domingo, 30 de diciembre de 2018

¿Depresión a la vista?

Repetir "1929" tal vez no sea suficiente para explicar la actual etapa del ciclo financiero global. Para algunos, como el autor de esta nota, el shock de la temprana década de 1930 fue la resultante de varias fases, con coordenadas geográficas distintas. Lo mismo podría estar ocurriendo hoy: la burbuja financiera es básicamente la misma, pero el "timing" podría ser distinto según estalle en los EEUU, Europa, Japón o China (o en todas partes al mismo tiempo). La instructiva nota que sigue es de Brendan Brown y apareció hoy en Zero Hedge:

Título: The Depression Of 2019-2021?

Texto: The profound question which transcends all this day-to-day market drama over the holidays is the nature of the economic slowdown now occurring globally. This slowdown can be seen both inside and outside the US. In reviewing the laboratory of history — especially those experiments featuring severe asset inflation, unaccompanied by high official estimates of consumer price inflation — three possible “echoes” deserve attention in coming weeks and months. (History echoes rather than repeats!)

Will We Learn from History — And What Will Soon Be History?

The behavioral finance theorists tell us that which echo sounds and which outcome occurs is more obvious in hindsight than to anyone in real time. As Daniel Kahneman writes (in Thinking Fast and Slow):

The core of hindsight bias is that we believe we understand the past, which implies the future should also be knowable; but in fact we understand the past less than we believe we do – compelling narratives foster an illusion of inevitability; but no such story can include the myriad of events that would have caused a different outcome.

Whichever historical echo turns out to be loudest as the Great Monetary Inflation of 2011-18 enters its late dangerous phase.  Whether we're looking at 1927-9, 1930-3, or 1937-8, the story will seem obvious in retrospect, at least according to skilled narrators. There may be competing narratives about these events — even decades into the future, just as there still are today about each of the above mentioned episodes. Even today, the Austrian School, the Keynesians, and the monetarists, all tell very different historical narratives and the weight of evidence has not knocked out any of these competitors in the popular imagination.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves Are Important

And while on the subject of behavioral finance’s perspectives on potential historical echoes and actual market outcomes, we should consider Robert Shiller’s insights into story-telling (in “Irrational Exuberance”):

Speculative feedback loops that are in effect naturally occurring Ponzi schemes do arise from time to time without the contrivance of a fraudulent manager. Even if there is no manipulator fabricating false stories and deliberately deceiving investors in the aggregate stock market, tales about the market are everywhere….. The path of a naturally occurring Ponzi scheme – if we may call speculative bubbles that – will be more irregular and less dramatic since there is no direct manipulation but the path may sometimes resemble that of a Ponzi scheme when it is supported by naturally occurring stories.

Bottom line: great asset inflations (although the term "inflation" remains foreign to Shiller!) are populated by “naturally occurring Ponzi schemes,” with the most extreme and blatant including Dutch tulips, Tokyo golf clubs, Iceland credits, and Bitcoins; the less extreme but much more economically important episodes in recent history include financial equities in 2003-6 or the FANMGs in 2015-18; and perhaps the biggest in this cycle could yet be private equity.

Echoes of Past Crises

First, could 2019-21 feature a loud echo of 1926-8 (which in turn had echoes in 1987-9, 1998-9, and 2015-17)?

The characteristic of 1926-8 was a “Fed put” in the midst of an incipient cool-down of asset inflation (along with a growth cycle slowdown or even onset of mild recession) which succeeds apparently in igniting a fresh economic rebound and extension/intensification of asset inflation for a while longer (two years or more). In mid-1927 New York Fed Governor Benjamin Strong administered his coup de whiskey to the stock market (and to the German loan boom), notwithstanding the protest of Reichsbank President Schacht).

The conditions for such a Fed put to be successful include a still strong current of speculative story telling (the narratives have not yet become tired or even sick); the mal-investment and other forms of over-spending (including types of consumption) must not be on such a huge scale as already going into reverse; and the camouflage of leverage — so much a component of “natural Ponzi schemes” — must not yet be broken. The magicians, otherwise called “financial engineers” still hold power over market attention.

Most plausibly we have passed the stage in this cycle where such a further kiss of life could be given to asset inflation. And so we move on to the second possible echo: could this be 1937-8?

There are some similarities in background. Several years of massive QE under the Roosevelt Administration (1934-6) (not called such and due ostensibly to the monetization of massive gold inflows to the US) culminated in a stock market and commodity market bubble in 1936, to which the Fed responded by effecting a tiny rise in interest rates while clawing back QE. Under huge political pressure the Fed reversed these measures in early 1937; a weakening stock market seems to reverse. But then came the Crash of late Summer and early Autumn 1937 and the confirmed onset of the Roosevelt recession (roughly mid-1937 to mid-1938). This was even more severe than the 1929-30 downturn. But then there was a rapid re-bound.

On further consideration, there are grounds for skepticism about whether the 1937-8 episode will echo loudly in the near future.

In 1937 there had been barely three years of economic expansion. Credit bubbles and investment spending bubbles (mal-investment) were hardly to be seen. And the monetary inflation in the US was independent and very different from monetary conditions in Europe, where in fact the parallel economic downturn was very mild if even present. And of course the re-bound had much to do with military re-armament.

It is troubling that the third possible echo — that of the Great Depression of 1930-2 — could be the most likely to occur.

The Great Depression from a US perspective was two back-to-back recessions; first the severe recession of autumn 1929 to mid-1931; and then the immediate onset of an even more devastating downturn from summer 1931 to summer 1932 (then extended by the huge uncertainty related to the incoming Roosevelt Administration and its gold policy). It was the global credit meltdown — the unwinding of the credit bubble of the 1920s most importantly as regards the giant lending boom into Germany — which triggered that second recession and snuffed out a putative recovery in mid-1931.

It is possible to imagine such a two-stage process in the present instance.

Equity market tumble accompanies a pull-back of consumer and investment spending in coming quarters. The financial sector and credit quakes come later as collateral values plummet and exposures come into view. In the early 1930s the epicentre of the credit collapse was middle Europe (most of all Germany); today Europe would also be central, but we should also factor in Asia (and of course China in particular).

And there is much scenario-building around the topics of ugly political and geo-political developments that could add to the woes of the global downturn. Indeed profound shock developments are well within the normal range of probabilistic vision in the UK, France and Germany — a subject for another day. And such vision should also encompass China.

viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2018

Mientras tanto, en Siria...

La situación en Siria tiende a estabilizarse luego del anuncio del presidente estadounidense del retiro de sus tropas estacionadas en ese país. El ataque israelí de la semana pasada fue un fracaso. Vuelven a tenderse puentes políticos entre Siria y otros países de Medio Oriente. Así lo cuenta el sitio web Moon of Alabama:

Título: Syria Sitrep - Army To Regain Northeastern Territory - Political Isolation Ends

Texto: The fallout from U.S. president Trump's decision to retreat from Syria develops as expected.

Trump had announced a rapid draw down of U.S. troops in Syria. Later he spoke of a controlled process that would allow Turkey to take over the U.S. occupied areas in northeast Syria. That plan, probably initiated by National Security Advisor John Bolton, is totally unrealistic. Such an wide ranging occupation, which would be resisted by many powerful forces, is not in Turkey's interest. Nevertheless, the Turkish president Erdogan will use the threat of a Turkish invasion to press for a dismantling of the Kurdish YPG forces which the U.S. trained and equipped.

This morning the Syrian Arab Army (red) announced that it entered Manbij, west of the Euphrates. It established itself on the contact line between the Turkish supported forces (green) and the U.S. supported Kurdish YPG (yellow). The Syrian flag was raised in Manbij city. The move comes after U.S. troops and their Kurdish proxy forces voluntarily retreated from the area. Manbij was threatened by the Turkish military and its Jihadi proxy forces. To prevent a Turkish onslaught, the local armed groups, who collaborated with the U.S. military, invited the Syrian army to take over. This pattern will repeat elsewhere.

A Kurdish delegation is currently in Russia to negotiate a further take over of the U.S. occupied northeastern provinces of Hasaka and Qamishli by Syrian government forces. The Kurds still hope for some autonomy from the Syrian government that allows them to keep their armed forces. But neither Damascus, nor anyone else, will ever agree to that. There will only be one armed force in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army. It is possible though, that some Kurdish units will be integrated within it.

A Turkish delegation is also in Moscow and tomorrow Erdogan will visit there. Russia spoke out against the U.S. plan to let Turkey take Syria's northeast or even parts of it. Erdogan will not get Russian or Iranian support for any such move. Moreover, he will be pressed to leave the other areas of Syria Turkey currently occupies.

U.S. troops are for now expected to continue the occupation near the Euphrates where the fight against remands of the Islamic State is ongoing. They wont stay long. Trump successfully insisted, against the wish of his military, to completely pull out of Syria. The people who argue against the move are, not coincidentally, the same people who furthered the rise of Islamic State. After Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned over the issue further efforts by the military to delay the retreat will likely be futile.

To cover the withdrawal from Syria the U.S. military established two new bases in Iraq. These are also blocking positions designed to prevent over land traffic between the Levant and Iran. It is unlikely that the U.S. will occupy those bases for long. The Iraqi parliament is already moving to again throw out all U.S. forces from its country.

The military moves come along new political ones which reestablish Syria as a pivotal Arab state.

Yesterday the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus. Bahrain will follow next. Kuwait will reopen its embassy in January. Oman never closed its embassy in Damascus. Of the Gulf countries only Qatar, allied with Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have jet to announce a revival of their relations with Syria. Before the war on Syria started, the UAE and other gulf countries financed several large investment projects in Syria. These will be revived and help the country's economy back onto its feet. Egypt is expected to follow the move of its Gulf sponsors.

Underlying the UAE move is a strategy of countering Turkey's neo-ottoman ambition. Syria is (again) seen as the bulwark that protects the larger Arabia from Turkish marauders. It signals to Turkey that any attempt to take over more of Syria will be resisted by the Gulf states and possibly even by Egypt's army. Egypt is, together with Russia, mediating between the Kurds and the Syrian government.

The Arab move is also perceived as a counter to Iranian influence in Syria. In this it will fail. Syria was rescued from the all out attack on it by Iran's intervention. It was the Iranian General Soleimani who convinced Russia to commit troops to Syria. It was Iran that spent billions to prop up the Syrian government while the Gulf Arabs spent even more to take it down. Syria will not forget who are its foes and who are its real friends.

Air traffic connections from Damascus to Arab countries are coming back. Last week a direct connection with Tunisia was revived. In January Gulf-Air, the official airline carrier for Bahrain, will again offer flights from Damascus. The Arab League, which in 2012 kicked out Syria, will invite it back in. Syria may well accept the offer, but only in exchange for a large compensation.

An Israeli air attack on Syrian military installments on December 26 largely failed. The Israeli jets fired some 16 stand-off bombs from Lebanese air space. They cowardly hid behind two commercial airliners which were on their way from the Gulf to Europe. This made it impossible for the Syrian air defense to directly attack the Israeli jets. Most of the Israeli projectiles were destroyed by the Syrian short-range air defenses. A Syrian missile was fired against Israel proper. It was a reminder that new rules of engagement, as announced, have been established. Attacks on Syria will be replied to by direct attacks on Israel. The missile shot ended the Israeli attack.

Israel, like others, will learn that any further attacks on Syria are futile and will only lead to effective retaliations. The war on Syria, while not yet over, is drawing down. Syria's political isolation is ending. Those who insist on continuing it will in the end lose out.

lunes, 24 de diciembre de 2018

Navidad en Damasco

Comienza a caer la tarde en Damasco, Siria, país donde se deciden los destinos del mundo.  Los sirios cristianos (un 10% de la población) se preparan para la Nochebuena después de ocho años de “guerra civil”. Papá Noél trajo un regalo en estas fiestas: la promesa de retirada de las tropas estadounidenses. De concretarse, el mapa geopolítico del mundo habrá cambiado para el 2019.

El Imperio usó a la religión musulmana como herramienta de caos en las últimas dos décadas, en particular en Medio Oriente. Aprendices de brujo, la herramienta se les fue de las manos en seguida, tanto en términos geográficos como económicos, políticos y sociales. El planeta entero vive actualmente un clima de caos. Nos resulta de estricta justicia histórica que su retirada se produzca en una de las cunas de la civilización, en donde conviven varias de las mayores religiones del planeta. Leemos en Wikipedia

La religión en Siria se compone de una amplia gama de religiones y sectas. Sin embargo, la pertenencia a una comunidad religiosa en Siria es normalmente determinado por el nacimiento.

De acuerdo a una investigación realizada por Michael Izady, el 68,4% de los Sirios son Musulmanes Sunitas, el 11,3% son los Alawitas y 11.2% son Cristianos, otros 9.1% pertenecen a otras religiones.

No todos los Sunitas son Árabes quienes representan el 60% -65% de la población. La mayoría de los Kurdos, que constituyen el 9% de la población son oficialmente Sunitas, así como son los Turcomanos que abarcan del 1% de la población.

Una característica notable de la vida religiosa en Siria es la distribución geográfica de las minorías religiosas. La mayoría de los Cristianos viven en Damasco, Alepo, Homs, y en otras grandes ciudades, junto con un número considerable en la Gobernaciónn de Al-Hasakah, en el noreste de Siria, Tartus y Latakia. 

Casi el 90 por ciento de los Alawitas viven en la zona costera del país, es decir, en la Gobernación de Latakia y la Gobernación de Tartus en las zonas rurales de Jabal un Nusayriyah, que constituyen más del 80 por ciento de la población rural de la zona costera. 

En Jabal al-Arab/Jabal al-Druze, una áspera región montañosa en el suroeste del país, es que habitada en más del 90 por ciento por los Drusos; algunas 120 aldeas son exclusivamente así. 

Los Chiítas Duodecimanos o Imamíes se concentran en las zonas rurales de Homs, además de dos pueblos rurales en la Gobernación de Alepo, además de algunos que viven en Damasco. 

Los Ismaelitas se concentran entre la región de Salamiyah y la región de Masyaf en a Gobernación de Hamah; aproximadamente 10.000 habitan en las montañas de la Gobernación de Tartus en una pequeña ciudad llamada Al-Qadmus. 

La comunidad de Judíos sirios ha disminuido dramáticamente en los últimos 20 años. Algunas estimaciones indican que en Damasco permanecieron menos de 100 personas Judías. Pero hay algunos otros que también en el área de Alepo, como son los Yazidis, algunos de los cuales habitan en Jabal Sam an y alrededor de la mitad de los cuales viven en las cercanías de Amuda en Al-Jazira. 

Siria es un estado secular que permite la libertad religiosa, siendo el único país de Medio Oriente de habla árabe junto con Líbano que no tiene una religión oficial de estado.


Los cambios en la actitud de la población siria, luego del anuncio de la retirada de las fuerzas militares estadounidenses, no se han hecho esperar. Comienzan a aparecer banderas oficiales sirias y fotos del presidente Bashar al Assad en poblaciones de mayoría kurda en el norte del país. Tal es el caso de Manjib (al norte de Alepo) y de Qamishli, en el extremo noreste del país. La nota que sigue es del portal libanés de noticias Al Manar:

Título: Fotos de Assad y banderas nacionales sirias aparecen en las ciudades de mayoría kurda de Siria

Texto: Retratos del presidente sirio, Bashar al Assad, y la bandera nacional siria han sido colocados en la entrada de algunas ciudades de mayoría kurda del noreste de Siria, como Manbij y Qamishli. En reacción a este hecho, las fuerzas de la coalición liderada por EEUU y combatientes de las Fuerzas Democráticas Sirias han sido desplegados en Manbij temiendo un levantamiento de la población de la ciudad, pese al anuncio del presidente de EEUU, Donald Trump, de una retirada de tropas norteamericanas de Siria en un breve plazo.

La población de Manbij y otras ciudades de mayoría kurda se ha manifestado exigiendo la retirada de las tropas de la coalición internacional y las FDS de la ciudad y la entrega de la misma al Ejército sirio, el único garante de la seguridad y unidad territorial del país.

Las fuerzas de la coalición y las FDS han reprimido las manifestaciones y sentadas de la población de Manbij y obligaron por la fuerza las tiendas que estaban cerradas como protesta por su presencia. Muchos residentes fueron detenidos por las continuadas protestas.

Ahora, fuentes locales señalan que la población ha alzado la bandera nacional en los edificios oficiales y sitios altos de la ciudad.

Uno de los manifestantes señaló que Manbij podría tener el mismo destino que Afrin, que se halla ocupada por tropas turcas y terroristas aliados de Ankara, en el caso de que las FDS no la entreguen al Ejército sirio, que es, a su juicio, el único capaz de proteger la ciudad frente a las ambiciones de Turquía y su presidente, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

domingo, 23 de diciembre de 2018

Mala conducta

Una breve nota del diario chino Global Times parece resumir la posición oficial del gobierno de ese país con respecto al caso de Meng Wanzhou, la jefa financiera de la corporación Huawei arrestada en Canadá días atrás por petición de un juez estadounidense. Wikipedia nos dice que "...Global Times (chino tradicional: 環球時報, chino simplificado: 环球时报, pinyin: Huánqiú Shíbào) es un tabloide diario chino centrado en temas internacionales perteneciente al periódico Diario del Pueblo.​ Aunque este último pertenece al Partido Comunista Chino, las opiniones del tabloide no están necesariamente dictadas por el gobierno." En este caso, uno diría que sí. Acá va la nota:

Título: Canada will pay for its bad behavior

Texto: Canada is taking a tougher stance. On one hand, its Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday called for the immediate release of two Canadians lawfully detained in China. On the other hand, she claimed that "Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer; Canada respects its international commitments, including by honoring its extradition treaty with the US." Canada will seek further support from its allies in the coming days, said Freeland on Saturday.

So far, only the US and UK have backed Canada's position. The EU issued a statement saying that China's act "raises concerns about legitimate research and business practices in China." But major EU member states have not yet made any public statements.

Canada's attempts to resolve a conflict with China by roping in its allies will never work.

The arrest of Meng enjoyed no popular support in the global business community. The suddenness and concerns aroused by Meng far outdistance those raised by the detentions of the two Canadians. Canada and its allies can never twist the truth.

Based on US malfeasance over time, a general judgment can be made that the arrest of Meng is Washington's and Ottawa's political persecution with their well-developed legal weapons. The US and Canada have joined hands to break the crucial boundary between the international business game and geopolitical struggle. 

The two Canadians were investigated in accordance with Chinese laws and they enjoyed exactly the same rights as other foreigners. No evidence has shown any unfair treatment. China's consistent legal practices of safeguarding national security have not changed. 

Every time China legally detains citizens of Western countries, Western media unexceptionally report the event as a violation of human rights and the rule of law. Such scenes may continue until Western countries show more respect for China's laws.

China's attitude toward foreigners is highly solid, even in the current circumstances. The arrest of two Canadians won't change such an attitude, and international society, including Western countries, are quite clear about that. The US, Canada and their allies want to add pressure on China by promoting the idea that China's business environment could be deteriorating.

It remains uncertain what the US and its allies will do next. Will the US attack more Chinese enterprises? Will it normalize the arrest of executives as means of suppression? Will it ask more allies to cooperate with extradition? Will Washington use the same means to cope with competitors from other countries and regions? These questions remain unknown.

If the US requests Canada extradite more executives from other Chinese companies, will Canada and other US allies do as they are told? 

Canada's foreign minister, please answer these questions and predict how other allies will react.

Canada is an accomplice in the US violation of the international business order. While claiming devotion and innocence in defending the rule of law, it is taking unreasonable and unscrupulous actions against China. Canada certainly will pay for this.

Canada will never get sincere support from international society. No country is so foolish as to not understand the real situation. 

China's diplomatic wisdom will be tested after the Huawei case. China should neither overreact, nor be soft in counterattacking the most active countries of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance, namely Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. China will make Canada pay the price if it extradites Meng to the US so as to demonstrate to the world the cost of helping Washington harm China.

viernes, 21 de diciembre de 2018

Siguen las sorpresas

El presidente Donald Trump anunció ayer un significativo recorte de la presencia militar estadounidense en Afghanistán. Esto ocurre cuando todavía no se acallan los rumores sobre la retirada de Siria. El secretario de Defensa, James Mattis, acaba de anunciar su renuncia. Nos seguimos preguntando qué está pasando. La nota que siggue es de Amanda Mars para el diario El País:

Título: Trump planea recortar a la mitad la presencia militar en Afganistán

Epígrafe: La medida se debate la misma semana en la que se ha decidido el repligue en Siria, lo que muestra que el presidente de Estados Unidos se desmarca de los halcones del partido

Texto: Donald Trump ha pulsado el botón de repliegue militar. Al día siguiente de anunciar la retirada de los 2.000 soldados desplegados en Siria, para disgusto de los halcones republicanos y de su propio jefe del Pentágono, que ha decidido dimitir, fuentes de Defensa informaron a la prensa estadounidense de que el presidente también planea recortar a la mitad la presencia de tropas en Afganistán. Ahora hay desplegados 14.000 efectivos, cifra que se irá reduciendo en el transcurso de los próximos meses.

La noticia trascendió al final de una jornada wagneriana en Washington, que comenzó con la encendida defensa del mandatario de su decisión sobre el conflicto sirio, se agitó con la renuncia del secretario de Defensa, Jim Mattis, y tuvo como broche final una polémica proposición de ley para empezar a financiar el polémico muro que el neoyorquino quiere en la frontera con México.

La de Afganistán es la guerra más larga de Estados Unidos. Trump llegó a la Casa Blanca con la idea de retirarse cuanto antes, pero capituló a los ocho meses de comenzar su Gobierno. “Mi primer instinto era salir, y a mí, históricamente, me ha gustado seguir mis instintos, pero he oído toda mi vida que las decisiones son muy distintas cuando te sientas en la mesa del Despacho Oval”, dijo a los estadounidenses en agosto de 2017. “Una retirada apresurada crearía un vacío que los terroristas, incluidos el ISIS [siglas en inglés del Estado Islámico] y Al Qaeda llenarían de inmediato, tal y como ocurrió antes del 11-S. Y, como sabemos, América se fue de Irak de forma equivocada y apresurada”, recalcó, culpando de esto último a su predecesor, Barack Obama.

El expresidente demócrata dijo en su día que comenzaría el repliegue en 2011 y también tuvo que desdecirse. Pero Trump, como ha demostrado con la decisión sobre Siria, se está alejando de los halcones de su Gobierno y su partido. "Creo que muestra hasta qué punto el presidente quiere salir de estos conflictos", señaló una fuente anónima de la Administración citada por The Wall Street Journal, que avanzó la noticia.

Hoy, después de 17 años enfrascados en la guerra afgana, prosiguen unos 14.000 soldados estadounidenses sobre el terreno, de los cuales la mitad trabaja en apoyo y entrenamiento de las fuerzas afganas y la otra mitad combate contra los grupos terroristas del Estado Islámico y Al Qaeda. En 2010, cuando tocó su máximo, el despliegue alcanzó los 100.000 efectivos.

jueves, 20 de diciembre de 2018

Siria: una explicación posible

El sitio web Moon of Alabama ofrece una posible explicación sobre la sorprendente movida del día de ayer del presidente Donald Trump de evacuar tanto las fuerzas militares como los "contratistas privados" que invaden hoy distintos sectores de Siria. Acá va:

Título: Why Trump Decided To Remove U.S. Troops From Syria

Texto: Last Friday President Trump had another long phonecall with the Turkish President Erdogan. Thereafter he overruled all his advisors and decided to remove the U.S. boots from Syria and to also end the air war.

This was the first time Trump took a decisive stand against the borg, the permanent neoconservative and interventionist establishment in his administration, the military and congress, that usually dictates U.S. foreign policy.

It was this decision, and that he stuck to it, which finally made him presidential.

Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, his Secretary of Defense 'mad dog' Mattis and his Secretary of State Pompeo were all against this decision. The specialist working on Syria, the lunatic (vid) special representative for Syria engagement James Jefferey and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, were taken by surprise. They had worked diligently to install a permanent U.S. presence in a Kurdish ruled proxy state in northeast Syria.

While these people first tried to change Trump's decision, their resistance has now ceased:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton met Monday, when Trump was said to formally decide on a US withdrawal from Syria. Multiple US officials argued against an abrupt US withdrawal, but were said to have given up trying to get Trump to change his mind by Tuesday night. US officials began to notify allies of the decision Tuesday.

“The push back from DOD, State and NSC stopped [Tuesday] night,” said one regional expert who consults with the US administration, referring to the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Security Council.

Back in January we already explained why the neoconservative project of a Kurdish proxy state in northeast Syria was doomed from its start [ver el mapa de arriba]:

Ilhan tanir @WashingtonPoint - 7:50 PM - 24 Jan 2018
This map being discussed all day on Turkish TVs as Turkey’s planned security zone/safe zone on Syria border.
Reportedly OK’ed by Sec.Tillerson though nobody on the American side confirms it

It is the U.S. supported founding of a Kurdish state-let in northeast Syria which is Ankara's most serious security concern. No [Turkish] "safe zone" will help if the U.S. military continues to build and supplies a Kurdish "border force" that can penetrate Turkey's southeastern underbelly - now, tomorrow or in ten years. Unless the U.S. stops that project and retreats from the area Turkey will continue to push against it - if necessary by force.

The Turkish people support the fight against U.S. supported Kurds and are willing to pay the price for it. The Kurdish YPK leaders are delusional in their demands and overestimate their own political position. The U.S. can not have both, Turkey as an ally and a Kurdish proxy statelet. It has to decide.

Trump never wanted that project to proceed. He had always wanted to declare victory against ISIS and leave. It was the borg that tried to prevent this and which push the project along.

But there are bigger geopolitical fish to fry than such meddling in the Middle East. Trump knows that the United States' 'unilateral moment' after the demise of the Soviet Union, which left the U.S. was the sole superpower, is over. Russia is back and China is rising. Trump's policy to adopt to the decreasing U.S. power is to end the 'globalization' that allowed for China's rapid rise. He wants to geopolitical split this world into two influence spheres. These will be separate from each other in the political, economic, technological and military realms.

In this new big game Syria's northeast is just a sideshow and not worth a significant involvement. The much larger Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally for 70 years, is way more important. If Trump had not taken the decision to end the neocon Syria project and to remove the U.S. from Syria the U.S. would have lost it:

Putting myself into Erdogan's shoes I would be very tempted to leave NATO and join an alliance with Russia, China and Iran. Unless the U.S. changes course and stops fooling around with the Kurds, Turkey will continue to disentangle itself from the old alliance. The Turkish army has so far prevented a break with NATO but even staunch anti-Erdogan officers are now on his side.

If the U.S. makes a real offer to Turkey and adopts a new position it might be able to turn Turkey around and to put it back into its NATO fold. Is the Trump White House capable of defying the pro-Israel/pro-Kurdish voices and move back to that realist view?

If it can not do that the real answer to the question "Who lost Turkey?" will be obvious.

Trump decided that to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO, and from joining a deeper alliance with Russia, China and Iran, was more important than to further fool around at the margins of the Middle East. It is the right decision.

The Kurdish statelet idea also led to a conflict between the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Central Command (CentCom). Turkey (and Israel) fall under EUCOM, while the Middle East and west Asia are the realm of CentCom. Throughout the last year EUCOM had been increasingly noisy about CentCom's Syria plans:

Among the critics is General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of the European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. [...] During a trip to Washington in March, Scaparrotti huddled with Mattis to express his worries over the growing tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations, worries that the European commander has also expressed in several meetings with General Joseph Votel, his counterpart as head of Centcom.

The concern within EUCOM and NATO was indeed that Turkey would move further towards Russia and in the end leave NATO. That is now unlikely to happen. (Since 1991 it was CentCom that played a oversized role in U.S. foreign policy. Sec Def Mattis is a CentCom animal. It is good to see CentCom and him cut to size.)

But if the hope is that Turkey will end its relations with Russia and Iran the outcome will be disappointing. Turkey depends on Russian and Iranian gas and as export markets. After the attempted coup against him Erdogan does not trust the U.S. side. Moreover, the position that gives him the most flexibility and leverage is between the two 'blocks', both of which will continue to court him. He will continue to vacillate between them to get the most from both sides.

The neoconservative elements in the administration, and their Zionist backers, have lost out. As Craig Murray describes their aims:

The chaos of this incoherent and counterproductive strategy is, peculiarly enough, what the neocons actually want. Perpetual war and destabilisation in the Middle East is their goal. ... Today, by keeping Arab populations poor and politically divided, the neo-cons believe that they enhance the security of Israel, and they certainly do facilitate the access of western companies to the oil and gas of the region, as we see in destabilised Iraq and Libya.

The neoconservative and interventionist borg blew it when it tried to use the temporary U.S. position in Syria against ISIS to goad Trump into a conflict with Iran:

Some current and former US officials faulted what they saw as overreach by administration Iran hawks, in particular US Syria envoy Jim Jeffrey and his lieutenant, Joel Rayburn, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Levant, who have argued publicly that US forces would not leave Syria until all Iranian forces had left.

“The people who work for [Trump] — Bolton, Rayburn, now Jeffrey — make it worse by adding impossible objectives on Syria [involving Iran] that suggest an indefinite stay,” said the US official who called Trump's decision catastrophic. The official said these arguments have “no connection to realistic objectives for our military” and go “way beyond” the goal of defeating IS and preventing its re-emergence.

But the Iranian presence in Syria is so small and and the U.S. position so weak, that this was always a stupid idea:

John Allen Gay, an Iran expert and executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society, [..] argues that Trump’s decision confirms what everyone has quietly admitted for at least the past year: that keeping U.S. forces in Syria to counter ISIS was starting to look like a way for administration interventionists to argue that we should take on Iran.

“Keeping the troops there post-ISIS was in part natural mission creep, but it was also a stalking horse for hawks in the administration who want to take on Iran,” he told TAC.

“Yet dangling a few thousand guys in between Turkish forces on one side and Iranians, Russians, and Syrians on the other was never going to be decisive on Iran’s regional role, and it came with real risks and no endgame,” Gay added. “I just don’t think there’s any appetite in the American public for a big fight with Iran anywhere, let alone over Eastern Syria.”

The U.S. State Department is already moving its people out of Syria. The 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. military and contractors were given 60 to 100 days (other sources say 30 day but that is a bit too hasty) to pack up and leave.

They will coordinate with Russia for a handover. There will be Russian advisors that will replace the U.S. Green Berets who command the Kurdish and Arab tribal forces against ISIS. Russia will also try to convince Turkey that there is no further need to invade Syria's east. It will promise to disarm the Kurdish forces or to integrate them into the Syrian army. Its air force will replace the U.S. and others who currently bomb the 2,000 or so Islamic State fighters left in their hold out along the Euphrates.

The Kurds in Syria will have to make nice with Damascus. They have nowhere else to go. Their dream of an autonomous Rojava will turn out to be just that. Syria can only survive as a centrally controlled state. It will never be federalized. The local Arab tribes in the northeast will probably seek some revenge against the uppity Kurdish leadership that used the U.S. backing to draft their sons into the fight against ISIS. The YPK leadership will likely flee into north Iraq to hide out with their PKK brethren in in the Quandil mountains.

The Syrian army, which plans to dislodge al-Qaeda from Idleb governorate during the next spring, will now have to move a number of forces towards the northeast. Isolating the Islamic State at the Euphrates near the Iraqi border and eventually eliminating it, will be the new priority. Iraqi militia will probably help with that. Recovering the oil and gas fields and other economic assets will be another important issue.

Much will depend on how Russia and Iran will be able to handle Turkey. With the U.S. out, and the danger of a Kurdish entity in Syria decreasing, they may well be able to convince Erdogan to stop his invasion plans.

It is quite refreshing to see that Trump was finally able to liberate himself from the dictate of the borg. By moving the U.S. out of Syria he fulfilled one of his election promises.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 11:42 utc - 20 Dec 2018
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA

The people who voted for Trump will welcome the move. One hopes that he can expand on it by further decreasing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Israel on his policies.

During his campaign Trump also argued for better relations with Russia. But the borg pushed his policies towards the opposite stand. Removing the U.S. from Syria is eliminating one issue were Russia and the U.S. were on opposing sides. Could Trump use his newly found backbone to defeat the borg again and to finally work towards better relations with Russia?

That currently sounds unlikely. But Friday's decision was a big suprise. Stay tuned for other ones.

Mientras tanto, en las bolsas...

Una linda mañanita en la Argentina. Mientras tanto, sigue el run run de las bolsas. Japón anduvo movidito. Wall Street abre en un rato. Alguno se pregunta si ya comenzó el pánico.

miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2018

Siria: retirada

Es demasiado temprano para entender bien qué significa todo esto. Lo súbito de la noticia es lo sospechoso. ¿Concesión a Turquía, que hace dos días anunció la intención de compra de 120 (ciento veinte) aviones de combate F-35? ¿Capitulación ante Rusia? ¿Cortina de humo para esconder otra movida? Así lo informa el diario español El País, citando a Reuters:

Título: Estados Unidos considera la retirada completa de sus tropas de Siria

Epígrafe: La decisión de sacar del país a los 2.000 soldados norteamericanos actualmente presentes en el territorio sirio habría sido tomada por el presidente Donald Trump

Texto: Estados Unidos está considerando una retirada total de las tropas de Estados Unidos de Siria al estar cerca el final de su campaña para recuperar todo el territorio que una vez estuvo en manos del Estado Islámico, según han informado fuentes oficiales de EE UU. 

La decisión, si se confirma, cambiaría drásticamente las suposiciones sobre una presencia militar más prolongada de EE UU en Siria, algo que el secretario de Defensa norteamericano Jim Mattis y otros altos funcionarios de EE UU han propugnado en el pasado para evitar que el Estado Islámico resurja.

Según la CNN, la decisión habría sido tomada por el presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, que ha publicado un tuit que sugiere la retirada: "Hemos derrotado al ISIS en Siria, mi única razón para estar allí durante la presidencia Trump". Actualmente, EE UU mantiene 2.000 soldados en el país, donde principalmente entrenan a fuerzas locales para combatir al ISIS. Además, EE UU tiene tropas preparadas en Irak preparadas para lanzar un ataque en Siria si fuera necesario.


Así informa Missy Ryan Para el Washington Post:

Título: Trump administration plans to pull U.S. troops from Syria immediately, defense official says

Texto: The Trump administration is planning to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, a defense official said on Wednesday, as President Trump declared victory against the Islamic State.

The president, in a message on Twitter, said the United States had "defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."

His statement came shortly after news organizations reported that the White House had made a decision on Tuesday to abruptly remove the entire U.S. force of more than 2,000 troops from Syria and end the extended American ground campaign against the Islamic State.

Trump has long promised to conclude the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and has questioned the value of costly and dangerous military missions overseas. But U.S. troops, working alongside Syrian partner forces, have struggled to eradicate remaining pockets of militants in central Syria. An abrupt American withdrawal would raise questions about whether the militants would be more easily able to regain strength.

The decision is the latest twist in American leaders' unsuccessful quest to craft a solution for Syria's long civil conflict, which has drawn in U.S. allies and adversaries including Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Both the Trump and Obama administrations have resisted becoming more involved in Syria's larger civil war but many senior officials - including at the State Department and Pentagon - have supported an ongoing troop presence in Syria until security conditions improve and a political solution can be reached.

Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision that has not yet been announced, said the withdrawal was expected to occur as quickly as possible and would affect the entire force of more than 2,000 U.S. service members. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Wednesday that U.S. troops would be removed from northeast Syria.

U.S. forces are mostly in north central and northeast Syria, but they also have a smaller ground presence in the southeast Syria along the border with Jordan.
The unexpected White House move comes as tensions increase sharply with NATO ally Turkey, which has promised to launch a military offensive against the U.S. partner forces in Syria, which Ankara considers part of a Kurdish terrorist group. Losing their U.S. ground partner will be a major blow to the Syrian Kurdish forces.


La nota de abajo es de Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Mark Landler para el New York Times

Título: Trump Considering Full Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Syria

Texto: WASHINGTON — President Trump is considering pulling 2,000 United States ground troops out of Syria in a move that would seek to describe the four-year American-led war against the Islamic State as largely won, officials said Wednesday.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president said in a Twitter post on Wednesday morning. He offered no details on his plans for the military mission in Syria.

Donald J. Trump
We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.
11:29 AM - Dec 19, 2018
Twitter Ads info and privacy

A formal withdrawal announcement could come as early as Wednesday, administration officials said. But Pentagon officials were still trying to talk the president out of it, arguing that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey.

”At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region,” Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a short statement on Wednesday morning.

In a series of meetings and conference calls over the past several days, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior national security officials have tried to dissuade Mr. Trump from a wholesale troop withdrawal, arguing that such a significant national security policy shift would essentially cede foreign influence in Syria to Russia and Iran at a time when American policy calls for challenging both countries.

Abandoning the American-backed Kurdish allies, Pentagon officials have argued, will hamper future efforts by the United States to gain the trust of local fighters, from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia.

But Mr. Trump promised during his presidential campaign to withdraw American troops from Syria, and has been looking for a way out since. He reluctantly agreed in April to give the Defense Department more time to finish the mission.

In recent days, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has given Mr. Trump just such a possible path: Mr. Erdogan has vowed to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish troops that the United States has equipped to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

As the debate over withdrawing from Syria was raging inside the White House over recent days, Mr. Trump argued that the risk of a Turkish incursion could be a threat to the United States forces in Syria, officials said, although Mr. Erdogan would likely face huge reprisals if Turkish troops killed or wounded any Americans.

One possibility under discussion, officials said, was a phased withdrawal of American troops. But Mr. Trump, the officials said, seems to prefer pulling out all forces as soon as possible.

Some details of the administration debate on Syria were first reported early Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, Mr. Erdogan said that he told Mr. Trump that Turkey would launch its offensive soon, and that he received positive assurances from Mr. Trump. But Turkish officials have said that before.

Turkey considers the American-backed Kurdish forces to be a terrorist group because of their connection to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a Kurdish insurgency in the region. The Syrian Kurds hope to create an autonomous region in northeast Syria, similar to the one in neighboring Iraq. They now control around 30 percent of Syria’s territory.

Pentagon officials have been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the issue.
The Islamic State, a militant group also known as ISIS, has lost an estimated 90 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria, where the 2,000 American troops are mostly advising a militia made up of Kurdish and Arab soldiers.

In recent days, Turkey has accused the United States of failing to tackle security threats in the region. The United States and Turkey are NATO allies but uneasy partners in the war against the Islamic State.

But one Defense Department official suggested that Mr. Trump also wants to divert attention away from the series of legal challenges confronting him over the recent days: the Russian investigation run by the special counsel as well as the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a hush-money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was in court on Tuesday, where he was harshly criticized by federal judge for his efforts to mislead federal investigators.



Leemos en el sitio web Moon of Alabama:

 TítuloReport: U.S. To Leave Syria Immediately - Updated

Texto: The Wall Street Journal just reported that U.S. troops prepare to leave northeast Syria:

WASHINGTON—In an abrupt reversal, the U.S. military is preparing to withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday, a move that throws the American strategy in the Middle East into turmoil.

U.S. officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin immediately pulling American forces out of the region where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State, the people said.

The move follows a call last week between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to launch an assault on America’s Kurdish partners in Syria.

Turkey had threatened over several week to invade and occupy an at least 10 miles deep strip of northeast Syria. The Turkish army brought heavy weapons to its adjacent borders areas. Some 15,000 foreign and Syrian 'rebels', paid by Turkey, are supposed to be on the forefront of the invasion. These were over the last month transferred from Idleb and other Turkish controlled areas of northwest Syria to the Turkish side of the eastern border.

The U.S. military and the neoconservatives elements in Trump's administration wanted to hold onto the northeast of Syria for an unlimited time. They planned to establish a Kurdish entity and finance it with the Syrian oil fields they occupied. They had plans to arm and train some 40,000 Kurdish troops.

For over a year the U.S. claimed to fight the Islamic State remands which still holds some grounds on the northern side of the Euphrates near the Iraqi border. But the front lines moved little. Only during the last week did the U.S. supported troops finally take the town of Hajin.

For Turkey the perspective of 40,000 armed and U.S. protected YPK Kurds on its border, while the YPG's sister organization PKK is fighting a separatist guerilla war against the Turkish army north of it, was a real and existential threat.

It seems that Erdogan made a deal with Trump, which is now turned into practical moves. Yesterday Turkey was suddenly offered to buy advanced Patriot missile defense systems. It had earlier decided to buy the Russian S-400 system. Now we learn the U.S. troops move out. What other surprises are in this deal? What does Trump get out of it? How does this change Turkey's relation with Russia?

And what about the U.S. occupied border station al-Tanf between Iraq and Syria. Will those troops leave too?

With the U.S. moving out there will be a race to take those parts of Syria that the U.S. leaves. Turkey is likely to stick to its invasion plan. The Syrian government must now race to take back the Raqqa dam, the rich agricultural land north of the Euphrates and, most important, the oil and gas field near the Iraqi border which are needed to finance the country.

It must also move parts of its army to the northeast Euphrates area to isolate and finally defeat the rest of ISIS that the U.S. seemingly leaves behind.

Update 14:45 utc

The New York Times (and Trump) confirm the move:

President Trump is considering pulling 2,000 United States ground troops out of Syria in a move that would seek to describe the four-year American-led war against the Islamic State as largely won, officials said Wednesday.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president said in a Twitter post on Wednesday morning. He offered no details on his plans for the military mission in Syria.

A formal withdrawal announcement could come as early as Wednesday, administration officials said. But Pentagon officials were still trying to talk the president out of it, arguing that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey.


Mattis and the neocons want Trump to stay in Syria but it seems that for once Trump is not falling for their stupid plans.

That the U.S. betrays the Kurds is almost a tradition. The Kurds had been warned about this over and over again. But they did not listen. Like in Afrin canton, which Turkey occupied after the Kurds rejected to come back under Syrian government control, they will now likely have to pay a huge price. 

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2018


Malos signos de los tiempos que corren: “los mercados” hablan, como hoy (imagen de arriba, de CNN Money), más bien pobremente de lo que se espera que pase. La nota que sigue es de Stephanie Landsman para y resume una entrevista al político estadounidense Ron Raul:

Título: Ron Paul: A 50% correction will spark depression-like conditions that may be 'worse than 1929'

Texto: Ron Paul is warning this year's corrections could be a precursor to an epic market collapse that may come sooner than investors think.

According to the former Republican presidential candidate, Wall Street is becoming more vulnerable to near-depression conditions within the next 12 months.

"Once this volatility shows that we're not going to resume the bull market, then people are going to rush for the exits," Paul said Thursday on CNBC's "Futures Now." The relentlessly bearish former congressman added that "It could be worse than 1929."

During that year, the stock market began hemorrhaging, falling almost 90 percent and sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

Paul, a well-known Libertarian, has been warning Wall Street a massive market plunge is inevitable for years. He's currently projecting a 50 percent decline from current levels as his base case, citing the ongoing U.S.-China trade war as a growing risk factor.

"I'm not optimistic that all of the sudden, you're going to eliminate the tariff problem. I think that's here to stay," he said. "Tariffs are taxes."

The scenario is exacerbating Paul's chief reason behind his bearish call: 2008 financial crisis easy money policies. He contended the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing has caused the "biggest bubble in the history of mankind."

"It's so important to understand the original cause of the problem, and that is the Federal Reserve running up debt and letting politicians spend money," he added.

Paul argued that Washington lawmakers do not have an ability to effectively fix the debt problem, and he's been highly critical of the 2017 Trump tax cuts for creating a dire debt situation.

The White House is estimating this year's budget deficit will total $1.09 trillion. The Obama administration saw deficits just as large while trying to solve the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent recession.

However, there may be a silver lining in Paul's forecast.

Unlike the Great Depression, Paul said the next historic downturn doesn't have to last a decade — as long as Fed policy and lawmakers don't make the same financial mistakes.

"If you allow the liquidation, it doesn't last long," Paul said.