martes, 29 de mayo de 2018


Buena nota de Pepe Escobar para Asia Times sobre las conexiones y relaciones entre Siria, Irán, Afghanistán y China. Acá va: 

Título: The Syria connection to Iran, Afghanistan and China 

Epígrafe: Iranian academic spells out Iran's position in the Middle East and questions US policy toward the region; amid reports that the Qods force is unlikely to disband, and that Daesh (ISIS) is being moved the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

Texto: A crucial question has been consuming policymakers in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: Does the Trump administration have a strategic plan for the Middle East or not?

Few are more apt to answer than Saadallah Zarei, dean of the Institute of Strategic Studies Andishe Sazan-e Noor in Tehran. Zarei, a soft-spoken, extremely discreet man I met in Mashhad a few days ago, happens to be not only one of Iran’s top strategic analysts but also a key brain behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani – the ultimate bête noire outside the Beltway.

So US strategists could do worse than paying attention to Zarei. 

While the US “owns 37 fixed military bases and almost 70 movable bases in the Middle East”, Zarei said, “We do not observe specific and exact strategies.”

He stressed his perplexity with “contradictory behavior related to the Shi’ite population. America’s behavior in terms of the Shi’ite population of Bahrain and their rights, the Zaydi Shi’ite population in Yemen and Kashmir and also the Shi’ite population in Lebanon, which is 35% of the total population, is not specified and nobody knows how the Americans think about Shi’ites and how they act.”

Zarei also notes that “America does not have a specific policy about the democracies of Turkey and Iran. There is not any specific strategy about democracy in Iraq and Lebanon too. America talks about democracy as an American value and tries to generalize it, but in this region, we see that the best friends of the US are countries where there is no election in their political systems.”

The bottom line, according to Zarei, is that “the US strategy is not coherent in the Middle East. I think this is the main reason for the failure of American policies in this region.”

Enter the Hazaras

Now zoom in from the macro-analysis to the micro-view on the ground. Compare Zarei to Komeil, a 24-year-old Hazara Shi’ite from Kabul. Komeil is one among as many as 14,000 soldiers, all Hazara Afghans, carrying an Afghan passport, which made up the Liwa Fatemiyoun brigade fighting in Syria. We met in Mashhad, where he is spending Ramadan, before going back to the frontlines next month.

One of the key founders of Fatemiyoun, in 2013, was Abu Ahmad, killed by a missile, of unknown origin, near the Golan Heights, in 2015. At first, the brigade was a religious organization set up “to defend Shi’ite holy shrines in Syria” or, as Komeil prefers to stress, “defend humanity, weak people”.

No Fatemiyoun fighters carry Iranian passports – even though some, like Komeil, do live in eastern Iran; he’s been in Mashhad since 2011.  Almost all of them are volunteers; Komeil followed “friends” who joined the brigade. He undertook military training in Bagram airbase when he was part of the Afghan Army.

Komeil told me he engaged in direct combat with an assortment of Salafi-jihadis – from Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra to smaller outfits that were part of the vast, rambling Free Syrian Army umbrella. He’s been on the frontlines non-stop for three years, fighting mostly in “Sham and Zenaybi” near Damascus, and was also present at the liberation of Aleppo.

He described Daesh jihadis as “very difficult” in battle. He says he saw Daesh fighters wearing “American clothes” and carrying American-made rifles. Captured prisoners had “food from Saudi Arabia and Qatar”. He personally captured a “French lady working with Daesh” but did not know what happened to her, saying only that “Commanders treat our prisoners well.” He swears “less than 10%” of Daesh jihadis are Syrians – “There are Saudis, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, English, French and Germans.”

In contrast to the propaganda barrage across the Beltway, Komeil is adamant there are no Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military commanders active with Fatemiyoun, and no Hezbollah. They fight “side by side” – and the Iranians are essentially military advisers. He depicted Fatemiyoun as a totally independent outfit. This would indicate their military training was mostly acquired as members of the Afghan Army, and not via the IRGC.

Komeil said the fabled Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani did visit the group, but “only once”. Each force is responsible for its own area of operations; Fatimiyoun; Hezbollah; the Syria Arab Army (SAA); the Pakistanis (“strong fighters”); the al-Defae-Watan, which he portrayed as an equivalent of the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi (also known as the “People Mobilization Units”); and the Medariyoun also from Iraq.

The ‘Shi’ite crescent’, revisited

The Obama administration admitted at least that Iranian military advisers, alongside Russia air power and Hezbollah fighters, helped the SAA to defeat Daesh and other Salafi-jihadi outfits in Syria.

But, for the Trump administration – in sync with Israel and Saudi Arabia – it’s all black and white; all forces under Iranian command have to leave Syria (and that would include Fatemiyoun). That’s not going to happen; the virtual total collapse of what is loosely defined in the Beltway as “moderate rebels” – al-Qaeda in Syria included – yielded a power vacuum duly occupied by Damascus. And Damascus still needs all these forces to extinguish Salafi-jihadism for good.

Iran exerts influence throughout an arc from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Zarei analyzed: “The Islamic Republic of Iran has a specific strategy in the region. We have specific principles, friends, and capabilities. In addition, we have a coherent understanding of our enemy and we know where should we stand in the next 20 years. Therefore, we try to use our capabilities carefully and manage the job gradually.”

This has nothing to do with a threatening “Shi’ite crescent”, as suggested by Jordan’s King Abdullah way back in 2004. It’s been essentially a slow-motion Iranian countercoup against the US non-strategy across Southwest Asia since “Shock and Awe” in 2003 – as Zarei identified it.

The Qods Force – formed during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s – is the extraterritorial extension of the IRGC. I talked to quite a few war veterans in Karaj, where they gather in an association set up in a replica bunker serving delicious osh soup – a Persian equivalent of Tuscan pasta and fagioli – after meetings. Commander Syed Mohammad Yayavi said there is no way the Trump administration’s demand, expressed by Secretary of State Pompeo, for Iran to dismantle the Qods Force, will ever be accepted.

The Qods Force could be described as an equivalent of the US Special Forces and CIA special ops all rolled into one. For Washington, that’s a terror organization. Yet in practice, the Qods Force is as much an arm of Iranian national security policy across Southwest Asia as the Pentagon and CIA enforcing US national security interests all around the world.

And there’s remarkable continuity. At the “bunker” in Karaj I talked to Mohammad Nejad, a retired Iranian Air Force colonel who acquired his Iran-Iraq battle experience when he was in his mid-twenties, fighting in Bushher. Two years ago he was back in Syria for two months, serving as a military adviser.

All eyes on the SCO

The incoherent US strategy in the Middle East described by Zarei also applies to Afghanistan. Another demand by the Trump administration is that Tehran must stop supporting the Taliban.

Facts on the ground are infinitely more nuanced. The endless US war in Afghanistan has generated millions of refugees; many of them live in Iran. In parallel, Washington has set up a permanent network of Afghan military bases – which Tehran identifies as a serious threat, capable of supporting covert ops inside Iran.

So what happens is that Tehran, with minimal means – and in tandem with intelligence services from Pakistan and Russia – does support small groups in western Afghanistan, around Herat, including some that are loosely linked with the Taliban.

But that fits into a much larger Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) strategy. SCO members Russia, China and Pakistan, as well as future member Iran, not to mention future member Afghanistan, all want an Asian, SCO-driven solution for the Afghan tragedy. And that must include a place for the Taliban in the government in Kabul. 

Now compare that with the avowed Trump administration ploy geared to provoke regime change in Tehran. Saudi Arabia is already on it. Riyadh, via a think tank allegedly supported by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, has been funding a string of hardcore anti-Shi’ite madrassas in Balochistan in Pakistan, which borders Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran.

The Saudi plan is to at least disrupt the emergence of Chabahar port, which happens to be the entry point of India’s own New Silk Road to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. BRICS member India, alongside Russia and China, won’t be exactly pleased; and India is also a new SCO member, and absolutely adverse to all forms of Salafi-jihadism.

Adding even more trouble to this heady mix, the Attorney General for Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, on a visit to Iran, received a warning that Daesh “is being moved” to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Who’s doing the moving is unclear. What’s certain is that ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K – that is, Daesh’s Afghan branch – is actually fighting the Taliban.

Coincidentally, US airpower is also fighting the Taliban, via Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. One report detailed how “the number of US weapons released in support of Freedom’s Sentinel increased to 562 in April, the highest monthly total of 2018 and the second highest total for any month since October 2011.”

So, it’s the Taliban that are getting heavily bombed, not ISIS-K. No wonder SCO nations are on red alert. The real mystery is still to be unlocked by Pakistani intelligence: that is, in what part of the porous Af-Pak border are over 4,000 well-weaponized ISIS-K jihadis being lodged?

Who will rebuild Syria?

And that leads us to the ultimate inter-connector: China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Syrian colleague Walid Muallem have a very close relationship. President Xi Jinping is a firm supporter of the Astana peace process featuring Russia, Iran and Turkey. China announced last November that it would deploy special forces to Syria against all strands of Salafi-jihadism; the Chinese goal is to “neutralize” 5,000 Uyghur fighters who have acted as “moderate rebels”, because of concern about militants causing violence if they return to Xinjiang.

But most of all, China will be deeply involved in Syrian reconstruction; towns, villages, roads, railways, bridges, schools, hospitals, all connectivity networks. Syria will be rebuilt by China, Russia (energy, infrastructure) and Iran (power grids), not the US or the Gulf petro-monarchies. US and EU sanctions are still in effect, banning commercial operations both in US dollars and euros.

This coincides with a meeting in Beijing last week of SCO security council chiefs. Politburo heavyweight Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, discussed matters extensively with top Russian security expert Nikolai Patrushev.

The 18th SCO summit will be held in Qingdao on June 9. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be there. India and Pakistan will be there. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will be there, representing Iran as an observer, and will meet face to face with Putin and Xi. That’s where all Syria-Afghanistan connections will converge.

domingo, 27 de mayo de 2018

Colombia entre Duque y Petro

Ganó Iván Duque (a la izquierda en la foto) la primera vuelta en las elecciones presidenciales colombianas de hoy. Duque, el candidato de la derecha uribista, sacó casi el 40% de los votos. El segundo en cuestión es el izquierdista Gustavo Petro (a la derecha en la foto), con el 25%. Ambos disputarán el ballotage el próximo 17 de Junio. Así lo cuenta el diario Página/12:

Título: Petro y Duque van a segunda vuelta

TextoEl derechista Iván Duque -senador del Centro Democrático, el rostro joven del Centro Democrático y protegido del expresidente Álvaro Uribe- y el candidato de izquierda Gustavo Petro se enfrentarán en un balotaje el 17 junio para definir al próximo presidente de Colombia, según el escrutinio casi total de las votaciones de este domingo.

Gustavo Petro fue senador, alcalde de Bogotá y también fue integrante del Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19), al que se sumó a los 17 años. Y por otro lado, el senador Iván Duque del Centro Democrático, el rostro joven del derechista Centro Democrático y protegido del expresidente Álvaro Uribe.

Con 99,19 por ciento de las mesas relevado, Duque reunía 39,12 por ciento de los votos y Petro lo secundaba con 25,10 por ciento, reportó la Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil en su sitio web.

La jornada no estuvo exenta de incidentes: autoridades confirmaron el asesinato en el departamento Huila de un fiscal de la coalición que postuló a Petro. También se registró una participación alta para los estándares colombianos: según los cómputos oficiales, la concurrencia fue de 53,10 por ciento contra 40,65 por ciento de la primera vuelta en 2014.

Estos serán los primeros comicios presidenciales desde que se firmó la paz con la guerrilla de las Fuerzas Revolucionarias Armadas de Colombia (FARC) –hoy rebautizadas como Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC)-, pero además se trata de una elección histórica: es la primera vez en décadas que la izquierda tiene una chance tan grande de llegar al poder.

Irán y las alianzas eurasiáticas

Uno se sigue preguntando qué hay en la mente de los estrategas del Imperio detrás de la reciente decisión de abandonar el acuerdo nuclear con Irán. La respuesta parece ser múltiple. Acá va una posible; es de Chris Kanthan y apareció en el sitio web Signs of the Times

Título: Conflict with Iran - What You're Not Being Told

Texto: Forget the hullabaloo about Iran's nuclear program - Netanyahu and the Neocons have been screaming about the imminent demise of the globe by Iran's non-existent nukes for more than twenty years. The truth is that Iran is in the cross hairs of Western imperialists for four main geopolitical reasons: 

Oil competition 

In terms of world's proven reserves, Iran is #4 in oil and #2 in natural gas. Thus, a free Iran will endanger Saudi Arabia's role as the #1 oil producer. 

To give some historical context, the only reason that Saudis are so rich now is that Iran has been virtually isolated since 1979 by crippling US sanctions. For decades before that, Iran was #1 in oil production and refining, but everything changed when the Saudis colluded with the international financiers to create the oil-for-dollar ("petrodollar") scheme in the 1970s during the dollar crisis. In return, Western imperialists turned Iran into a global pariah. Thus, in 1970, Iran was producing more oil than Saudi Arabia; however, in 1980, Saudis were producing six times more oil than the Iranians! 

A resurgent Iran will also mean competition to US oil and shale companies which have been ramping up production since 2011 (when Libya was destroyed!). 

Challenge to Israel 

Israel wants weak Arab neighbors that it can kick around and grab oil/land from - a prime example being the Golan Heights, that has huge oil reserves. There are Israelis who dream of a Greater Israel, which encompasses land from many neighboring countries. Iran is strong and independent; it helped defeat Al Qaeda and ISIS jihadists in Syria; it's very likely helping anti-Saudi rebels in Yemen; and it arms Hezbollah who can punch Israel in the nose if the latter meddles in Lebanon. 

Divide and Rule; Weapons Sales 

If everyone in the Middle East got along with one another, there would be no need for US military bases, and Saudi Arabia wouldn't be binge-buying US/UK weapons. That would be terrible! For the military-industrial complex, the Middle East has been a cash cow for the last two decades. Perpetual wars mean enormous war-profiteering for private contractors and defense corporations. For geopolitical elites, controlling nations and regions is imperative. 

Hence it's in the best interests of Western imperialists to fuel the Sunni-Shiite, Saudi-Iran conflict and keep it just short of a full-fledged war - after all, corporations don't want their oil pipelines and refineries to get destroyed. In geopolitics, this strategy is called "controlled chaos." 

Eurasian Alliance of Iran-China-Russia 

There's a huge struggle for the control of Eurasia, and Iran is a key piece in that geopolitical chessboard. As long as Iran was isolated and weak, it didn't matter. But now Iran is getting into all kinds of military and economic alliances with Russia & China - the two countries that have been labeled by the Trump administration as "rival powers" and "revisionist powers" that have heralded an era of "great power competition." 
Eurasia Iran is also key component of China's Silk Road (also called 'Belt and Road Initiative' or 'One Belt, One Road') - freight trains from China have to go through Iran on their way to Africa and the Middle East. Destabilizing Iran means sabotaging China's Silk Road, and that would be very desirable for the Western imperialists. 

However, if the Iran-Russia-China coalition survives, it will mean the following for the West: 

* Unable to conquer Syria & Lebanon. 

* Possible loss of Iraq, since there's a huge Shiite majority. This, in turn, will lead to the formidable Shiite Crescent - four contiguous nations of Lebanon-Syria-Iraq-Iran. (*Lebanon = Hezbollah, in the minds of Israel/USA) 

* Partial loss of Turkey, a pivotal NATO member. Erdogan-US relations are already on the rocks; and Turkey is buying missiles from Russia, getting close to Iran and planning on joining China's One Belt, One Road. 

* Partial Loss of Qatar as a vassal state. Qatar works hard to please the US/EU establishment and hosts a huge US military base. However, Qatar also shares the world's largest natural gas field with Iran, which has become even more of a strategic and indispensable ally after the Saudi blockade last year. 

* Possible eviction of US military bases from Afghanistan, a country that borders Iran and now wants to join CPEC - China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - that's so promising that Pakistan is giving the diplomatic middle finger to Washington DC. 

Basically, the US is on the verge of losing its hegemony in a contiguous string of countries from the Middle East to China. The four leaders who have been actively working on this are the power brokers in Russia, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. China is quietly helping in the economic front, while being careful not to militarily challenge the US, at least not too much. 

Putin, Assad, Rouhani, Nasrallah These are the reasons why Western imperialists are fervently trying to topple the current Iranian regime. Neocons such as Bolton are partnering with MEK, a cult-terrorist group that was conveniently deemed innocuous by the US government in 2012. Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) gives the hawks one more chance to crush the Iranian economy through sanctions, which will also force European companies to pull out of Iran and force them back in line with US dictates. 

Warmongers don't care much about what happens after a regime change. If Iran is embroiled in a bitter civil war between Islamists & secularists for the next decade, it will just be splendid. The chaos can actually be used to chop Iran into pieces - Baluchistan on the east, Khuzestan on the south and Kurdistan on the North-West. This will ensure that Iran will never be an influential regional power again. Of course, all this would also mean millions of refugees rushing into Europe and America, but geopolitical machinations are ruthless.

sábado, 26 de mayo de 2018

Mientras tanto, en Brasil...

Mil millones de pollos y unos veinte millones de cerdos podrían morir en los próximos días en Brasil como consecuencia del desabastecimiento producido en todo el país por los bloqueos de rutas por parte de las compañías de transportes. Eso sin contar a los 200 millones de brasileños, que no la deben estar pasando bien, por decir algo. Comienzan a aparecer fotos de mercados y supermercados con góndolas y cajones vacíos. La leyenda de la foto de arriba, en Página/12, dice: "Un camionero observa el bloqueo de una autopista en la entrada a Río de Janeiro, donde ya se siente el desabastecimiento de insumos básicos". La primera de las notas que siguen es de Dario Pignotti para Página/12:

Título: Temer llama al ejército para evitar el colapso en Brasil

Subtítulo: En el quinto día de los bloqueos de camioneros hay desabastecimiento de insumos

Texto: Temer había pactado con los transportistas una “tregua” de quince días a cambio de la cual les prometió el congelamiento del precio del diésel y la reducción de algunos impuestos. Pero el acuerdo fue traicionado por los empresarios transportistas.

Orden y progreso.  Al cumplirse el quinto día de los bloqueos realizados por miles de camioneros el presidente de facto brasileño Michel Temer convocó ayer las fuerzas armadas para evitar el colapso de San Pablo, Río de Janeiro y otras capitales debido al desabastecimiento de insumos básicos.  “De inmediato vamos implantar un plan de seguridad para superar los graves efectos  causados por esta paralización, comunico que accioné a las fuerzas federales de seguridad para desbloquear las rutas”, dijo Temer usando un tono de voz enérgico y ademanes firmes. Estaba sobreactuando su condición de comandante las fuerzas armadas. En rigor de verdad esta decisión antes que una demostración de autoridad, puso  en evidencia la crisis de gobernabilidad.

Diecisiete horas antes de ese discurso televisado había pactado con los transportistas una “tregua” de quince días a cambio de la cual les prometió el congelamiento del precio del diésel y la reducción de algunos impuestos.

El acuerdo fue traicionado por los empresarios y camioneros en las primeras horas del viernes cuando retomaron, y con más radicalización, la obstrucción del tránsito en carreteras federales y estaduales de al menos 24 de los 27 estados de la Unión. Temer es un no presidente: perdió prácticamente toda su autoridad. Sus decisiones son desoídas por los camioneros y hasta por parte de sus correligionarios del Movimiento Democrático Brasileño, que prefieren  distanciarse  del mandatario más impopular desde el fin de la dictadura.

Su foto espanta a los votantes cuando faltan poco más de cinco meses para las elecciones. Una encuesta aparecida ayer, del instituto Ipsos, indicó que tiene el 92 por ciento de rechazo de los encuestados. Otra publicada la semana pasada, de la consultora MDA, dice que sólo lo votaría el 0,9 por ciento de los brasileños y el 72 por ciento rechaza a la gestión surgida del golpe que derrocó a Dilma Rousseff en 2016.

Uno de los dilemas  del ocupante del Planalto es como llegar al fin del mandato. Y una de las opciones de las que ha echado mano con cierta frecuencia fue militarizar las crisis. Así ocurrió en febrero pasado cuando nombró al general Walter Souza Braga Netto como interventor de Río de Janeiro. Y poco después al designar al general Joaquim Silva e Luna como responsable del Ministerio de Defensa, el primer militar que ocupa ese cargo en un gobierno civil. La actuación del ejército en Río de Janeiro ha sido decepcionante: la estrategia de atacar las favelas para erradicar a los narcotraficantes fue un fracaso, mientras  las matanzas de los parapoliciales aumentaron. Una de sus víctimas de los “paras” fue la activista Marielle Franco, conocida por sus críticas al accionar castrense en las comunidades.

Ahora habrá que aguardar para constatar la eficacia de los militares para dar cuenta del movimiento de los transportistas. Ayer el general Silva e Luna prometió una “acción rápida” que permita desbloquear las carreteras y preservar la infraestructura critica. “El ejercito, la marina y la fuerza aérea  van a entrar para evitar el desabastecimiento”, anunció el ministro de Defensa.

Es imprescindible que las tropas sean eficientes para restablecer de inmediato el funcionamiento de los grandes centros urbanos. El alcalde de San Pablo, Mario Covas, decretó ayer el estado de “emergencia” ante la falta de combustible lo cual impidió la circulación del 40 por ciento de los colectivos, obligó a  suspender la recolección de basura y redujo el tiempo de patrullaje de la policía. En Río de Janeiro hubo un 70 por ciento menos de colectivos y ayer por la noche había pocas estaciones de servicio a las que les quedaba nafta. En Brasilia se acabó el kerosene para aviones en el Aeropuerto internacional.

¿Huelga o lockout?

Esta  medida de fuerza realizada por empresarios, que probablemente  aportan dinero para garantizar una logística costosa,  no puede confundirse con “una huelga de trabajadores”, explica el abogado laboralista Normando Rodrigues, asesor de la Federación Unica de los Petroleros. Pero parte de las decenas de miles de participantes en los piquetes son camioneros “autónomos”, dueños de sus unidades, y choferes (algunos presionados por sus jefes) por lo cual este paro  tampoco es un “lockout” clásico. Aunque se le parece.

El caso es que ninguna de las huelgas  organizados por los sindicatos de trabajadores desde el inicio del gobierno temerista tuvo la potencia de este “lockout” heterodoxo. Perjudicados por la contra-reforma laboral los sindicatos están a la defensiva. Son víctimas de la represión de la policía y la amenaza de unas fuerzas armadas educadas para reprimir organizaciones populares. En mayo de 2017 fueron movilizadas contra un concentración gremial realizada en Brasilia. Ahora los militares tendrán que entrar acción y demostrar su disposición de poner orden contra  camioneros que en buen número son simpatizantes del candidato presidencial y ex capitán Jair Bolsonaro. Uno de los piqueteros dijo a radio CBN que para acabar con la corrupción de Temer lo mejor sería “la intervención militar”.


Por su parte, leemos la siguiente nota en Zero Hedge:

Título: One Billion Chickens May Die As Trucker Strike Paralyzes Brazil

Texto: A billion Brazilian chickens and 20 million pigs may die within days - starving to death amid a nationwide truckers' strike over soaring fuel prices which has prevented critical supplies such as animal feed from reaching their destinations.

[E]xport group ABPA said a billion chickens and 20 million swines may die in coming days due to a lack of feed." -Bloomberg

As the strike entered its fifth day on Friday - completely ignoring a Thursday night agreement, Sao Paulo declared a state of emergency due to the lack of vital resources for its more than 12 million residents.

President Michel Temer deployed national security forces to unblock roads amid warnings that supply disruptions risk causing a public calamity.

“I have actioned the federal security forces to unblock highways and I am asking governors to do the same,” Temer said in a televised address on Friday. “We will not let the population do without its primary needs.”

"Those who act in a radical manner are harming the population and they will be held responsible."

Temer chose to deploy federal forces after meeting with ministers for a "safety assessment" in the country, as the truckers' strike continued, despite the agreement between the government and representatives of the category on Thursday night.

The government has also called the Federal Supreme Court for the strike of the truck drivers to be declared illegal. -Globo

While the strike initially started on Monday over fuel prices, it has rapidly evolved into a widespread protest against government graft scandals involving several prominent politicians - Temer included.

Despite the deployment of forces, Carlos Marun, Minister of the Government Department, admitted that the demands of the striking truckers are "just." When asked whether the government negotiated with the "wrong people," since roads continue to be blocked despite the Thursday agreement, Marun joked that it wasn't feasible to talk to all the truckers at once.

"This is a scattered and diffused movement, and I recognize that the leaders we talk to do not have the power to turn off the movement like someone who turns off a power switch," Maron said, adding "We talked to who we had to talk to, we prepared ourselves since Sunday, and considering fair claims, we decided to negotiate before taking any more radical measures."

The Government Minister did note, however, that the lack of action by the truckers caused the Friday deployment of government forces and the possible use of force.

"Because of non-compliance, we will have to use what we would not like, the possible use of force ... in order not to diminish movement, we are making use of measures that are necessary. , at the moment, it is necessary, "he said.

Meanwhile, supermarkets and restaurants in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are running out of supplies, several factories have been shut down, and bus services have been significantly reduced due to the strike.

In an attempt to end the dispute, oil company Petrobas cut the price of diesel by 10% for two weeks - however all that did was scare investors. The truckers were not impressed, considering that they've been subject to fuel price increases of around 50% over the last year.

Petrobras shares plunged after the announcement and are down at least 20 percent this week, leading losses in the Ibovespa index, which has lost 4.3 percent in the period. That pushed the stock market’s monthly drop to 7.7 percent, one of the worst performers among major global benchmarks.

The currency lost 4.3 percent in May amid generalized turmoil in emerging markets and as the central bank unexpectedly halted its easing cycle.

The strike will affect virtually all aspects of Brazil's economy. RTL Today reports that Brazil's auto industry completely shut down on Friday due to the strike.

"Assembly lines of Brazilian car manufacturers have stopped. The truckers' strike will affect our results significantly, including for exports," the National Association of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers said, on the fifth day of the strike.

Meanwhile, the airport in Brasilia reports that its kerosene reserves have run out, forcing American Airlines to cancel a flight from Miami originally destined for the Capitol city Friday morning, along with an evening return flight. And in yet another sign of impending calamity, the largest port in Latin America is reportedly running out of soybeans.

The strike has also significantly damaged conservative President Temer's reputation, along with those in his orbit.

While the president has abandoned plans to run for re-election in October, those candidates associated with his government or even those merely sympathetic to its market-friendly agenda have been dealt a major blow. Brazil’s presidential contenders have been reluctant to criticize the strikers, though some have questioned their tactics.

Raul Jungmann, minister of public security, said that authorities would be investigating whether trucking companies were prohibiting employers from working, which would be a violation of Brazil's "lockout" laws.


Actualización: Acá va otra nota de Página/12 sobre la situación en Brasil. Es de Eric Nepomucemo:

TítuloSin noción de nada y sin miedo al ridículo

Texto: En cuatro días de tensión máxima, del martes a ayer, Michel Temer logró algo insólito: dejó de ser un presidente ilegítimo para asumir definitivamente el rol de presidente decorativo. O, como dijo alguien, un ex presidente en ejercicio.

Hasta sus secuaces en el Congreso lo atropellaron de manera impresionante. Supuestos aliados, lo criticaron sin ceremonia o respeto, asumieron en un primer momento el mando, en una especie de parlamentarismo de última hora, y trataron de disminuir para siempre su figura, adoptando medidas de una torpeza impar para solucionar la crisis surgida a raíz de la huelga de camioneros.

Otra hazaña de Temer, que hizo que su aislamiento alcanzase niveles olímpicos, fue aplicar con talento único su absurda capacidad de ridículo. El pasado jueves, mientras la situación llegaba al borde del abismo, el presidente comparecía, en el interior de la provincia de Río de Janeiro, a una ceremonia de expresión nula, para prestigiar la entrega de automóviles a algunos consejos tutelares de menores. Y sin pestañear, afirmaba a una platea atónita que aquel era “el acontecimiento más relevante” de la jornada.

A aquellas alturas en Brasilia ocurrían cosas que, para su limitadísima visión de la realidad, eran menos importantes. Por ejemplo: se llevaba a cabo una reunión de varios de sus ministros con los principales cabecillas de los sindicatos patronales de transportes, quienes actuaban por detrás y por encima de los motoristas autónomos, que representan solamente la tercera parte del total de camioneros existentes en el país. Todo para alcanzar un acuerdo que, al final, no funcionó.

Mientras, el aeropuerto de la capital brasileña informaba que solo permitiría el arribo de aparatos con combustible suficiente para luego despegar. A lo largo y a lo ancho del mapa se registraban imágenes de un caos acechante. En Rio, la circulación de micros caía a poco más de la mitad. En Recife, capital de Pernambuco, se formaban filas delante de las gasolineras que se extendían por hasta diez cuadras. En las carreteras de 25 provincias se registraban más de 550 cortes y bloqueos. En las góndolas de los supermercados faltaban verduras y legumbres y carne y leche, y cuando había, los precios llegaban a ser hasta cinco veces más elevados que los de la semana pasada.

Pero para Michel Temer, nada de eso se comparaba con entregar solemnemente unos 600 automóviles que, en realidad, eran la mitad de lo que su mismo desgobierno había prometido.

La decisión de convocar a las fuerzas de seguridad, léase básicamente el Ejército, para desmovilizar a los camioneros parados en todo el país tampoco fue decisión suya: partió del general Sergio Echegoyen, un duro-entre-duros que comanda el Gabinete de Seguridad Institucional, órgano que Dilma Rousseff había extinguido y que Temer resucitó.

Otro general, Joaquim Luna, el primer militar en sentarse en el sillón de ministro de Defensa desde que la cartera fue creada por Fernando Henrique Cardoso hace como veinte años, aseguró que las fuerzas de seguridad actuarían “con energía”.

Siempre caminando rumbo a expandir la crisis al máximo, por la tardecita Temer firmó otro texto que le fue pasado por los uniformados: el Decreto de Garantía de la Ley y el Orden, que tiene dos funciones. La primera es liberar el Ejército para impedir “actos que atenten contra el orden público”. ¿Qué tipo de acto? Nadie sabe, excepto actos obvios como tirar piedras a soldados.

Y la segunda es asegurar un paraguas legal para todo lo que se cometa para cumplir la misión hasta el lunes cuatro de junio, cuando expira la validez del decreto. Por “todo lo que se cometa” entiéndase todo lo que haga la tropa contra la población.

En nuestras comarcas, cuando un gobierno débil - y nada puede ser más débil e inerte que el gobierno de un presidente meramente decorativo - y además ilegítimo decide adoptar medidas de fuerza, dejan de existir límites para el avance de la crisis.

La capacidad extraordinaria de Michel Temer y sus bucaneros para llevar a cabo con velocidad extraordinaria el derrumbe de lo alcanzado a lo largo de los últimos más de treinta años, en épocas anteriores inclusive a Lula da Silva (aunque consolidado y ampliado infinitamente por él), provocó el caos al que se llegó.

Entregar un patrimonio nacional, como Petrobras, directamente al apetito del mercado tuvo consecuencias alucinantes.

Por ejemplo: a lo largo de los ocho años de Lula da Silva, el precio de los combustibles tuvo ocho aumentos. En los dos años de Temer, 229. Eso: 229.

¿Para qué con Lula y luego Dilma se contuvo ese precio? Para no presionar a la inflación y para incentivar el crecimiento de la actividad económica. ¿Para qué Temer y sus bucaneros permitieron una estampida absurda de aumentos? Para atender a los intereses de sus patrones nacionales y globales.

Al principio de la noche de ayer el pegajoso ministro de Seguridad Pública, un ex militante de izquierda que como suele ocurrir con esa clase de tránsfuga se convirtió en un monumento al avasallamiento de la derecha, decía solemnemente que casi la mitad de los cortes habían desaparecido.

Lo que no desapareció es el riesgo de que a los generales la posibilidad de permanecer donde están les encante.

Lo que no desapareció es la imagen concreta de un país desgobernado que acelera veloz rumbo al abismo.

viernes, 25 de mayo de 2018

Mueve Alemania?

El primer Secretario General de la NATO, el británico Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, pasó a la historia por su famosa frase sobre el objetivo básico de dicha organización militar: “Keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” De un tiempo a esta parte algunos europeos parecen estar repensando todo el asunto, empezando por Alemania. La nota que sigue es de Darius Shahtahmasebi para Russia Today:

Título: Sick & tired of US foreign policy, Germany is pushed into the open arms of China

Texto: Germany has had enough of American foreign policy. Angela Merkel’s visits to Russia and China are a testament to that.

On May 10, 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly said that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it, hinting that the European continent would begin to “take destiny into its own hands.”

The comments were, of course, a direct reference to US President Donald Trump’s ludicrous but anticipated decision to completely nuke the Iranian nuclear accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That's the task of the future," Merkel reportedly said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron.

Eerily enough, approximately a year ago, Merkel offered almost the exact same sentiments, stating that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

In the weeks since, Merkel has certainly proved that this was no idle threat. The German chancellor has made trips to both Russia and China, and the outcomes of those meetings appear to suggest a complete restructuring of the balance of power in Europe and Asia respectively.

China and Germany see eye to eye

Just this Thursday, China has already said it would “open its door wider” to German businesses after giving Merkel a warm reception. Both China and Germany have a common interest in defeating Trump’s plan to kill trade surpluses that countries have with the United States, as they are both equally affected by Trump’s threats. Each time Trump opens his mouth, it seems that European and Asian businesses are instantly affected. Germany is the largest auto exporter to the US out of any European country, and is China’s biggest European trading partner which was worth $179 billion just last year alone.

Both Merkel and Macron tried their hand at persuading the Trump administration not to abandon the Iranian nuclear deal completely. The leaders even issued a joint statement with British Prime Minister Theresa May, someone whose hawkish attitude towards Iran should not go unnoticed. Not surprisingly, according to Reuters, German officials have said that “Trump’s America First’ trade policy, his administration’s professed disdain for the World Trade Organization, as well as his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, have pushed China and Germany into closer alignment.

It is not clear if the Trump administration is that incompetent or if this is done on purpose, in full knowledge that its actions will only further isolate the United States on the world stage and push states that previously held more adversarial positions closer and closer together. If it is done on purpose, one has to wonder what sort of mindset is behind the leadership which is on a self-destruct mission, and how it expects to maintain its worldwide empire, all the while irking its traditional allies. It is quite clear that Trump’s decision to axe the Iran deal will only pave the way for China to take advantage of the financial opportunities flowing out of Iran if sanctions present a buffer to German interests. China has already been assisting Iran to out-maneuver US-led sanctions through, for example, the use of credit lines using the Yuan.

In that context, does Donald Trump want to contain China or empower it? You can only go so far serving the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel while ignoring strong European states who would rather ink financial deals than turn Iran into a glass crater, a strong point of difference between Merkel and say, newly appointed US national security adviser John Bolton.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran already led to an increase in trade between Germany and Iran from €2.7 billion in 2014 to €3.5 billion last year. It is also worth noting that Iran will now start accepting euros for its oil in an attempt to not only avoid the US dollar, but in a move that will directly threaten it. This topic is probably best suited for another article, but it is definitely something worth keeping an eye on – and will most likely only bolster Germany’s resolve to protect Iran.

Either way, Germany and China have both agreed to stick to the Iran deal. Think for a second what this means: John Bolton openly warned European companies and countries against continuing business with Iran, stating that they could be targeted by sanctions. The newly appointed ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, also immediately warned Germany directly that German companies must halt their business activities with Tehran or face sanctions. The German-Chinese announcement also came just after Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, issued a set of demands of its own, stating that the Europeans also could not be trusted.

Germany and China have essentially given the US the political middle finger in response, and arguably kowtowed to Iranian interests instead.

German-Russian relations to continue

Not too long ago, the US also warned Germany that sanctions may also target the German-Russia pipeline known as the Nord Stream 2 Project. If you ever needed proof that the underlying reasons for US-led wars were driven by money and natural gas, this is it. Why prevent Germany and Russia from working on this monumental project? Germany needs the gas, and Russia, relatively close-by, can supply it.

Despite the fact that the two countries continue to hold a number of disputes (including sanctions that continue to target Russia), Merkel’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrates that it is still possible to meet with one’s counterpart and discuss those issues amicably, an idea that seems almost completely lost on the current Trump administration.

If you want to solve problems, you have to talk to each other,” Merkel said alongside Putin midway through the talks.

One Russian presidential aide reportedly suggested that the meeting went ahead because the two world leaders now found themselves on the same page, stating that “when opinions coincide, then countries at the very least become a bit closer to one another.”

According to a senior German official with knowledge of the chancellery’s strategy, rapprochement with Russia is now a core policy objective in Berlin. Polls are already suggesting that Germans trust Russia under Putin more than they trust the United States under Trump. That is some amazing 4D chess President Trump is playing.

It is also worth noting that Germany did not participate in Trump, Macron, and Theresa May’s grandiose attack on Syria in April this year. Perhaps Germany is seeing less and less in common with the US, and has less of an intention of waging war to see its interests met, unlike the US, which apparently sees violence as the logical solution to all its problems.

Not to mention that – agitating Germany even further – in a recent cabinet meeting in Washington attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump singled out Germany as a country not contributing enough, all the while warning that countries allegedly not paying their dues will be “dealt with.”

Sheez. It should be no wonder that in this context, Germany has been secretly building a European Army of its own, already announcing the integration of its armed forces with Romania and the Czech Republic, baby steps to creating a European army under German leadership.

miércoles, 23 de mayo de 2018

El viento y los huracanes

Seguimos rumiando sobre el tema del post de ayer. ¿Hacia dónde irá Europa? De lo que decida hacer en los próximos meses dependerá el futuro del mundo, nos guste o no. Hasta ahora vivió atada a los designios del gigante imperial, los EEUU; los beneficios superaban a los costos. A partir de la decisión estadounidense de abandonar el acuerdo con Irán, existe la percepción de que los costos van a superar a los beneficios. La nota que sigue es de Nick Griffin y apareció en el sitio web Geopolitica. Constituye la transcripción de su discurso dado en Milan el pasado 19 de Mayo en ocasión de la conferencia europea Alliance for Peace and Freedom. Acá va:

Título: The wind of change and the paper tiger

Texto: This conference is entitled: Wind of Change. The phrase is not new. It was used by British Prime Minister Harold McMillan in Cape Town in 1960. His comment that “the wind of change is blowing through this continent” was the trigger for the Conservative government to commit itself to the rapid dismantling of the British Empire. 

This was partly a socialist anti-colonial project, but McMillan was also heavily influenced by the United States, which in the years after World War Two pushed the European powers to abandon their empires – so that the USA could move into the political and economic spaces which resulted.

The continent to which McMillan was referring was of course Africa, but today we can feel another wind of change blowing through another continent: Europe.  And once again it is a wind which is sweeping away colonial rule: American colonial rule.

If I had stood here just two or three years ago, and said that the American domination of Europe was being blown away like sand in a dust storm, you would have thought I was mad. After all, all the signs were that the colonists were winning:

When the Wall came down in 1989, the Washington regime promptly broke its promise to keep the eastern border of Nato in Germany.  Nato, and American domination, marched eastwards. 

Only last year the Americans were establishing missile bases right on the Russian border. Growing numbers of Nato troops are even now being stationed in eastern Poland and in the Baltic States.  

At the same time, Washington’s puppet regimes in Western Europe and in the EU have displayed a sickening readiness to be junior partners in the USA’s truly wicked policy of using Jihadi terror gangs to destroy secular Arab nations in order to allow US energy giants, Israel and Saudi Arabia to prosper in the resulting ruins.

When it was founded just after the Second World War, Nato’s first Secretary General, Lord Ismay described its mission as being to 'Keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down' . The alliance thus played the same role in international politics that the Mafia did in Italy after being re-established at American bayonet point at the same time. 

The resulting American domination of our continent has lasted exactly 70 years. Throughout that time it has appeared irresistible. Unshakable. And that appeared as true at the start of this year as it has been throughout our entire lives. 

But what appeared to be geopolitical concrete just a few months ago is turning into wind-blown sand before our very eyes.

Sure, just last month we saw American forces strike Syria on behalf of Al Qaeda, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US military-industrial-complex. We saw Donald Trump copy Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama in acting as global policeman. We saw the puppet regimes in France and Britain providing military and diplomatic support. At a glance, it seems like business as usual. Hail to the chief and to what the racist war criminal Madeleine Albright called the ‘indispensable nation’.

But look closer. Trump has fired two missile barrages at Syria. But both these very expensive fireworks displays were only launched after informing the Russians, with enough notice for them in turn to warn the Syrians to move military assets to safety. Although American forces fired 105 Cruise missiles last month, the ‘attack’ hit three purely symbolic targets. 71 of those missiles were either deliberately wasted in ludicrous overkill, or they were shot down by Syria’s last generation Russian missile defence systems.

So despite the horror we all felt when we saw the Nato response to the Douma false flag, the reality is either that the USA so scared of Russia in Syria that it pulled its punches, or there was a real attack but it was blocked in a result which would have been deeply worrying to the Pentagon planners. Personally I believe the latter to be more likely, but it doesn’t really make much difference. Either reason makes the USA a paper tiger.

Coupled with the development of Russian hypersonic missiles which have made the US fleet an obsolete sitting duck, the result of last month’s missile launch is that America and its allies have lost military control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and have lost military credibility all around the world.

Since the attack, the Syrian Army and its allies have liberated the last ISIS-held areas south of Damascus, cleared the large Jihadi pocket just north of Homs, and retaken half of the last ISIS patch of desert near the Iraqi border. The only areas still left to be cleared of the Jihadi pest are Idlib province and the stretch near the Golan Heights where ISIS and other rebel groups are supplied with military equipment, medical aid and air cover by Israel.

Assad and his allies have won the war. The American elite and their puppets have lost.

But the wind of change blowing away American imperial rule isn’t just blowing through the Middle East. There is also a storm of political change brewing up in Europe. Not just in the East and Centre, where Viktor Orban and the Visegrad powers have already reshaped politics and broken the suicidal death-grip of the old pro-American liberal elite.

No! The really important change now is happening here in the West. And the speed of the change is astounding. 

Obviously, there are many compromises and weaknesses in the new coalition being formed here in Italy. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the new government will be the most pro-Russian in the whole of Western Europe. Italy, whose foreign policy has been effectively dictated by the CIA for 70 years, is suddenly capable of independent thought and action.

And the storm rages on. In just the last week or so, even the most pathetic lapdogs of Washington and Wall Street have finally grown sick of being kicked by Uncle Sam. Donald Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem was warmly received by the delusional psychopath Netanyahu. But even the British, French and EU are appalled by the provocative stupidity.

Then came another blast of the storm of change, as Trump ‘scrapped’ the Iran deal. Because he has done nothing of the sort. Yes, he has pulled America out of the agreement, but the deal is still very much alive. Even America’s closest allies have refused to follow suit. On one side, totally isolated, we have America. On the other we have not just Iran, Russia and China, but also Britain, France and Germany. 

This level of disobedience would have been utterly unthinkable just two years ago.

Trump’s decision, and the European rejection of it, has dealt a hammer blow to the trans-Atlantic ‘solidarity’ which has been unshaken for 70 years. And the crisis is only just beginning. Washington has set a six-month deadline for European companies doing business in Iran to get out. They’ll have to either stop their operations or face heavy penalties. 

Together with the continued impact of sanctions against Russia, this means that the USA has now become the main threat to Europe’s economy.  The EU in turn is planning counter-measures to block US sanctions on Iran.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed President Trump for his decision to pull out. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stated that European powers should not be Washington’s “vassals.” Even to use the word is to break the spell and to move towards freedom at last.

On May 11, the German chancellor discussed the situation with President Putin in a phone conversation. Today Angela Merkel is in Sochi; just days after Germany started to build the Nord Stream 2 gas project in the teeth of ferocious but ineffective hostility from the US.

The US-European relationship is also being broken by Washington’s plans to introduce tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU.  A trade war is just around the corner. How long can a common security front survive such tensions?

Perhaps the most striking change is in Germany, a country which is of course still occupied by American troops. The arch-liberal magazine Der Spiegel has just highlighted the new anti-American position with an editorial titled “Time for Europe to Join the Resistance.” 

The article says that US President Donald Trump is “only proficient in destruction,” referencing his pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement. It came out just the day after Merkel said that Europe can no longer count on the US, and must take matters into its own hands.

There is even a gulf opening up over Israel. The entire Republican party is united with Trump in backing Israel’s ‘right’ to massacre teenage demonstrators in Gaza, and most of the Democrats agree – even though they would be hysterical if a US border guard so much as slapped a Mexican trying to cross their own border.

The European elite, by contrast, seem genuinely shocked by the Israeli brutality. Plus they are desperately worried about the impact on their own growing Muslim minority. And if Trump and Netanyahu set the whole Middle East ablaze, it will be the liberal Europeans whose electability will be obliterated by a fresh flood of refugees. 

The power of the Zionist lobby and media is still immense, of course, but going along with the USA and Israel is becoming very expensive.  Even the totally globalist Financial Times has noted that "subordination to Washington will imply a very serious domestic price”.

Furthermore, it’s also unnecessary, and there’s a real choice just around another corner: Fight endless wars for Washington and Israel – or trade with Russia and China as part of the New Silk Road Eurasian economic super block?

To cap it all, the rising powers on the international block are working steadily to break the stranglehold of the US Dollar as the only way to trade oil and as the world’s reserve currency. This is the financial mechanism which has allowed the USA to play at global policeman while destroying its own manufacturing base. The Fed prints dollars, the rest of the world buys them, so Americans get all the consumer goodies they need. The minute this stops, Washington will be unable to afford to blow more than the rest of the world put together on military spending, and its global Empire will collapse.

Preparations are under way. China is even wooing Saudi Arabia. And now even the European Union is considering switching payments to the euro for its oil purchases from Iran. This would allow both sides to continue trading despite US sanctions. More importantly, it would spell the end of the petro-dollar.

Threatening the Fed’s dominance of credit creation and Wall Street’s grip on global trade was of course a key reason for the murder of both Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

Normally, such a move from the leaders of Europe would lead to drastic US Deep State counter-measures. Principle among these would likely be the triggering of the massive potential for ethnic and religious conflict which the CIA has done so much to implant into Western European through mass immigration and the refugee flood.

They could easily replicate the CIA-triggered destruction of Yugoslavia right the way across Western Europe. They unleashed their tame Jihadis on Libya and Syria, they could do the same against Europe. This would both punish the uncooperative European political elite and push them back to Big Brother USA, whose military help would be needed to sort out the resulting shambles.

They could. That’s clearly what they have had planned for a very long time. But whether they could do it now is another matter.

For one thing, the Europeans are not without intelligence capabilities, and now they already thinking of America as something other than a Godlike ally, evidence of such cynical destruction of the liberal Utopia could go down very badly indeed. Far from pushing Europe into behaving itself, the shock and anger could complete the rift.

And then there’s the Trump factor. Even though the maverick President is for once in lockstep with the Washington elite over Iran and Israel, there is still a political civil war raging in and around the White House on every other front. Can and will a regime which is so riven by conflict and hatred really take the decisions and actions needed to demolish its supposed closest allies?

Perhaps. But perhaps not. As with everything else in this storm of change, the winds can shift in moments and no-one can predict for sure what is going to happen next.

But there are three things we can say with some degree of certainty:  

One. The Wind of Change will continue to blow. 

Two. If the American Deep State decides to play dirty in Europe, then the resulting chaos and ethno-religious conflict will not only shatter the EU as intended, but also create an avalanche of unintended consequences.

Three. if Washington is too paralysed to act, the Dollar Empire will fall.

So, one way or the other, the Wind of Change is set to become the Hurricane of History.

martes, 22 de mayo de 2018

El futuro inevitable

La defección de los EEUU del tratado (Plan de Acción) con Irán ha provocado resentimientos en la Unión Europea. Hay negocios de por medio, y los europeos no quieren perderlos. El Imperio no ve ningún beneficio más allá de la paz mundial, cosa que no parece interesarle. ¿Hacia dónde irá Europa en esta encrucijada? La nota que sigue habla de esto; es de R. Lesnoix para el blog The Saker:

Título: Europe is the big prize

Texto: Over the last few weeks, a curious change has taken place in both mainstream media and among alternative news and opinion sites. Earlier on, the focus has been on actions of the west and the US in particular, with the mainstream media mostly extolling its virtues and the alternative media usually decrying them. Now the focus seems to be on Russia, and especially on what Russia does not do; not thwarting Israeli attacks in Syria, not responding adequately to the FUKUS cruise missile attack of last April, not delivering the S-300 to Syria, etc. Both sides regularly point to her as being ‘weak‘ in some way or other for not acting, or more precisely, for not reacting to certain events. So why does Russia do what it does? And why does she sometimes refrain from acting? The answer is, off course, that she acts in the interests of Russia. One can debate whether or not a specific action, or its absence, benefits her. That debate can be very enlightening and may help to understand the considerations made in Moscow. It gives us some insight into the weight attributed to different pros and cons affecting the deliberations. But we should not lose out of sight that we need to consider her actions and passivity in light of her interests. Before you can answer the why, you have to ask, and answer, what Russia’s interests are?

Now take a step back. Zoom out to the really big picture. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae of current events. Get back to the fundamentals. Once you do this you’ll realize that there is one priority for Russia which trumps all other considerations: survival. That is a fairly abstract concept though, survival of Russia. What does that mean in practical terms? What is this Russia that wants to survive? It is tempting to go into a comprehensive description of its people, culture, geography, sovereignty, etc. to come to an exact definition. The answer is deceptively straightforward and does not require lengthy analysis and deliberation. The Russia that wants to survive is whatever its rulers of the moment decide it is. They set the boundaries of what is and isn’t included. Their view may clash with yours. You may find theirs unrealistic, undesirable or just wrong. That, however, is a matter of opinion, not fact. There is no objective definition. Yes, you can come up with a definition, but it will always be subjective. In the end the opinion of the decision makers in Russia counts in determining their actions and inactions. Their opinion on what Russia is matters in the real world, others not so much.

So who are these rulers who define the state? It’s not just the president. It’s not his inner circle either. It’s the whole constellation of institutionalized power within the country. Nongovernmental groups and organizations are part of it too. Power and influence are not equally distributed among all of these actors, and varies over time and across different topics. The citizenry at large is also included in this as they can affect the institutions of power in several ways such as through elections, demonstrations, direct participation, religious beliefs, etc. Together these form a national consciousness of what it means to be Russian. This is not a fixed idea as it can and will deviate with time, because of various factions within society who gain and lose influence. Most of the time these deviations are very small, occasionally they are large. The national idea of what defined Russia differed significantly during the Soviet era from what came before and what came after. What happens is that one faction gains a disproportionate amount of power and influence over the form in which this national identity is expressed. Once in a while things get shaken up, usually through war, revolution or economic misery. A new state takes over from the previous one. Soviet Russia died and was replaced by Yeltsin’s yard-sale Russia. The national identity and its expression, the specific form of government of the day with all its trappings, are not the identical.

For one of the best examples of this subjectivity in expressing the state, look at how Germany changed during the 1800s and the 1900s. It redefined itself several times as different sets of actors dominated and took very diverse forms: the more or less independent states of the Holy Roman Empire, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, split between the capitalist BRD and the socialist DDR, reunited as one Germany and finally a Germany as the leader of the European Union which has usurped much of its members national sovereignty. Given the dominant position of the country in the EU, this is arguably the New German Empire. These changes over the last 200 + years were more than just geographical or of political systems. During these successive versions of the country people had evolving ideas of what it meant to be German and Germany. Don’t take national identity for granted. Don’t confuse relatively minor unchanging elements of national identity with the whole. Don’t mistake culture for national identity either. They are similar but not the same. Culture refers to the typical behaviors in a nation; national identity refers to how people see themselves and their place in the world as a nation. Take the United States where the national identity still is one of democracy, freedom and peace. Yet they have a culture of (legal) corruption, incarceration and violence. In my opinion this mismatch between culture and identity explains a significant part of America’s societal ills.

Let’s look at these different Germanies in terms of survival. The idea of the Holy Roman Empire as the foundation of being German was abstract because back then ‘Germans’ identified with their region. You were Bavarian, or Hanoverian, or Saxon, etc. Being German didn’t represent that much. It was more a statement of what you were not, not French or British or Russian or Italian or Swedish, but part of that group of intermingled statelets in central Europe referred to as Germany (a term that goes back to the days of Julius Caesar). Which does have a better ring to it than group-of-intermingled-statelets-in-central-Europe. Between the death of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the formation of the German Empire in 1871 a new awareness of being-German developed, a true national identity had taken root. It grew during the imperial epoch and by the time the German Empire died in 1918 it was deeply embedded. Now being German did signify something and for many, maybe even most, it had equalled or superseded their regional identity. When the Third Reich died, the idea of Germany did not. The BRD and DDR which followed differed radically not just from each other but also from what came before. Yet both were still clearly German. These are all examples of rulers (in the broad sense as described above) redefining the nation and shaping the national consciousness into new forms. Nowadays there is a distinct sense of national identity among Germans, and regional identity has taken a backseat.

What this illustrates is that there is a distinction between the content of a national identity and the form, the institutions and their relative power, in which this identity is expressed. Most often there is a large overlap. If there isn’t, revolution or oppression is around the corner. The form may change (another type of government) but unless you are willing to do what the Romans did to Carthage, the country will reemerge in a new incarnation. It will retain enough of its national identity to be clearly recognizable as that country. This makes for a tricky situation. When talking about current Russia, how do you distinguish between the expressed form of the nation and the underlying national identity? Usually, you can use these two to refer to the same thing but for this article, the distinction is relevant. Russia and the Russian Federation are not the same thing.

We’ve seen how different incarnations of a nation can die but the country can live on. The Soviet Union disappeared but Russia continued. Out of the French Revolution of 1789 the First French Republic was born in 1792. Now France has its Fifth Republic, and it underwent two periods of imperial rule between republics. Yet it has always been France. Times have changed, unfortunately. In the age of nuclear weapons, it is conceivable that enough destructive force is unleashed on a nation to effectively eradicate it entirely. Not only the death of the Russian Federation but also the death of Russia are possible. This is the context of Putin’s remarks during the interview of March 7th, 2018:

So, if someone made a decision to destroy Russia then, we have a legitimate right to attack. Yes, for human kind this would be a global catastrophe, for the world it will be a global catastrophe, but me as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state, then I want to ask myself a question, but why would we need such a world if there is no Russia?”

The survival of Russia is now a genuine issue. The survival of the Russian Federation is also a concrete issue. I can’t help but wonder if and to which degree the rulers of the Russian Federation recognize the distinction between the two. It is easy to imagine those in power equating a forced end to their rule to the end of their nation. The prospect of becoming a vassal of the US for example, which would effectively put an end to the current Russian Federation, might be unpalatable to such an extent that it could trigger an extreme response. This could also happen in the US. The imminent demise of their Empire will lead to drastic changes in the power balance in Washington. Those with power who’ll see themselves end up as the losers of this internal struggle, could also react in destructive ways, likely aimed abroad.

With both the survival of Russia and the Russian Federation as real issues, these are, and should be, key considerations for the Russian government when deciding on how to act or refrain from actions. The chaos that now typifies US politics presents risks. As I pointed out in a previous article, the risk of nuclear war does not solely come from military escalation. Nonmilitary escalation could also lead to a global catastrophe. Defusing the situation where and when they can makes sense. The resulting actions or inactions may look like weakness or indecisiveness but when dealing with idiots you need to be extra careful. As Mark Twain said:

The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him.”

Whether the rest of us like it or not, it makes sense for the Russian government to avoid getting dragged into risky adventures by third parties. We have gotten used to having a policeman on the block. We subconsciously expect the Russians to be the new good guy to put out fires and stop bullies. But why should they? What has the rest of the world done for Russia lately? Why should they risk themselves for them? In Syria Russia has a security concern which affects their own safety. Combatting the jihadis there is in Russia’s direct interest. It is way better to take them on abroad than it is to wait until they strike within Russia’s own borders. The manner in which they have done this has been very cost effective too. It has offered them the opportunity to train and gain experience in a real combat environment. They have been able to test their own new weapons and other systems and observe the (lack of) performance of potential future adversaries and their equipment. They’ve used the fighting to showcase what their military technology is capable of and generated substantial sales. Expanding the scale or scope of their military activities abroad provides diminishing returns and risks getting caught in the proverbial quagmire. There would have to be a commensurate interest to justify it.

The Russian government should act on behalf of Russia and the Russian people. They should not act on behalf of the rest of the world unless that coincides with their own interests. Survival may be the first consideration, but it is not the only one. Ensuring the safety of its citizens is important too. Providing for those citizens as well as they can is also high on the list. The Russian government is reducing its military spending and increasing investments in infrastructure, public health and education. Increasing the welfare, health, wealth and happiness of its citizens should be genuine goals of any government in any nation. The more money a nation has to spend, the more they can realize these noble goals. Which brings us to another interest of the Russian Federation: increasing its income so it can spend more on improving the life of Russians and on ensuring their safety.

Once again we go back to basics. Throughout human history trade has been the way to generate supplemental income. Trade is a win/win situation. Both sides gain something in the transaction. Both sides are better off than they were before. Think of it as pies. Through trade both sides increase the size of their pies. Bigger pies mean more generous portions for everyone. Russia is a big country, and it has a lot of resources and goods available for trade. More trade partners means more trade and better deals. That also means additional income. The larger the number of trade partners is, the larger the pie becomes. You don’t need to be friends with someone to conduct business transactions with them, but you want to avoid creating enemies as these make for poor trade partners. Russia has a genuine interest in making friends, not enemies. Why should they intervene or act on behalf of third parties, undoubtedly antagonizing others while doing so?

The Russian government is doing the opposite. They follow a policy of turning enemies into neutrals, neutrals into friends and friends into allies. Even when relations experience a downturn, like those with Europe after 2014, they do their best to repair these. It may take time but it in the end it will pay off. Many people seem to view the current international situation as some kind of duel between Russia and the US where all events are analyzed in terms of winner-and-loser. That’s a distinctly American way of looking at the world. It’s not how the Russian government looks at it. They will happily let the US turn neutrals into enemies and friends into neutrals. Russia doesn’t really have to do much for this to happen. The US is perfectly capable of alienating almost the entire world by itself.

The most recent folly is the withdrawal from the Iran deal and declaring trade war on Europe. That is an incredibly stupid move. I’ve consistently talked about the confrontations between Russia and the US, and not the west in general. Given how Europe has followed US policies, there is an understandable view that they are mere vassals who can be more or less ignored. I believe that is incorrect and risky. Treat vassals poorly and they may rise up or defect. The EU and the US are not friends. Allies yes, as long as they have sufficient mutual interests. Assuming they were friends in the first place, this ended at least as early as 1999 with NATO’s war on Yugoslavia. The Americans seemed completely oblivious to how problematic it was morally for the governments and people of the European NATO countries to initiate a war against a fellow European country. This went against everything the European nations had worked for and had advocated since the end of the second world war. Understandably the leaders of these countries negotiated during NATO meetings before the attacks began to strictly limit them. And so it was decided. I watched many of them announce before their parliaments and their national press that NATO would intervene but would act only in Kosovo and only against purely military targets.

The following day they woke up to news of bombings across all of Serbia and against civilian targets. The European leaders had not just been betrayed by their US ‘allies’, they had been humiliated in front of their people, their parliaments, their constituents as they now had to publicly defend the actions of NATO. I have rarely seen politicians with such held back rage as I saw that day. I sincerely believe that was the day the US lost most of their European friends and allies. They still followed, but reluctantly and with a minimum of effort. When 9/11 happened two years later and the US called upon them to join the ‘War on Terror’ they were far from eager to do so. The American press of the day was outraged at the lack of support and many nasty stories appeared in US media. But could you blame them? The American treachery was fresh in their minds. Since then the story has been much the same. Reluctant European allies most of whom merely give token support when called upon. Europe has been drifting further and further away. It won’t be long before the divorce is final, especially if Trump is stupid enough to push through his trade war. Russia knows that there is very little love left between the main European and North-American partners. So they stay on friendly terms with Europe. They keep the door open. For them Europe is the big prize. Full on trade between Russia and the EU will produce considerable benefits for both. Russia’s pie will get bigger as will Europe’s. The best security strategy for Russia is to establish good economic relations with them. More income will also mean a more generous budget for security and defense.

We’re not there yet. Bad blood between the US and the EU does not directly translate into friendship between Russia and the EU. But it will be the start. With the UK leaving the EU, the most bitter and vitriolic Russia hater will be gone. They’ll try to keep the EU from looking east (the real reason why the UK establishment was against Brexit) instead of west but it will be a losing battle. Europe’s future lies to its east. And Russia patiently waits for that inevitable future to arrive.