viernes, 26 de mayo de 2017

Filipinas: Ampliación del campo de la batalla (2)


Es muy escasa la cobertura periodística occidental sobre los sucesos recientes en las Filipinas. Allí se están consolidando una serie de grupos terroristas islámicos, algunos nativos, otros procedentes de Indonesia y, tal vez de algunos de los frentes de Medio Oriente. Parece que el Imperio le bajó el pulgar, finalmente, al presidente filipino Rodrigo Duterte. La primera nota que posteamos es del diario británico The Telegraph


Título: Philippines troops backed by attack helicopters battle Islamist militants in besieged southern city

Texto: Troops backed by attack helicopters battled dozens of militants linked to the Islamic State group holed up in a besieged city in the southern Philippines on Thursday after attempts to secure volatile areas met heavy resistance.

Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the mainly Muslim Marawi City as gunfire and explosions rang out after militants linked to the Islamic State group torched buildings, seized more than a dozen Catholic hostages and raised the black flag of Isil.

The army sent about 100 soldiers, including US-trained special forces, to retake buildings and streets in the area held by militants of the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Thousands fled as rebels seized large parts of the city in running battles with government forces that erupted on Tuesday afternoon after a failed raid by security forces on one of the group's hideouts.

At least 21 people have died in fighting since Tuesday, when the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head.

The operation went wrong as the militants called in reinforcements and swept through the mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people. Hapilon's whereabouts were not clear, but there was no indication he was captured in the raid.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation - home to some 22 million people - and warned he may expand it nationwide.

He vowed to be "harsh."

"If I think that you should die, you will die," he said Wednesday. "If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it."

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of people were fleeing the city Thursday, jamming their belongings into cars. Plumes of black smoke rose in the distance and two air force helicopters could be seen flying over the city center.

Mohammad Usman, a 49-year-old Marawi resident, said some people are likely trapped with no way out.

"At night we can hear the gunfire. I'm just praying that the bullets will not find its way to my house and hit us," he said as he left the city. "I hope that the bombs will not land nearby and harm us."

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.

Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded. Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said the militants erected Islamic State flags at several locations.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. He has repeatedly threatened to place the south, the scene of decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings, under martial law.

But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) group in 2014. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Islamic State group.

At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege. It's one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance's leader.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapnilon's assistance, with some directly assisting in the fighting and others fanning out to different parts of the city, setting up checkpoints and burning some buildings and taking hostages from the cathedral.

"It is difficult to root out because they are from there," he said. "The Mautes are embedded in the population."

The group has been blamed for a bombing that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte's hometown, last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.

Last month, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur's Piagapo town. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.


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La nota que sigue es de Sputnik News:


Título: Daesh Invasion: Foreign Jihadists Repel Army Attacks in the Philippines

Subtítulos: Daesh-linked militants are making a violent push toward their aspiration of creating an Islamic State province in Southeast Asia / The Philippines is officially under “invasion” by terrorists, the government said Friday.

Texto: Three-fourths of Marawi City, a city of 200,000 on the southern island of Mindanao, has been overrun by the Islamic extremist Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf group, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said in a letter to the nation’s congress on Friday. Terrorists seized control of a municipal jail and unshackled its prisoners, razed a hospital and took possession of at least three bridges, according to the memo.

​They are also suspected of having hunted down Christians in the Muslim-majority city to use as human shields, religious leaders told Reuters.

The current death toll has reached at least 42 people, the military said. 

The Maute group has proven itself to be an effective combat gang able to withstand asymmetric use of force by government troops. Now Abu Sayyaf, known to be linked to Daesh, has joined forces with Maute in an attempt to occupy the Philippines, according to Philippine intelligence. The unified paramilitary group’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon, is a Daesh loyalist who was tapped by foreign terrorists to lead the raid on the Philippines, the Express reported. In 2005, the US Treasury Department seized Hapilon’s assets for suspected terrorist activities and association with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

On Tuesday, security personnel conducted a raid on Hapilon’s suspected hideout. The situation quickly backfired, however, and resulted in failure when more Daesh-linked militants were summoned as reinforcements. The same day, the pitch-black Daesh flag began waving over the city, Duetsche Welle reports.

"Before it was just a local terrorist group," Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters. But now, Malaysians and Indonesians who can’t get to the Middle East have entered the fray closer to home. The situation has evolved to the point where militants "want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate," Calida added, referring to Daeshe’s goal of establishing a caliphate in the Middle East. The official also expressed concern that the jihadist ideology is spreading among Filipino Muslim youth.

Manila has deployed Special Forces, armored vehicle battalions and attack choppers following Duterte’s declaration of martial law earlier in the week. "If there’s an open defiance, you will die," the brash president said, adding, "If it means many people dying, so be it."

Placing the entire island under martial law, which Duterte has suggested might be his next step, has drawn criticism. Duterte’s attempts to extend power are “alarming” and “grossly unnecessary,” activist Bernadette Ellorin told Loud & Clear on Radio Sputnik.


El Segundo Temor Rojo


Leemos en Wikipedia: "El término Temor rojo denota dos períodos distintos de fuerte anticomunismo en Estados Unidos: el Primer Temor rojo, de 1917 a 1920, y el Segundo Temor rojo, de 1947 a 1957. El Primer Temor rojo fue sobre la revolución (socialista) obrera y el radicalismo político. El Segundo Temor rojo se centró en una intensa sospecha sobre los comunistas (nacionales y extranjeros) que influían en la sociedad o que se infiltraron en el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos o en ambas."

Ahora vayamos a la nota de Peter Korzun para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:


Título: US President Assaulted by Deep State: Back to Second Red Scare

Texto: The assault on President Donald Trump is unprecedented. Unsupported accusations of treasonous or illegal Russian connections have been the mainstay of the news since the election campaign. Almost every day something happens to make President Trump vulnerable for attacks. The enemy fires high precision salvos from strongly fortified positions. Never in the recent history of the United States has been a president facing such a united front of various opposing groups pursuing the goal of removing power from the nation’s chief executive.

It’s not Democrats only who dig up dirt on him and stage protests. There are moles inside his team and government agencies leaking information to media. The leaks are readily picked up to prepare scoop stories for readers. This is an information war waged to oust Donald Trump from the White House. Every little slip up or a minor mishap is painted as an unforgettable, irreparable blunder, or even a suspected crime, to be followed by a scandal blown out of proportions. Unnamed leaks, allegations, unfounded conjectures, and value judgments are used to press new charges and make people believe that the president is unfit to govern.

None of the stories has been backed up by anything like solid evidence or facts. Even if only a small part of them were true, impeachment procedures would be launched. Nothing like this has happened.

With all the ballyhoo raised over the president’s ties with Russia and its leadership, nothing worth consideration has surfaced so far. For instance, allegations about the president’s business connections to Russia started to fly last year in the middle of his presidential campaign. What does it all boil down to?

Trump bought a mansion a number of years ago in Palm Beach for $40 million, and sold it to a Russian tycoon for about $100 million. Some of the Trump Tower residents are supposedly connected to Russia. Some Russian companies rent offices there. So, is it enough to accuse the president of being manipulated because he has business interests in Russia?

This is New York and that’s what the city’s high-profile residential buildings are for. Trump World Tower is a prominent depository of money. It’s a well-known fact that real estate provides safe haven for overseas investors. What’s wrong with Russian presence there and what does it have to do with the supposed «Russia connections»?

Here is one recent example. Someone who supposedly belongs to the National Security Council senior staff leaked the information that Trump disclosed a secret while meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The information reportedly came from Israel to warn about a terrorist act being prepared by Islamic State. As a result, the source is jeopardized. If it was true and Trump really shared a secret with Lavrov, the fact would have never been revealed. There is a reason to believe Mr. Lavrov knows how to keep secrets.

The US officials present at the meeting, including National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster and State Secretary Rex Tillerson, said no classified information disclosure took place during the event. The Russian government offered a transcript of the meeting and video recording to debunk the witch hunt but neither media nor Congress appears to be interested in knowing the truth. Still, media affirm that Trump cannot keep secrets and, thus, is unfit for office.

Now hue and cry is raised over Trump firing FBI Director James Comey. As the story goes, President Trump asked the official to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, at an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

As usual, the information is reported to be coming from mysterious unnamed sources. Has anybody seen the memo? Does it exist? Nobody finds it proper to wait till an investigation is conducted to make precise just what exactly happened. Democrats and the media rushed to accuse the president of nothing less than obstructing justice.

It’s important to know what exactly the president said. Words can be construed in different ways. If the president wished the scandal to be over with Flynn getting off lightly, there is nothing wrong about it. One more thing. If the memo existed and Trump really tried to influence the FBI director, then why Comey wouldn’t inform the Attorney General and lawmakers about it? Why did he not go public? These questions remain unanswered. Much ado about nothing again. There is nothing to back up the accusations.

Was Russia involved in the hacker attacks to help Trump during the US election campaign? Several months have passed. Congress, as well as the FBI, has been conducting an investigation. So what?

The only thing known is that somebody talked to the Russian ambassador on the phone and sent him e-mails. The prospects for lifting anti-Russia sanctions were supposedly mentioned during the conversation. Does it provide evidence to go upon blaming Moscow for the hacker attacks? The FBI did not even examine the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server! It couldn’t because the DNC did not let the agency do it! Is the Committee really interested in knowing the truth? There is a reason to doubt it. So, is there anything to prove the Russia’s involvement? Absolutely not. There is nothing in concrete terms but rumors.

The country is divided into two irreconcilable camps and tensions are running high. With the scandals in focus, Congress has not time for crucial tax and health reforms. They are postponed indefinitely. The White House resembles a besieged fortress. The stock market dips down. Can it last long? Does it meet the nation’s interests?

Now the whole country will keep its breath waiting for the results of the investigation conducted by Robert Mueller, recently assigned as Special Counsel. He is respected on both sides of the aisle. Mueller is the one to produce facts which would either exonerate Trump or provide evidence for impeachment procedures. If no evidence and facts against the president are produced, then the current information campaign will look like a failed plot to stage a quite coup d’état. Will those who disseminated unconfirmed information and conducted the smear campaign be held responsible? Will their activities be investigated too? Will the names of those who were behind the attacks against the president become known? Americans certainly have the right to know them.

According to Stephen Cohen, a scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University, the greatest threat to national security «is this assault on President Trump.» He believes that the intelligence community obstructs the normal functioning of the executive and legislatives branches of power.

The whole anti-Trump campaign is based on a collection of innuendoes to show just how much the bogey of «Russian threat» is in demand. President Trump simply couldn’t imagine how dangerous it was to speak out one’s mind, for instance, saying it was time to normalize relations with Russia. «Russia-Trump collusion» stories will be circulated over and over again to stymie the administration and its America First plans. The whole thing looks very much like a well-planned conspiracy to prompt a witch hunt returning the country to the days of the Second Red Scare.

jueves, 25 de mayo de 2017

Venezuela: Ampliación del campo de la batalla


Flaco favor le está haciendo el presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro a la Revolución Bolivariana: su ineptitud para dar cuenta de los más elementales problemas de gobierno se suma a la puja internacional de intereses en torno a las reservas de petróleo de ese país. Los EEUU, Rusia y China suenan fuerte en esta puja. Así lo cuenta el portal de informaciones MintPressNews:


Título: Will Venezuela Be The Battleground In The Next U.S.-Russia Proxy War?

Texto: There’s no denying that Venezuela is deeply embroiled in a significant crisis. While most are aware of the country’s recent string of violent protests, food shortages and government crackdowns on opposition protesters, few are aware of the opposition’s use of underhanded and downright illegal tactics, as well as the United States’ role in funding opposition forces.

The U.S. has long had its sights set on Venezuela, which possesses the largest proven oil reserves in the world, particularly following the “revolution” that began with the election of the late President Hugo Chávez and has continued under his successor Nicolás Maduro. But changing circumstances within Venezuela may soon push the U.S. to repeat a nefarious practice it has carried out elsewhere – funding a proxy war in order to prevent Venezuelan oil from falling into Russian and Chinese hands.

At first, the U.S. government seemed content to let Maduro’s administration run out of steam on its own. But the U.S. has already issued separate sanctions against the country three times this year alone, with more planned in the coming months, as evidenced by the introduction of a recent U.S. Senate bill that would target Venezuelan government officials. The bill, titled “Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act” (S.1018), would funnel $20 million to the Venezuelan opposition, which has already received an estimated $50 to $60 million since Chávez’s election in 1998.

And now, the stakes may now be too high for the U.S. to allow Maduro’s regime to collapse under the weight of economic sabotage. By all accounts, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA is already on the brink of collapse.

While this would normally be good news for those who seek to see Maduro toppled, there is a caveat that is causing panic in Washington. As the text of S.1018 points out, PDVSA – if and when it collapses – would default on its $4 to $5 billion loans from Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company.

Although Russia and Venezuela enjoy a political alliance, Russia has already taken action over the unpaid debt. In April, a Russian state-run shipping company took $30 million in Venezuelan oil hostage over PDVSA’s unpaid debt. Rosneft would likely follow suit in the event of a major default.

If such an event were to occur, it would mean that Rosneft would take control of a substantial part of PDVSA. But what is more troubling to the U.S. than Russia’s potential control over the world’s largest oil reserves is the fact that one of Russia’s loans to Venezuela came with the condition that PDVSA offers Rosneft a 49.9-percent stake in Citgo as collateral.

As the text of S.1018 makes clear, Citgo – PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary – “controls critical energy infrastructure in 19 states in the United States.” It seems doubtful that the U.S. establishment would sit back while Russia comes into possession of an ownership stake in one of its largest petroleum refiners.

In addition, Venezuela has underwritten many of its loans from China with an oil-for-credit framework, again meaning that a Venezuelan default would mean that significant amounts of Venezuelan oil could also pass into Chinese hands. It seems unlikely that the U.S. would let its two greatest rivals to global hegemony claim the world’s largest oil reserves.

The U.S. is eager to avoid playing a direct role in preventing their worst-case scenario. However, now that the stakes are higher, the U.S. has already begun setting the stage for a potential proxy war.

In addition to funding Maduro’s opposition, the U.S. is set to lead a multilateral military drill in South America that will involve the installation of a temporary military base on the triple border shared by the drill’s other participating nations: Peru, Brazil and Colombia. BBC Brasil reported that the drill will give the U.S. the “opportunity” to focus on Venezuela’s political situation. In addition, as Telesur reported, President Donald Trump has already met with the presidents of Peru and Colombia to discuss the U.S.’ interest in Venezuela.

With the U.S. funding the Venezuelan opposition and gearing up to lead a multi-nation military drill in close proximity to Venezuela, the foundation for yet another U.S.-Russia proxy war over fossil fuels is being laid. Worth mentioning here is the fact that Maduro’s government is armed largely by Moscow. Between 2005 and 2013, Venezuela was the largest purchaser of Russian weapons in Latin America and the estimated value of Russia-Venezuela arms deals clocks in around $12 billion.

Alternatively, were the U.S.-funded opposition in Venezuela to take control following a default by the current administration, they would likely deny Russia and China their promised collateral of Venezuelan oil at the behest of their long-time donors in Washington. It is highly unlikely that Russia and China would willingly surrender billions of dollars of oil and money to a U.S. puppet regime.

Either way, crisis-stricken Venezuela may soon find itself in an even more troubling conflict – a U.S.-Russia proxy war that could last for years and do even more damage to the already struggling country.

Will the U.S. willingly turn Venezuela into another Syria just to keep its oil out of Russian hands? The size and value of Venezuela’s massive oil reserves makes it seem likely.


miércoles, 24 de mayo de 2017

Fora Temer


La cosa no da para más en Brasil. El único que no lo entiende así es el presidente legal, pero no legítimo, Michel Temer. Así cuenta los últimos sucesos Russia Today: 


Título: Brasil despliega tropas y evacúa ministerios por destructivas protestas contra Temer 

Subtítulo: Al menos 25.000 personas han protagonizado disturbios en la capital para exigir la renuncia del mandatario y el fin a las medidas de austeridad.

Texto: Manifestantes han abarrotado la sede del Gobierno de Brasil para exigir el fin de las medidas de austeridad y la dimisión del presidente Michel Temer. Según reporta Brasil de Fato, agencias oficiales de seguridad reportan unas 25.000 personas reunidas en la Esplanada de los Ministerios en Brasilia, pero la organización de la manifestación informa sobre unas 150.000.

Las protestas, que comenzaron pacíficamente, desembocaron en violencia: los manifestantes prendieron fuego a los edificios del Ministerio de Agricultura y el Ministerio de Hacienda en ese lugar, con lo que las autoridades decidieron evacuar a todos los empleados de las sedes ministeriales federales.

Además de su caballería, la Policía ha empleado gas lacrimógeno en contra de los manifestantes, y se informa sobre al menos un herido de bala.


Refuerzos militares

El ministro de Defensa de Brasil, Raúl Jungmann, ha informado que el presidente considera "inaceptable" la violencia desatada y que ha pedido "refuerzos" de tropas para defender los edificios del gobierno.

"El presidente decretó [...] la acción de garantía de la ley y el orden y, en este instante, tropas federales se encuentran en el Palacio del Planalto y en el Palacio de Itamaraty (sedes del poder ejecutivo y del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores) y más adelante llegarán tropas adicionales para asegurar que los demás edificios ministeriales permanezcan incólumes", comunicó Jungmann, según informa Globo.


Marchas por todo el país

La marcha fue convocada por los sindicatos que exigen la renuncia del mandatario, que se encuentra en medio de un escándalo de corrupción. Este escenario de protestas se repite por todo el país, incluyendo los alrededores de la residencia de Temer en São Paulo. Tanto sectores de oposición como miembros de su propia base exigen la dimisión del presidente.


Las causas del descontento

La semana pasada salió a la luz una grabación que comprometería al presidente en relación a un supuesto pago de "silencio" para que no se revelaran detalles de su involucramiento en el caso de corrupción en Petrobras.

A pesar de esto, Temer sostiene que es inocente y no pretende abandonar su cargo voluntariamente: "Mantengo la serenidad, especialmente sobre lo que ya dije: no voy a renunciar. Si quieren, que me derriben, porque si yo renunciara sería una declaración de culpa", declaró recientemente.


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Por su parte, leemos en Página/12:


Título: Temer saca al Ejército

Texto: El presidente brasileño firmó un decreto que dispone el envío de tropas federales a la capital durante una semana, luego de que una masiva manifestación en su contra terminara con enfrentamientos con la policía y destrozos en algunos ministerios.

El debilitado presidente Michel Temer decretó el envío de tropas federales a Brasilia con la excusa de proteger los edificios públicos tras los desmanes provocados por grupos de manifestantes que participaron en una masiva protesta que reclamó la renuncia del mandatario. Temer autorizó la convocatoria al Ejército durante una semana para “garantizar la ley y el orden público”.

"En este momento ya hay tropas federales aquí, en el palacio de Itamaraty [sede de la Cancillería], y ya están llegando tropas para asegurar la protección de los edificios ministeriales", anunció el ministro de Defensa, Raul Jungmann, en una breve declaración de prensa tras los destrozos en algunos ministerios. "Era una manifestación que estaba prevista como pacífica, pero que degeneró en violencia, vandalismo, agresiones al patrimonio público y amenazas a las personas", sostuvo el ministro.

Los incidentes se produjeron al final de una multitudinaria marcha convocada por los sindicatos, que originalmente era contra el ajuste de Temer pero que sumó el masivo pedido para que renuncie el mandatario. El “Fora Temer” y el reclamo de elecciones directas tomó impulso la semana pasada luego de que se conociera la existencia de audios en los que el presidente avala el pago de coimas al detenido diputado Eduardo Cunha, artífice del golpe parlamentario contra Dilma Rousseff.

Los agentes de la Policía se apostaron delante de la sede del Congreso, así como de la sede de Gobierno, para evitar el avance de la marcha. Imágenes de televisión mostraron a los agentes disparando gases lacrimógenos y balas de goma, además de columnas de humo en varias barricadas y fuego en edificios gubernamentales. Después de controlar las llamas en varios edificios, las fuerzas de seguridad empezaron a dispersar a los manifestantes.

El Congreso, por su parte, suspendió temporalmente una sesión debido a disputas, incluso a empujones, entre parlamentarios opositores y aliados del Ejecutivo.

martes, 23 de mayo de 2017

Macron-Putin


Algo podría estar ocurriendo en el normalmente cataléptico mundo diplomático europeo. El recién electo presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron, invitó al presidente ruso Vladimir Putin a charlar un rato a fines de este mes. Habrá que ver. Comenta sobre este hecho el sitio web Indian Punchline:


Título: A Franco-Russian ‘thaw’ is in the offing

Texto: The Kremlin made a surprise announcement on Monday that President Vladimir Putin will be travelling to Paris on May 29 at the invitation of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. The occasion is an exhibition by Russia’s State Hermitage Museum at the Grand Trianon palace at Versailles, to mark the 300th anniversary of Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to France in 1717.

The Russian-French relations have been at freezing point lately. In the recent French elections, Macron pointedly refused to admire Putin, unlike his far-right opponent Le Pen. In turn, Russian media caricatured Macron as ‘anti-Christ’ and poked at his marriage with a woman 26 years senior. Besides, there was the incessant Anglo-American whispering campaign that Russia was interfering in the French election. Le Pen was a popular figure among the Moscow elites too.

Thus, a frosty relationship between Macron and Putin was foreseen as inevitable. But it seems they are letting bygones be bygones and are anxious to turn over a new leaf. Putin would have sized up Macron as someone he can (and should) do business with.

Macron’s equations with US President Donald Trump remain indifferent. Trump had voiced enthusiasm for Le Pen and in turn Barack Obama openly endorsed Macron’s candidature. Macron is a votary of western liberalism and he and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel are the flag carriers of the opposition to right-wing populism in the European political landscape.

Merkel will benefit out of Macron’s magnificent election victory in her own campaign to get another mandate as chancellor in the upcoming October poll for the Bundestag. Having said that, Macron is both an ally and a potential adversary for Merkel. Both believe in the raison d’etre of the European Union but have vastly different conceptions in regard of the EU’s evolution.

Again, Macron disagrees with Merkel’s approach to the refugee problem. On the other hand, Merkel is hopeful of finding commonalities with Macron when it comes to her hard line towards Russia. Most importantly, Merkel’s unspoken ambition to make Berlin the European capital will run into Macron’s passionate advocacy of robust EU institutions in Brussels. (Spiegel has a wonderful piece on the Merkel-Macron dalliance – Frenemy in the Making?)

Unsurprisingly, Putin is wading into a bay with stunning coral reefs. Of course, he is known to be a strong swimmer (and scuba diver) and can be trusted to make the most out of the visit to Paris. Putin’s main intention will be to defrost Russian-French ties, which is important, given the great fluidity in the western alignments today. Putin is bound to explore what is there in it for Russia. France is a powerful voice in Europe and historically an ally of Russia.

Second, with Francois Hollande out of power, France’s ardour for Qatar, forged in the smithy of the scandalous deal for the Rafel fighter aircraft (and other arms deals) may cool down. Macron has a clean image and has vowed to come down heavily on corruption and sleaze. In a devastating statement, Macron said, “I will put an end to the agreements that favor Qatar in France. I think there was a lot of complacencies…” The French press reported that on Monday, Macron’s Justice Minister Francois Bayrou held talks with leading anti-corruption organizations Transparency International and Anticor.

Simply put, if Macron dials down France’s ties with its Rafel customer, Qatar, Paris is no longer obliged to serve the Saudi-Qatari interests in the Syrian conflict. Despite the terrorist attacks in Paris, Hollande was virulently opposed to the Russian intervention in Syria. Conceivably, Putin will persuade Macron to play its due role as peacemaker in Syria. (In terms of the League of Nations mandate following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, France was the governing country and trustee in charge of Syria during 1923-1946.) It will be a political earthquake if Macron changes France’s disposition toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but then, that will be looking ahead of time.

Meanwhile, France is also a member of the Normandy format on Ukraine. Suffice to say, Putin is doing the smart thing by rebooting Russia’s European options. Russian foreign policy has been far too heavily preoccupied with the Trump administration. A course correction is useful. At any rate, in the civil war conditions in Washington, Russian-American normalization can only be at a glacial pace, no matter what Moscow desires or Trump seeks. The US’ leadership role is also diminishing by the day amidst the chaos enveloping American politics and the weakening of the Trump presidency.

El negocio de la guerra


Crece la preocupación de que el reciente acuerdo entre Arabia Saudita y los EEUU, básicamente una mega-compra de armamentos del primero al segundo, tenga como objetivo de fondo la guerra entre sauditas y persas. Uno se pregunta qué tienen en la cabeza los gobernantes de Arabia Saudita; no pueden doblegar a Yemen, país que tienen inmediatamente al sur y una de las naciones más pobres de la Tierra, y ahora apuntan a Irán. De estas cosas habla la nota que sigue, de Ghassan Kadi para el sitio web The Vineyard of the Saker:


Título: Al-Saud’s Only Gamble Option

Texto: A lot has been said and speculated on about the “real” objectives of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Seasoned veteran British journalist/analyst and Middle East expert Robert Fisk sees it as an attempt to create a Sunni-style NATO to curb the Iranian expansion, and his speculation is on the money, but in realistic terms, what can this visit and its “aftermath” achieve?

Despite the slump on crude oil prices over the last 2-3 years, the Saudis are not short on cash, despite the huge and growing deficit they are running. Their reserve cash is estimated to be a whopping three quarters of a trillion American dollars, and the unit “trillion” has been chosen here because it is the millions of the 21st Century and billions have become too small to consider.

That said, the Saudis have recently pledged nearly a third of their stash on “investments” with the USA. The first allotment came in the form of an undertaking to invest over 100 billion dollars in the American housing sector less than a fortnight ago, and upon Trump’s historic Riyadh visit, the Saudis signed an excess of 100 billion dollar arms deal contract. This is a total of an excess of 200 billion American dollars to be injected into the American economy. But on the scale of trillions again, this huge figure amounts to only a mere 1% of America’s staggering official 20 trillion dollar debt.

A drop in the ocean perhaps if taken into the context of the American economy and debt, but there is little doubt that this Saudi money will create jobs in the USA, and if President Trump is still sticking by the promise of creating jobs, he’s on the money with this one too.

Thus far, and nearly four months after his inauguration, it can safely be said that the most predictable thing about President Trump thus far has been his unpredictability. But with all of his eccentricities and swings, what was it that made him swing in favour of Al-Saud? It may not be very difficult to solve this puzzle if we look at the chain of events.

Surely, the USA has a lot of strategic interests in the area, and these interests are multi-faceted. Among other things, the USA wants to protect the long-term wellbeing of Israel, curb the influence of Russia and Iran in the region, have a share in the decision making of the “War on Syria”, and last be not least, keep a tight control on Saudi oil and cash wealth.

One of Trump’s election promises was to get America’s allies to pay their way, and he was very vocal about the Saudis saying on a number of occasions that protecting Saudi Arabia was costing the USA more than it should be paying for. Those subtle “threats” sent a wave of shivers down the spines of Saudi royals, especially that they were already in deep trouble financially and also bogged down in a protracted and highly expensive war in Yemen that seems unwinnable.

Given that the Saudis believed that former President Obama has let them down and did not invade Syria after the alleged East Ghouta chemical attack of August 2013, the unknown and rather unstable Trump looked like a wild card and they braced for the worst.

Knowing that they are in deep trouble and need America more than ever, feeling extremely nervous about the Iran nuclear deal, the Saudis realized that the only option they have with Trump was to appease him; “but how?”, they wondered. But when they put two and two together, and listened to Trump’s statements about Saudi Arabia, the Saudis realized that they can and will appease him with money; a quarter of a trillion dollars and counting.

Taking the big fat cheque book out is not a modus operandi that is alien to the Saudi psyche, because the Saudis have learned to solve their problems with money. And now, they believe that they are forging a new era of military and strategic alliance with the United States, and paying for this privilege with hard cash.

What they do not know is that whilst they were dreaming big, thinking that they are on the verge of becoming a regional superpower to be reckoned with signing an alliance with America, Donald Trump was signing a business deal, a sales contract; nothing more and nothing less.

The way Trump sees this is a win-win situation. If the Saudis do manage to get the upper military hand and curb the Iranians, he would have reached this zenith not only without having to fight Iran, but also whilst being paid for it. On the other hand, if the Saudis take a gamble to go to war with Iran and lose, he would have received his quarter trillion in advance. So for Saudi Arabia to win or lose, the deal makes America a quarter of a trillion dollar richer; or rather a quarter of a trillion less in debt.

In reality however, what are the odds of Saudi Arabia winning an open war with Iran? Or will this war eventuate in the first place? Back to this question later on.

In a part of the world that is highly volatile, supplying a huge arsenal of highly lethal weapons to a regime that is known for its atrocities, war crimes, inciting regional tension and creating conflict is pouring oil on an already raging fire. Trump’s arms deal with the Saudis probably marks one of the lowest points in America’s history. If anything, after the historic American-Iranian nuclear deal, America was in a position to play the role of an arbitrator and try to get the Saudis and the Iranians to reconcile; coerce them if needed. Instead, Trump turned his attack on Jihadi terrorism by supplying more support to the core and centre of terrorism (Saudi Arabia) and signed a huge arms deal that will only lead to further and much deadlier escalations.

With seemingly very powerful Sunni/Shiite animosities resurfacing after many centuries of dormancy, the pro-American axis happens to be predominantly Sunni and the pro-Russian resistance axis is seen to be Shiite; though it is not as such in reality. That said, the strongest Sunni army in the region is undoubtedly Turkey’s, and Turkey could potentially play a key role in bolstering Fisk’s Sunni-”NATO”. However, the Kurdish issue is a bigger threat to Turkey than Iran has ever been, and Turkey will walk away from its Sunni brothers and “NATO” allies if they were to support Kurdish separatists and arm them; and the irony is that they are.

Without Turkey, a Sunni-”NATO” will be a toothless tiger, unless perhaps it receives enough support from Israel; a support America will not be prepared to offer. But apart from some possible airstrikes and intelligence sharing, how much support will Israel give if any at all? And how much will Putin will be able to weigh in with his clout to keep Netanyahu’s nose out of it? Last but not least, how will the leaders of a so-called Sunni-”NATO” be able to “sell” the idea of getting into an alliance with Israel with its Sunni populace base?

There is little doubt that the Saudis now feel that Trump has given them a carte blanche to attack Iran, and if they swallow the bait fully, they may be foolish enough to take the gamble. But first, they have to finish off Yemen, and then look back and think how they miscalculated when they planned the so-called “Operation Decisive Storm”, and which was meant to be a swift and successful operation. More than two years later, victory seems further than ever predicted all the while the Yemenis have been improving their missile manufacturing capabilities and have been able to hit targets in the capital Riyadh.

Whilst the Saudis were begging the Americans to sell them more advanced weapons to win the war in Yemen, the Yemenis were developing their own. But given that Saudis believe that all problems can be solved provided one is prepared to spend as much as needed, the bottom line for them will always be, “how much?”

The Saudis will not only have to re-evaluate the short-sighted military gamble they took in Yemen, but also the financial one. No one knows for certain what has thus far been the dollar cost that the Saudis had to cough up, but it is in the tens of billions of dollars. With a country that is currently running a near 90 billion dollar budget deficit and diminishing returns, to gamble one third of the national savings on a new war aimed at Iran is tantamount to both, military and financial suicide.

If a war against Iran is at all winnable by the Saudis, what will be the dollar cost?

If the budget ceiling was broken, just like that of Operation Decisive Storm, and if the Saudis realize that the over 100 billion odd dollars they “invested” to buy state-of-the-art weaponry from the USA was not enough, by how much will they be prepared to lift the cost ceiling? They will only need to break the ceiling 3-4 fold before they actually run out of cash reserves. Such a budget overblow is not unusual in wars, and Yemen and Syria are living proof for the Saudis to learn from; if they are capable of learning.

A war against Iran will perhaps be Al-Saud’s final gamble option, but unless the Saudi royals change their rhetoric and seek reconciliation with their Shiite neighbours, this war could well be Al-Saud’s only gamble option.

But the bottom line to any military action is military pragmatism. How can the Saudis think that they can invade and subdue Iran when they haven’t been able to subdue a starved and besieged Yemen? In the unlikely event that they will be able to serve Iran with a swift “shock-and-awe” strike and achieve prompt victory, what will add to their woes is Iran’s ability to close the Strait of Hormuz and to also hit oil production areas and ports. In simple terms, the Saudi war on Yemen is expensive enough, but a war with Iran will be much more expensive, and one that will cut off Saudi life-line; its income.

Do the Saudis believe that expensive imported hardware is going to give the military edge they need? “Knowing” Trump, he will likely wait till the Saudis are down on their knees begging and then extort them by hiking the price of an elusive “super weapon”, perhaps even an A-Bomb, that will tip the war in Saudi favour. But “knowing” the Saudis and Iranians, if the Saudis attack and start an all-out war on Iran, then this may indeed earn the name of decisive storm, but not on Saudi terms. Will Iran virtually walk into Saudi Arabia? Such a scenario cannot be overruled. More than likely however, America will continue to feed the fire for as long as the Saudi cow (female camel in this instance) can be milked and for as long as there is money to be had. For as long as the infamous Al-Saud are on the throne, the kingdom will continue to be run by the same old rules of arrogance that will not stop until that evil legacy is down and vanquished.

lunes, 22 de mayo de 2017

¿Y luego qué?


Seguimos con el posteo de notas melancólicas sobre el fin del Imperio, escritas por algunos de los analistas lúcidos que todavía quedan allí. En este caso, escribe James Howard Kunstler para su blog Kunstler.com:


Título: "They're Going To Get Rid Of Him One Way Or Another..."

Texto: In case you wonder how our politics fell into such a slough of despond, the answer is pretty simple. Neither main political party, or their trains of experts, specialists, and mouthpieces, can construct a coherent story about what is happening in this country — and the result is a roaring wave of recursive objurgation and wrath that loops purposelessly towards gathering darkness.

What’s happening is a slow-motion collapse of the economy. Neither Democrats or Republicans know why it is so remorselessly underway. A tiny number of well-positioned scavengers thrive on the debris cast off by the process of disintegration, but they don’t really understand the process either — the lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, contractors, feeders at the troughs of government could not be more cynical or clueless.

The nation suffers desperately from an absence of leadership and perhaps even more from the loss of faith that leadership is even possible after years without it. Perhaps that’s why so much hostility is aimed at Mr. Putin of Russia, a person who appears to know where his country stands in history, and who enjoys ample support among his countrymen. How that must gall the empty vessels like Lindsey Graham, Rubio, Schumer, Feinstein, Ryan, et. al.

So along came the dazzling, zany Trump, who was able to communicate a vague sense-memory of what had been lost in our time of American life, whose sheer bluster resembled something like conviction as projected via the cartoonizing medium of television, and who entered a paralysis of intention the moment he stepped into the oval office, where he proved to be even less authentic than the Wizard of Oz. Turned out he didn’t really understand the economic collapse underway either; he just remembered an America of 1962 and though somehow the national clock might be turned back.

The industrial triumph of America in the 19th and 20th century was really something to behold. But like all stories, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and we’re closer to the end of that story than the middle. It doesn’t mean the end of civilization but it means we have to start a new story that provides some outline of a life worth living on a planet worth caring about.

For the moment the fragmentary stories of redemption revolve around technological rescue remedies, chiefly the idea that electric cars will save the nation. This dumb narrative alone ought to inform you just how lost we are, because the story assumes that our prime objective is to remain car-dependent at all costs — when one of the main features in the story of our future is the absolute end of car dependency and all its furnishings and accessories. We can’t imagine going there. (How would you, without a car?)

The economy is collapsing because it was based on cheap oil, which is no longer cheap to pull out of the ground — despite what you might pay for it at the pump these days. The public is understandably confounded by this. But their mystification does nothing to allay the disappearance of jobs, incomes, prospects, or purpose. They retreat from the pain of loss into a fog of manufactured melodrama featuring superheros and supervillains and supernatural doings.

Donald Trump could never be a Franklin Roosevelt or a Lincoln. These were figures who, if nothing else, could articulate the terms that reality had laid on America’s table in their particular moments of history. Mr. Trump can barely speak English and his notions about history amount to a kind of funny papers of the mind. A sinister host of adversaries who ought to understand what is happening in this country, but don’t, or can’t, or won’t, are coming after him, and they are going to get rid of him one way or another. They have to. They must. And they will.

And then what?

Siria: cambios en la "Capital de la Revolución"


La ciudad de Homs, que en su momento fuera calificada como la "Capital de la Revolución", ha dado un paso más hacia la normalidad. Los últimos "rebeldes" se han acogido a la propuesta del gobierno sirio y acaban de abandonar el último distrito de esa ciudad en donde quedaba presencia "insurgente". Así lo cuenta el diario catalán La Vanguardia:


Título: El régimen sirio declara “libre de armas y armados” la ciudad de Homs

Subtítulo: Los últimos rebeldes y sus familias han salido del único barrio donde había presencia insurgente en la urbe en virtud de un pacto entre las partes

Texto: Las autoridades sirias declararon hoy “libre de armas y armados” la ciudad de Homs, conocida antiguamente como “la capital de la revolución”, tras la salida de los últimos rebeldes y sus familias del único barrio donde había presencia insurgente en la urbe, en virtud de un pacto entre las partes.

La localidad de Homs es hoy una ciudad segura y ahora la prioridad es la vuelta de la estabilidad”, dijo a Efe por teléfono el gobernador de la provincia de Homs, Talal al Barazi. Al Barazi hizo estas declaraciones después de que el ejército entrara en el distrito de Al Waer, tras la evacuación de los últimos insurgentes y civiles que deseaban abandonar la zona.

989 personas, entre ellas 308 milicianos, dejaron Al Waer en 26 autobuses en dirección a Yarabulus, al norte de Alepo y controlada por facciones respaldadas por Turquía

Aquellos que han optado por quedarse deberán regularizar ahora su situación legal ante las autoridades. Al Barazi precisó que “la última tanda de hombres armados y sus familias salió poco antes de las 20.00 hora local (17.00 GMT)” del barrio.

El gobernador, que hablaba desde el interior de Al Waer, agregó que un 30 % del distrito está destrozado y que los equipos de mantenimiento se afanarán para restablecer los servicios y la normalidad lo antes posible.

Según datos proporcionados por la agencia de noticias oficial siria, SANA, 989 personas, entre ellas 308 milicianos, abandonaron hoy Al Waer en 26 autobuses en dirección a la población de Yarabulus, en el norte de la provincia de Alepo y controlada por facciones rebeldes respaldadas por Turquía.

A estos evacuados se suman otros 463, de los que 151 son combatientes, que fueron trasladados a la provincia septentrional de Idleb, dominada casi totalmente por facciones islámicas e insurgentes.

El presidente del Consejo de la Provincia de Homs Libre, Amir Abdel Qader, en el pasado vecino de Al Waer, elevó a 1.127 el número de personas que viajaron a Idleb, y añadió que un total de 873 han salido hacia Yarabulus.

En el caso de Idleb, Abdel Qader, cuyo organismo se encarga de la administración de las áreas en poder opositor en Homs, indicó que los evacuados se distribuirán por varias localidades, como Sarmada, Al Dana y la capital homónima de la provincia.

Quienes no tengan parientes que los puedan acoger (en Idleb) o no puedan permitirse el alquiler de una casa pueden quedarse en alguno de los campos de desplazados que hay en la región”, apuntó Abdel Qader.

Al Waer era el último barrio que quedaba por pacificar en Homs, que en su día recibió el sobrenombre de la capital de la revolución, tras el inicio de las protestas contra el Gobierno de Damasco en 2011, y que es una de las ciudades más castigadas por los choques y los bombardeos.

Situado en el extrarradio noroccidental de Homs, Al Waer llevaba asediado por los efectivos gubernamentales sirios desde noviembre de 2013, de acuerdo a datos de la ONG Siege Watch (El Vigilante del Asedio). A mediados de marzo pasado, las autoridades sirias y las facciones locales lograron un acuerdo por el que ha sido posible la evacuación del distrito.

El pacto incluía la partida gradual de 12.000 personas de Al Waer, entre ellas 2.500 combatientes, así como el despliegue de una brigada de entre 60 y 100 soldados y oficiales rusos en el barrio, después de la salida del último grupo de rebeldes, para supervisar el compromiso de ambas partes con la aplicación del arreglo.

No obstante, Abdel Qader señaló que un total 23.000 personas han sido evacuadas del área, entre ellas 1.500 rebeldes. El Observatorio Sirio de Derechos Humanos también ha hablado de más de 20.000 evacuados. El acuerdo se logró tras un mes de intensos ataques de artillería y bombardeos por parte de las fuerzas leales al presidente sirio, Bachar al Asad, contra el distrito.

Anteriormente, ya se había producido una evacuación de 700 personas, entre milicianos y civiles, de Al Waer gracias a otro pacto, que no llegó a aplicarse por completo. El arreglo de Al Waer es similar al alcanzado en mayo de 2014 entre las partes por el que los rebeldes se retiraron del casco antiguo de Homs.

domingo, 21 de mayo de 2017

Gente de ojos achinados


En la foto, Mauricio parece empezar a comprender que está asistiendo a la reunión más importante de su vida, y que curiosamente no está presente ninguno de los farabutes que esperaba encontrar en un evento así: los pesos pesados del Imperio y de la UE. En cambio, se topa con un montón de tipos de caras achinadas, gesto adusto y ceño reconcentrado. La nota que sigue habla de esto; fue escrita por Wayne Madsen para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:


Título: World Leaders Gather in Beijing While the US Sinks into Irrelevancy

Texto: While vaudevillian comedy-like shouting matches broke out in the West Wing of the White House between President Donald Trump and his senior advisers and between the White House press secretary and various presidential aides, world leaders gathered in Beijing to discuss the creation of modern-day land and maritime «silk roads» to improve the economic conditions of nations around the world. Nothing more could have illustrated the massive divide between the concerns of many of the nations of the world and those of the United States, which is rapidly descending into second-rate power status, along with its NATO allies Britain, France, and Germany.

While Mr. Trump was threatening to fire his senior White House staff, reprising his one-time role in his reality television show «The Apprentice», China’s President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and presidents and prime ministers from around the world sat down to discuss the creation of new international and intercontinental highways, railways, and maritime routes under China’s proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Even countries that are cool on the Chinese initiative, including India and Japan, sent representatives to the summit that carried a bit more clout than the pathetic representation of the United States, Matt Pottinger, a little-known special assistant to Trump and the senior director for East Asia of National Security Council. In fact, the only reason Trump sent anyone to represent the United States at the Beijing gathering was because of a special request made by President Xi during his recent meeting with Trump at the president’s private Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

South Korea, which saw relations with China sour over America’s placement of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, sent a delegation to Beijing after a phone call between South Korea’s new liberal president, Moon Jae-in, and President Xi. Moon responded to the phone call by sending a delegation led by his Democratic Party’s veteran legislator to Beijing.

Even North Korea, which rankled South Korea, Japan, and the United States by firing a ballistic missile into waters near Russia, sent a delegation to the Beijing meeting headed by Kim Yong Jae, the North’s Minister of External Economic Relations. The Trump administration, which sent a virtual unknown to Beijing, complained loudly about North Korea’s representation at the Silk Road summit. But Washington’s complaint was conveyed by someone as unknown as Mr. Pottinger, Anna Richey-Allen, a low-level spokesperson for the U.S. State Department's East Asia Bureau. The reason why the United States is being spoken for by middle-grade bureaucrats is that the nation that still believes it is the world’s only remaining «superpower» is now governed by an administration rife with top-level vacancies, inter-agency squabbling, and amateur league players.

Even though major European Union member states were not represented in Beijing by their heads of government, Germany sent its Economy Minister, Brigitte Zypries. She warned, however, that the EU would not sign a Silk Road agreement with China unless certain EU demands on free trade and labor conditions were guaranteed. Germany’s reticence did not seem to faze other EU nations, which were represented in Beijing by their heads of government and appeared to be more avid in their support of the Chinese initiative. These EU member state leaders included Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Czech President Milos Zeman, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Moreover, had British Prime Minister Theresa May not been in the middle of a general election campaign, she would have been in Beijing. Nevertheless, she sent British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in her place.

If the Trump administration hoped to convince world leaders to stay away from Beijing, it was sorely disappointed. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, was there, along with the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Also present in Beijing were the presidents of Turkey, Philippines, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Kenya, Uzbekistan, and Laos, as well as the prime ministers of Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Fiji, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Ministerial delegations from Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Maldives, Romania, Nepal, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates were at the Beijing summit. Japan was represented by the senior adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai. France, which was experiencing a change of presidents, sent former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The Silk Road initiative has projects planned in all the nations whose governments were represented in Beijing, except for the United States and Israel. In addition to the nations represented by their government heads of state and ministers, Silk Road agreements were signed between China and Palestine, Georgia, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Tajikistan, Brunei, Croatia, and East Timor.

The one clear message the Beijing meeting sent out to the world is that America’s «unipolar» vision of the world was dead and buried. Even among Washington’s longtime friends and allies, one will not hear Donald Trump referred to as the «leader of the Free World.» That phrase has been discarded into the waste bin of history along with America’s insistence that it is the world’s only «superpower.» The United States is a power, a second-rate one that happens to possess a first-rate nuclear arsenal. But nuclear weapons were not being discussed in Beijing. Major projects were on the agenda, projects that when completed will leave the United States at sea in the propeller wash.

President Xi, in his keynote address to the conference, said that the «One Belt and One Road» initiative is «a project of the century» and that will benefit everybody across the world. And to put his money where his mouth is, Xi said China will contribute 80 billion yuan (US$113 billion) as added financial impetus to create a global network of highway, railway, and maritime links in a recreation of the ancient Silk Road that linked China to the West. Meanwhile, in Washington, Trump spoke of having recorded «taped» conversations with his fired director of the FBI James Comey, setting off a political firestorm. A new global infrastructure being spoken about in Beijing and political hijinks the major topic of conversation in Washington. The United States has fallen into second-rate global status and is seriously ill as a cohesive nation-state but does not even realize it.

China and Russia used the Beijing summit to showcase several Eurasian initiatives, including the Russia-inspired Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Both the Chinese and Russian heads of state let it be known that the BRICS alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was still a potent world entity, even though South Africa was not represented in Beijing by its president and India chose not to send any representative to Beijing.

President Putin’s words to the conference about the new geopolitical status in the world were noteworthy: «the greater Eurasia is not an abstract geopolitical arrangement but, without exaggeration, a truly civilization-wide project looking toward the future.» In other words, the European Union, which is losing the United Kingdom as a member and will never see membership for Turkey, is a dying international organism. Other international initiatives, like the EEU, BRICS, AIIB, and the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), are leaving the EU and the United States in the dust. That was evident by the fact that the United States was represented in Beijing by an overrated desk clerk and the EU by a Brussels «Eurocrat,» the European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen.


***


Por su parte, el sitio web Covert Geopolitics pasó revista a los funcionarios que asistieron a la cumbre de Beijing:


Título: List of Attendees to the 1st Belt and Road Summit in Beijing

Lista:

Afghanistan: Unspecified minister-level delegation
Argentina: President Mauricio Macri
Australia: Trade Minister Steve Ciobo
Azerbaijan: Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev
Bangladesh: Unspecified minister-level delegation
Belarus: President Alexander Lukashenko
Brazil: Secretary for Strategic Affairs Hussein Ali Kalout
Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen
Chile: President Michelle Bachelet
China: President Xi Jinping
Czech Republic: President Milos Zeman
Egypt: Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil
Ethiopia: Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
Fiji: Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
Finland:  Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland Anne Berner
France: Jean-Pierre Raffarin, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Defense and Armed Forces in the French Senate
Germany: Minister of Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries
Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Hungary: Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Indonesia: President Joko Widodo
Iran: Minister of Economy and Finance Ali Tayebnia
Italy: Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
Japan: LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai
Kazakhstan: President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kyrgyzstan: President Almazbek Atambayev
Kuwait: Minister of the Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber
Laos: President Bounnhang Vorachith
Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib Razak
Maldives: Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed
Mongolia: Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat
Myanmar: State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi
Romania: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment Gratiela Gavrilescu
Nepal: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara
New Zealand:  Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith
North Korea: Confirmed to be sending an official delegation;  the delegation will be led by Kim Yong-jae, the North Korean minister of external economic relations, according to a number of South Korean media reports
Pakistan: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte
Poland: Prime Minister Beata Szydło
Russia: President Vladimir Putin
Saudi Arabia: Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih
Serbia: Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic
Singapore: Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong
South Korea: Ambassador to China Kim Jang-soo; Park Byeong-seug, National Assembly member for the Democratic Party
Spain: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Sri Lanka: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
Switzerland: President Doris Leuthard
Syria: unspecificed minister-level delegation
Thailand: five ministers: Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Transportation Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn, Minister of Digital for Economy and Society Pichet Durongkaveroj, and Minister of Science and Technology Atchaka Sibunruang
Tunisia: Culture Minister Mohamed Zine El-Abidine
Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
UAE: Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Group CEO of ADNOC
Ukraine: unspecified official delegation
United Kingdom: Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
United States: Matt Pottinger, National Security Council senior director for Asia
Uzbekistan: President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
Vietnam: President Tran Dai Quang