sábado, 31 de marzo de 2018

China mueve de nuevo

Este fin de la historia viene movido, chicos. Para decirlo rápido: China no sólo abre el mercado de futuros de petróleo para el petroyuan, sino que acaba de anunciar que, a partir de ahora, paga su petróleo importado en yuanes. Esto tiene implicaciones, sobre todo si se recuerda que el petróleo es el commodity más importante de este planeta (no sabemos bien cómo viene la situación en Marte, a donde quiere ir Elon Musk, el fabricante de autos eléctricos; ampliaremos). El cuadro de arriba muestra los primeros días de transacciones en el mercado de futuros para el petroyuan; puede apreciarse que las transacciones en Brent (cotización de Londres) quedaron un poquitín por debajo, por decir algo (¿explicará esto la locura reciente de las autoridades británicas?). En fin, habrá que ver cómo se desarrollan los acontecimientos. Por ahora, tienen la palabra los “inversores” (risas). Leemos en Zero Hedge:

Título: In Unprecedented Move, China Plans To Pay For Oil Imports With Yuan Instead Of Dollars

Texto: Just days after Beijing officially launched  Yuan-denominated crude oil futures (with a bang, as shown in the chart below, surpassing Brent trading volume) which are expected to quickly become the third global price benchmark along Brent and WTI, China took the next major step in the challenging the Dollar's supremacy as global reserve currency (and internationalizing the Yuan) when on Thursday Reuters reported that China took the first steps to paying for crude oil imports in its own currency instead of the US Dollars.

A pilot program for yuan payment could be launched as soon as the second half of the year and regulators have already asked some financial institutions to "prepare for pricing crude imports in the yuan", Reuters sourcesreveal.

According to the proposed plan, Beijing would start with purchases from Russia and Angola, two nations which, like China, are keen to break the dollar’s global dominance. They are also two of the top suppliers of crude oil to China, along with Saudi Arabia.

A change in the default crude oil transactional currency - which for decades has been the "Petrodollar", blessing the US with global reserve currency status - would have monumental consequences for capital allocations and trade flows, not to mention geopolitics: as Reuters notes, a shift in just a small part of global oil trade into the yuan is potentially huge. "Oil is the world’s most traded commodity, with an annual trade value of around $14 trillion, roughly equivalent to China’s gross domestic product last year." Currently, virtually all global crude oil trading is in dollars, barring an estimated 1 per cent in other currencies. This is the basis of US dominance in the world economy.

However, as shown in the chart below which follows the first few days of Chinese oil futures trading, this status quo may be changing fast.

Superficially, for China it would be a matter of nationalistic pride to see oil trade transact in Yuan: "Being the biggest buyer of oil, it’s only natural for China to push for the usage of yuan for payment settlement. This will also improve the yuan liquidity in the global market,” said one of the people briefed on the matter by Chinese authorities.

There are other considerations behind the launch of the Yuan-denominated oil contract as Goldman explains:

- A commercial benchmark and hedging tool. Until now, Chinese oil imports were based on FOB benchmarks, with long-term procurement contracts settling off Platts Oman/Dubai or Dated Brent. The INE contract has therefore the potential to become the pricing reference for CIF China crude oil, enabling corporate financial hedging. Its warehouse structure is however likely to limit its use for physical crude delivery and may in fact at times reduce its hedge efficiency.

- A new investment vehicle for onshore investors. The majority of China commodity futures trading volumes are from retail investors, yet these had until now little ability to trade oil futures. China’s capital control was the main bottleneck  to trading contracts like Brent as authorities only allow $50,000 outflow a year per person. While several petrochemical and bitumen contracts already trade in China, INE will be the first contract for crude oil, likely drawing significant interest.

- Direct access to China’s commodity markets for offshore investors. China offers deep and liquid commodity markets to its onshore investors. Due to China’s tight capital controls, however, foreign investors have so far only been able to trade these through qualified onshore subsidiaries. The INE contract opens up the first channel for offshore investors to trade in its onshore commodity market, with both the USD deposit and capital gains transferable back to offshore accounts. The government further announced last week that it would waive income taxes for foreign investors trading these new contracts for the first three years. The obligation to trade in Yuan will also add a currency risk exposure to offshore investors. We illustrate in Exhibit 6 a likely template (amongst others) of how overseas investors will be able to access INE liquidity.

The danger, of course, is that such a shift would also boost the value of the Yuan, hardly what China needs considering it was just two a half years ago that Beijing launched a controversial Yuan devaluation to boost its exports and economy.

Still, in light of the relative global economic stability, Beijing may be willing to take the gamble on a stronger Yuan if it means greater geopolitical clout and further acceptance of the renminbi.

Which is why restructuring oil fund flows may be the best first step: as of this moment, China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and in 2017 overtook the United States as the biggest importer of crude oil; its demand is a key determinant of global oil prices.

If China's plan to push the Petroyuan's acceptance proves successful, it will result in greater momentum across all commodities, and could trigger the shift of other product payments to the yuan, including metals and mining raw materials.

Besides the potential of giving China more power over global oil prices, "this will help the Chinese government in its efforts to internationalize yuan," said Sushant Gupta, research director at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. In a Wednesday note, Goldman Sachs said that the success of Shanghai’s crude futures was “indirectly promoting the use of the Chinese currency (which, however as noted above, has negative trade offs as it would also result in a stronger Yuan, something the PBOC may not be too excited about).

Meanwhile, China is wasting no time, and Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec already signed a deal to import Middle East crude priced against the newly-launched Shanghai crude futures contract, which incidentally is traded in Yuan.

The bottom line here is whether Beijing is indeed prepared and ready to challenge the US Dollar for the title of global currency hegemon. As Rueters notes, China’s plan to use yuan to pay for oil comes amid a more than year-long gradual strengthening of the currency, which looks set to post a fifth straight quarterly gain, its longest winning streak since 2013.

In a sign that China's recent Draconian capital control crackdowns have sapped market confidence in a freely-traded Yuan, the currency retained its No.5 ranking as a domestic and global payment currency in January this year, unmoved from a year ago, but its share among other currencies fell to 1.7 percent from 2.5 percent, according to industry tracker SWIFT.

A slew of measures put in place in the last 1-1/2 years to rein in capital flowing out of the country amid a slide in yuan value has taken off some its shine as a global payment currency.

But the yuan has now appreciated 3.4 percent against the dollar so far this year, with solid gains in recent sessions.

For PBOC and other regulators, internationalization of the yuan is clearly one of the priorities now, and if this plan goes off smoothly then they can start thinking about replicating this model for other commodities purchases,” said a Reuters source.

Still, it will be a long and difficult climb before the Yuan can challenge the dollar and for Beijing to shift the bulk of its commodity purchases to the yuan because of the currency’s illiquidity in forex markets. According to the latest BIS Triennial Survey, nearly 90% of all transactions in the $5 trillion-a-day FX markets involved the dollar on one side of a trade, while only 4% use the yuan.

Still, not everyone is convinced that the new Yuan-denominated contract will create a "petro-yuan" as the following take from Goldman highlights:

The launch of the INE contract is not just about oil, as it will also be the first Yuan denominated commodity contract tradable by offshore investors. Such a set-up meets the PBOC’s monetary policy committee goal to raise the profile of its currency in the pricing of commodities. It has raised however the question of whether the INE contract is an incremental step in achieving the currency reserve status for the Yuan. We do not believe so.

While the INE launch does represent an additional step in the CNY internationalization, the CNY denomination of the INE contract does not in itself imply CNY investments. The INE contract does not represent an opening of China’s capital accounts since foreign deposits operate in a closed circuit, deposited in designated accounts and not to be used to purchase other domestic assets. In practice, the collateral deposit and any capital gains can be transferred back to offshore accounts. The potential for greater foreign ownership of Chinese assets is therefore not impacted by CNY oil invoicing and would require instead oil exporters to recycle their proceeds in local assets, for example. The incentive to do this has not changed with the introduction of the INE contracts. In particular, most Middle East oil producers still have currencies pegged to the dollar and limited ability to hedge CNY exposure.

Whether or not Goldman is right remains to be seen, however it is undeniable that a monumental change is afoot in global capital flows, where the US - whether Beijing wants to or not - will soon be forced to defend its currency status as oil exporters (and investors in this highly financialized market) will now have a choice: go with US hegemony, or start accepting Yuan in exchange for the world's most important commodity.

China abre la boca

Finalmente China abrió la boca en relación al "Caso Skripal". Lo hizo por medio de una editorial sin firma publicado la semana pasada en el Global Times. Según Wikipedia, el Global Times "...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". Sí, dale nomás. Llamó la atención de varios analistas el lenguaje crudo, sin suavizantes, que emplean los chinos esta vez, llamando a la resistencia de pueblos y naciones del orbe. Queda por ver qué acciones concretas piensa tomar el Partido Comunista Chino ante la escalada gangsteril de Occidente en el campo diplomático. Una cosa es idiotizar a la opinión pública europea, y otra cosa son los negocios. Vamos a la nota: 

Título: Russian diplomat expulsions signal crude side of Western intention

Texto: On March 26, the US, Canada, and several European Union countries expelled Russian diplomats from their respective foreign embassies and consulates in retaliation against Russia's alleged poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.  As of this writing, 19 countries, including 15 EU member states, have shown their support to Great Britain by enforcing such measures. 

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were rushed to a hospital after they were found unconscious at a park in Salisbury. It was later reported the father and daughter had come into contact with an obscure nerve agent. UK government officials said the Skripals were attacked by "Novichok," a powerful Soviet-era chemical nerve agent used by the military.

The British government did not provide evidence that linked Russia to the crime but was confident from the beginning there could be no other "reasonable explanation" for the attempted assassination. Great Britain was so convinced of their Russia theory, they wasted no time taking the lead in levying sanctions against the country by quickly expelling Russian diplomats from London.  Shortly afterwards, UK capital officials reached out to NATO and their European allies who provided immediate support. 

The accusations that Western countries have hurled at Russia are based on ulterior motives, similar to how the Chinese use the expression "perhaps it's true" to seize upon the desired opportunity. From a third-person perspective, the principles and diplomatic logic behind such drastic efforts are flawed, not to mention that expelling Russian diplomats almost simultaneously isa crude form of behavior. Such actions make little impact other than increasing hostility and hatred between Russia and their Western counterparts.

The UK government should have an independent investigation conducted into the Skripal poisoning by representatives from the international community. An effort such as this would provide results strong enough for those following the case to make up their minds on who should or shouldn't be accused of the crime. Now, the majority of those who support Britain's one-sided conclusion happen to be members of NATO and the EU, while others stood behind the UK due to long-standing relations.

The fact that major Western powers can gang up and "sentence" a foreign country without following the same procedures other countries abide by and according to the basic tenets of international law is chilling. During the Cold War, not one Western nation would have dared to make such a provocation and yet today it is carried out with unrestrained ease. Such actions are nothing more than a form of Western bullying that threatens global peace and justice. 

Over the past few years the international standard has been falsified and manipulated in ways never seen before. The fundamental reason behind reducing global standards is rooted in post-Cold War power disparities. The US, along with their allies, jammed their ambitions into the international standards so their actions, which were supposed to follow a set of standardized procedures and protocol, were really nothing more than profit-seizing opportunities designed only for themselves.  These same Western nations activated in full-force public opinion-shaping platforms and media agencies to defend and justify such privileges.

As of late, more foreign countries have been victimized by Western rhetoric and nonsensical diplomatic measures. In the end, the leaders of these nations are forced to wear a hat featuring slogans and words that read "oppressing their own people," "authoritarian," or "ethnic cleansing," regardless of their innocence.  

It is beyond outrageous how the US and Europe have treated Russia. Their actions represent a frivolity and recklessness that has grown to characterize Western hegemony that only knows how to contaminate international relations. Right now is the perfect time for non-Western nations to strengthen unity and collaborative efforts among one another. These nations need to establish a level of independence outside the reach of Western influence while breaking the chains of monopolization declarations, predetermined adjudications, and come to value their own judgement abilities. 

It's already understood that to achieve such international collective efforts is easier said than done as they require foundational support before anything can happen. Until a new line of allies emerges, multi-national associations like BRICS, or even the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, need to provide value to those non-Western nations and actively create alliances with them.

What Russia is experiencing right could serve as a reflection of how other non-Western nations can expect to be treated in the not-to-distant future.  Expelling Russian diplomats simultaneously is hardly enough to deter Russia. Overall, it's an intimidation tactic that has become emblematic of Western nations, and furthermore, such measures are not supported by international law and therefore unjustified. More importantly, the international community should have the tools and means to counterbalance such actions.

The West is only a small fraction of the world and is nowhere near the global representative it once thought it was.  The silenced minorities within the international community need to realize this and prove just how deep their understanding is of such a realization by proving it to the world through action. With the Skripal case, the general public does not know the truth, and the British government has yet to provide a shred of evidence justifying their allegations against Russia. 

It is firmly believed that accusations levied by one country to another that are not the end results of a thorough and professional investigation should not be encouraged. Simultaneously expelling diplomats is a form of uncivilized behavior that needs to be abolished immediately.

viernes, 30 de marzo de 2018

Después del Imperio

La dirigencia anglosajona se angustia pensando en el devenir del Imperio y su eventual reemplazo por otro. Tal vez, sólo tal vez, las cosas no ocurran de ese modo. Podría no haber ningún imperio de reemplazo. La nota que sigue habla de eso; es de Amir Nour[1] para el blog The Saker:

Título: The Twilight of the Empire Age: Whose World Will It Be?

Epígrafe: “We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace” (Michael Franti)[2]


David and Goliath in an upside-down world

President Donald Trump doesn’t seem to share Georges Clemenceau’s view that “war is too serious a matter to be left to the military”. All the more so, perhaps, since the French statesman is also said to have coined the acerbic comment “America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to decadence without the usual interval of civilization”.

Indeed, shortly after his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in January 2017, the American President bestowed additional authority upon the Pentagon and the CIA. In so doing, he yielded to the military’s pressure in the hope that this will help it defeat the so-called Islamic State more speedily and confront its other enemies more efficiently.

Trump’s decision quickly translated into a dramatic increase in drone strikes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia—countries against which the U.S. is not officially engaged in a war—and only exacerbated the terribly bungled “War on Terror”. Unsurprisingly, it took Trump only seven months to surpass the number of civilian deaths that occurred during Obama’s entire eight-year presidency, according to non-profit monitoring group Airwars.[3] Another set of documents supplied by a whistleblower and published by The Intercept[4] in 2015, revealed the inner workings of this program in Afghanistan and concluded that these drone strikes caused the deaths of unintended targets nearly nine out of ten times. Heather Linebaugh, a US Army analyst who worked for this program, provided a damning testimony in this regard.[5]

Moreover, on 13 April 2017, the U.S. Air Force dropped America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal, nicknamed the “Mother of all bombs” (MOAB), on an ISIS cave complex situated in the Afghan Province of Nangarhar, a remote area bordering Pakistan.

While President Trump called the strike “another very, very successful mission”, Afghanistan’s former President and American ally, Hamid Karzai, declared “this is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons”. Also reacting to this bombing, two-time presidential candidate and Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Kucinich, asked “How, after a campaign where he repeatedly questioned America’s adventures in Iraq and Libya—including warning President Obama not to strike Syria after an alleged government use of poison gas—did President Trump get trapped in these wars? How, after questioning the workings of the Pentagon and the CIA, and being the victim of government leaks, does he permit leaks and disinformation to take us to the brink of war?” Kucinich then warned that “the bombing is accelerating in country after country and the death toll of innocent civilians continues to rise and while the resentment against America continues to grow, and unless we soon reverse course, forces will be unleashed globally which will be irretrievable”.[6]

It is worth noting that this super bomb was used against one of the smallest militias the U.S. faces anywhere in the world. In effect, ISIS-Khorasan is estimated to count 700 fighters in Afghanistan, compared to 8,500 U.S. and 180,000 Afghan troops on the ground in this country today. Similarly, before combating this new foe, 430,000 Afghan and coalition troops have been unable to subdue their older common enemy, the Taliban, whose force was barely one twelfth as big; not to mention, of course, the immense mismatch between the opponents in terms of firepower and technology at their respective command.

And so, after 16 years of American presence in Afghanistan, the “graveyard of empires”, and nine months after Trump’s inauguration, the New York Times announced on its front page, “soon, American Embassy employees in Kabul will no longer take a Chinook helicopter ride to cross the street to a military base less than 100 yards outside the present Green Zone security district”[7] ; a stark acknowledgement that even the city’s most highly-protected core zones have become too difficult to defend from Taliban attacks.

In fact, numerous careful studies of al-Qaeda and its different offspring, including ISIS, have shown that the United States and its allies are blindly following these terrorist organizations’ worldview and game plan. As is clearly stated, chiefly in a book attributed to Abu Bakr Naji entitled “Management of Savagery: The most Critical Stage Through Which the Islamic Nation Will Pass”, the goal is to “draw the West as deeply and actively as possible into the quagmire” and to “perpetually engage and enervate the United states and the West in a series of prolonged overseas ventures” in which they will undermine their own societies, expend their resources, and increase the level of violence, setting off a dynamic that William Roe Polk—an American specialist of high repute in Middle Eastern and insurgency history among others— has reviewed in length in one of his books.[8] Polk reveals a pattern that has been replicated over and over throughout recent history. That is, invaders are naturally disliked by the invaded population, who disobey them, at the start in small ways, eliciting a forceful response on the part of the invader, which in turn increases opposition and popular support for resistance. The ensuing cycle of violence then escalates until the invading forces are obliged either to withdraw, or to resort to methods and means that amount to genocide in order to gain their ends.

This dynamic of extreme violence in which the U.S. and its allies have found themselves fully trapped has indeed entailed particularly high costs. Scott Atran, a well-known specialist on terrorist organizations, has calculated that “the 9/11 attacks cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, whereas the military and security response by the U.S. and its allies is in the order of 10 million times that figure”. Atran drew the obvious conclusion that “on a strictly cost-benefit basis, this violent movement has been wildly successful, beyond even Bin laden’s original imagination, and is increasingly so. Herein lies the full measure of Jujitsu-style asymmetric warfare. After all, who could claim that we are better off than before, or that the overall danger is declining?” This record, he advises, “should inspire a radical change in our counter-strategies”.

Why America isn’t great anymore

The United States’ posture in the world is not what it used to be not so long ago. Its long-lasting political meddling and military adventures in the Arab and Muslim world, and its blind support for Israel[9] have done it no favors. Much the contrary, they have certainly contributed, in no small measure, to deal irrevocable damage to the United States post-Cold War global primacy as well.

As former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas W. Freeman Jr., recounted in 2014, “A while back, the United States set out to reconfigure the Middle East. The result is that the region and our position in it are both in shambles (…) If we are at all honest, we must admit that the deplorable state of affairs in the Middle East is a product not only of the dynamics of the region but also of a lapse in our capacity to think and act strategically”.[10] For Freeman, this situation stems from the essential fact that the U.S. answered the end of the bipolar order with a mixture of denial, strategic incoherence, and inconstancy. And “false American assumptions and unrealistic U.S. objectives have therefore helped create the current mess in the Middle East”.

More recently[11], Chas Freeman reiterated his views by stating that “these fruitless and counterproductive wars have so far cost the United States at least $5.6 trillion (…) We have paid for our lurching to widening warfare in the Muslim world with a combination of borrowed money and disinvestment in domestic physical and human infrastructure. The result is not just the imposition of a crushing burden of debt[12] on our posterity, but lost growth and declining U.S. economic competitiveness”. Furthermore, he lamented, Americans have become accustomed to life under surveillance and in an endless state of apprehension about acts of terrorism. Such an unusual condition has predictably eroded their liberties, aggrandized the presidency, reinforced “cowardly herd instincts in Congress”, and helped to impoverish the US middle-class “while enriching the military-industrial complex”. These, he concluded, are “structural alterations to the American republic and way of life that will affect both for decades”.

According to Philip Alston[13], the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, “the American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion”, and “instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights”. These are some of the main findings Mr. Alston released in December 2017, after a two-week fact-finding mission to the U.S. His final report will be available in Spring 2018 and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.

Today’s America is indeed a far cry from the model of Constitutional Republic the Founding Fathers dreamed of and brought forth. On July 4, 1900, the representatives of the Democratic party of the United States assembled in National Convention, on the Anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. They issued a Platform[14] in which they reaffirmed their faith in the “immortal proclamation of the inalienable rights of man” and their “allegiance to the Constitution framed in harmony therewith by the fathers of the Republic”. Among other principles reiterated: “We declare again that all governments instituted among men derive their just powers from the consent of the governed” and “that to impose upon any people a government of force is to substitute the methods of imperialism for those of a republic” ; “We are in favor of extending the Republic’s influence among the nations, but we believe that that influence should be extended not by force and violence, but through the persuasive power of a high and honorable example” ; “We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from in Europe. It will impose upon our peace loving people a large standing army and unnecessary burden of taxation, and will be a constant menace to their liberties” ; and “We assert that no nation can long endure half republic and half empire, and we warn the American people that imperialism abroad will lead quickly and inevitably to despotism at home”.

Who in the world, and even in America itself, would trust a reaffirmation of this kind were it to be proclaimed today by President Donald Trump on behalf of the American people?

Nobody explained this state of affairs more elegantly than a fictional character in an HBO television series called “The Newsroom”. In the opening sequence, a TV news anchor finds himself on a journalism panel. And when a student in the audience asks, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” the anchor snaps “America isn’t the greatest country” and goes on to deliver a speech about why. He tells the student “just in case you accidentally wander into a voting one day, there are some things you should know. One of them is: there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are, without a doubt, a member of the worst period generation period ever periods”.

And after pausing for a while, the news anchor adds “It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed… by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore”.[15]

So much so that a WIN/Gallup International survey conducted in 65 countries found that for the 66,000 people polled, “The United States is the greatest threat to world peace”.[16]

The Pentagon answers the age-old question “Is America in decline?”

Ever since Ibn Khaldun, the great Arab historiographer and historian[17]—acknowledged as the forerunner of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography—laid the foundations for its study, the rise and fall of civilizations, empires, and nations, has been a favorite theme among past and contemporary historians. And just as human beings, nations too have life-cycles, passing from youth to maturity to old age and death. So far, there has been no exception to this rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Gooderham Acheson was known to have played an essential part in writing the Truman Doctrine whose stated purpose was to counter Soviet geopolitical expansion during the Cold War. The Doctrine then became the foundation of U.S. foreign policy, and led to the establishment, on 4 April 1949, of NATO, a military alliance that is still in effect today with 29 member states. Acheson is also known for having said in 1962 that “Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role”.

Perhaps the same can be said today of the United States in light of the Trump administration’s incoherent, if not chaotic foreign policy. Paradoxically, the use of the slogan “Make America great again” during the 2016 presidential campaign only reinforces this claim, since the phrase—which has been regularly used by both Republican and Democrat politicians following its first coinage by Ronald Reagan in 1980—is a distant cousin of the “Make Britain Great Again” slogan which dates back to the 19th century, when it was used by the British Conservative politician Disraeli. Clearly, both the old British version and its modern American equivalent refer to the notion of a lost “greatness”, or one to regain.

According to The American Conservative [18], since the early 2000’s there has been an ongoing conversation among scholars, policymakers, and members of the broader American foreign policy establishment about whether U.S. power is in decline. But the question actually extends back to the 1980s, with the publication of Yale historian Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and other important books on the subject by scholars David Calleo and Robert Gilpin. Even though the controversy surrounding decline dissipated when the Soviet Union imploded and Japan’s economic bubble burst, it “remained dormant through the ‘unipolar moment’ of the 1990s but was rekindled with China’s rapid great-power emergence in the early 2000’s”, and the resulting shift of world geopolitical and economic power from West to East.

If we are to believe French historian Pierre Melandri[19], however, the issue of American decline started well before the publication of Paul Kennedy’s immensely successful book in 1987, the very year when, for the first time since 1917, the U.S. lost its status as the largest creditor nation in the world. As early as 1973, he indicated, a Japanese Prime Minister had already diagnosed such a process of decline when he observed that “the United States is no longer the Sun surrounded by planets, it is one planet among others”.

Back in 2002, Andrew J. Bacevich concluded his book[20], written in the aftermath of 9/11, with a fundamental observation. He said that the question that urgently demanded attention and that Americans can longer afford to dodge is not whether the United States has become an imperial power, but what sort of empire they intend theirs to be. Because for policymakers to persist in pretending otherwise, that is “to indulge in myths of American innocence or fantasies about unlocking the secrets of history” is to increase the likelihood that the answers they come up with will be wrong. That way “lies not just the demise of the American empire but great danger for what used to be known as the American republic”.

In 2011, a blogger by the name of Danios[21] reproduced a year-by-year timeline of America’s wars, which revealed that since the United States was founded in 1776, it has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.  In other words, there were only 21 calendar years in which the U.S. did not wage any wars, and the only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression!

Away from the blogosphere, an editorial of The New York Times[22] asserted that the United States has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11 and now has just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories. It concluded that “Senators who balk at paying for health care and the basic diplomatic missions of the State Department approved a $700 billion defense budget for 2017-18, far more than Mr. Trump even requested. Whether this largess will continue is unclear. But the larger question involves the American public and how many new military adventures, if any, it is prepared to tolerate”.

In the same vein, Richard N. Haas, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations—often described as the U.S. most influential foreign policy think tank—argued in his best-selling book[23] that the rules, the policies, and institutions that have guided the world since World War II have largely run their course in a world “in disarray” which the U.S. is unable to shape in its image and interests. Haas thinks that the U.S. remains the greatest country in such a world, but its foreign policy has at times made matters worse—both by what America has done and by what is has failed to do.

A similar advice, or rather warning, has been given by no other powerful American conservative voice than Robert Kagan. In a Brookings article[24], he affirmed that “the liberal world order established in the aftermath of World War II may be coming to an end, challenged by forces both without and within”. He concluded by saying that “if the next president governs as he ran, which is to say if he pursues a course designed to secure only America’s narrow interests; focuses chiefly on international terrorism—the least of the challenges to the present world order (…) then the collapse of the world order, with all that entails, may not be far off”.

Most significantly, in June 2017, a Pentagon study[25] was released and caused rivers of ink to flow, both in the U.S. and overseas. It is worth noting that the commissioning and preparation of this report began in June 2016, six months before the end of the Obama administration, and was completed in April 2017, four months into the Trump administration. It required and involved extensive consultations with officials across the Pentagon and a handful of American think-tanks of a somewhat neoconservative persuasion.

Among the report’s most stunning conclusions are : “the status quo that was hatched and nurtured by US strategists after World War II and has for decades been the principal ‘beat’ for DoD is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing. Consequently, the United States’ role in and approach to the world may be fundamentally changing as well”; the “volatile restructuring of international security affairs appears increasingly inhospitable to unchallenged American leadership”. Another important conclusion is that the report’s authors agree with the pronouncement of British Prime Minister Theresa May in her speech in Philadelphia[26], six days after the inauguration of Donald Trump: “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over (…) the UK will only intervene where there are British national interests”.

This extraordinary report seems to have sounded the death knell of the US-led dubious “coalitions of the willing”, ushering in an irreversible post-imperium era.

After empire: towards a collective grand strategy of “Great Convergence”?

If we are to be realistic, there’s no way we can deny the facts, the whys and the wherefores of our fast-changing world. Old and new global empires are no more, youthful nations are rising, and ordinary people are getting more and more empowered.

But how did this unprecedented reality come into being? How is it that once-powerful states, institutions, corporations, interest groups, and political parties and leaders are finding it increasingly harder to defend their redoubts, let alone impose their agendas? And if today’s world is really inexorably moving from the tutelage of the sole superpower—America—and no other great power is willing or able to step in to lead it, then whose world will it be? And, most importantly, how can this sui generis “global village” best attend to and manage not only rising transnational threats and challenges, but opportunities as well?

Joseph Nye wrote a comprehensive analysis[27] about power and its exercise during the last five centuries and up to a recent past. He pointed out that the traditional markers of power have so far been understood as the edge gained by great empires and nations, thanks principally to such factors as control of colonies, trade and finance, larger populations, primacy in Industrial Revolution and mastery of sea lanes, conventional and nuclear weapons, and numbers of men under arms. But the global information age of the 21st century, he says, is quickly rendering these measures obsolete, hence remapping power relationships. Two main power shifts are occurring: a power transition among states, and a power diffusion away from all states to nonstate actors. Nye concluded his study by affirming that the United States will need a strategy to cope with the “rise of the rest”—among both state and nonstate actors. It will need “a smart power strategy and narrative that stress alliances, institutions, and networks that are responsive to the new context of global information age. In short, for success in the twenty-first century, the United States will need to rediscover how to be a smart power”.

Delving deeper in the changing nature of power in this century, Moisés Naím[28] observes that power is losing its value, since it has become “easier to get, harder to use and easier to lose”. It no longer buys as much as it did in the past, and battles to get it are yielding diminishing returns. As a result, power is spreading, and long-established, big players are increasingly being challenged by newer and smaller ones. It is shifting “from brawn to brains, from north to south and west to east, from old corporate behemoths to agile start-ups, from entrenched dictators to people in town squares and cyberspace”. In reality, Naím insists, power is decaying. One of the most convincing arguments he gives to demonstrate how the exercise of power has changed is in the realm of armed conflicts. Adapting a Churchillian turn of phrase, Naím says that “never in the field of human conflict have so few had the potential to do so much to so many at so little cost”. Thus, the “micropowers, while seldom winning are making life harder for the megaplayers”, by denying them “victory” in the increasing number of asymmetric conflicts, also known as fourth-generation wars.

For his part, challenging the view shared by most Western strategists—who recognize that the dominance of the West is on the wane, but are nonetheless confident that its founding ideas, such as democracy, capitalism, and secular nationalism, will continue to spread, ensuring that the Western order will outlast its primacy—Charles Kupchan[29] argues that the world is headed for political and ideological diversity. Whereby, emerging powers will “neither defer to the West’s lead nor converge toward the Western way”. The reason for such a claim is that “the ascent of the West was the product of social and economic conditions unique to Europe and the United States”. And as other nations rise, Kupchan further explains, they are “following their own paths to modernity and embracing their own conceptions of domestic and international order”. He then draws the conclusion that the Western order will not be displaced by a new great power or dominant political model, nor will the 21st century belong to America, China, Asia, or anyone else. It will be “no one’s world (and) for the first time in history, an interdependent world will be without a center of gravity or global guardian”. This situation will require a strategy for striking a historic bargain between the West and the rising rest by “fashioning a new consensus on issues of legitimacy, sovereignty, and governance”.

Kupchan’s perspective is widely shared by Kishore Mahbubani, a much-respected Singaporean writer, professor and diplomat. In one of his books[30], he asserts that we are becoming more integrated and interconnected, and thus “the potential for a peaceful new global civilization is evolving before our eyes almost unnoticed”. Yet, he argues that challenges remain, and a number of major geopolitical fault lines remain to be resolved. For that to materialize, Mahbubani is of the opinion that: policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world; national interests must be balanced with global interests; the U.S. and Europe must cede some power (including within the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Security Council); China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated; and the world order must be reconstructed.

For those and many other eminent authors and commentators, the “international community” has no better and wiser choice than to embark on a life-saving journey from “empire to community”. This is what Amitai Etzioni[31] advocated, arguing that a “clash of civilizations” can be avoided, and that the new world order need not look America. Because, he contends, “Eastern values, including spirituality and moderate Islam, have a legitimate place in the evolving global public philosophy”.

Also addressing this issue in a lecture[32], Prof. Edward Said observed that “the truly weakest part of the clash of cultures and civilizations thesis is the rigid separation assumed between them despite the overwhelming evidence that today’s world is, in fact, a world of mixtures, of migrations and of crossings over, of boundaries traversed. One of the major crises affecting countries like France, Britain and the U.S. has been brought about by the realization, now dawning everywhere, that no culture or society is purely one thing. Sizeable minorities, North Africans in France, the African Caribbean, and Indian populations in Britain, Asian and African elements in this country (i.e. America), dispute the idea that civilization, that prided themselves on being homogeneous can continue to do so. There are no insulated cultures or civilizations. Any attempt made to separate them into the watertight compartments alleged by Huntington and his ilk does damage to their variety, their diversity, their sheer complexity of elements, their radical hybridity. The more insistent we are on the separation of the cultures, the more inaccurate we are about ourselves and about others. The notion of an exclusionary civilization is to my way of thinking an impossible one”. Prof. Said then asked what he considered as the “real question”, that is “whether in the end we want to work for civilizations that are separate or whether we should be taking the more integrative but perhaps more difficult path which is to try to see them as making one vast whole, whose exact contours are impossible for any person to grasp, but whose certain existence we can intuit and feel and study”. He concluded his lecture by quoting some lines by the great poet, author and politician from Martinique Aimé Césaire “the work of man is only just beginning and it remains to conquer all the violence entrenched in the recesses of our passion and no race possess the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of force, and there’s a place for all at the rendez-vous of victory”.

This is precisely the main topic that we shall address in a forthcoming analysis.


1. Algerian researcher in international relations, author of the book “L’Orient et l’Occident à l’heure d’un nouveau Sykes-Picot” (“The Orient and the Occident in time of a new Sykes-Picot”), Editions Alem El Afkar, Algiers, 2014: downloadable free of charge, by clicking on the following links: http://algerienetwork.com/blog/lorient-et-loccident-a-lheure-dun-nouveau-sykes-picot-par-amir-nour/ (French)
http://algerienetwork.com/blog/العالم-العربي-على-موعد-مع-سايكس-بيكو-ج/ (Arabic) ↑

2. From Michael Franti & Spearhead’s song “Bomb the World”: http://youtu.be/ICL-40nkOPA ↑

3. Read Newsweek’s article: http://www.newsweek.com/trump-has-already-killed-more-civilians-obama-us-fight-against-isis-653564 ↑

4. Read The Intercept’s “The Drone Papers”: http://theintercept.com/drone-papers/ ↑

5. Heather Linebaugh, “I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on”, The Guardian, 29 Dec. 2013:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/29/drones-us-military ↑

6. Read the opinion entitled “Dennis Kucinich: The ‘Mother of All Bombs’ is actually the mother of all warmongering”, Fox News, 14 April, 2017. ↑

7. Rod Nordland, “U.S. Expands Kabul Security Zone, Digging In For Next Decade”, The NYT, 16 Sept., 2017. ↑

8. William R. Polk, “Violent politics: A history of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerilla War, From the American Revolution to Iraq”, Harper Perennial, 2008. ↑

9. Besides UN General Assembly vote (128 in favor, 9 against, 35 abstentions) considering Donald Trump‘s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void” (read The Guardian’s article https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/21/united-nations-un-vote-donald-trump-jerusalem-israel), a Gallup International Association (GIA) opinion poll, conducted in December 2017 in 24 countries, revealed a widespread disagreement with the US President’s decision: more than two in three (71%) disagree with the proposal (59% strongly). Commenting on this survey, GIA’s President Kancho Stoychev said: “It’s rare for an opinion survey to register such unanimity on a single issue which indicates a deep pain among the Muslim world from the Middle East to Far Asia.  But the overall reaction to the Trump decision is also predominantly negative in Europe. It seems that decades of trust in the balancing role of US diplomacy are evaporating.” ↑

10. See “Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Future of the Middle East”, 21 July 2014. ↑

11. Chas W. Freeman, “The Middle East in the New World Disorder”, 11 December, 2017. ↑

12. As of November 2017, the outstanding U.S. public debt stood at around $20.59 trillion. The U.S. ranked first in the world. ↑

13. Read http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22546&LangID=E ↑

14. To read the Platform: http://www.presidency.uscb.edu/edu/ws/?pid=29587.Home ↑

15. Watch the video entitled “A Great Speech About Why America Isn’t Great Anymore”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=q49NOyJ8fNA&app=desktop ↑

16. Read in the New York Post, 5 January 2014. ↑

17. British historian Arnold J. Toynbee called Ibn khaldun’s “Muqaddimah” or “Prolegomena” (Introduction)—which covers world history of humanity up to the author’s time, and addresses the question of why nations rise to power and what causes their decline— “a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.” [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. 9, p. 148]. ↑

18. Christopher Layne, “Is the United States in Decline?”, The American Conservative, August 8, 2017.↑

19. Pierre Melandri, “La fin de l’empire américain?” (The end of the American Empire ?), in “La fin des empires” (The end of Empires), sous la direction de Patrice Guenniffey & Thierry Lentz, Le Figaro Histoire/Perrin, Paris, 2016. ↑

20. Andrew J. Bacevich, “American Empire: The Realities and the Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy”, Harvard University Press, 2002. ↑

21. See “America Has Been At War 93% of the Time”: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/america-war-93-time-222-239-years-since-1776.html ↑

22. Read “America’s Forever Wars”, The New York Times, October 22, 2017. ↑

23. Richard Haas, “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order”, Penguin Press, 2017. See: https://www.cfr.org/book/world-disarray ↑

24. Robert Kagan, “The Twilight of the Liberal World Order”, Brookings, January 24, 2017. ↑

25. Read “At Our Own Peril : DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World”: https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1358 ↑

26. Read the official transcript of the speech on https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-speech-to-the-republican-party-conference-2017, 26 January, 2017. ↑

27. Joseph S. Nye, “The Future of Power”, PublicAffairs, New York, 2011. ↑

28. Moisés Naím , “The End of Power”, Basic Books, New York, 2013. ↑

29. Charles A. Kupchan, “No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest and the Coming Global Turn”, Oxford University Books, 2012. ↑

30. Kishore Mahbubani, “The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World”, PublicAffairs, 2013. ↑

31. Amitai Etzioni, “From Empire to Community”, Pelgrave Macmillan, 2004. ↑

32. Edward Said, “ The Myth of ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ ”, Media Education Foundation, 1999; To read the transcript: http://www.mediaed.org/transcripts/Edward-Said-The-Myth-of-Clash-Civilizations-Transcript.pdf ↑

jueves, 29 de marzo de 2018

Brasil se acerca al abismo

Ante el silencio cómplice de casi toda la prensa corporativa de Occidente, Brasil se acerca cada vez más a un abismo político de resolución incierta. Ocurre que, a décadas de su aparición, los dueños de ese país todavía no incorporaron la idea de que hay un nuevo actor en el escenario político brasileño: el PT, y un líder, Luis Ignacio da Silva, que representan a una amplia franja de la población nunca contemplada por ellos. El descarado, pornográfico juicio destituyente a Dilma Rousseff en Agosto de 2016 parece un evento lejano, y los chicos van por más. La nota que sigue es del politólogo Juan Manuel Karg y salió hoy en Página/12:

Título: El fascismo amenaza a Brasil

Texto: No es un titulo aventurado, apresurado. El doble ataque a la caravana del ex presidente Lula da Silva en Paraná –primero con huevazos, luego directamente con tiros– grafica el dramático momento que vive la democracia en Brasil, apenas semanas después del asesinato de la militante feminista y de derechos humanos Marielle Franco en Río de Janeiro. ¿De qué otra manera, sino fascismo, se puede catalogar a la extrema derecha brasileña que pretende tomar el poder por asalto con la candidatura del militar retirado Jair Bolsonaro, segundo en encuestas y en crecimiento ante el derrumbe de la “derecha clásica” brasileña? ¿De qué otra manera, sino fascismo, se puede caracterizar al grupo de forajidos que disparó contra la caravana del hombre más importante de la historia contemporánea del Brasil?

El problema no son solo los “sueltos” –en caso de que lo sean, hipótesis difícil de creer de acuerdo a la organización y planificación de los hechos– sino también el mensaje que baja desde los lugares institucionales: el propio Bolsonaro, enterado de los ataques, los relativizó en redes sociales con la frase “se victimizan”. Lo dice quien votó la destitución de Rousseff homenajeando al torturador de la ex presidenta, en un gravísimo desprecio a la democracia de su país. Más grave aún es la frase de quien fuera derrotado por Lula en elecciones limpias y democráticas, Gerardo Alckmin (PSDB), quien sentenció “el PT recoge lo que sembró”. Para los incrédulos: Alckmin no es un hombre retirado de la política; es nada menos que el gobernador del estado de San Pablo. Sus palabras son un puñal a una democracia seriamente dañada por el propio PSDB, que por apostar al golpe parlamentario de Temer, se sigue derrumbando en las encuestas. 

¿Qué busca la ultraderecha brasileña con los tiros a la caravana del ex presidente? Amedrentar a las organizaciones y movimientos sociales de cara a la probable detención del ex dirigente metalúrgico. El objetivo de fondo es meter miedo ante una sentencia a todas luces injusta, en un proceso tan viciado como el que derivó en la salida de Rousseff de Planalto. ¿Qué buscan Alckmin y el PSDB con sus desafortunadas declaraciones? Naturalizar la violencia política contra los líderes populares, luego de que los medios de comunicación masivos de Brasil –principalmente Globo, Folha y Estado de Sao Paulo– inocularan odio durante años contra Lula, Dilma y todo lo que sea alternativo al statu quo que, durante siglos, gobernó ese país. 

Brasil corre el serio riesgo de entrar en una etapa de mexicanización de su política, con asesinatos a sueldo a dirigentes políticos, ataques a líderes populares e intentos de legitimación de esa violencia, complicidad mediante, desde diversos sectores del poder. Es el triste devenir de un golpe parlamentario que, desde 2016, mantiene al país en un verdadero estado de excepción, donde la condena e inhabilitación a Lula son la segunda fase. Mientras tanto, Unasur y Celac –amesetados tras el arribo de la derecha a varios países del Cono Sur– no actúan y la OEA –siempre servil a intereses externos a nuestra región– sigue hablando solamente de Venezuela. América latina no puede mirar para otro lado: se trata de defender lo poco que queda de democracia en ese país, el más grande e influyente de la región –en términos políticos y económicos– antes de que sea muy tarde, para ellos y todos nosotros.

miércoles, 28 de marzo de 2018

El Imperio entre el Oso y el Dragón

Posteamos hoy una larga e interesante nota de Elijah Magnier publicada hoy en su blog Middle East Politics. El tema: Siria y lo que viene después. Los lectores de Astroboy seguramente ya conocen las líneas generales del artículo; sin embargo, son los detalles  los que llaman la atención. La nota está dividida en tres partes. Acá van:

Título: Will America accept its defeat or will it challenge the Russian Bear and the Chinese Dragon?



Following the liberation of  eastern Ghouta from the jihadists,  and their departure to the northern city of Idlib under al-Qaeda and Turkish control, the city of Duma is now engaged in negotiations with the Russian side to find a way out for the militants of the  “Army of Islam” (Jaish al-Islam). These militants fought against many jihadists and rebels and have therefore no remaining friends in the Syrian arena. However, this negotiation  has become a tactical detail because the capital, Damascus, has become safe and is no longer exposed to daily shelling as was the case before the liberation of Ghouta.

What next?

The Yarmouk Camp and al-Hajar al-Aswad:

The elimination of the “Islamic State” group (ISIS) and the remnants of al-Qaeda in the Yarmouk camp and the nearby area of al-Hajar al-Aswad, south of Damascus, is also a tactical detail because there is no way out for these militants, trapped on all sides : the liberation of the area is not an issue.

The Syrian Steppe (al-Badiya):

In the Syrian steppes (al-Badiya), ISIS has still a pocket that the Syrian army is expecting to deal with this summer. This area is also totally besieged, ISIS can go nowhere and, while waiting, its willpower and morale are deteriorating and reaching a minimum level.

Idlib and al-Qaeda:

As for the city of Idlib where the various opposition and jihadist forces are multiplying, the latter remain in a permanent power struggle that eats at each other. They will not be able to manage the presence of different nationalities and creeds opposing each other in one city. Therefore, the role of Turkey will be crucial in manoeuvring control in this area and prevent infighting among jihadists or even eliminate those unwilling to submit to Ankara’s policy.

The Turkish occupation forces:

The Turkish presence in the north-west and north-central has become inevitable. A long term but very slow and inconsistent battle is expected between the Turkish and Syrian states. It is natural in the circumstances to expect a threat and counter-threat by both governments.

If Damascus decides to opt for war against Turkey, it must deal with this issue without counting on its allies. Neither Russia nor Iran want a military confrontation with the Turkish army.Syria has the right to demand the restoration of its territory through diplomatic means first and then put pressure on Ankara through its allies and friends. The use of military force as a solution could then be adopted by Damascus as a final attempt to regain its territory in extremis.

Russia may be tempted to intervene diplomatically and find a solution between Damascus and Ankara if indeed Moscow’s aim is that it expects its forces to co-exist with the Syrian Army in a peaceful Syria.

US occupation forces in Deir-Ezzour and al-Hasaka:

US forces remain in the north-east (almost 24% of the total Syrian territories under the US army’s control), with a large ISIS pocket protected by Washington at the present time “for undeclared reasons and objectives”. ISIS is deployed on the  Syrian-Iraqi borders and conducts a « normal life » as they show in propaganda media adverts. Moreover, ISIS militants carry out insurgency attacks against the Syrian and the Iraqi Armies from both sides of the borders they are very familiar with.

It is most unlikely for the US forces to leave anytime soon unless forced to by insurgency attacks. They would want to avoid major casualties if and when the environment in which they exist becomes hostile.

Washington has proved it is capable of bearing losses, in Iraq. It remained despite the loss of about 4,500 troops and officers. As the ex-US Secretary of State James Baker said: ”America will go to war in the Middle East if necessary to control energy sources.”

Indeed, in Syria, there are energy resources (oil and gas) under US control which amount to about 13 percent of the total Syrian stock. In addition, the US presence makes it easier for Israel to use a US established airport in north-east Syria as a hub on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The United States can also reshuffle the situation in Iraq, Syria and Turkey to threaten all these countries with a possible “Kurdish state” since the local Kurds are those protecting and acting like US proxies. Even though, it is an unlikely scenario and the Kurds are expected to be abandoned by the US forces at a certain point and left to their destiny sometime in the future.

However, the US goals in occupied Syrian territory go against all the bordering countries and this may influence the duration of the US presence. There is no doubt that the US occupation of Syrian territory is very disturbing to the anti-American axis and is considered as a “poisonous thorn” in the Levant.

On the other hand, the existence of ISIS has also become a small detail because it is besieged. It can move freely within the American enclave but cautiously toward its enemies: the Syrian and Iraqi armies. Therefore, it does not have any strategic horizon, especially since the Islamist card failed to change the Iraqi and the Syrian regimes. The “creative chaos” installed by the American establishment under the title of “The New Middle East” has also failed in its hoped for effect.

Daraa and Quneitra:

This does not mean Syria is liberated and that the control of the Syrian state extends over the entire Syrian territory. But there is an important battle coming up in the south of Syria in the Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

Why is this battle important, and more important than the pocket of ISIS in Yarmouk or the Syrian Steppe, or even more important than the city of Idlib, where Al Qaeda and other groups have gathered in the past two years?

The big dilemma remains for the two southern provinces: Daraa and Quneitra. These two provinces are on the border with Israel in the de-escalation zone agreed between the US, Jordan and the Russian.

But Damascus insists on liberating it with or without Russia’s approval. The Syrian government would also like to liberate that area which is under al-Qaeda, the rebels plus the one in the control of pro-ISIS militants of “Jaish Khaled bin Walid” .

And of course, as soon as we talk about the Syrian army liberating an al-Qaeda controlled territory, we can as usual expect an avalanche of accusations by the international media where the area will be portrayed as « lived in exclusively by over half a million civilians all defending their homes. »

This manipulation of and by the media has been going on since the battles for Qusseyr, Qalamoun, Aleppo, Madaya and finally the battle of Ghouta. Washington has instructed the CIA, the Pentagon and the US State Department to use civilian tools with Non Governmental Organisations to raise human rights concern only against those countries who have rejected US dominance. This has been the case since the first day Russia set foot in Syria in September 2015, when it was undermined until the situation of the ground turned in favour of the Syrian government, and this is when serious criticism and attacks began against Russia and against Damascus’s allies in Syria.

For these particular reasons, Daraa must be the priority for the Syrian government to solve. It must initiate the negotiation to clear all militants willing to be dumped in Idlib – the « trash bin » destination where all jihadists are sent to from all the liberated areas of Syria.

The US has lost the « extremist battle »- they were incapable of achieving the “regime change” objective in Syria. That was the awakening of the Russian bear from its long hibernation who realised how the US was trying to corner it. Moscow also relied on the Chinese dragon, which shares Russia’s goals to eliminate all extremists and jihadist terrorists in Syria.

Both Russia and China are now working closely to put an end to the uni-polar superpower and thus end US world dominance.



With the end of al-Ghouta battle and the defeat of Jihadists, Moscow is reaching its objectives in the Levant.

Despite the US, the EU and the mainstream media gathering to attack him and try to demonise his policy, the Russian President Vladimir Putin can now say:”veni, vidi, vici”.

The US estimated that Russia, by 2020, would be too strong militarily and economically to be isolated or weakened. This is why Washington tried its best to surround Russia and “cut its legs off” much before and close the oceans to its commerce and to its Chinese ally.

The last US attack, while hiding behind the EU, to attract Ukraine into the European orbit and stop the flow of the Russian gas to Europe – a vital resource of the Russian economy – was in 2014 and this pushed the Russian bear to wake up and decide to act and react accordingly.

Moreover, in 2015, the US strikes a nuclear deal with Iran – putting an awful lot of pressure on the EU to accelerate its approval and finalise the deal – in an attempt to separate Iran from Russia. However, the Iranian Leader Sayyed Ali Khaminei was adamant: “There would be no talks involving any other dossier than the nuclear one. We don’t and will never trust the Americans”.

The US looked like a generous donor helping Iran to reopen its doors to the world without paying any price in Washington. This is why Donald Trump is now trying to find ways to revoke it, a deal he sees of  financial and political benefit only to Europe and not to the United States. Iran is ready for a partnership with Europe but rejects US dominance.

Trump is even blackmailing Europe by threatening to impose high taxes on its products if the old continent doesn’t go along with the US policy. He has asked the European countries to decide : either they prefer to do business with Iran or with the United States.

President Trump has not understood, to date, that with or without the nuclear deal, Iran is heading towards a wide partnership with Russia and China. Beijing needs a reliable source of energy, an exit to the oceans and a window to the Mediterranean market. Iran can provide that and enjoy the colossal Chinese economic benefits, its market, and its support.

Iran didn’t only accept President Obama’s gift, it decided to face the US on the battlefield through the US’s Syrian proxies and its plans to destabilise the Levant. By sending Iranian Special Forces and relying on its allies (Hezbollah, Iraqi groups and others), Iran and Russia managed to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda in many battles in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

The US lost one Syrian city after another despite its hopeless attempts at the UN, and despite its arming of the jihadists. The US asked Europe to open its doors to allow radicals to take the step of becoming jihadist extremists and go into action. It also, over the years, asked Turkey to open its borders to allow the flow of these future jihadists and old al-Qaeda guards to move by waves into Syria to destabilise the Syrian government.

Not only that, it has offered its CIA training to jihadists in Jordan and Turkey and asked Saudi Arabia and Qatar to pay billions of dollars to promote the success of “The New Jihadist Middle East”. And lastly, the US is manipulating the mainstream media. For the first time in history, we see a general manipulation of the media in a democratic country, with loss of credibility, much turning of « blind eyes » and fake news – and not just regarding Syria.

Moscow, Damascus and Tehran rejected many “red lines” imposed by the US on Syria (on the Tanf Syrian-Iraqi borders, the US forces imposed a safety parameter of 50 miles. Iran kept the distance but surrounded the US forces from the north, west and south). In fact, the war in Syria was far from being a civil war but the transposition of a worldwide  war between two axes: but only one can win.

Russia moved forward and concluded a deal with the Syrian government to exploit its oil and gas resources. Iin Syria, energy wealth is estimated as follows: 63% on land and 37% in the Mediterranean, in the 14 richest blocks opposite Tartus and Lattakia with a production estimated above that of Kuwaiti oil production. On land, Syria’s energy is distributed as follow: 47% in al-Badiya, 2% in Aleppo, 12% in Deir-Ezzour, and 2% in the Golan. Syria can compete with Iraq and even Iran, with its energy in full production once the war is over.

The US establishment is finding it difficult to digest seeing this huge fortune in the hands of a Syrian government, and an ally of Russia and Iran, and, which  above all, rejects US dominance and control.

Actually, in 2006, the ex-US Secretary Condoleezza Rice said: ”It is time for a new Middle East…We shall win, they shall lose”. It was the time Israel attacked Lebanon so the country submitted to US control and dominance. Israel failed when the Lebanese resistance stood against its attempt to invade the country for the third time and the “axis of the resistance” prevailed. This pushed the US to use different tactics (called “the soft war”), relying on proxies and locals in the Middle East rather than pushing its own army that drastically failed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was clear that Washington is militarily capable of invading any country in the Middle East but it can’t keep its forces there for long. This is when it was necessary for the US establishment to use more subtle technique: “cold steel”, rather than firearms They promoted the slogan of “democracy” or “freedom of expression”, or “freedom of religion”, or even « allowing youths to express their concern about human rights »

All these were fake slogans – regardless of their righteous titles – and were directed towards every single country unwilling to accept the US policy and control. This is where the “Arab Spring” (or Tsunami) hit the Middle East with the support of the US Secretary of State and the CIA who financed “schools of revolution and activism”.

Revolutions were a new phenomena using one slogan with different colours and were called the “Colour revolutions”: in Georgia (Rose), Ukraine (Orange), Iraq (Purple), Kyrgyzstan (Tulip), Lebanon (Cedar), Belarus (Jeans), Iran (Green), Egypt (Lotus)…

In the Middle East, the US called Google for help, supported social media availability and investing 30 million dollars to support Muslim youth through the internet and invited activists to rise in their respective countries. In June 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the internet as “the Che Guevara of the 21st century in the Arab Spring uprisings”.

George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump all are following the same policy with different tactics, opening the road to changes in the Middle East by trying to remove dictators and replace these with Jihadists or with other dictators. The “management of savagery” (attributed to al-Qaeda and speaking about how to create a failed state and take advantage by moving towards the leadership of the country) was more applied by the US establishment than by  the jihadists who wrote about it.

Obama saw the “Islamic State” growing in Iraq, moving to Syria, watched it occupying Iraq, allowed Jihadists to travel to the Middle East, opened all Saudi jails on condition jihadist extremists imprisoned are shipped to Syria. For one entire year, with “70 countries in a coalition fighting against ISIS” in Syria, the group was in fact expanding and increasing its wealth by selling increasing quantities of oil. All that to stop Iran and Russia, and create failed states (as in Libya) and fight Muslims with Muslims.

But Moscow, Beijing and Tehran knew that Jihadists must be stopped in the Levant before they had the chance to move to their own countries. Of course, President Medvedev made a mistake in 2010 by allowing the fall of Libya and with it the severance of an important source of energy. The US and the EU were fully aware of the presence of extremists in Benghazi but, regardless, have supported these extremists and allowed the destruction of the Libyan army at the beginning of the “Revolution”.

Lebanon, before Libya, managed to stay away from the US’s orbit and Russia, in 2006, was not yet ready to punch according to its weight. Libya was a Russian and a Chinese mistake at the UN and Russia believed it was not possible to do something to stop the process. But Syria is not going to be another Libya and Russia and China agreed, along with Iran, to stop once and for all the US unilateral dominance at the gates of the Levant.



Russia introduced China to Syria during the war when the Chinese navy arrived in the Mediterranean and reached the shores of Tartous and Lattakia to send a message to America and its allies that the monolithic dominance of the world was over.

There are thousands of Chinese jihadists who fought with ISIS and al-Qaeda and Beijing was concerned, willing to see all these killed in Syria. Cooperation between the Chinese and the Syrian intelligence services was established. Damascus has a unique and a very rich bank of information about foreign fighters many countries in the world would like to have access to, since over 80 nationalities of foreign fighters were allowed into Syria in a failed attempt to topple the regime and establish an Islamic State.

But Washington is still trying to protect its position, refusing to give up on the crown of world domination it has enjoyed for over a decade and it is ready to fight against the “axis opposing the US” using other means outside Syria. The US establishment and its allies are expelling Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on China and Iran. The US defeat in Syria is obviously very painful.

What Washington is pretending to ignore is that the world no longer believes in the US’s military muscles and that there are two potential countries, less arrogant and willing to create alliances rather than bullying weaker countries: Russia and China. These are gathering more allies against the US axis.

The US is still living in the era of 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Its strong decline continued until the arrival of President Vladimir Putin to power in 2000. Washington realised there is a new person at the Kremlin in the castle of the Tsars with a determined intention to restore the lost glory. Russia had only nuclear weapons at that time and nothing else but the will was strong for the Russian bear to wakeup from its hibernation.

Putin did not declare war on America but extended his hand and tried to build friendship or at least not enmity. But Washington saw in Moscow the potentiality to recover in a couple of decades and worked on slowing down the process or interrupting it if possible. This is why the US started to pull to its side many countries of the ex-Soviet Union which have declared independence and include these in NATO and in the European Union surrounding Russia.

China, which includes cheap labor and can clone any commercial or military technology, like Russia has perceived America’s fear of its rapid economic development and wealth. Thus, the Chinese-Russian rapprochement was mainly created by the aggressive US policy towards the two countries, and this mainly because the American concentrate exclusively on military muscle when dealing with the World.

Washington has focused its naval control over the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, bringing back memories of its military presence during the Second World War with the attempt to tighten its pressure on Beijing. The US is aware of their naval superiority and know that China needs the sea for its commerce and for its supply of energy.

China started to protect itself by setting up the Eurasian political and economic Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in June 2001 with the goal also to focus on economic initiatives, increase military and counter terrorism cooperation with intelligence sharing. This Cooperation includes about half of the World’s total population and the states (including five nuclear states) of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan – and rejected Washington’s and Tokyo’s request to be observers only.

China has gone to the countries affected by US policy to establish a rapprochement. Further, it established the “string of Pearls” of states and islands for marine protection and encircled India, Japan and other American allies. The Indian Ocean sees the passage of 60% of the trade in oil from the Middle East, making the Straits of Malacca indispensable for China to protect. Therefore Beijing established relationships with Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Coco islands, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and a presence in the African coast in Sudan and Kenya.

Moreover, China revived the world’s oldest overland trade route of the Han Dynasty called “the Silk Road”. The modern Chinese Silk Road will provided a link to Beijing with the world for trade expected worth one trillion dollars (for 900 separate projects). The Silk Road reaches 11 cities in Europe and others in Africa by railway and pipeline and is expected to bring together seven Asian countries under the slogan “One Belt, One Way”. It will offer gas and trade to China and will cover 70% of the planet’s population.

China is also part of the BRICS Group, which was established in 2009 and includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which account for about 40 percent of world production.

And last but not least, in 2013, China presented the Asian World Bank (AIIB) that was set up to strike America at the core and bring together 57 countries – including several European states – but excluding the United States and Japan, its staunch ally.

The Asian International Bank – with $100 billion – aims to get rid of American financial control over the world’s economy. Washington considered this move as provocative, aiming at finding alternatives to its control of the world’s economy and financial that the United States has controlled for decades without any rival.

With its superficial but continuous sanctions, Washington believes it is capable of preventing the Eurasia Union (which begins from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, including six large states containing 4/3 of the world’s energy), to trouble Russia and to bother China.

Moreover, the US was thinking of creating a “Middle Eastern NATO” to counter the “Shiite crescent” and the “Iranian threat”. This idea was destroyed following the Saudi Arabia disastrous war on Yemen  and because Middle Eastern countries are unable to unite politically, economically or militarily.

While the US is fighting and losing in Syria, most countries that rejected American hegemony are gathering together in one way or another. There is cooperation between these countries – as we saw above –  to get rid of Washington’s dominance, arrogance and destructive foreign policy.

The US believes in changing regimes and directly – or through proxies – to occupy or control countries and impose a heavy protection fee to avoid toppling Middle Eastern monarchies (like Saudi Arabia as Donald Trump said himself). The US establishment is also manipulating youth and exploiting it under the title “Freedom activists” to guide them towards failing states, allowing extremists (Libya and both Syria and Iraq) to just get away with it).

America is deploying missiles everywhere where its military bases are deployed all over the world and has never thought of using its energy and power to support the economy and peace. It is only focused  on controlling states and the sources of energy regardless of the consequences, because there is no accountability for its doing.

Failure is everywhere: Washington’s plan failed- as General Wesley Clark, retired 4-star U.S. Army general, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia said – to occupy seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan), and its failure in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria because it underestimated the reaction to its foreign policy.

However, it has largely succeeded in planting hate among the Muslim population, turning the objective of al-Qaeda (its goal to target the far enemy, i.e. the US) and replaced it with ISIS (the goal is to target the near enemy, i.e. minorities and other Muslims), reviving an animosity between Muslims that is 1400 year old. Today the majority of the western population believes the war in the Middle East is “between Muslims. Let them kill each other…who cares?”.

While the United States is selling for $110 billions weapons to Saudi Arabia to kill more Yemenis and threaten its neighbours (Qatar, Syria and Iran),  Russia has signed 10 year contracts with China worth 600 billion dollars, and with Iran worth 400 billion dollars. Also, China has signed contracts with Iran worth 400 billion dollars. These contracts are aimed at economic cooperation, energy exchange; they promise an advanced economic future for these countries away from US dominance.

The US believes it can corner Russia, China and Iran: Russia has a 7,000 kilometre border with China, Iran is not Iraq and Syria is not Afghanistan. In Syria, the destiny of that a world be ruled by unilateralism is over. The world is heading toward pluralism.

The question remains: Is Washington prepared to accept its defeat and acknowledge that it has lost control of the world and pull out of Syria?