didn’t want that. On the contrary, they have forced the Ukraine to “choose sides” (4), thus creating the conditions subsequent to the inevitable events which we know: the Ukraine has in fact chosen… and the country, logically, has entered a dramatic and bloody process of decision which is only just begun. Baroness Ashton and Mr. O’Sullivan have literally set a trap for the Ukraine… and Europe.

Five months later and the damage is huge: over 100 dead (5), the Ukraine is left with an unelected government brought to power by extreme right-wing factions (6), relations between the EU and Russia are broken, the Ukraine and Russia are on the verge of a war that isn’t far from being a war between Europe and Russia (7), the Russian military have retaken control of their Crimean assets, the US fleet is cruising in the Black Sea waters (8), the US army has set itself up in Europe again (in Poland, Lithuania and Romania (9)), the media, excited by blood, are a pure propaganda machine determined to push politicians and citizens into war, the EU-Ukraine free trade Treaty is about to be signed, against Russian interests, by Washington and a non-elected Ukrainian government (10) (if the same method is used for the TTIP, Washington and Baroness Ashton will have signed it in April at the latest), the West is preparing to deny the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum which will aggravate the crisis and continue to ask questions on the West’s democratic struggle… (11)

From a European point of view, what a significant political and diplomatic failure! Working to rebuild the Iron Curtain in 2014 and isolate Europe from all the current dynamics in these famous emerging countries to which Russia binds us, just as the Ukraine binds us to Russia (12).

 

MASS ATTACKS ON EUROPE

Unfortunately, beyond a failure, this should also be seen as the result of an all-out attack on the European construction project, a project whose two main goals since the beginning have been peace through cooperation, the sharing of interests and the continent’s independence by the force which, de facto, brought about its union.

The current attack is, in fact, along the lines of that conducted against the Euro in 2010, in the knowledge that in breaking the common currency and taking into account the technical impossibility of returning to national currencies, Europe would find itself de facto integrated in the Dollar zone. This time, Europe resisted and saved its currency… at the price of enormous weakness, especially political.

The TTIP and the attempts to make us urgently sign this obscure Treaty that no one wants, seemed to have the particular objective of putting politicians under economic supervision (even more so than Europe under US supervision). Whatever the case, it would actually create a huge EU-US free trade zone using Dollars and formally annexing Europe to the Dollar zone. Here again, the tools of European independence are targeted, in this particular case its judicial arsenal for trade protection, guaranteeing Europeans’ economic interest, qualitative competitiveness and health. And the methods to obtain the signature of this treaty at any price are, on their own, proof of deep dishonesty.

 

CAUSE A NEW IRON CURTAIN TO FALL ON EUROPE

And we have seen nothing of what Washington and Brussels would be capable of in this area. The Ukrainian crisis was probably triggered for no other reason than, ultimately, to force us to buy US shale gas (13), to sign the TTIP (without which the former can’t be sold in Europe (14)) and to justify a renewed increase of American-NATO military budgets (15) thanks to the restarting of a Cold War between the West and emerging nations (except for this detail that it’s the West which will be on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain this time).

[...]

———-
Notes :

1 Source: Le Monde, 05/03/2014.

2 Issue number three of the European External Action Service. A few words are necessary on his path to which investigative journalists should pay more attention. Mr. David O’Sullivan appeared on the radar of our European path at the beginning of the 90s, when he was a unit head at the Directorate General for Education running the TEMPUS programme, a programme which had been singled out by the European Court of Auditors following an open letter from Franck Biancheri denouncing embezzlement in this programme. Given this beginning, Mr. O’Sullivan’s career shouldn’t have gone much further. But, in the mid-90s, when we came on board the transatlantic TIESweb project in partnership with the European Commission and the White House, a diplomat from the US Embassy in Brussels one day recommended us, around a casual conversation, to follow the career of a certain David O’Sullivan… “who will go far”. Surprise in our ranks, and remarks on the individual’s unsavoury character…but a small smile in the direction of the good and the great. Several years later, under the Prodi commission beginning right at the end of the 90s, DavidO’Sullivan became… Secretary-General of the European Commission, the most powerful position in the whole of the European structure, no less! Under his rule and with his direct personal intervention, the project of institutional reform initiated as a logical follow-on to the resignation of the Santer Commission, which clearly revealed the inadequacy of the way in which Europe worked post the Maastricht Treaty and had brought together a group of officials on Commissioner Prodi’ s instructions to form a “task force on European governance reform” whose work had resulted in a White Paper of the same name, had been given a decent burial (editorial work retrieved, innovative ideas suppressed, publication in August during journalists’ holidays). However, this reform project was a great moment of hope for European democratization, a hope which had irreparably disappointed. Mr. O’Sullivan is now to be found at the External Action Service as part of an “unbalancing” of the head of the EEAS in favour of Anglo-Saxons: in effect, Baroness Ashton’s nomination had been compensated by that of the Frenchman, Pierrre Vimont as number two (Executive Secretary General)… but the former, to get the upper hand, had created a third post (which doesn’t exist in any European institution: Administrative General Director) to bring in O’Sullivan. This is how the latter found himself at Baroness Ashton’s side in 2013 on the negotiations over the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement…with the results that we can see. But this isn’t all: he is set to become the EU Ambassador to Washington, in order that his partnership with Ashton controls the whole signature chain of the famous TTIP. It’s simple to follow the bad news for Europe, just follow Mr.O’Sullivan’s career path.

3 Did you know that ? Georgia as well. Source : EuropeanVoice, 29/11/2013.

4 Source : Le Monde, 05/03/2014

5 Source : KyivPost, 11/03/2014.

6 Source : CNN, 06/11/2014.

7 Especially since the EU is doing everything to annex the Ukraine by accelerating the signing of the Association Agreement – which must wait the election of a proper government but which ultimately will be signed in the meantime by the nonelected government in place (source: Radio Ukraine, 26/02/2014) because the next legitimate government could well be pro-Russian again; but also in EU integration – one agreement can hide another and negotiations with Georgia especially are going in this direction, so why not the Ukraine (source : Messenger, 06/03/2014).

8 … and the U.S. Army has shown up again in Europe after so many efforts to dislodge it. Source : Chicago Tribune, 12/02/2014.

9 Source : Ouest-France, 12/03/2014.

10 This article of the 12/03/2014 in EUBusiness has the merit of being clear: “the new Ukrainian leadership will probably sign the much awaited political agreement with the EU next week, announced the interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk following a conversation with the White House”… The EU is there for the taking, we feared it was being taken by the extreme right, its worse: it’s in the process of being taken by a foreign power. But the most amazing is that of 28 governments, of which most (but not all) are democratic governments accountable to their people, not one will repeat it. A US trap, EU treachery… and the European political elite who go to bed… just like the French elite went to bed in 1940. Don’t even mention the Nationalists of all colours who infest national political life short of discussions on the sovereignty of nations… and don’t have the slightest criticism either to make on the hijacking of the European agenda by the US (even if it was for the best, but it’s obviously for the worse). But if we look at the Western-Ukrainian sympathies, they must have the hope of taking back power (a small provincial governorate here and there) in the next configuration.

11 The Soviet bloc collapsed without bloodshed thanks to Mikael Gorbachev; it’s a remarkable fact in history that an empire withdrew quietly. The US doesn’t give the impression of falling into line with the same dignity unfortunately. After the financial approach (after the colossal bailout in 2009, the famous $700 billion TARP, which turned the banking crisis into a country crisis, then the US Fed’s quantitative easing in 2010 and 2012 especially, which have driven the whole planet into widespread indebtedness), the US has raised the tone by attacking Europe (with the collaboration of certain European elite) and attempting a takeover of the continent.

12 In fact the Ukraine is a strategic link between Europe and Russia and, therefore, between Europe and the emerging countries. LEAP knows how important it was to bring Europe closer to the BRICS, which is even why we launched the Euro-BRICS process in 2009, aimed at bringing Europe to its true destiny given its nature: its contribution to the emergence of a multipolar world. If Europe fails to play this role, there is a risk of polarization in the world, between the West and the emerging nations. But polarization needs walls… which is well and truly being rebuilt for us… in the same place as 25 years ago. Undoubtedly the Western elite haven’t much imagination… or they haven’t learnt much from their history books. If they had, they would have known that wars are rarely cold and that it’s better not to begin to play this kind of game.

13 Source : The Guardian, 05/03/2014.

14 Shale gas is an unconventional gas, that’s to say that its price has escaped indexation to that of oil, which is a competitive advantage of course, an advantage not given to it since it can’t be exported. This is how the considerable investment made by the US to become a gas exporting power will only be crowned with success thanks to the signature of these famous transatlantic and trans-pacific free-trade Treaties for which Washington is literally prepared to kill. Source : Office of Fossil Energy.

15 The huge cuts imposed on the US military budget by Congress in recent days and the ensuing panic in the Pentagon’s corridors will not have escaped our readers’ attention. Source: USNews, 24/02/2014.

http://www.leap2020.eu/GEAB-N-83-is-available-Global-systemic-crisis-escalation-in-the-US-reaction-for-survival-trigger-a-cold-war-to-make-it_a15801.html

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Havoc in the Kingdom: Survival Is the Saudi Key Word

Havoc in the Kingdom:  Survival Is the Saudi Key Word

by NICOLA NASSER
CounterPunch
April 18-20, 2014

Survival is the key word to understand the Saudi dynasty’s latest external and internal policies. These are designed to pre-empt change but paradoxically they are creating more enemies in a changing world order marked by turbulent regional geopolitics and growing internal demands for change.

The seventy-year old strategic oil for security US-Saudi alliance seemed about to crack on its 69th anniversary ahead of the summit meeting of US President Barak Obama and king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in March.

With the US now committed to pivoting east and possibly on track to become an oil exporter by 2017, American and Saudi policies are no longer identical.

Former US President George W. Bush’s democracy campaign, which Saudi opposed, alerted its rulers to be on guard. The Arab popular protests since 2011 pushed them into leading a regional defensive counterrevolution and ever since the gap in bilateral relations has been widening.

The Saudis could not trust the US’ “regime change” strategy in the region, which depends on the Muslim Brotherhood International (MBI) as an instrument of change, sponsored by a regional rival like Turkey and a co-member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), like Qatar, which has been for long contesting the Saudi leadership of the GCC, the Saudi leading role in Arab politics and the Saudi political representation of Sunni Muslims.

This trilateral alliance of Qatar, Turkey and the MBI would develop into a real threat to Saudi’s survival if it was allowed to deliver change in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the region. It might quickly leave Saudi Arabia as the next target for “change.”

The US pillar of Saudi security now seems to be in doubt as the United States stands unable to meet Saudi expectations on almost all the most critical issues in the Middle East, from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Saudi-Iran conflict and the ongoing bloody conflict in Syria, let alone the conflict with the MBI, especially in Egypt.

Within this context, using the MBI as an instrument for “regime change” in the region has created a Saudi MBI phobia. Change is overdue in the kingdom, but, after decades of intensive Islamic education, change could only come camouflaged in Islamist form.

“It might seem ironic for a Wahhabi theocracy to oppose so forcefully a party that mixes religion with politics. But it is precisely because the monarchy bases its legitimacy on Islam that it fears Brotherhood rivalry,” journalist Roula Khalaf wrote in the Financial Times in March.

Obama doesn’t seem capable of mending the bilateral fences. His refusal to fight Saudi regional wars reminds them that he is the same man who as a state senator back in 2002 stated that:

“Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East – the Saudis and the Egyptians – stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies.”

However, as demonstrated by Obama’s visit to the kingdom on March 28, the bilateral differences will remain tactical, while the strategic alliance will hold until the kingdom finds a credible alternative to its American security guarantor, although this seems an unrealistic development in the foreseen future.

Regional Shifts

Regionally, the kingdom is not faring better. The US-promoted and Saudi–advocated anti-Iran “front” of regional “moderates,” with Israel as an undercover partner, seems now a forgone endeavor.

The Saudi call for converting the GCC “council” into a “union” is now dead.

Oman’s public threat to withdraw from the GCC should it transform into a union and the Saudi current rift with Qatar threaten the GCC’s very existence.

Saudi invitation to Jordan and Morocco to join the GCC was unwelcome by other GCC members and by Morocco.

In Bahrain, the kingdom has intervened militarily to squash a three-year old ongoing democratic uprising.

The latest Kuwait-hosted Arab summit meeting did not see eye to eye with Saudi on Syria.

Forming a Lebanese government without Hezbullah and its pro-Syria coalition has failed.

Egypt’s calls for a “political solution” in Syria and its refusal to give the Syrian Arab League seat to the opposition could not be interpreted as a friendly position from a country that Saudi Arabia has bailed out, in exchange for its transition away from a MBI rule.

Turkey is at odds with the Egyptian-Saudi newly found partnership.

Iraq is accusing the kingdom of waging a “war” against it, with Saudi now the only country to not have a permanent ambassador to Iraq.

Meanwhile, the kingdom continues to deal with Iran as an “existential threat.”

In the background, the Israeli threat could never be overlooked.

Self-confidence Challenged

Using petrodollars as soft power to gain influence abroad and secure loyalty internally, the kingdom seems self-confident enough, or overconfident, to feel secured on its own.

Speaking at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on March 11, Prince Turki al–Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies in Riyadh and former Saudi Ambassador to the US, said:

“Saudi Arabia represents over 20% of the combined GDP of the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region (and over a quarter of the Arab World’s GDP) making it … an effective partner and member of the G20.

“The Saudi stock market represents over 50% of the entire stock market capitalization of the MENA region.

“The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the Kingdom’s central bank, is the world’s third largest holder of net foreign assets … Last but not least, Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s national oil company, is the world’s largest producer and exporter of petroleum and has by far the world’s largest sustained production capacity infrastructure.”

However, veteran journalist Karen Elliot House, has presented a starkly ominous picture.

“Sixty percent of Saudis are 20 or younger, most of whom have no hope of a job,” House wrote in her 2012 book. “Seventy percent of Saudis cannot afford to own a home. Forty percent live below the poverty line. The royals, 25,000 princes and princesses, own most of the valuable land and benefit from a system that gives each a stipend and some a fortune. Foreign workers make the Kingdom work; the 19 million Saudi citizens share the Kingdom with 8.5 million guest workers.”

According to House, regional differences are “a daily fact of Saudi life.” Hejazis in the West and Shiites in the East resent the strict Wahhabi lifestyle. Gender discrimination is a growing problem. Sixty percent of Saudi college graduates are women but they account for only twelve percent of the work force.

Moreover, according to Anthony H. Cordesman, published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on April 21, 2011, “There are serious gaps between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ regional differences in wealth and privilege, and tensions between Saudi Shi’ites and Saudi Sunnis.”

The kingdom has been squandering billions upon billions of petrodollars in a lost battle to finance a regional counterrevolution. Some $20bn dollars were pledged to bailout Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman out of the Arab Spring. Three billions more was pledged recently to buy French arms to prop up the Lebanese army against the Hezbullah-led pro-Syria coalition. Several billions more have been pledged to Egypt to reinforce the successors of the ousted former president Mohamed Morsi, let alone the reportedly other billions spent on financing “regime change” in Syria. Reportedly, Obama tried to convince King Abdullah during his latest visit to bail out the transition in Ukraine.

To contain the repercussions of the Arab uprisings internally, the Kingdom has already spent even more on buying the loyalty of its own people; for the same purpose twenty Royal Orders, which were economically dominated, were issued in March 2011.

In February 2011, King Abdullah pledged more than $35 billion for housing, salary increases for state employees, studying abroad and social security. The next month the king announced another financial package worth more than $70 billion for more housing units, religious establishment and salary increase for military and security forces.

Bailing the population out of protests economically seemed not enough to secure internal stability as the kingdom, instead of relaxing the internal situation, has recently tightened the screws with the issuing of the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Its Financing on last January 31, the Royal Decree No. 44, which criminalizes “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom,” three days later and on March 7 the Interior Ministry’s “initial” list of groups the government considers terrorist organizations, both inside and around the country and both Sunni and Shiite.

“These recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,” said Joe Stork, the deputy director of the Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa region. “These regulations dash any hope that King Abdullah intends to open a space for peaceful dissent or independent groups,” Stork added.

Internally and externally, the kingdom overconfidently seems intent on creating more enemies, neutralizing none, alienating world and regional powers, mainstream Sunni, Shiite, liberal, pan-Arab and leftist forces, wrecking regional havoc, all in what looks like an unbalanced reaction to threats, real and perceived, to the survival of the ruling dynasty. However, the kingdom seems like shooting its survival in the legs.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com).

An edited version of this article was first published by Middle East Eye on April 15, 2014.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/18/havoc-in-the-kingdom/

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What Makes America Exceptional? Mendacity and Corruption in Washington

What Makes America Exceptional?  Mendacity and Corruption in Washington

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
CounterPunch
April 18-20, 2014

As I have reported on several occasions, the US government pays foreign rulers to do Washington’s bidding. There is no such thing as an independent government in the UK, Europe or Japan. On top of all the other evidence, it has now come to light that the US Agency for International Development has a large slush fund “where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries.”

If you have four hours, watch President Putin’s amazing open press conference with the Russia people and then try to imagine an American or European leader capable of such a feat. The Russians have a real leader. We have two-bit punks.

The Los Angeles Times has acquired its own Judith Miller. His name is Sergei L. Loiko.  An incompetent Obama regime has botched its takeover of Ukraine with its Kiev coup. The White House Fool is embarrassed that so many Ukrainians prefer to be part of Russia than part of Washington’s stooge “freedom and democracy” government in Kiev.  The prostitute American and European media have thrown the propaganda into overdrive, demonizing Russia and President Putin, in order to cover up Washington’s blunder.

The latest deception cooked up by Washington or by the anti-semitic neo-nazi Right Sector in western Ukraine consists of leaflets falsely issued under the name of one of the leaders of Russian secessionists in eastern Ukraine. The leaflet calls for Jews to sign a registration and list their property.  However, no such registration office exists. Washington’s ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt who assisted Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in orchestrating the overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government and installing Washington’s stooges, declared the leaflets to be “the real deal.”  But the Jewish community is suspicious and has issued a statement that the leaflet “smells like a provocation.” Jewish residents of the Russian territories that Soviet leaders added to the Ukraine Soviet Republic say that anti-semitism has not been a feature of their lives in the Russian speaking areas.

Washington and the prostitute media are purveyors of misinformation. Remember, Washington and its media prostitutes told you that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to America. Washington and its media prostitutes told you that Syria’s President Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. Washington and its media prostitutes told you that “we are not spying on you.” Remember, the New York Times sat on the first leak from a top NSA official that Americans were being illegally spied upon for one year until George W. Bush was safely reelected.

A government that relies on propaganda cannot be believed about anything. Americans misinformed by a prostitute media are in no position to protect the US Constitution and their liberty. Misinformed, they become tyranny’s allies and their own worst enemy.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is How America Was Lost.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/18/what-makes-america-exceptional/

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Enough Already: G-20 and US Tell Japan to End QE

Enough Already:  G-20 and US Tell Japan to End QE

by MIKE WHITNEY
CounterPunch
April 18-20, 2014

It looks like QE is going to end with a whimper instead of a bang.

The bigwigs in the G-20 have put the kibosh on Japan’s money printing extravaganza. While most analysts expect the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to announce more “easing” in the days ahead to counter weakening economic data and droopy stock prices; it’s not going to happen. Why? Because the big boys have told the BoJ to knock it the hell off, that’s why? Here’s the scoop from the Japan Times:

“Despite lingering market pressure on the Bank of Japan to take further easing steps, its Group of 20 counterparts might not welcome the central bank’s next move.

With concern mounting about how the BOJ’s unprecedented purchases of government bonds and risky assets will impact global markets, the G-20 finance chiefs might pressure the BOJ in the near future to clarify how it will phase out the deflation-busting measures…

Japan Bank for International Cooperation Gov. Hiroshi Watanabe said additional BOJ easing measures would not be supported by the United States, which is gradually reducing its own bond purchasing program.

“I’m not sure whether it is good for the United States and Japan to look in much different directions,” Watanabe, a former vice finance minister for international affairs, said in a meeting with reporters earlier this month. “I don’t think the United States will support” further BOJ easing.” (“Experts urge BOJ to draft exit strategy“, Japan Times)

Repeat: “additional BOJ easing measures would not be supported by the United States.”

In other words, ‘Stop what you are doing…NOW”.

Of course, the BoJ could resist and defend its independence, but how likely is that? That would suggest that the BoJ doesn’t get its marching orders from Washington, which it does, just like everyone else in the western banking cartel. So what’s probably going to happen is this: BoJ chief Haruhiko Kuroda will come up with a number of goofball excuses for winding down the policy to conceal the real power-dynamic behind the decision. But the truth is obvious, Washington has ordered the BoJ to stop printing, and dad-gum-it, Japan is going to fall in line…or else. That’s how things work in this-here empire.

But why the sudden turnaround, after all, Abenomics has been around for more than a year and none of the bigshots at the Fed or the G-20 ever spoke up against it. Everyone seemed to think that QE was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now Watanabe and Co. want to slam on the brakes and return to more conventional policies. Why? Let’s take another look at the article in the Japan Times and see what they say:

“In light of the side effects of the radical program, which could also take a toll on the global economy, the BOJ must map out an exit strategy from what it calls “quantitative and qualitative monetary easing,” pundits said.

Some central banks have created a framework for avoiding the adverse impact of such policies, former BOJ Deputy Gov. Kazumasa Iwata said in a recent interview. “The BOJ also ought to set certain conditions and mechanisms toward the normalization of its current policy.” (Japan Times)

Hold on there, partner. What’s all this talk about “adverse impact” “radical program”, and QE “could take a toll on the global economy.” This is the first time any of the so called experts have whispered a word about adverse effects from QE. Up to now its all been rosy projections, green shoots, and silver linings. You mean there could be unintended consequences from printing up more than $10 trillion in funny money and shoving it into financial systems around the globe?? Is that what this is all about? Here’s more:

“If the current large-scale monetary easing policy were to be protracted or such policy strengthened by additional measures, the associated side effects would instead outweigh the positive effects, and this would undermine economic stability in the long run,” BOJ Policy Board member Takahide Kiuchi said last month…” (Japan Times)

So the toffs think QE is actually dangerous. Well why didn’t someone think of that five years ago when the Fed first launched this bonehead program? You mean, central banks have been flying by the seat of their pants with absolutely no freaking idea the impact their wacko policies could have on the global financial system? Doesn’t that seem a tad reckless to you, dear reader, or am I just overreacting? Here’s more:

“Some experts have expressed caution that the BOJ may draw international criticism if it takes additional credit easing measures that could have strong side effects without preparing an exit strategy…

On Tuesday, after the BOJ decided to leave its aggressive monetary easing policy in place, Kuroda said further easing was not on his mind. “We are not currently thinking about additional easing” because the economy is steadily on course to attain the 2 percent inflation target by spring 2015, he said.” (Japan Times)

Kuroda is the biggest loonybin on the planet. Take my word for it. The man deserves a place of honor next to Greenspan in the Pantheon of Crackpot Bankers. The man knows absolutely nothing about economics. Seriously. Under Kuroda, Japan’s GDP has shrunk to the size of an acorn, wages have dropped for 21 months straight, consumer confidence is in the toilet, 2 percent inflation is nowhere in sight, and Japan debt has ballooned to the size of a small galaxy. Still, they keep this loser at the helm because stock traders love his sorry ass. It’s pathetic. Only now, the Fed and Co. are planning to shut down Kuroda’s little counterfeiting operation leaving him with nothing to do except dodge brickbats from angry reporters. Good riddance.

Keep in mind that reducing asset purchases by the Fed (“tapering”) has already wreaked holy hell on the emerging markets which are still experiencing capital outflows and (potential) currency crises. And, the funny thing is, the Fed hasn’t even started trimming its $4 trillion asset pile yet, let alone raised rates! So, just imagine, for a minute, what’s going to happen when the BoJ stops printing at the same time the Fed starts to pare-down its balance sheet. That’s the nightmare scenario, because the supply of financial assets is going to skyrocket and send stock prices off a cliff. Did someone say “1929″?

Uh huh. As it happens, there have been a few experts who have spoken out against QE. The MSM has simply made damn-sure they don’t get the airtime they need to voice their skepticism. Take, for example, William White, the former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements, which is considered the central bank of central banks. Here’s how White slammed QE in a recent interview:

“The honest truth is no one has ever seen anything like this. Not even during the Great Depression in the Thirties has monetary policy been this loose. And if you look at the details of what these central banks are doing, it’s all very experimental. They are making it up as they go along. I am very worried about any kind of policies that have that nature…

Today, the Fed still acts as if it was in crisis management. But we’re six years past that. They are essentially doing more than what they did right in the beginning. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. Plus, the Fed has moved to a completely different motivation. From the attempt to get the markets going again, they suddenly and explicitly started to inflate asset prices again. The aim is to make people feel richer, make them spend more, and have it all trickle down to get the economy going again. Frankly, I don’t think it works, and I think this is extremely dangerous…

The fundamental problem we are still facing is excessive debt. Not excessive public debt, mind you, but excessive debt in the private and public sectors. To resolve that, you need restructurings and write-offs. That’s government policy, not central bank policy. Central banks can’t rescue insolvent institutions. All around the western world, and I include Japan, governments have resolutely failed to see that they bear the responsibility to deal with the underlying problems. With the ultraloose monetary policy, governments have no incentive to act. But if we don’t deal with this now, we will be in worse shape than before…” (“Chief Economist Of Central Banks’ Central Bank: “It’s Extremely Dangerous… I See Speculative Bubbles Like In 2007“, zero hedge)

This is really brilliant analysis and it covers QE’s main flaws, so let’s summarize. White says:

1—QE is entirely “experimental” and that central banks are “making it up as they go along.”

Check.

2–There’s no longer any need for “crisis management”. (after 6 freaking years!) The Fed is merely “inflating asset prices”. (aka–Bubblemaking)

Check, again.

3–Most important: The essential problem has NOT been fixed. Government policy still supports the zombie banks and other financial institutions which have not been nationalized, not been restructured, and are still sucking the life out of the real economy. These lumbering mastodons need to be euthanized so their debt-pile can be eliminated, their books cleared, and the economy reset. QE has merely perpetuated the problem by providing the means by which these institutions can continue to roll over their debts at zero cost to themselves creating the illusion of solvency. The US is following the same path as Japan into deflation and severe economic stagnation.

Check, check, and more check.

That sums it up perfectly. The only thing he left out was that QE has been the biggest wealth shifting scam in history. The sooner they give this program the ax, the better.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/18/g-20-and-us-tell-japan-to-end-qe/

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The Strangelove Effect: How We are Hoodwinked into Accepting a New World War

The Strangelove Effect:  How We are Hoodwinked into Accepting a New World War

by JOHN PILGER
CounterPunch
April 18-20, 2014

I watched Dr. Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major T.J. “King” Kong goes “toe to toe with the Rooskies” and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it’s left to General “Buck” Turgidson to reassure the President. Strike first, says the general, and “you got no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.”

President Merkin Muffley: “I will not go down in history as the greatest mass-murderer since Adolf Hitler.”

General Turgidson: “Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books.”

The genius of Stanley Kubrick’s film is that it accurately represents the cold war’s lunacy and dangers.  Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today, because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant; yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same “invisible government”, as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Strangelove was made, “the missile gap” was the false flag. In order to build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John Kennedy approved the CIA’s  propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. This filled front pages as the “Russian threat”. In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in the production of ICBMs, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its “Nato Enlargement Project”. Reneging a US promise to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucuses, Nato’s military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the United States mounted one of its proxy “colour” coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia.  Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler’s Nazis, who were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA, responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres. The UPA was the military wing, inspiring today’s Svoboda party.

Since Washington’s putsch in Kiev — and Moscow’s inevitable response in Russian Crimea, to protect its Black Sea Fleet — the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the “Russian threat”. This is fossilised propaganda. The US Air Force general who runs Nato forces in Europe  – General Breedlove, no less — claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops “massing” on the border with Ukraine. So did Colin Powell claim to have pictures of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What is certain is that Obama’s rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.

Following a 13-year rampage that began in stricken Afghanistan well after Osama bin Laden had fled, then destroyed Iraq beneath a false flag, then invented a “nuclear rogue” in Iran, dispatched Libya to a Hobbesian anarchy and backed jihadists in Syria, the US finally has a new cold war to supplement its worldwide campaign of murder and terror by drone.

A Nato Membership Action Plan or MAP — straight from the war room of Strangelove — is General Breedlove’s gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine. “Rapid Trident” will put US troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will put US warships within sight of Russian ports. At the same time, Nato war games throughout eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia. Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on America’s borders. Cue General “Buck” Turgidson.

And there is China. On 24 April, President Obama will begin a tour of Asia to promote his “Pivot to China”. The aim is to convince his “allies” in the region, principally Japan, to re-arm and prepare for the eventual possibility of war with China. By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific area. This is the greatest military concentration in that vast region since the second world war.

In an arc extending from Australia to Japan, China will face US missiles and nuclear-armed bombers. A strategic naval base is being built on the Korean island of Jeju less than 400 miles from the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US.  Obama’s “pivot” is designed to undermine China’s influence in its region. It is as if world war has begun by other means.

This is not a Strangelove fantasy. Obama’s defence secretary, Charles “Chuck” Hagel, was in Beijing last week to deliver a menacing warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands. He compared the annexation of Crimea with China’s complex territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. “You cannot go around the world,” said Hagel with a straight face, “and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation”. As for America’s massive movement of naval forces and nuclear weapons to Asia, that is “a sign of the humanitarian assistance the US military can provide”.

Obama is currently seeking a greater budget for nuclear weapons than the historical peak during the cold war, the era of Strangelove. The United States is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass, stretching from China to Europe: a “manifest destiny” made right by might.

John Pilger is the author of Freedom Next Time. He can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/18/the-strangelove-effect/

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