Seyeda Zeinab, Syria - During a meeting at the Dama Rose hotel in Damascus the other morning, this observer was briefed by ‘Abu Modar,” a reputedly battle-honed field commander of the “Death Brigade,” a unit based in the northern Syria Eskanderoun region, north of Latakia. Abu Modar explained that he personally had chosen the rather peculiar name for his outfit to symbolize the willingness of its members to die for their cause—protecting Syria.
“Before each battle or each mission I ask my God to let me die defending Syria”, he explained. “If we are involved with a joint operation with Hezbollah, who are much admired because of their honesty and trustworthiness, I lead my men to the front line and ahead of Hezbollah troops out of respect for them and because we Syrians believe that as their grateful hosts we have this duty.”
The gentleman began explaining the history of his militia, one of thousands (both pro-and anti-government) operating in Syria these troubled days. It is a history that included some of his predecessors fighting with the PLO in Beirut during the summer of 1982, but as he was relating all this, his phone rang. The conversation was not long. The caller, he informed this observer upon ringing off, was his “contact,” advising him that certain intelligence sources had received information overnight that an individual had been observed in the vicinity of Zeinab’s shrine placing a parcel of explosives into a vehicle, presumably with the intention to detonate it near her resting place. This riveted my attention, in part because this observer was scheduled by chance to join an army escort the next day and visit the historic site, located about 40 minutes south of Damascus. Nearly two months ago the government regained control of the area, but there are still some snipers around, I had been apprised by friends. Abu Modar’s specific mission was to take some of his commandos and kick in the door of the suspect’s house sometime during the night, arrest him, and turn him over to someone for interrogation. His mission struck me as simple enough and he was matter of fact in outlining his plan.
“We do this sort of mission often. This is part of our expertise, and we do it whenever we are asked by Resistance friends and Syrian authorities. It spares the army for their normal work on battlefields, and our unit is specialized, and from long experience we have acquired certain useful skills.”
I demurred when he invited me to join him, explaining I was a bit out of shape and did not want to get in the way of his men’s work or potentially hamper their operation. But he insisted, saying that I could stay in his jeep and just observe, and he doubted that I would be in any serious danger. I was tempted to accept his invitation, and agreed to his proposal to meet after lunch to finalize our plans for that night’s outing. At this point, however, I called a trusted and knowledgeable Syrian friend, who knows a lot about these matters, and she seemed exasperated I would even consider tagging along with the Death Brigade.
“Absolutely not Franklin! Khalas! (finish!) You are visiting Seyeda Zeinab bokra with the army and you are not going with anyone else!”
Frankly, I was a bit relieved by my friend’s unequivocal counsel, and my new pal from the “Death” militia (who is acquainted with her) sportively understood. An interesting anecdote was at this point related by my interpreter: that Abu Modor had laughed and claimed a badge of honor upon recently being shown YouTube videos regarding his macho, George-Patton-style exploits in Qusayr, and in villages around Qalamoun, and rebel claims that he and his brigade were “the number one pro-regime murderers in Syria.” I might also mention that the “Death” unit is part of the not-well-known-in-the-West Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskanderun (PFLI), currently fighting rebels north of Latakia, in the mountains bordering Turkey, and whose forces have also periodically spent time guarding the resting place of Zeinab.
The geographical place name “Seyeda Zeinab” can be confusing for an untutored foreigner, the reason being that it may refer to a group of five small cities in the governorate of Damascus—Al Zeyabeya, Hujayr, Husseiniya, Akraba and Babila—or, alternately, to the sacred burial place and shrine for Zeinab bint Ali, the daughter of Ali, the first Shia Imam, and his first wife Fatima. Zeinab was also the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the sister of Husayn and Hassan. Her shrine and pilgrimage destination are located in the small town of Seyeda (Lady) Zeinab, but given its fame, the name also refers to a wider area. As a holy shrine and place of prayer and scholarship, one imagines this place to be in the category of perhaps Qoms in Iran, and Najaf in Iraq. All three attract thousands of pilgrims and tourists, and since the area surrounding Seyeda Zeinab was liberated and essentially pacified by the Syrian Army recently, visitors are again arriving daily from countries including Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan and Lebanon, among others.
The Mayor of Seyeda Zeinab, this observer’s gracious host, is Mohammad Barakat, a Sunni engineer from Homs, roughly in his early 50’s. His staff is of mixed religious backgrounds, and, as with most Syrian citizens I have met over the past three years, was essentially blind to and uninterested in sectarian differences in existence before the current crisis. All the mayor’s staff members are working long hours these days, responding to numerous requests for post-liberation help, appeals which they try their best to accommodate with their limited available resources. My three-hour discussion with Mayor Barakat was interrupted perhaps as many as a couple of dozen times by the appearance of an aid often seeking his signature or mayoral stamp on citizen petitions covering anything from requests for food stuffs, problems with housing, or attempts to find employment with a municipal project now getting started.
In his bee hive of an office, the mayor used a pointer to highlight locations on a large wall map hanging next to his desk, the map illustrating areas where repair and construction projects are being readied. Mr. Barakat enthusiastically proclaimed, “2014 is the year we intend to start and finish area restoration work, and we take pride in the prospect that what we achieve here in Seyeda Zeinab can be a model for restoration work all over Syria that hopefully can begin soon.”
The Mayor of Seyeda Zeinab and staff members in front of the wall may illustrating plans to complete reconstruction of the area by the end of 2014 Photo: 2/25/14)
Barakat and three of his staff members accompanied this observer on an informative and inspiring tour of the Mosque and Shrine of Saeyda Zeinab. The shrine, our hosts informed us, is an example of Shia architecture, and the dome is made of pure gold. The grave of Zeinab is enclosed within a raised, crypt-like structure centered directly beneath the massive golden dome. The doors of the shrine are apparently also made of pure gold, with mirror works on the roof and walls. The minarets and the entrance gate of the holy shrine are covered with Iranian moarrahg tile designed by the famous Iranian architect and tile artist Ali Panjehpour. My colleague from the mayor’s office allowed me to finger one and explained that each 4 x 4 inch tile, of which there were hundreds of thousands in the complex, cost more than $100 USD. There is also a large mosque adjoining the shrine which this observer was advised can accommodate more than 1,300 people and a further 150 in the attached courtyards. The two tall minarets, one of which was damaged by a rebel mortar, dominate the architecture of the mosque as well as a large souk on the other side of a newly-built security wall.
In the cavernous nave of the Seyeda Zeinab, just next to the beautifully inlaid, elevated crypt holding her remains, approximately 50 men were performing mid-day Salat al Duhr prayers. Some were in camouflage uniforms and appeared to be on military leave or from the security units guarding the inside and perimeter of Zeinab’s Shrine.
This observer did not want to awkwardly press his hosts for details regarding the identities of the armed men guarding Seyeda Zeinab or where they are from. Some Western media sources have speculated that Shia fighters from Iraq and Lebanon came to Syria to protect Seyeda Zeinab following the desecration in Iraq of the tomb of Hajar Bin Aday. Several sites on the Internet published reports claiming that a takfiri group exhumed the tomb of Bin Aday, who was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and who was loyal to Imam Ali bin Abi Talib. Bin Aday’s remains were reportedly taken to an unknown location. This observer infers that Hezbollah is currently a prominent presence guarding Seyeda Zeinab, and my Syrian companion noted Lebanese accents in the guard station at the entrance.
At the entrance to the women’s area, several women were praying and others appeared to be part of the shrine’s Women’s Auxiliary, or Guild, as they directed visitors while graciously assisting and providing female visitors with black chadors upon entering the sanctuary. One charming middle age woman, who appeared to be Iranian, smiled knowingly at me, and with a twinkle in her eyes jokingly offered this visiting American a chador as “a gift and souvenir from our Holy Shrine and from our community—to take back to your country, in appreciation of you not bombing us…yet!” And she laughed at her own joke, as did all who heard it, including the mayor, some nearby soldiers, and teen-aged visiting students.
Photo 2/25/14 shows the Gold Dome and the column that was damaged by a mortar round and the new security wall in the background.
Update on the capture of the bad person sought by Abu Modar
Well, did Abu Modar and his “Death Brigade” get their man?
They did indeed, and it was the night before this observer’s arrival at Seyeda Zeinab. Abu Modar detailed to this observer and a few of his militia guys the evening’s events as we made plans to leave the next morning for the Iskandroun region and an interview the PFLI President, Ali Kyali. The capture, it seems, came about not by kicking in the alleged bad guy’s door, American SWAT team-style. Rather, the suspect was stealthily followed and, during the early morning of 2/25/14, apprehended at one of the Syrian army checkpoints that surround the village of Seyeda Zeinab.
Such incidents make it clear that Seyeda Zeinab is still a target of some jihadist types given its great importance to Syria, the region, and among Muslims globally. Yet across sectarian divides here there are growing signs of the great majority of the exhausted populations being ready, to a degree, to forgive and forget at least some of the events of the past nearly 36 months.
Visiting Seyeda Zeinab is a wonderful, solemn, exhilarating and inspiring ecumenical experience—one highly recommended to all tourists planning to come to the Syrian Arab Republic as improving security conditions begin to allow for the return of international visitors.
May the Sainted Martyr, Zeinab bint Ali, whose life was devoted to charity and to nursing others, and who is a model for all humanity of resistance and defiance against oppression and all forms of injustice, forever rest in peace.
The big currency reset. It’s not a case of ‘if’ – it’s a case ofwhen.
Don’t expect your provincial Secretary of Treasury or Chancellor Exchequer to warn you about what is coming around the corner, because they are either too stupid to know, or too busy covering their own backsides.
To understand where we are, it’s very important to understand how we got here (another point which bureaucrats and backers do not want the general populace to know).
A quick history lesson then…
The Opposite of Emerging is Submerging
Lulled and distracted by the antics of developed country central banks and emerging economy central banks – to constantly “pump-up the jam” and flood the economy with paper casino chips from either Fort Knox or Mount Gox, the real tectonic shift of the global economy since 2008 has been more or less ignored by financial gurus and sages. It is taken as “normal” that deflation, ordisinflation is operating in the developed economies, but now we can see that rip-roaring inflation operating in the emerging economies.
Supposedly, this is ‘Muddle Through’, but since 2008 the North-South paradigm has all but dissolved – the developed OECD economies are locked in a death embrace with the Emerging economies. The developed economies are now locked into chronic globalization – exporting monetary inflation while importing cheap industrial goods, services and resources.
Since 2008 the always-promised ‘world shift’ of the economy from west to east, and from north to south has happened, but the net result is a shock. Pretending “we didn’t know” is comforting, but ultimately stupid.
This is an unstable equilibrium, or an interregnum – even a sideshow, because the current global economic context and process is the exact opposite of sustainable. Harm to both North and South is now the main impact of the post-2008 process of overreach and intense fiat paper shuffling. Listing the consequences and causes of this overreach is not easy and always open to argument, but possibly the best summary is to suggest that since 2008, ‘Ricardo’s comparative advantage‘ paradigm has been inverted. Economic and above all monetary globalization is now the path to ruin and poverty. From win-win to lose-lose. The worse it gets, expect the architects of ruin – establishment politicians, central bankers and financial pundits, to retreat into even deeper denial.
The Production Bubble That Triggers the Collapse
Another simple way to argue the global economy has overreached is that industrial and economic production capacity in the Emerging economies (EMs), starting with the BRICs, is now massively over-sized. This means the EMs can and will saturate the post-industrial, deflating North with industrial supply at every stage and opportunity as technology, design and product development throw up a new market openings everywhere. Examples like the car and cellphone, fashion wear and off-shore call center industries are relatively “classic”. All of these are already saturated with capacity – but the EMs are still adding more. Previous historical “classic examples” of this process for example included the ship building industry, but the scale paradigm has been woefully ignored.
BRAZILIAN SKILLZ: Production of top-line automobiles in Brazil has surpassed many of its ‘developed’ counterparts.
Since 2008, the process has intensified, creating an increasingly certain outlook for a forced and fiat end to the willingness of the EMs to accept the fiat currency endlessly printed to finance the deflating, de-industrializing DMs (developed economies).
This will not necessarily be a politicized process, of the type hinted at by India’s central bank governor (see http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/tag/raghuram-rajan/), due to the rapidity and scale of the crisis, but instead trigger the collapse of the current global fiat monetary orderdictated by national economic self-defence and survival in the EMs.
The economic jump start of the Ricardo model, which has run riot for the last quarter-century, and went into over-drived from 2008 – will be abandoned.
Deflation/Inflation: Two Sides of the Same Bitcoin
Ricardo’s original model held sunny Portugual as a producer of cork and sherry, while rainy England could produce wine casks from its oak forests and wool from its sheep flocks. The money used in a basically resource-based exchange using then-rapidly growing maritime transport capabilities was held to be stable and gold-linked (or based). Later on, low-cost labor resources were built into Ricardo’s paradigm called “comparative advantage”. The EMs since the 1980s have played the role of resource providers while the DMs were the solvent market suppliers.
While there was a clear limit on cork, wine, oak casks and woolens supply and demand, this does not really apply to modern global fiat money and modern industrial technology. These are high gain positive feedback processes which only stop when they hit a brick wall.
The Ricardo comparative advantage model does not apply to post-1980′s globalization and super economies – like those of China and India, where industrial technology has raced ahead of infrastructure development. This is simply a bomb waiting to explode, alongside the industrial capacity growth, the EMs engaged massive growth of credit, mushroom growth urbanization, neglect of the agriculture and food sector, and turning a blind eye to rampant or even “structural” corruption. Inflation was the sure and certain result.
The results do not stop there. While inflation took off inside the EMs, with their economies producing more than they can consume, and exporting to the DMs which consume more than they produce, the EMs are also exported deflation to the developed market economies. At the same time, the emerging market economies mined out their capital bases to maintain their breakneck growth of industrial capacity.
On an almost daily basis now, the EMs are all shifting to current account deficit with the inevitable consequences of national currency devaluation, further inflation, and of course – higher interest rates.
Win-Win to Lose-Lose: Global Fiat Currency Crisis
The post-1980′s economic globalization paradigm can be called an initial ‘Win-Win’ model which eventually morphed to Lose-Lose.
The industrial nations of the DMs, which formerly benefited from the resource nations of the EMs under the previous ‘Ricardo-type’ model, are now mired in debt and de-industrialization, making it impossible for them to “grow their way out of crisis”. The EMs on their present industrial expansion path can only grow themselves into rapidly-deepening crisis.
The “money-in-the-middle” especially concerns the US dollar and its subsidiary partner, theeuro, both of which are vastly overvalued fiat currencies – but against what? Almost inevitably, this will feature a big rebound for gold, playing the starring role of in this latest episode of “Canary in the Monetary Coal Mine”. From a personal standpoint, or national (for those who have any), physical gold and silver could end up providing solid protection against the exposure of a monetary reset.
Conversely, commodities are unlikely to profit on an enduring sustained basis, due to economic restructuring, re-centering and contraction being almost certain.
Commenting on the IMF’s latest report on global capital flows since 1980, Reuters on 30 January said that while the IMF estimates net capital inflows to emerging economies as $7 trillion or more only since 2005, this was a “legacy trend” hinged on the EMs running a much higher GDP growth differential above the DMs than present. The IMF report noted that for 2014, economic growth in the BRICs will go on declining, and for Russia and Brazil, they will be less even than the GDP growth of the US and Britain. While the IMF’s economists do not allow themselves to project break-of-series change to the global economy, the process of what Gordon T. Long calls “Global collateral impairment” can easily default as the net result of apparently ‘unrelated and complex’ runaway processes.
This collateral impairment will inevitably trigger multi-national currency protection measures, a situation already clear in countries like Turkey, India, Argentina and other EMs.
For DMs in the North, plans are likely already underway. Will the reset feature a brand new reserve currency, or the introduction a fledgling single global, or virtual currency? If so, what will it be backed by (or maybe it won’t). It’s hard to know right now, but a shift of that magnitude could provide for the introduction of something new in the mix.
It’s a case of problem, reaction, solution, and one can assume that this Hegelian equation has already been mapped out on the back of a napkin in an executive dining floor of the one of the world leading central banks, possibly written using Christine Lagarde’s lip stick.
As a result, sacrificing GDP growth to protect the national money in the EMs will be inevitable. In turn, this will send a severe shock wave North to the DMs ,which have surfed on the latter-day version of the Ricardo paradigm for the last 30 years, and are now left unable to adapt.
The basic conclusion is that a global monetary reset is now overdue.
There will be shock waves, and haircuts too.
Brace yourself for impact, because it’s coming.
Syrian Regime Solidifies Recent Gains…
Damascus – Since around Valentine Day and aided by truly magnificent warm weather for this time of year, the dozens of parks in Damascus have been receiving unusually large numbers of visitors, not least of whom are Syrian soldiers on leave, enjoying the green space with girlfriends, families and friends. At the large garden with dozen of benches and sculptures, called Al-Manshia (Presidents Bridge) public park, and located between two five-star hotels, the Dama Rose and the 4-Seasons, some soldiers, presumably from out of town and with many appearing utterly exhausted, can be seen simply laying on the grass fast asleep under the warm healing sunshine.
Soldiers joke, laugh and seem pleased when citizens approach them to offer their thanks for the army’s service to the Syrian Arab Republic and to inquire about how things are going personally and if there is some help the citizen might offer the soldier. Such is the nature of Syrian nationalism and connection with Mother Syria that this observer has remarked about before and is strikingly rare from his experience. I love my country but frankly do not feel the pride and deep connection that Syrians appear to exhibit about their country’s 10,000 year history as the cradle of civilization. I would defend my country and fight for it if there were to be a legitimate war which frankly has not been the case in my lifetime.
Over the past 30 months of frequent visits to Damascus, the city has never appeared more ‘normal’ Last night this observers was up all night reading and there was not one bombing run or mortar or artillery fire to he heard, a first for more than two years. For many months, I used to avoid the historic Al-Hamidiyah Souk, the largest and the central souk in Syria located inside the old walled city of Damascus next to the Umayyad Mosque, despite its hundreds of interesting shops. The reason I tended to stay away was because I was one of very few people meandering among the warren of stalls and felt self-conscious when shopkeepers would plead with me to buy something-anything to help feed their families many of whom lived near the labyrinth.
Today, Al-Hamidiyah Souk, if not frequented with the numbers of shoppers and visitors as it was before March 2011, it is nonetheless very crowded such that foreigners can pass unnoticed…well, sometimes for at least the first hundred yards or so. In Damascene neighborhoods, no longer do citizens quickly disappear into their homes at the first sign of dusk but the streets and many cafes are crowded well past 9 p.m.
“Quo Vadis Syrie”, (‘where is Syria heading’) one Damascus University classics major, turned international law student, asked this visitor as we both sat on the steps of the Law Faculty while enjoying a bit of sun yesterday afternoon. “Is our crisis nearly over so we can start re-building Mother Syria or do our enemies have other plans to destroy us? I worry that today’s calm will soon disappear with an arriving hurricane.” His comment was perhaps triggered by a certain sense here and more widely elsewhere that a forming “coalition of the willing” appears to be pressing for a ‘humanitarian’ No Fly Zone. Some American allies envisage and are making plans to implement, a NFZ stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to Congressional sources.
Any NFZ would be very different from what is currently being promoted and advertised by certain war-mongers in Washington, Tel Aviv and several European capitals as well as among elements of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the League of Arab States. Post Round Two of Geneva II, the White House and the usual “bomb the bastards” coterie in Congress and among the US Zionist lobby, are said to be re-thinking the idea of a No Fly Zone (NFZ) for Syria. It would be planned and executed with US and a yet to be specified, “Coalition of the willing” using aircraft now at the ready in Jordan and Turkey to begin with.
Ranking with the fake “non-lethal aid” concept, in terms of cynical deception (virtually all “non-lethal” aid is indeed lethal for its facilitates certain forces killing others including night goggles, telecommunication equipment, GPS equipment, salaries, fake IDs and much else), a limited, ‘humanitarian’ NFZ would almost certainly became a bomb anything/person that moves ‘turkey shoot’ as was the case in Libya in 2011 as was studied and witnessed first-hand by this an many other observers. What we observed in the then, but no more, Al Jamahiriya (state of the masses), was that the misnomer ‘limited humanitarian Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) promoted by Obama Administration UN Ambassador Susan Rice for Libya and now by her predecessor Samatha Power for Syria, was that a NFZ means essentially an all-out war for regime change at all costs in terms of expendable lives and treasury.
The Libya experience, conceding many differences between the two countries and their governments and quality of each country’s military, may be prologue for Syria. Backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate, NATO charged into Libya citing its urgent “responsibility to protect” civilians threatened by claimed bloody rampages occurring across the country. Within days, we witnessed the ‘limited carefully vetted’ targets bank turn from a promoted ‘several dozen purely military targets” into more than 10,000 bomb runs using over 7,700 ‘precision guided bombs” and from the ground and what we learned during weeks in Libya by victims and eye-witnesses it seemed at times that the targets were basically anything that moved or looked like it might have a conceivable military purpose of some sort.
Human Rights Watch documented nearly 100 cases of civilians being bombed and killed as part of the R2P campaign. Other estimates are several times the HRW published figures. To this day Libyan civilians and demanding to know from NATO, “Why did you destroy my home and kill my family?” No answer has to date been provided to the Libyan victims’ families despite investigations that showed NATO pilots frequently disregarded instructions and “we essentially bombed at if we were playing video games” according to post-conflict contrite British airman.
Susan Rice, now Obama’s national security adviser, met with Saudi officials last week to discuss a NFZ and related strategy despite White House claims that it is still skeptical. Rice told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee late last month that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are working together again on Syria policy after a year of occasional bitter disagreement.
Among those currently petitioning the Obama Administration for a NFZ, which would quickly devolve into thousands of bomb runs across Syria that would likely decimate its air force and tank corps are the so-called ‘rebels.’ They tend to agree with France that problems lay ahead for them given April’s fast approaching Presidential election, in which the incumbent President, Bashar Assad, is likely to seek and win re-election.
In addition, Israel, according to a Congressional source, has offered to help ‘behind the scenes” with airbases if needed and certain activities along the southern Syrian border with occupied Palestine. A majority of Arab League countries, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plus Turkey, France, the UK and some members of the EU also support the NFZ idea. Saudi Arabia has already approved large quantities of Chinese man-portable air defense systems or Manpads as well as antitank guided missiles from Russia and more cash to help rebels oust the Assad regime, according to an Arab diplomat. Meanwhile, the US has upped its contribution to pay the salaries of preferred rebel fighters.
Ominously, the U.S. has already positioned Patriot air defense batteries and F-16 fighter aircraft in Jordan, which would be integral to any no-fly zone. The U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials have advised Congress that aircraft may be required to enter deep into Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. This could easily lead to all-out war with Syria and if Russia decides to provide advanced, long-range S-300 air defense weapons to Syria, it would make such a limited no-fly zone far more risky for U.S. pilots and it’s anyone’s guess what would happen next.
President Obama so far is keeping his own counsel as his Secretaries of Defense and State, current and former, and many other officials and politicians offer their advice for the White House ordering a NFZ. Hilary Clinton and General David Petraeus reportedly both favor a NFZ to ‘end this mess” in the words of the retired CIA Director.
To his great credit, Barack Obama appears so far to many on Capitol Hill to be reluctant to give formal approval to another NFZ as he was last summer when he resisted calls to launch a war against Syria as well as Congressional war-monger demands to go to war with Iran on behalf of the Netanyahu government. This week Mr. Obama acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict are far from achieving their goals. “But the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue including diplomacy.”
If President Obama extends his record of putting American interests first to three key decisions over the past six months, and if he sticks with diplomacy rather than launch all-out war with Syria, and potentially the allies of Damascus, via a NFZ, he just may be on his way to earning his prematurely awarded Nobel Prize.
Perhaps we should have chosen the turkey as our national bird, as Benjamin Franklin suggested. It would certainly be more appropriate for our times. But if any flying creature would do, a moth might be more fitting still — with political correctness playing the role of that devilishly irresistible flame.
America long ago lost her will to live. Historically, trespassing into another people’s territory could bring violence. And nations the world over secure their borders, sometimes at the end of a gun fondled by an itchy finger. But not the US. We place water stations in the Arizona desert for thirsty trespassers, offer driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for them, and now a Supreme Court justice has opined that calling illegal migrants “criminals” is insulting. I don’t know, what do you call someone who broke the law? Legally challenged?
But it’s even worse than that. About 20 years ago Japan expelled illegal migrants and made the statement (I’m paraphrasing), “Japan is for Japanese. Others are welcome to come and visit, but they’re expected to go home.” Under the Mexican constitution, a foreign-born individual perhaps can be naturalized — but he can never enjoy full citizenship rights. And as would be the case if some tribe of “noble savages” were being overwhelmed by a colonizing people, when millions of Chinese flood Tibet and seek to supplant its ancient Buddhism-saturated culture, liberals are the first ones to scream “cultural genocide!” Heck, they don’t even like the gentrification of minority neighborhoods or when an adopted black child is raised by white parents and denied bona fide “black” enculturation. Yet millions of unassimilable foreigners violate the US’ borders and sovereignty, sometimes commit further crimes and stress our social services, and we’re only supposed to discuss secondary issues. Are the illegals a benefit or a liability economically? Do they contribute more in taxes than they take in handouts? Who’ll pick the grapes? But with our bones poised to be picked, can we ask about culture? After all, people make the nation, not the other way around. Import enough Mexicans or Muslims into your country, and you no longer have Western civilization. You have Mexico Norte or Iran West.
Yet the very same people who claimed they could orchestrate the health care of 317 million people will insist that “we can’t deport” 20 million people. In fact, even though deportation should be reflexive, it isn’t even on the radar screen. To suggest it brands you bigot or xenophobe, and the only thing really at issue is the rate of surrender: will it be sudden with full-on amnesty or the slower “path to legal status,” the coup de grace or the death by a thousand cuts?
So all we hear instead are ridiculous arguments justifying the illegals’ presence, as if they have no country to which to return. We’ll hear that they’re hard-working people who love their families, which is about as meaningful as saying they’re bipeds who breathe air. I’m sure that German soldiers during WWII were generally hard-working people who loved their families, too, but as long as they posed a threat to the US, they had to be dealt with as such.
Particular indignation is exhibited when defending children of illegals, who, we’re told, “are here through no fault of their own.” This also is meaningless. Countless millions of children throughout the world are poor through no fault of their own, yet we don’t propose they all be allowed green cards. And how many children have ended up in foster care through no fault of their own after their parents were imprisoned for committing crimes? Perhaps we should stop enforcing laws, period — “for the children.”
Then there’s language. Every liberal psychologist will talk about the importance of communication in a family. But what about a national family? India recognized a common language to be such a necessary cultural glue that it actually adopted the tongue of its former colonizer, England, as its co-national language. Meanwhile, Americans stand by while their government prints official documents in foreign tongues and transforms us into a Tower of Babel.
And the surrender and silly arguments never end. I heard a caller on Michael Savage’s Tuesday radio show say that he agreed with NYC mayor Bolshevik Bill’s plan to make two Muslim religious days and the Lunar New Year official school holidays; his reasoning was that since American culture is made up of so many different things, how can we exclude anything? Interestingly, though, he did agree with Savage that English should be our common language.
But why? English is also made up of so many different things, with Greek and Latin as well as Angle, Saxon, Frisii, Jute and Frankish influences. Hey, press two for Latin, folks.
Of course, American culture is the product of many influences. And the Greeks and Etruscans influenced each other, Rome was influenced by Greece and the Etruscans, Western Europe by Rome and by extension the Greeks and Etruscans, and then the rest of the world by…well, you get it. Everyone was influenced by someone except for Adam and Eve, and even they — as we have our liberals — had their serpent. And since our whispering voices tell us that we shouldn’t trouble over cultural genocide because culture is a relative thing, let’s examine the matter further.
Having been influenced not just by the aforementioned groups but also the Germanic Franks, French culture is an amalgamation of many different elements. But it is also now a specific thing. It’s much as how cubed beef, vegetable oil, tomatoes, peppers, paprika and salt, cooked a certain way, become something specific: Beef Goulash. And so it is with many things. Combine iron and carbon and the result is the unique thing called steel; two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule yield water. (And for you warmists, note that CO2 isn’t carbon any more than it’s oxygen.) Now, would goulash be better if we added other “influences” (ingredients)? That depends — but it might no longer be goulash.
Of course, you may not like Beef Goulash; you may prefer Vegetable Curry, Chicken Cacciatore, Roast Pork Lo Mein or Steak and Ale Pie. Then make your case; explain your vision of a deific diet, a meritorious menu. That’s not what we’re doing, however. Under the illusion that all ingredients are equal — and equally compatible — we haphazardly throw anything and everything into the mix. Some vanilla syrup in that goulash? Sure, why not? You’re not a syrupist, are you? Some cinnamon sticks, limburger cheese, hay from the field, eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog? Now that’s diversity! And throw in some foxglove while you’re at it — no worries about indigestion afterwards then.
We’re no longer a melting pot, but a dish gone to pot. We’ve forgotten that robust, healthy America was a result of a specific recipe, and we cannot perpetuate that republic unless we remember the recipe. Of course, some say that limiting a land to one recipe is narrow and exclusionary. I say that the road to Heaven is narrow. And all recipes necessarily include only some ingredients and exclude most others, just as definitions limit by defining. If America can mean anything, she means nothing; but if she is something, then she can be defined. And then, by definition, she would have to be exclusionary — like any nation.
Why are many Americans indifferent about their cultural destruction? For one thing, they’ve been conditioned to feel that Western culture is either nothing special or especially bad. At the same time, however, they’ve been imbued with moral relativism, which blinds one to danger. After all, different cultures espouse different values, but this won’t matter to a person who considers all values equal. And, yes, it is possible to hate the West at one moment while claiming all cultures are equal the next. For a person disconnected from Truth will tend to operate based on emotion, which changes with the wind. Besides, consistency is no better than inconsistency in a relativistic universe.
But reality is an absolutist. And having been fed lies for decades, Americans will soon find out that their tomorrows will only be as great as their appreciation of their yesterdays.
I began writing analysis on the macro-economic situation of the American financial structure back in 2006, and in the eight years since, I have seen an undeniably steady trend of fiscal decline.
I have never had any doubt that the U.S. economy as we know it was headed for total and catastrophic collapse, the only question was when, exactly, the final trigger event would occur. As I have pointed out in the past, economic implosion is a process. It grows over time, like the ice shelf on a mountain developing into a potential avalanche. It is easy to shrug off the danger because the visible destruction is not immediate, it is latent; but when the avalanche finally begins, it is far too late for most people to escape…
If you view the progressive financial breakdown in America as some kind of “comedy of errors” or a trial of unlucky coincidences, then there is not much I can do to educate you on the reasons behind the carnage. If, however, you understand that there is a deliberate motivation behind American collapse, then what I have to say here will not fall on biased ears.
The financial crash of 2008, the same crash which has been ongoing for years, is NOT an accident. It is a concerted and engineered crisis meant to position the U.S. for currency disintegration and the institution of a global basket currency controlled by an unaccountable supranational governing body like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The American populace is being conditioned through economic fear to accept the institutionalization of global financial control and the loss of sovereignty.
Anyone skeptical of this conclusion is welcome to study my numerous past examinations on the issue of globalization; I don’t have the time within this article to re-explain, and frankly, with so much information on deliberate dollar destruction available to the public today I’ve grown tired of anyone with a lack of awareness.
If you continue to believe that the Fed actually exists to “help” stabilize our economy or our currency, then you will never find the logic behind what they do. If you understand that the goal of the Fed and the globalists is to dismantle the dollar and the U.S. economic system to make way for something “new”, then certain recent events and policy initiatives do start to make sense.
The year of 2014 has been looming as a serious concern for me since the final quarter of 2013, and you can read about those concerns and the evidence that supports them in my articleExpect Devastating Global Economic Changes In 2014.
At the end of 2013 we saw at least three major events that could have sent America spiraling into total collapse. The first was the announcement of possible taper measures by the Fed, which have now begun. The second was the possible invasion of Syria which the Obama Administration is still desperate for despite successful efforts by the liberty movement to deny him public support for war. And, the third event was the last debt ceiling debate (or debt ceiling theater depending on how you look at it), which placed the U.S. squarely on the edge of fiscal default.
As we begin 2014, these same threatening issues remain (along with many others), only at greater levels and with more prominence. New developments reinforce my original position that this year will be remembered by historians as the year in which the final breakdown of the U.S. monetary dynamic was set in motion. Here are some of those developments explained…
Taper Of QE3
When I first suggested that a Fed taper was not only possible but probable months ago, I was met with a lot a bit of criticism from some in the alternative economic world. You can read my taper articles here and here.
This was understandable. The Fed uses multiple stimulus outlets besides QE in order to manipulate U.S. markets. Artificially lowering interest rates is very much a form of stimulus in itself, for instance.
However, I think a dangerous blindness to threats beyond money printing has developed within our community of analysts and this must be remedied. People need to realize first that the Fed does NOT care about the continued health of our economy, and they may not care about presenting a facade of health for much longer either. Alternative analysts also need to come to grips with the reality that overt money printing is not the only method at the disposal of globalists when destroying the greenback. A debt default is just as likely to cause loss of world reserve status and devaluation – no printing press required. Blame goes to government and political gridlock while the banks slither away in the midst of the chaos.
The taper of QE3 is not a “head fake”, it is very real, but there are many hidden motivations behind such cuts.
Currently, $20 billion has been trimmed from the $85 billion per month program, and we are already beginning to see what APPEAR to be market effects, including a flight from emerging market currencies from Argentina to Turkey. A couple of years ago investors viewed these markets as among the few places they could exploit to make a positive return, or in other words, one of the few places they could successfully gamble. The Fed taper, though, seems to be shifting the flow of capital away from emerging markets.
The mainstream argument is that stimulus was flowing into such markets, giving them liquidity support, and the taper is drying up that liquidity. Whether this is actually true is hard to say, given that without a full audit we have no idea how much fiat the Federal Reserve has actually created and how much of it they send out into foreign markets.
I stand more on the position that the Fed taper was actually begun in preparation for a slowdown in global markets that was already in progress. In fact, I believe central bankers have been well aware that a decline in every sector was coming, and are moving to insulate themselves.
Is it just a “coincidence” that the central bankers have initiated their taper of QE right when global manufacturing numbers begin to plummet?
Is it just “coincidence” the taper was started right when the Baltic Dry Index, a global indicator of shipping demand, has lost over 50% of its value in the past few weeks?
Is it just “coincidence” that the taper is running tandem with dismal retail sales growth reports from across the globe coming in from the final quarter of 2013?
And, is it just a “coincidence” that the Fed taper is a accelerating right as the next debt ceiling debate begins in March, and when reports are being released by the Congressional Budget Office that over 2 million jobs (in work hours) may be lost due to Obamacare?
No, I do not think any of this is coincidence. Most if not all of these negative indicators needed months to generate, so they could not have been caused by the taper itself. The only explanation beyond “coincidence” is that the Federal Reserve WANTED to launch the taper program and protect itself before these signals began to reach the public.
Look at it this way – The taper program distances the bankers from responsibility for crisis in our financial framework, at least in the eyes of the general public. If a market calamity takes place WHILE stimulus measures are still at full speed, this makes the banks look rather guilty, or at least incompetent. People would begin to question the validity of central bank methods, and they might even question the validity of the central bank’s existence. The Fed is creating space between itself and the economy because they know that a trigger event is coming. They want to ensure that they are not blamed and that stimulus itself is not seen as ineffective, or seen as the cause.
We all know that the claims of recovery are utter nonsense. Beyond the numerous warning signs listed above, one need only look at true unemployment numbers, household wage decline, and record low personal savings of the average American. The taper is not in response to an improving economic environment. Rather, the taper is a signal for the next stage of collapse.
Stocks are beginning to plummet around the world and all mainstream pundits are pointing fingers at a reduction in stimulus which has very little to do with anything. What is the message they want us to digest? That we “can’t live” without the aid and oversight of central banks.
The real reason stocks and other indicators are stumbling is because the effectiveness of stimulus manipulation has a shelf life, and that shelf life is over for the Federal Reserve. I suspect they will continue cutting QE every month for the next year as stocks decline. Will the Fed restart QE? If they do, it will probably not occur until after a substantial breakdown has ensued and the public is sufficiently shell-shocked. The possibility also exists that the Fed will never return to stimulus measures (if debt default is the plan), and QE stimulus will eventually be replaced by IMF “aid”.
Government Controlled Investment
Last month, just as taper measures were being implemented, the White House launched an investment program called MyRA; a retirement IRA program in which middle class and low wage Americans can invest part of their paycheck in government bonds.
That’s right, if you wanted to know where the money was going to come from to support U.S. debt if the Fed cuts QE, guess what, the money is going to come from YOU.
For a decade or so China was the primary buyer and crutch for U.S. debt spending. After the derivatives crash of 2008, the Federal Reserve became the largest purchaser of Treasury bonds. With the decline of foreign interest in long term U.S. debt, and the taper in full effect, it only makes sense that the government would seek out an alternative source of capital to continue the debt cycle. The MyRA program turns the general American public into a new cash stream, but there’s more going on here than meets the eye…
I find it rather suspicious that a government-controlled retirement program is suddenly introduced just as the Fed has begun to taper, as stocks are beginning to fall, and as questions arise over the U.S. debt ceiling. I have three major concerns:
First, is it possible that like the Fed, the government is also aware that a crash in stocks is coming? And, are they offering the MyRA program as an easy outlet (or trap) for people to pour in what little savings they have as panic over declining equities accelerates? Bonds do tend to look appetizing to uninformed investors during an equities route.
Second, the program is currently voluntary, but what if the plan is to make it mandatory? Obama has already signed mandatory health insurance “taxation” into law, which is meant to steal a portion of every paycheck. Why not steal an even larger portion from every paycheck in order to support U.S. debt? It’s for the “greater good,” after all.
Third, is this a deliberate strategy to corral the last vestiges of private American wealth into the corner of U.S. bonds, so that this wealth can be confiscated or annihilated? What happens if there is indeed an eventual debt default, as I believe there will be? Will Americans be herded into bonds by a crisis in stocks only to have bonds implode as well? Will they be conned into bond investment out of a “patriotic duty” to save the nation from default? Or, will the government just take their money through legislative wrangling, as was done in Cyprus not long ago?
The Final Swindle
Again, the next debt ceiling debate is slated for the end of this month. If the government decides to kick the can down the road for another quarter, I believe this will be the last time. The most recent actions of the Fed and the government signal preparations for a stock implosion and ultimate debt calamity. Default would have immediate effects in foreign markets, but the appearance of U.S. stability could drag on for a time, giving the globalists ample opportunity to siphon every ounce of financial blood from the public.
It is difficult to say how the next year will play out, but one thing is certain; something very strange and ugly is afoot. The goal of the globalists is to engineer desperation. To create a catastrophe and then force the masses to beg for help. How many hands of “friendship” will be offered in the wake of a U.S. wealth and currency crisis? What offers for “aid” will come from the IMF? How much of our country and how many of our people will be collateralized to secure that aid? And, how many Americans will go along with the swindle because they were not prepared in advance?
Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi wrapped up the first round of the “Geneva II” negotiations last Friday reporting little progress. No ceasefire was agreed, and talks on a transitional government never began. The next round is scheduled for February 10, but its prospects are dim. The opposing sides predictably blame each other for the stalemate, but in any event the talks were doomed to fail.
The first reason is John Kerry’s insistence—reasserted on the very first day of the meeting in Montreux, January 22—that Syria’s president can have no place in any future transition government. “We see only one option, negotiating a transition government born by mutual consent,” Kerry said. “That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government.”
Kerry’s position is absurd. No regime in history has negotiated its own demise, and the government of Syria is no exception. Any transition government “born by mutual consent” has to reflect the balance of forces on the ground. Therefore it will necessarily include Bashar, whose army has regained the initiative in the ongoing civil war. His forces control 13 out of 14 provincial capitals in the country and are steadily advancing in the rebel-held districts of Aleppo and Homs. In any event it is not up to the U.S. Secretary of State to decide who can or cannot be in charge in a faraway foreign land. Let it be recalled that his predecessor declared over two years ago that Assad’s regime was “dead man walking.”
It is possible that Kerry was serious when he declared that “there is no way, no way possible in the imagination, that the man who has led a brutal response to his own people can regain legitimacy to govern.” If so, then the U.S. policy will favor a drastic reversal of military fortunes on the ground—which may take years of hard fighting—rather than a negotiated settlement. This possibility is apparently supported by the secret Congressional approval of arms deliveries to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions. The definition of “moderate” has been stretched in Washington to the point where it includes hard-core jihadists, provided they are not affiliated to al-Qaeda. As if the Afghan blowback had never happened…
The second reason “Geneva II” had to fail is the lack of legitimacy of the rebel side. The opposition delegation, which was appointed by the self-styled “National Coalition,” was drawn from a narrow base of émigrés with minimal military clout. The men who came to Geneva have no authority over the large and powerful base of Islamist rebels. In December 2012 the anti-Assad group of foreign powers calling itself the “Friends of Syria” simply declared the Coalition to be the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but it is nothing of the kind. The National Coalition’s minimal sway over fighters inside Syria means that its negotiators cannot guarantee that any deal reached in Switzerland would be implemented. The al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are the most powerful anti-Assad groups, and their leaders would not have come to Geneva even if they had been invited. As the first round of talks ended on January 31, Russia insisted that the Syrian opposition delegation should be made more representative by including Bashar’s political opponents who have not resorted to arms. The Coalition is certain to reject this demand, thus further undermining its own credibility.
The third reason for the failure Geneva II is Iran’s exclusion from the talks. As a regional power deeply involved in the Syrian conflict, Iran should have been included—especially since Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan—all of them staunchly anti-Assad—were represented, as well as a host of other countries. In fact Iran was belatedly invited to the conference by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and thendisinvited under American pressure. This was yet another sign that the Department of State is not interested in a negotiated settlement. As an Iranian analyst has noted, “the U.S. knows very well that if ever the day comes that Bashar al-Assad needs to go quietly, Iran is the only country capable of achieving that.” After the rebuff, Iran can now be expected to make sure it secures an even stronger hand in Syria—which will additionally strengthen Assad’s position.
John Kerry took charge of the State Department announcing his intention to change Assad’s “calculation” about his ability to hold on to power. A year later it is evident that Washington’s own calculations, rather than Assad’s, need to change. Syria’s president is stronger today than at any time since early 2012. The rebels are deeply divided, and hard-line jihadists—whether affiliated to al-Qaeda or not—are dominant among them. As an Aljazeera commentator noted on the first day of Geneva II, the fragmentation and radicalization of rebel fighting forces has been the opposition’s greatest weakness: “Had a unified political-military command emerged among the rebels in the first year of the uprising, at the height of optimism over the Arab Spring, the United States and Europeans might well have been persuaded to give direct military backing to the uprising. Today, such hopes have been dashed.” Infighting among rival rebel militias claimed over a thousand lives in January alone.
Six weeks ago, prompted by ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden’s blunt admission that Assad’s victory would be the least bad outcome in Syria, we argued in this column that Syria no longer exists as a single political entity and that its de facto partition should be condoned in preference to a zero-sum game in which neither side can hope to prevail. The U.S. policy should support this outcome, albeit behind a single-state façade. It is less risky for U.S. interests than arming some fictitious “moderate” rebels and insisting on preordained outcomes which Washington has neither the will nor the money to enforce.
The Fed’s easy money policies have pushed margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to record levels laying the groundwork for a severe correction or another violent market crash.
In December, margin debt rose by $21 billion to an all-time high of $445 billion.
Buying equities on margin, that is, with loads of borrowed cash, is a sign of excessive risk taking the likes of which invariably takes place whenever the Central Bank creates subsidies for speculation by keeping interest rates pegged below the rate of inflation or by pumping trillions of dollars into the bloated financial system through misguided liquidity programs like QE.
Investors have shrugged off dismal earnings reports, abnormally-high unemployment, flagging demand, droopy incomes, stagnant wages and swollen P/E ratios and loaded up on stocks confident that the Fed’s infusions of liquidity will keep prices going higher. It’s only a matter of time before they see the mistake they’ve made.
The chart below illustrates how zero rates and QE lead to excessive risk taking. The correlation between the stratospheric rise of margin debt and the Fed’s destabilizing monetary policy is hard to avoid. This is what bubblemaking looks like in real time.
Chart: Seeking Alpha.
In the minutes of the FOMC’s December meeting, FOMC officials acknowledge the froth they’ve created in financial assets which is why they’ve begun to scale back their asset purchases. The Fed hopes that by gradually winding down QE they’ll be able to stage a soft landing rather than a full-blown crash. Here’s an excerpt from the FOMC’s minutes:
“In their discussion of potential risks, several participants commented on the rise in forward price-to-earnings ratios for some smallcap stocks, the increased level of equity repurchases, or the rise in margin credit. One pointed to the increase in issuance of leveraged loans this year and the apparent decline in the average quality of such loans.”
There you have it, the Fed sees the results of its work; the distortions in P/E ratios, the exuberant stock buybacks (“equity repurchases”), the deterioration in the quality of leveraged loans, and the steady rise in margin debt. They see it all, all the bubbles they’ve created with their gargantuan $3 trillion surge of liquidity. Now they have started to reverse the policy by reducing their asset purchase from $85 bil to $65 bil per month, the effects of which can already be seen in the Emerging Markets.
The bubble in Emerging Markets has burst sending foreign currencies plunging and triggering a sharp reversal in capital flows. The hot money that flooded the EMs,–(which lowered the cost of borrowing for businesses and consumers)–is entirely attributable to the Fed’s policy. QE pushes down long-term interest rates forcing investors to search for higher yield in other markets. Thus, the cost of money drops in EMs creating a boom that abruptly ends when the policy changes (as it has).
Capital is fleeing EMs at an unprecedented pace precipitating a dramatic slowdown in economic activity, higher consumer prices and widespread public distress. The Fed is 100% responsible for the turmoil in emerging markets, a fact which even mainstream news outlets blandly admit. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Bloomberg just this week:
“Investors are pulling money from exchange-traded funds that track emerging markets at the fastest rate on record…More than $7 billion flowed from ETFs investing in developing-nation assets in January, the most since the securities were created, data compiled by Bloomberg show…
Emerging economies have benefited from cheap money as three rounds of Fed bond buying pushed capital into their borders in search of higher returns…
The Fed’s asset purchases had helped fuel a credit boom in developing nations from Turkey to Brazil. Accumulated capital inflows to developing-country’s debt markets since 2008 reached $1.1 trillion, or $470 billion more than their long-term trend, according to a study by the International Monetary Fund in October.” (“Record Cash Leaves Emerging Market ETFs on Lira Drop“, Bloomberg)
The Fed doesn’t care if other countries are hurt by its policies. What the Fed worries about is how the taper is going to effect Wall Street. If the slightest reduction in asset purchases causes this much turbulence abroad, then what’s it going to do to US stock and bond markets?
The answer, of course, is that stocks are going to fall…hard. It can’t be avoided. And while the amount of margin debt is not a reliable tool for calling a top; it’s safe to say that the recent spike in investor leverage has moved the arrow well into the red zone. Investors are going to cash out long before the Fed ends QE altogether, which means the selloff could persist for some time to come much like after the dot.com bubble popped and stocks drifted lower for a full year. Now check out this clip from Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage”:
“For the year, total margin debt usage jumped by an almost incomprehensible $123 billion, while cash balances declined by $19 billion. That $142 billion leveraged bet on stocks far surpasses any twelve month period in history. The only times that were even close to as leveraged were the year leading up to June 2007 (-$89 billion) and the twelve months preceding February and March 2000 (-$77 billion). Both of those marked significant tops in the market.” ( Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage“)
Repeat: “The $142 billion leveraged bet on stocks far surpasses any twelve month period in history.”
Investors are “all-in” because they think that the Fed has their back. They think that Bernanke (or Yellen) will not allow stocks to fall too far without intervening. (This is called the “Bernanke Put”) So far, that’s been a winning strategy, but that might be changing. The Fed’s determination to taper suggests that it wants to withdraw its stimulus to avoid being blamed for the bursting bubble. (“Plausible deniability”?) That’s what’s driving the current policy. Here’s more on margin debt from Wolf Richter at Testosterone Pit:
“On the New York Stock Exchange, margin credit has been hitting new records for months. All three mega-crashes in my investing lifetime have been accompanied by record-setting peaks in margin debt. In September 1987, a month before the crash, margin credit peaked at 0.88% of GDP. In March 2000, when the crash began, margin credit peaked at 2.7% of GDP. In July 2007, three months before the downdraft started, margin credit peaked at 2.6% of GDP. Now, margin credit has already reached 2.5% of GDP.” (“Plagued By Indigestion, Fed Issues Asset-Bubble Warning”, Testosterone Pit)
Stock market crashes are always connected to massive leverage, loosey-goosey monetary policy and irrational exuberance (“excessive risk taking”), the toxic combo that presently rules the markets. The Federal Reserve is invariably the source of all bubblemaking and financial instability.
As we noted earlier, equity repurchases or stock buybacks are another sign of froth. Here’s an excellent summary on the topic by Alhambra Investment Partners:
“In the third quarter of 2013, share repurchases totaled $128.2 billion, the highest level since Q4 2007. For the twelve months ended in September 2013, aggregate share repurchases were an astounding $445.3 billion; the only twelve-month period greater than that total was the calendar year of 2007 and its $589 billion.
The common argument advanced in favor of such share repurchases is that companies are using cash to recognize undervalued stocks, but that is total hogwash…
…corporate managers are no different than the reviled stereotypical retail investor. Both leverage themselves further and further as the market goes higher, not in recognizing undervalued stocks or companies but in full froth of chasing obscene values via rationalizations.” ( Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage”)
In other words, corporate managers are doing the same thing as your average margin investor. They are loading up on financial assets–not because they think they are a good value or because they expect higher earnings –but because Fed policy supports artificially-high prices. That’s what’s driving the bull market, the Fed’s thumb on the scale. Remove the thumb, and you have a whole new ballgame (as we see in the EMs). There’s also a bubble in high yield “junk” bonds which just had their second biggest year on record (Total issuance $324 billion) Investors are only too happy to dump their money into high-risk debt believing that companies never default or that the Fed will save the day again credit tightens and the dominoes start tumbling through the debt markets. According to Testosterone Pit:
“The cost of a high-yield bond on an absolute coupon basis is as low as it’s ever been,” explained Baratta, king of Blackstone’s $53 billion in private equity assets. Even the riskiest companies are selling the riskiest bonds at low yields… Why would anyone buy this crap?” (“Bubble Trouble: Record Junk Bond Issuance, A Barrage Of IPOs, “Out Of Whack” Valuations, And Grim Earnings Growth”, Testosterone Pit)
Why, indeed? Of course, the author is just being rhetorical, after all, he knows why people are piling into junk. It’s because the Fed has kept a gun to their heads for 5 years, forcing them to grab higher yield wherever they can find it. That’s how Bernanke’s dogwhistle monetary policy works. By slashing rates to zero, the Fed coerces investors to speculate on any type of garbage that’s available. That why junk “just had its second biggest year on record.” You can thank Bernanke.
Housing is also in a bubble due to the Fed’s zero rates, withheld inventory, government modification programs, and an unprecedented uptick in all-cash investors. Clearly, there’s never been a market more manipulated than housing. It’s a joke.
The surge of Wall Street liquidity has spilled over into housing distorting prices and reducing the number of first time homebuyers to an all-time low. The homeownership rate is actually falling even while prices climb higher, which is just one of many anomalies created by the Fed’s policy. (Who’s ever heard of a housing boom, where the number of firsttime homebuyers is dropping?)
Also, the Central Bank has purchased more than $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) via QE, which begs the question: How can housing prices NOT be in a bubble?
As we noted earlier, the Fed understands the impact its policies have had. They know the markets are overheated and they’re determined to do something about it. A recent article in Bloomberg explains the Fed’s plan for winding down QE “without doing damage to the economy”. Here’s a short excerpt from the piece:
“Janet Yellen probably will confront a test during her tenure as Federal Reserve chairman that both of her predecessors flunked: defusing asset bubbles without doing damage to the economy…
Yellen is ‘going to be trying to do something that no one has ever done,’ said Stephen Cecchetti, former economic adviser for the Bank for International Settlements, the Basel, Switzerland-based central bank for monetary authorities. She needs ‘to ensure that accommodative monetary policy doesn’t create significant financial stability risks,’ he said in an interview…
The Fed’s ‘first, second and third lines of defense” for dealing with such imbalances is to rely on supervision, regulation and so-called macro-prudential policies, such as mortgage loan-to-value restrictions, Bernanke told the Brookings Institution in Washington on Jan. 16. ….Only as a last resort would it consider raising interest rates.’ (“Yellen Faces Test Bernanke Failed: Ease Bubbles“, Bloomberg)
You got that?
So the Fed is going into the “bubble-deflating” biz.
And uber-dove Yellen is going to put things right. She’s going to eliminate the price distortions and gradually return the markets to normalcy.
She’s going to wind down QE and start to reduce the Fed’s $4 trillion balance sheet.
And she’s going to do all of this without raising interest rates or sending stocks into freefall?
Right. It’s a pipedream. The first sign of trouble and old Yellen will be scuttling across the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a punch bowl the size of Yankee Stadium.
You can bet on it.
As the Russian Sochi Winter Olympics date approaches, a wave of suicide bombings in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, site of the decisive resistance to German invasion in 1942), have wreaked death and uncertainty in the region. On 29 December 2013 a suicide bomber exploded at the Volgograd railway station, killing the bomber and 16 more. A day later another suicide bombing on a trolleybus killed at least 15 people. The attacks come just a few weeks before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics begin on February 7 on the Black Sea near the border to Georgia.
Those most recent attacks followed an October 21 suicide attack in which a bomb carried by a female suicide bomber exploded on a passenger bus carrying 40 people. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, reported that at least 5 people died in the blast and 17 others were injured. The suicide bomber had been identified as 30-year-old Naida Asiyalova of Dagestan. Since 1999 Mujahideen Sunni Salafists, often from Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, have tried to incite an Islamic revolution and install Sharia law in Dagestan from neighboring Chechnya as well as in Chechnya.
The recent new wave of suicide bombing attacks in the region has led many to believe they are the work of radical Mujahideen Salafist Sunnis led by an erratic Jihadist from Chechnya, Doku Umarov, who sometimes goes by the Arabized name, Dokka Abu Usman. Umarov has unilaterally proclaimed himself underground President of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), and later, the self-proclaimed Emir of the Russian North Caucasus, declaring it an Islamic state of the Caucasus Emirate. In doing so he announced, “I will serve the word of Allah and work to kill the enemies of Allah in all the time that he gives me to live on this earth.” 
In Russia he is called the “Russian bin Laden.” In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added Umarov to the list of individuals allegedly associated with al-Qaeda, the Saudi-financed loose network of international Jihadist bands which had been trained during the 1980’s Afghan war against the Soviet Union by CIA, Saudi, Israeli and Pakistani intelligence services. AL-Qaeda is a name for a database set up by Saudi intelligence to keep track of all the Arab and other Muslim mercenaries working in defeating the Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Umarov has claimed responsibility for gruesome suicide bombings, using women called ?black widows” whose husbands had been killed fighting Jihad against Russian security forces. Umarov openly claimed responsibility for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing in Moscow. The person who did the Metro bombing was a 17-year old Mujahideen widow, Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova
Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, 17, posing with her late husband Umalat Magomedov. She became a “black widow” suicide bomber, carrying out the Moscow metro bombings in April 2010 (Reuters)
In June 2013, Umarov called for his followers in and outside the Caucasus to use “maximum force” to ensure the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics do not take place: “They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as Mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us.” 
All indications point to the terrorists controlled by Umarov being behind the latest “Black Widow” suicide bombings in Volgograd. Naida Asiyalova, who blew herself up in the suicide bombing in Volgograd in October, is from Dagestan. She was reported “in love” with another suicide bomber before she “did her duty” to the jihad of Umarov. She was also a close friend of the woman implicated in the most recent Volgograd station bombing.All indications to date point to Doku Umarov’s Chechyn terrorist organization for these recent terror bombings in Russia.
The US State Department has just issued an Advisory Alert to US citizens going to Sochi as a response even though Volgograd is several hundred kilometers away.
Russia’s Mujahideen terrorists
Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services company, then led by Dick Cheney, determined that the Caucasus and the region around the former Soviet Union’s Caspian Sea contained staggering volumes of untapped oil. Some said it was a “new Saudi Arabia.” As part of broader Washington strategy of then-president George H.W. Bush, US intelligence began moving veterans of the bloody Afghan Mujahideen campaign into the Caucasus and Caspian region to facilitate independence from the Soviet Union and open the door for US and British oil companies to control the key oil regions.
Two “retired” CIA operatives close to former CIA head Bush, Ted Shackley and General (Ret.) Richard Secord set up a CIA “front” fake Azeribaijan oil company called Mega Oil. It was a cover to fly in hundreds of Mujahideen veterans from Afghanistan as “oilworkers.”
In 1991 Richard Secord along with veterans of US operations in Laos, and later of Oliver North’s operations with the Contras, turned up in Baku, Azerbaijan under the cover of MEGA Oil. This was when George H.W. Bush supported an oil pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan across the Caucasus to Turkey. Dick Cheney was then Bush senior’s Defense Secretary. MEGA never found oil. But MEGA operatives in Azerbaijan engaged in military training, passed “brown bags filled with cash” to members of the Azeri government, and set up an airline on the model of the CIA’s Vietnam era Air America which flew hundreds of mujahedin mercenaries from Afghanistan into Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, especially Chechnya. 
A faction of the CIA and US intelligence tied to the neo-conservatives and the US military industrial complex, have been involved in bringing fanatical Jihadist Islam into the traditionally Sufi peaceful Islam of the Caucasus region. Osama bin Laden actively moved from Afghanistan into Bosnia, then Kosovo and on into Chechnya after 1995, where his principal ally, fellow Saudi Jihadist, Ibn al-Khattab was leader of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya fighting the Russians. Chechnya happened to be the transit region for a major Russian oil pipeline from Baku into Russia for Caspian oil, something Washington was determined to block. Journalist Ali Soufan notes that by 1996, “the United States had been on the side of Muslims in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”
At the time of the Beslan school massacre in Russia near the Georgia border in September 2004, Umarov’s Jihadists, including Arab Mujahideen, were partly financed with US money via a Washington-based NGO called ACDI/VOCA. Much of the money that the US Government-funded NGO received for the project reportedly came from a US Department of Agriculture Food for Peace Project. Apparently the food they dispensed was in the form of Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, not grain and apples.
According to veteran Caucasus-based journalist Jeffrey Silverman, Doku Umarov is today an “asset” controlled and guided by a Washington-based think-tank called Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The board of the Potomac Institute reads like a who’s who of retired US military and intelligence people. According to Washington insider reports, Potomac is not entirely what it appears to be.
It is rather, these sources report, a front for Israeli intelligence, a group of US neo-conservatives, both working with Saudi Arabian intelligence. Two of Potomac’s key people involved in the Caucasus are reported to be Prof. Jonah Alexander, who heads the institute’s International Center for Terrorism Studies, and Ambassador (ret) David Smith.
Alexander has taught at Tel Aviv University and headed an interesting-sounding project, “Terrorism, Gray Area and Low Level Conflict,” for the US Global Strategy Council, a group founded by Ray Cline, former Deputy Director of the CIA. David J. Smith is Director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center (GSAC) at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi, Georgia. Between 2002 and 2006 Smith was US Member of the International Security Advisory Board, assisting Georgia to “build democracy and establish functional national security institutions.” By all indications, he did a rather poor job if that really was what he was building.
Many of the Arab and Chechyn Jihadist terrorists plaguing Russia in recent years have been infiltrated into Chechnya from the Pankisi Gorge region across the border in Georgia, where a pro-US Saakashvili regime at the time obviously “looked the other way.” Reportedly Saakashvili’s brother worked in London for BP, the head of the Anglo-American oil pipeline consortium that owns the BTC pipeline from Baku through Georgia to Turkey.
Contrary to outward appearance, there has been intimate cooperation between Saudi and Israeli intelligence services on matters of common strategic interest for years. Reportedly the ties began when Prince Bandar was Saudi Ambassador to Washington.
If all this is true, it would suggest that Umarov’s latest suicide attacks in Russia are part of a “revenge” operation of Netanyahu and Saudi Intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, to sabotage the Sochi Olympics, for Putin’s role in winning Obama away from war against Syria last fall and openly seeking a diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear problem. Saudi Arabia’s Bandar and Netanyahu, who admitted they were in cooperation, both were reportedly livid against Putin for sabotaging their Jihad in Syria.
Against Obama too
That the Saudis and Israel’s Netanyahu are actively working as well to sabotage Obama’s Iran diplomacy is also clear. On October 30, 2013, Sheldon Adelson, an Israeli-American billionaire with dual passports, a financier friend of Netanyahu who owns Las Vegas casinos, called on US Congress. He reportedly told his friends in Congress to pass new sanctions against Iran designed to sabotage the Iran-Obama talks. Adelson was the main financial backer in 2012 of Mitt Romney to defeat Obama, who has become a bitter Netanyahu foe. Adelson apparently feels that Obama has slowly been distancing from Bush and Cheney’s strong tilt to the hawkish US neo-conservatives tied to the US-Israeli military industrial complex around Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
The Republican Jewish Coalition — led by GOP financial donor Sheldon Adelson — is asking its members to call their senators and urge them to pass a new round of sanctions on Iran amid efforts from top Obama administration officials to persuade Congress to delay such measures to allow time for negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program to “gain traction.” 
The Volgograd bombings are a part of a global political shift taking place with factions declaring war inside major governments. Washington is split today between a “pro-Israel” faction largely in Congress, and on the opposite side, a mix of nationalists who seem to be trying to define a genuine American interest in all the wars around the world. Reportedly General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military’s highest body in the Pentagon, and others around President Obama are moving to distance Washington from the Saudi-Israeli war strategy which they have realized as against American interest.
The realization in and around the White House and State Department that the US Government was being manipulated by Israeli and Saudi false intelligence was the real reason, according to Washington reports, for the abrupt decision by President Obama last summer to halt the planned war against Syria. Obama was told that the “evidence” of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on civilians had been doctored by Saudi and Israeli intelligence to force Obama to finally declare war. 
That was why Obama surprisingly and inexplicably embraced the Putin mediation offer to remove the chemical weapons and why Assad quickly agreed. Obama was himself strongly against military action in Syria. The chemicals used in Syria reportedly were supplied by Prince Bandar to the rebels, not from Syrian Government forces.  The intelligence intercepts given President Obama purporting to be tapes of Syrian Army commanders discussing the chemical attack were given to Washington by Israeli intelligence by Israeli Defence Forces’ 8200 unit and were also reportedly faked.
Now this same network seems to have activated a revenge attack against Putin and Obama for foiling their stratagems. It’s a high risk gamble by Netanyahu and Saudi Prince Bandar that could severely boomerang against them.
In a noteworthy footnote to the entire gruesome Doku Umarov drama, on January 17, Moscow Times reported on a social media message sent out by Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, claiming that he had “new evidence” that rebel leader Doku Umarov was dead. Kadyrov wrote in an Instagram, “According to our information, Umarov is dead and we are looking for his body.” He claimed that Umarov had been killed during a Russian Special Forces operation. The report has not been confirmed by Moscow. The Kadyrov report has to be taken with more than a little grain of salt. The flamboyant Chechyn President has issued such messages before, the last time in December, when he wrote that Umarov was “mostly likely already dead or will be soon.” Whether dead or alive, it seems most likely that Doku Umarov is little more than a “cover” for the darker networks running terror against Putin’s Russia in the Caucasus, and that darker network is Moscow’s real problem.
Al Jazzera English, Chechen rebel chief denies quitting Europe, Al Jazeera English., August 12, 2010.
 Miriam Elder. Russian Islamist Doku Umarov calls for attacks on 2014 Winter Olympics, theguardian.com. August 12, 2013.
 EIN News, Russia’s deadly black widow cult that threatens Olympians, January 02, 2014, accessed in
 Peter Dale Scott, The Falsified War on Terror: How the US Has Protected Some of Its Enemies, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 40, No. 2, October 7, 2013.
 Ali H. Soufan, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda (New York: Norton, 2011), p. 62.
 Henry Kamens, Did CIA train the Boston Bombers in Georgia?, April 2013
 The information on the Potomac Institute and Umarov was made available to the author from Jeffrey Silverman, an investigative journalist based in the Caucasus who has researched the subject for more than twenty two years.
 SourceWatch, Global Strategy Council, 23 July, 2013, accessed in http://www.sourcewatch.
 Ibid. ; As well, for bios on Smith and Alexander, the website of Potomac Institute accessed inhttp://www.potomacinstitute.
 Jeffrey Silverman, op. cit.
 Umberto Bacchi, Israel Negotiating Historic Alliance with Saudi Arabia over Iran’s Nuclear Weapons, Ooctober 3, 2013, accessed in http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/
 Stephen J. Sniegoski , Would Romney Pursue a Neocon War Agenda?, accessed inhttp://home.comcast.net/~
 Ben Armbruster, Group Led By Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Pushes Congress To Undermine Iran Talks, October 30, 2013, accessed in http://thinkprogress.org/
 Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack, MintPress, August 29, 2013, accessed in http://www.mintpressnews.
 Seymour Hersh, Whose Sarin?, London Review of Books, August 12, 2013, accessed inhttp://home.comcast.net/~
 Moscow Times, Chechen Leader Kadyrov Again Says Rebel Leader Umarov is Dead, 17 January 2014,
RIA Novosti, accessed in http://www.themoscowtimes.
 Moscow Times, Chechen Leader Says ‘Rat’ Rebel Chief Is Likely Dead, 20 December 2013, accessed inhttp://www.themoscowtimes.
The New Wave of Financial Instability…
Global stocks were hammered on Friday for a second straight day on news of a slowdown in China and turbulence in emerging markets. The Dow Jones Industrials suffered its worse drubbing in more than two years, tumbling 318 points on Friday to end a 490 point two-day rout. Emerging markets currencies were whipsawed by capital flight as foreign investors fled to the safety of U.S. Treasuries. Turkey’s lira and the Argentine peso were particularly hard hit setting record lows in the 48 hour period. The scaling back of the Fed’s $85 billion per month asset purchase program, called QE, has altered the dynamic that made emerging markets the “engines for global growth”. The policy reversal has triggered a selloff in risk assets and sent EM currencies plunging. Here’s a summary from Bloomberg:
“The worst selloff in emerging-market currencies in five years is beginning to reveal the extent of the fallout from the Federal Reserve’s tapering of monetary stimulus, compounded by political and financial instability.
Investors are losing confidence in some of the biggest developing nations, extending the currency-market rout triggered last year when the Fed first signaled it would scale back stimulus. While Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were the engines of global growth following the financial crisis in 2008, emerging markets now pose a threat to world financial stability.” (“Contagion Spreads in Emerging Markets as Crises Grow,” Bloomberg)
Paradoxically, Bloomberg editors blame the victims of the Fed’s failed policy for the current ructions in the markets. In an article titled, “What’s Behind the Emerging-Market Meltdown” the editors say,”emerging-market governments … should recognize that this week’s financial-market turmoil was, to varying degrees, their own fault.” … “the best way for emerging-market governments to restore confidence would be to improve their policies.”
Logically, one would assume that the editors would throw their support behind capital controls or other means of stemming the destructive flow of speculative capital into domestic markets. But that’s not the case. What the editors really want, is policies that trim deficits, slash public spending, and allow foreign investors to continue to wreak havoc on vulnerable economies that follow their free market diktats. The article is a defense of the status quo, of maintaining the same ruinous policies so that profit-taking can continue apace.
The Fed was warned early on that its uber-accommodative monetary policy was spilling over into emerging markets and creating conditions for another financial crisis. Take a look at this excerpt from an article in Bloomberg back in 2010 where Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, explicitly warns the Fed of the dangers of QE.
“The U.S. Federal Reserve’s plan to boost purchases of bonds poses “considerable” risks by increasing capital inflows to emerging markets, Nobel Prize- winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in Santiago today.
“All this liquidity that they’re creating is not going back to grow the American economy and is going to Asia and other emerging markets where it’s not wanted,” Stiglitz said…..Increased capital inflows could cause emerging market currencies to appreciate and could create asset bubbles, he said.” (“Stiglitz Says Fed Stimulus Poses `Considerable’ Risks for Emerging Markets,” Bloomberg, Dec 2010)
Events have unfolded exactly as Stiglitz predicted they would, which means the Fed is 100% responsible the carnage in the stock and currencies markets.
The policy has pumped nearly “$7 trillion of foreign funds” into EMs since QE was first launched in 2009. According to the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “much of it “hot money” going into bonds, equities and liquid instruments that can be sold quickly….Officials are concerned that this footloose capital could leave fast in a crisis, setting off a cascade effect,” Pritchard adds ominously.
Whether last week’s bloodbath was just a prelude to a bigger crash is impossible to say, but it is worth noting that the Fed has only reduced its purchases by a mere $10 billion per month while still providing $75 billion every 30 days. That suggests that markets will probably face greater turmoil in the months ahead. Check out this clip from USA Today:
“Emerging markets need the hot money but capital is exiting now,” says (Blackrock’s Russ) Koesterich. “What you have is people saying, ‘I don’t want to own emerging markets.’…
The bigger fear is if the current crisis in currency markets morphs into a full-blown economic crisis and leads to financial contagion, says Matthias Kuhlmey, managing director of HighTower’s Global Investment Solutions.
“The currency story is fascinating and can be a slippery slope – be cautious,” says Kuhlmey, adding that the Asian crisis in the summer of 1997 that started with a sharp drop in the value of Thailand’s baht, turned into a broader economic crisis that engulfed Indonesian, South Korea and a handful of other countries. It also rocked financial markets.” (“Why emerging markets worry Wall Street,” USA Today)
So, is this the Big One, the beginning of the next financial crisis?
It’s too early to say, but investors and analysts are worried. Fed tightening (via “taper”) will be felt in markets around the world. The trouble in emerging markets will intensify deflationary pressures in the Eurozone and put a damper on China’s growth. Slower global growth, in turn, will create balance sheets problems for undercapitalized and over-leveraged banks and other financial institutions which will increase the probability of another Lehman Brothers-type default.
According to Reuters, a normalizing of interest rates in the US, (which most analysts expect) “could cut financial inflows to developing countries by as much as 80 percent for several months. In such a case, nearly a quarter of developing countries could experience sudden stops in their access to global capital, throwing some economies into a balance of payments or financial crisis, the Bank said.” (“Rout in emerging markets may only be in Phase One,” Reuters)
Clearly, the potential for another financial meltdown is quite real.
For more than four years, the Fed has buoyed stock prices and increased corporate margins through massive injections of free cash into the financial markets. Now the Central Bank wants to change the policy and ease its foot off the gas pedal. That’s causing investors to rethink their positions and take more money off the table. What started as a selloff in emerging markets could snowball into a broader panic that could wipe out the gains of the last four years.
The Federal Reserve is entirely responsible for this new wave of financial instability.
On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, the highly anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee report on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans was released. The primary investigative report, including redactions, consists of 42 pages with an additional 16 pages of appendices and another 25 pages of additional “majority views.” While the report validates much of what I’ve written well in advance of media reports, it also appears to be deliberately deficient in a number of critical areas.
The report acknowledges that there were no protests over an obscure internet video at this facility in Benghazi, which was neither an embassy nor a consulate. As I initially exposed, the report confirms on page seven that the Benghazi facility was an undercover CIA compound. It was only somewhat known to be a U.S. asset in the region, but had no U.S. flag flying anywhere on the property, and did not serve any diplomatic operational function as would an embassy or consulate. Therefore, no one “in the know” could reasonably believe or even suspect that this location would be the site of any protests about an obscure internet video. Yet, the deliberate mischaracterization of not only the site of the attacks, but the reason behind them, continued to be shamelessly peddled by the politicians and media alike. It was not only a lie, but a contemptible lie.
The critical issue of the actual function that CIA compound served remains the “third rail” of our elected leaders and their obedient media. The report focuses on accountability for the lack of security and later, the lack of response to a critical incident. However, it fails to address that the U.S., under the direction of Barack Hussein Obama in the Executive branch, and Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Secretary of State, were spearheading a weapons running operation to arm the anti-Assad factions in Syria by way of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. As I detailed on November 5, 2012, reasonable estimates suggest that between 30-40 million pounds of missiles, guns and even chemical weapons (gas) had been confiscated in Libya and shipped to various prepositioning locations in Turkey and directly into Syria for use by anti-Assad “rebels.”
The function of this compound was far different than the legitimate function of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. The compound in Benghazi served as a logistics hub to arrange the crisscrossing supply lines of Gadaffi’s weapons, under the control of Muslim Brotherhood factions, to the Libyan port city of Dernah, the chokepoint of the arsenals. This was appropriately named the “Ho Chi Minh Trail of Muslim Brotherhood supply lines” as referenced in an October 5, 2012 article by Michael Reagan titled “Building on a kernel of truth.” Despite this exposure, senate and congressional investigators, whose job it is to uncover the truth, still don’t seem willing to ask the correct questions. Why?
While the political pundits and the corporate media will continue to shamelessly play political football with not only the bodies of four dead Americans, but with the future of all Americans and everyone in the West, Obama and his operational staff of globalists will continue to advance the U.S., and the world, on a certain course that will take us headlong into World War III. By not addressing the core issues of the larger agenda, the attention of the American people continues to be held captive by a single act of a larger play. As I’ve written before, the lies are much bigger.
As I have consistently maintained, the attacks in Benghazi were proxy attacks at a nation-state level in response to our arming the anti-Assad terror organizations. They were not the result of an angry protest over an Internet video, although understanding how that video was used provides insight into the role of the CIA and certain other key players in the cover-up. You will find that the video is directly tied to a CIA operation that was to be used as cover at an appropriate moment.
They were also not the result of some false flag operation with plans to kidnap an American ambassador to swap him for the blind sheikh, although kidnapping did played a role in the attacks as I previously detailed. The kidnapping to which I refer, of course, is related to the abduction of seven Iranian-citizen ICRC workers in Benghazi on July 31, 2012. At least that incident earned a footnote in the Senate report. The curiosity regarding the number of attacks on September 11, 2012, combined with the withholding of heavy artillery suggests that the attackers were looking to rescue their compatriots that were held captive until their mysterious release after the attacks.
Even as the merits of this report are debated in the fictional right-left paradigm and the captive press, the agenda for which this CIA compound served continues. The glee shown by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in October 2011 when she laughed about the murder of Gaddafi and the destabilization of Libya will likely be absent when Assad falls. Syria remains the target of this game of Risk among the globalists.
The recent actions of new Secretary of State John Kerry are as insidious as his predecessor’s, although perhaps not as overt or easily identifiable in this hall of mirrors of Middle East politics. By stating that the U.S. would not militarily intervene in the take-over by al Qaeda and related terror groups of the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, where many Americans died for the ostensible cause of freedom for the Iraqi people, he has given them a green light to open another front against Syria. The opening a front to the southeast of Syria via Iraq is actually one of many contingency plans, as blaming the use of chemical weapons on Assad did not work as planned as enough people saw that for what it was.
As I have written many times, the goal has always been Syria. Now, if someone thinks that the Russians, Iranians and Syrians are going to be fooled about who’s actually behind this proxy eastern front being opened up against Assad, I’d like to ask now, a year-and-a-half later, do you think they were ever fooled about who was behind the arms running operation out of Benghazi and eastern Libya where this all started? No and HELL NO. This latest front, just as the first and now failed fronts in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, is all about plausible deniability, or PD as it’s known in the tradecraft. It’s the magic act where sleight of hand and deception rule the day in “the hall of mirrors” that is Mideast politics, a reference again to the aforementioned article written by Michael Reagan.
Syria will not implode and it will not succumb to some rag-tag army of militants. The anti-Assad operation needs Western and external assistance. Putin is aware of our machinations, as are other leaders. So, when all of this comes unraveled, and it will, look for it to explode eastward into Saudi Arabia, into the Arab sea, north into Iran and all the way to the Strait of Hormuz. And when, not if it does, that attack will not just damage shipping and the free flow of oil into Western markets, it will crush the dollar and with it the hopes and dreams not just of the U.S., but western civilization itself.
If you continue to sleep now America, sleep well. Because when you do wake up, it just might be a long while before you sleep well again. The prematurely darkening sky you see is not just the announcement of evening in America. Those are blustering storm clouds, and the claps of thunder will be along shortly. And they will most likely be hard to miss.
Source: Douglas J. Hagmann
Obama’s war on Syria rages. It’s taken a horrific toll nationwide. Tens of thousands died. Dozens more do daily.
Millions were displaced. Numbers internally and abroad range up to one-third of Syria’s population. Humanitarian crisis conditions exist. Human suffering is extreme.
Peace talks reflect more illusion than reality. On January 22, they’re scheduled to begin.
On Sunday and Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with so-called Friends of Syria countries in Paris.
They include America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and UAE.
They’re imperial collaborators. They no friends of the great majority of Syrians. On Sunday, they issued a joint statement, saying:
“Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria.”
Throughout nearly three years of conflict, they’ve wrongfully blamed him for Western-backed insurgent crimes.
They’re imperial collaborators. They’re responsible for horrific bloodshed. They want regime change. They want mass slaughter and destruction to achieve it.
They want sole right to choose who’ll rule. They want Syrians having no say. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They’re ravaging and destroying a once peaceful country.
They’re responsible for high crimes against peace. No end of conflict looms. It’s unclear if talks will take place as scheduled. It’s unclear if it matters.
It’s unclear who’s attending. Divided opposition groups may not come. They’re preoccupied with slaughtering each other instead.
On January 12, AFP headlined “700 killed in Syria rebel-jihadist battle: monitor.”
Hundreds more are missing. Fighting rages. It’s been ongoing for days. Civilians are caught in the middle. Perhaps well over 1,000 died. Expect many more to perish.
Northern provinces are affected. Aleppo, Idlib and Raqa are hard hit. So are Hama and Homs. At least 16 suicide attacks occurred. Dozens were killed. More die daily. Syria remains a cauldron of violence.
On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lied, saying:
“It’s the regime of Bashar al-Assad that is feeding terrorism. We must bring that regime to an end.”
“There is no solution to the Syrian tragedy apart from a political solution. And there is no possibility to achieve (it) if Geneva two does not take place.”
Geneva I ended in failure. Washington and other opponents demanded he must go. They demand he go now. They do so illegitimately.
On Sunday, John Kerry discussed prospects for Middle East peace. He addressed Syria. He blamed Assad for Obama’s war.
“There is an urgent need for the Syrian regime to implement its obligations under the UN Security Council Presidential Statement,” he said.
“We believe it is possible for the regime to (cease fighting) before Geneva – local ceasefires if necessary – a ceasefire with respect to Aleppo, and send the signal that they are prepared to set a different mood, a different climate, a different stage for the possibility of success in Geneva.”
“They have the power to do that. And the opposition has pledged that if they will do that. The opposition will live by it.”
False! Kerry knows it. Extremist elements continue fighting. They reject peace talks. Washington bears full responsibility for ongoing conflict. Assad defends Syria responsibly.
He’s battling US-backed foreign invaders. Don’t expect Kerry to explain. Continued aggression is planned.
Washington is directly involved in supplying lethal aid. It’s been doing it all along. It’s coming cross border from Turkey and Jordan. Israel is supplying weapons. CIA and US special forces are directly involved.
Kerry lied saying Assad “disregard(s) the most basic human rights.” Extremist opposition forces are barbaric. They’ve committed numerous atrocities. Assad is wrongfully blamed.
Washington wants war on Syria continued. Geneva II won’t end it. Demanding Assad must go is illegal.
Syrians alone have sole right to decide who’ll lead them. Foreign interference violates international law.
Kerry is an unindicted war criminal. He has no legitimacy whatever. He’s less than optimistic about Syria.
“None of us have an expectation,” he said. “(F)ull agreement” is unlikely.
“What we do expect is to begin to get the parties at the table convened and negotiating and beginning a process of waging an even stronger effort to provide for this political solution.”
“It’ll take a little bit of time, but I’m confident that it needs that forum. It needs all the players at the table.”
“It needs the umbrella of the United Nations.” It needs Assad gone, according to Kerry.
On Sunday, Friends of Syria countries issued a statement saying Geneva Two’s objective is replacing Assad with transitional governance.
They want one fully empowered. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They want what Syrians won’t tolerate.
Ahmad Jarba heads the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. He replaced Moaz al-Khatib. He’s no friend of Syrians. He’s one-sidedly pro-Western.
He issued a statement saying:
“The most important aspect of today’s meeting is that we all agree to say that the Assad family has no future in Syria.”
“Removing Assad from Syria for the future has now been clearly established in a unanimous decision adopted by (Friends of Syria countries) without the possibility for ambiguity.”
Lavrov responded saying:
“Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime change.”
“I am convinced that the West is doing this to demonstrate that they call the shots in the Middle East. This is a totally politicized approach.”
Russia is fundamentally opposed. It respects Syrian sovereignty. International laws matter. Putin calls force against sovereign nations unacceptable. He said waging it is aggression.
Removing Assad assures endless conflict. Doing so frees jihadists to run wild. Syria will resemble Iraq and Libya.
Daily conflict kills dozens in both countries. Violence shows no signs of ending. Pro-Western puppet governance can’t stop it.
Institute of World Economy and International Relations senior fellow Stanislav Ivanov believes peace in Syria remains elusive.
He doubts Geneva II will work. Given what remains ongoing, it’s destined to fail, he said.
He believes a UN-sponsored conference should precede Geneva. All relevant international parties should be involved.
Iran should be invited unconditionally. It won’t attend Geneva any other way.
Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies Rajab Safarov calls Geneva talks this month futile.
“The conference will not take place because of the US,” he said. “Washington cannot get rid of the heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are not interested in finding a solution to the Syrian issue,” he added.
“There are almost no chances this conference and even holding it can succeed,” he said.
“Assad needs 4-6 months (more fighting) maximum. After that there will be no opposition in Syria. And no need” for peace talks, he believes.
At the same time, he thinks Geneva II can achieve something positive. Geneva I failed by demanding Assad must go.
Friends of Syria countries demand it now. Doing so runs counter to what most Syrians wish. Peace remains a convenient illusion.
Expect conflict without end to continue. It’s virtually certain without Iran’s involvement to end it.
Regional violence shows no signs of ending. Greater war looms possible. Post-9/11, millions died. Washington bears full responsibility.
It’s waging war on humanity. Expect other countries to be ravaged and destroyed before it ends.
The entire region may become embroiled in conflict. Global war is possible. Imagine the potential consequences. Imagine what no responsible leaders should risk.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
The events in Volgograd are part of a much larger body of events and a multi-faceted struggle that has been going on for decades as part of a cold war after the Cold War—the post-Cold War cold war, if you please—that was a result of two predominately Eurocentric world wars. When George Orwell wrote his book 1984 and talked about a perpetual war between the fictional entities of Oceania and Eurasia, he may have had a general idea about the current events that are going on in mind or he may have just been thinking of the struggle between the Soviet Union and, surrounded by two great oceans, the United States of America.
So what does Volgograd have to do with the dizzying notion presented? Firstly, it is not schizophrenic to tie the events in Volgograd to either the conflict in the North Caucasus and to the fighting in Syria or to tie Syria to the decades of fighting in the post-Soviet North Caucasus. The fighting in Syria and the North Caucuses are part of a broader struggle for the mastery over Eurasia. The conflicts in the Middle East are part of this very grand narrative, which to many seems to be so far from the reality of day to day life.
“Bandar Bush” goes to Mother Russia
For the purposes of supporting such an assertion we will have to start with the not-so-secret visit of a shadowy Saudi regime official to Moscow. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the infamous Saudi terrorist kingpin and former House of Saud envoy to Washington turned intelligence guru, last visited the Russian Federation in early-December 2013. Bandar bin Sultan was sent by King Abdullah to solicit the Russian government into abandoning the Syrians. The goal of Prince Bandar was to make a deal with the Kremlin to let Damascus be overtaken by the Saudi-supported brigades that were besieging the Syrian government forces from Syria’s countryside and border regions since 2011. Bandar met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the two held closed-door discussions about both Syria and Iran at Putin’s official residence in Novo-Ogaryovo.
The last meeting that Bandar had with Putin was a few months earlier in July 2013. That meeting was also held in Russia. The July talks between Prince Bandar and President Putin also included Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. One would also imagine that discussion about the Iranians increased with each visit too, as Bandar certainly tried to get the Russians on bad terms with their Iranian allies.
After Bandar’s first meeting with President Putin, it was widely reported that the House of Saud wanted to buy Russia off. Agence France-Presse and Reuters both cited the unnamed diplomats of the Arab petro-monarchies, their March 14 lackeys in Lebanon, and their Syrian opposition puppets as saying that Saudi Arabia offered to sign a lucrative arms contract with Moscow and give the Kremlin a guarantee that the Arab petro-sheikdoms would not threaten the Russian gas market in Europe or use Syria for a gas pipeline to Europe.
Russia knew better than to do business with the House of Saud. It had been offered a lucrative arms deal by the Saudi regime much earlier, in 2008, to make some backdoor compromises at the expense of Iran. After the compromises were made by Moscow the House of Saud put the deal on ice. If the media leaks in AFP and Reuters were not tactics or lies in the first place aimed at creating tensions between the Syrian and Russian governments, the purportedly extravagant bribes to betray Syria were wasted on the ears of Russian officials.
The House of Saud and the undemocratic club of Arab petro-monarchies that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have always talked large about money. The actions of these self portrayed lords of the Arabia Peninsula have almost never matched their words and promises. To anyone who deals with them, the House of Saud and company are known for habitually making grand promises that they will never keep, especially when it comes to money. Even when money is delivered, the full amount committed is never given and much of it is stolen by their corrupt partners and cronies. Whether it is the unfulfilled 2008 arms contract with Russia that was facilitated with the involvement of Iraqi former CIA asset Iyad Allawi or the overabundant commitments of financial and logistical aid to the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples that never materialized, the Arab petro-sheikhdoms have never done more than talk grandly and then get their propagandist to write articles about their generosity and splendor. Underneath all the grandeur and sparkles there has always been bankruptcy, insecurity, and emptiness.
A week after the first meeting with Bandar, the Kremlin responded to the media buzz about the attempted bribe by Saudi Arabia. Yury Ushakov, one of Putin’s top aides and the former Russian ambassador to the US, categorically rejected the notion that any deal was accepted or even entertained by the Kremlin. Ushakov avowed that not even bilateral cooperation was discussed between the Saudis and Russia. According to the Kremlin official, the talks between Bandar and Putin were simply about the policies of Moscow and Riyadh on Syria and the second international peace conference being planned about Syria in Geneva, Switzerland.
More Leaks: Fighting Fire with Fire?
If his objective was to get the Russians to abandon Syria, Prince Bandar left both meetings in Russia empty-handed. Nevertheless, his visit left a trail of unverifiable reports and speculation. Discretion is always needed when analyzing these accounts which are part of the information war about Syria being waged on all sides by the media. The planted story from the Saudi side about trying to buy the Russians was not the only account of what took place in the Russian-Saudi talks. There was also a purported diplomatic leak which most likely surfaced as a counter-move to the planted story about Bandar’s proposal. This leak elaborated even further on the meeting between Bandar and Putin. Threats were made according to the second leak that was published in Arabic by the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir on August 21, 2013.
According to the Lebanese newspaper, not only did Prince Bandar tell the Russians during their first July meeting that the regimes of the GCC would not threaten the Russian gas monopoly in Europe, but he made promises to the Russians that they could keep their naval facility on the Mediterranean coast of Syria and that he would give the House of Saud’s guarantee to protect the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in the North Caucasian resort city of Sochi, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, from the Chechen separatist militias under Saudi control. If Moscow cooperated with Riyadh and Washington against Damascus, the leak discloses that Bandar also stated that the same Chechen militants fighting inside Syria to topple the Syrian government would not be given a role in Syria’s political future.
When the Russians refused to betray their Syrian allies, Prince Bandar then threatened Russia with the cancellation of the second planned peace conference in Geneva and with the unleashing of the military option against the Syrians the leak imparts.
This leak, which presents a veiled Saudi threat about the intended attacks on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, led to a frenzy of speculations internationally until the end of August 2013, amid the high tensions arising from the US threats to attack Syria and the threats coming from Iran to intervene on the side of their Syrians allies against the United States. Originating from the same politically affiliated media circle in Lebanon, reports about Russian military preparations to attack Saudi Arabia in response to a war against Syria began to circulate from the newspaper Al-Ahed also, further fueling the chain of speculations.
A House of Saud Spin on the Neo-Con “Redirection”
Seymour Hersh wrote in 2007 that after the 2006 defeat of Israel in Lebanon that the US government had a new strategy called the “redirection.” According to Hersh, the “redirection” had “brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.” With the cooperation of Saudi Arabia and all the same players that helped launch Osama bin Ladin’s career in Afghanistan, the US government took “part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria.” The most important thing to note is what Hersh says next: “A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
A new House of Saud spin on the “redirection” has begun. If there is anything the House of Saud knows well, it is rounding up fanatics as tools at the service of Saudi Arabia’s patrons in Washington. They did it in Afghanistan, they did it Bosnia, they have done it in Russia’s North Caucasus, they did it in Libya, and they are doing it in both Lebanon and Syria. It does not take the British newspaperThe Independent to publish an article titled “Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis” for the well-informed to realize this.
The terrorist bombings in Lebanon mark a new phase of the conflict in Syria, which is aimed at forcing Hezbollah to retreat from Syria by fighting in a civil war on its home turf. The attacks are part of the “redirection.” The House of Saud has accented this new phase through its ties to the terrorist attacks on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut on November 19, 2013. The attacks were carried out by individuals linked to the notorious Ahmed Al-Assir who waged a reckless battle against the Lebanese military from the Lebanese city of Sidon as part of an effort to ignite a sectarian civil war in Lebanon.
Al-Assir’s rise, however, was politically and logistically aided by the House of Saud and its shameless Hariri clients in Lebanon. He is also part of the same “redirection” policy and current that brought Fatah Al-Islam to Lebanon. This is why it is no surprise to see Hariri’s Future Party flag flying alongside Al-Qaeda flags in Lebanon. After Al-Assir’s failed attempt to start a sectarian Lebanese civil war, he went into hiding and it was even alleged that he was taken in by one of the GCC embassies.
In regard to the House of Saud’s roles in the bombings in Lebanon, Hezbollah would confirm that the attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut was linked to the House of Saud. Hezbollah’s leadership would report that the Abdullah Izzam Brigade, which is affiliated to Al-Qaeda and tied to the bombings, is directly linked to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the Saudi agent, Majed Al-Majed, responsible for the attack would be apprehended by Lebanese security forces in late-December 2013. He had entered Lebanon after working with Al-Nusra in Syria. Fars News Agency, an Iranian media outlet, would report on January 2, 2014 that unnamed Lebanese sources had also confirmed that they had discovered that the attack was linked to Prince Bandar.
Wrath of the House of Saud Unleashed?
A lot changed between the first and second meetings that Prince Bandar and Vladimir Putin had, respectively in July 2013 and December 2013. The House of Saud expected its US patron to get the Pentagon involved in a conventional bombing campaign against Syria in the month of September. It is more than likely that Riyadh was in the dark about the nature of secret negotiations that the US and Iran were holding through the backchannel of Oman in the backdrop of what appeared to be an escalation towards open war.
Bandar’s threat to reassess the House of Saud’s ties with Washington is probably a direct result of the US government keeping the House of Saud in the dark about using Syria as a means of negotiating with the Iranian government. US officials may have instigated the House of Saud to intensify its offensive against Syria to catalyze the Iranians into making a deal to avoid an attack on Syria and a regional war. Moreover, not only did the situation between the US and Iran change, Russia would eventually sign an important energy contract for Syrian natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea. The House of Saud has been undermined heavily in multiple ways and it is beginning to assess its own expendability.
If one scratches deep enough, they will find that the same ilk that attacked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut also attacked the Russian Embassy in Damascus. Both terrorist attacks were gifts to Iran and Russia, which served as reprisals for the Iranian and Russian roles in protecting Syria from regime change and a destructive war. It should, however, be discerned if the House of Saud is genuinely lashing out at Iran and Russia or if it being manipulated to further the goals of Washington in the US negotiations with Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus.
In the same manner, the House of Saud wants to generously reward Hezbollah too for its role in protecting Syria by crippling Hezbollah domestically in Lebanon. Riyadh may possibly not want a full scale war in Lebanon like the Israelis do, but it does want to neutralize and eliminate Hezbollah from the Lebanese landscape. In this regard, Saudi Arabia has earnestly been scheming to recruit Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman and the Lebanese military against Hezbollah and its supporters.
The Saud grant of three billion dollars to the Lebanese Armed Forces is not only blood money being given to Lebanon as a means of exonerating Saudi Arabia for its role in the terrorist bombings that have gripped the Lebanese Republic since 2013, the Saudi money is also aimed at wishfully restructuring the Lebanese military as a means of using it to neutralize Hezbollah. In line with the House of Saud’s efforts, pledges from the United Arab Emirates and reports that NATO countries are also planning on donating money and arms to the Lebanese military started.
In addition to the terrorists bombings in Lebanon and the attack on the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Russia has also been attacked. Since the Syrian conflict intensified there has been a flaring of tensions in Russia’s North Caucasus and a breakout of terrorist attacks. Russian Muslim clerics, known for their views on co-existence between Russia’s Christian and Muslim communities and anti-separatist views, have been murdered. The bombings in Volgograd are just the most recent cases and an expansion into the Volga of what is happening in the North Caucasus, but they come disturbingly close to the start of the Winter Olympics that Prince Bandar was saying would be “protected” if Moscow betrayed Syria.
Can the House of Saud Stand on its Own Feet?
It is a widely believed that you will find the US and Israelis pulling a lot of the strings if you look behind the dealings of the House of Saud. That view is being somewhat challenged now. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK, threatened that Saudi Arabia will go it alone against Syria and Iran in a December 2013 article. The letter, like the Saudi rejection of their UN Security Council seat, was airing the House of Saud’s rage against the realists running US foreign policy.
In this same context, it should also be noted for those that think that Saudi Arabia has zero freedom of action that Israeli leaders have stressed for many years that Tel Aviv needs to cooperate secretly with Saudi Arabia to manipulate the US against Iran. This is epitomized by the words of Israeli Brigadier-General Oded Tira: “We must clandestinely cooperate with Saudi Arabia so that it also persuades the US to strike Iran.”
Along similar lines, some may point out that together the House of Saud and Israel got France to delay an interim nuclear agreement between the Iranians and the P5+1 in Geneva. The House of Saud rewarded Paris through lucrative deals, which includes making sure that the grant it gives to the Lebanese military is spent on French military hardware. Saad Hariri, the main Saudi client in Lebanon, even met Francois Hollande and French officials in Saudi Arabia in context of the deal. Appeasing the House of Saud and Israel, French President Hollande has replicated France’s stonewalling of the P5+1 interim nuclear deal with Iran by trying to spoil the second Syria peace conference in Geneva by saying that there can be no political solution inside Syria if President Bashar Al-Assad stays in power.
Again, however, it has to be asked, is enraging Saudi Arabia part of a US strategy to make the Saudis exert maximum pressure on Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus so that the United States can optimize its gains in negotiations? After all, it did turn out that the US was in league with France in Geneva and that the US used the French stonewalling of an agreement with Iran to make additional demands from the Iranians during the negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that the US negotiation team had actually circulated a draft agreement that had been amended in response to France’s demands before Iran and the other world powers even had a chance to study them. The draft by the US team was passed around, in Foreign Minister Lavrov’s own words, “literally at the last moment, when we were about to leave Geneva.”
Instead of debating on the level of independence that the House of Saud possesses, it is important to ask if Saudi Arabia can act on its own and to what degree can the House of Saud act as an independent actor. This looks like a far easier question to answer. It is highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia can act on its own in most instances or even remain an intact state. This is why Israeli strategists very clearly state that Saudi Arabia is destined to fall apart. “The entire Arabian Peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures, and the matter is inevitable especially in Saudi Arabia,” the Israeli Yinon Plan deems. Strategists in Washington are also aware of this and this is also why they have replicated models of a fragmented Saudi Arabia. This gives rise to another important question: if they US assess that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not a sustainable entity, will it use it until the burns out like a flame? Is this what is happening and is Saudi Arabia being sacrificed or setup to take the blame as the “fall guy” by the United States?
Who is Hiding Behind the House of Saud?
Looking back at Lebanon, the messages from international media outlets via their headlines is that the bombings in Lebanon highlight or reflect a power struggle between the House of Saud and Tehran in Lebanon and the rest of the region. Saying nothing about the major roles of the US, Israel, and their European allies, these misleading reports by the likes of journalists like Anne Barnard casually blame everything in Syria and Lebanon on a rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, erasing the entire history behind what has happened and casually sweeping all the interests behind the conflict(s) under the rug. This is dishonest and painting a twisted Orientalist narrative.
The outlets trying to make it sound like all the Middle East’s problems are gravitating around some sort of Iranian and Saudi rivalry might as well write that “the Saudis and Iranians are the sources behind the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the sources behind the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq that crippled the most advanced Arab country, the ones that are blockading medication from reaching Gaza due to their rivalry, the ones who enforced a no-fly zone over Libya, the ones that are launching killer drone attacks on Yemen, and the ones that are responsible for the billions of dollars that disappeared from the Iraqi Treasury in 2003 after Washington and London invaded that country and controlled its finances.” These outlets and reports are tacitly washing the hands of actors like Washington, Tel Aviv, Paris, and London clean of blood by trying to construct a series of false narratives that either blame everything on a regional rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh or the premise that the Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims are fighting an eternal war that they are biologically programmed to wage against one another.
Arabs and Iranians and Shias and Sunnis are tacitly painted as un-human creatures that cannot be understood and savages to audiences. The New York Times even dishonestly implies that the Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims in Lebanon are killing one another in tit-for-tat attacks. It sneakily implies that Hezbollah and its Lebanese rivals are assassinating one another. Bernard, its reporter in Lebanon who was mentioned earlier, along with another colleague write:
In what have been seen as tit-for-tat attacks, car bombs have targeted Hezbollah-dominated neighborhoods in the southern suburbs of Beirut and Sunni mosques in the northern city of Tripoli.
On Friday, a powerful car bomb killed Mohamad B. Chatah, a former Lebanese finance minister who was a major figure in the Future bloc, a political group that is Hezbollah’s main Sunni rival.
The New York Times is cunningly trying to make its readers think that Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing as part of a Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict by concluding with an explanation that the slain former Lebanese finance minister belonged to “Hezbollah’s main Sunni rival” after saying that the bombings in Lebanon “have been seen as tit-for-tat attacks” between the areas that support Hezbollah and “Sunni mosques” in Tripoli
The US and Israel wish that a Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict was occurring in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. They have been working for this. It has been them that have been manipulating Saudi Arabia to instigate sectarianism. The US and Israel have been prodding the House of Saud—which does not represent the Sunni Muslims, let alone the people of Saudi Arabia which are under its occupation—against Iran, all the while trying to conceal and justify the conflict being instigated as some sort of “natural” rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis that is being played out across the Middle East.
It has been assessed with high confidence by outsiders concerned by the House of Saud’s inner dealings that Prince Bandar is one of the three Al-Saud princes managing Saudi Arabia’s security and foreign policy; the other two being Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Saudi deputy foreign minister and one of King Abdullah’s point men on Syria due to his ties to Syria from his maternal side, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the interior minister. All three of them are tied to the United States more than any of their predecessors. Prince Bandar himself has a long history of working closely with the United States, which explains the endearing moniker of “Bandar Bush” that he is widely called by. “Chemical Bandar” can be added to the list too, because of the reports about his ties to the Syrian chemical weapon attacks in Ghouta.
As a US client, Saudi Arabia is a source of instability because it has been conditioned hence by Washington. Fighting the terrorist and extremist threat is now being used by the US as a point of convergence with Iran, which coincidently has authored the World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) motion at the United Nations. In reality, the author of the regional problems and instability has been Washington itself. In a masterstroke, the realists now at the helm of foreign policy are pushing American-Iranian rapprochement on the basis of what Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor of the US, said would be based on Tehran and Washington working together to secure Iran’s “volatile regional environment.” “Any eventual reconciliation [between the US and Iranian governments] should be based on the recognition of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very volatile regional environment for Iran,” he explains. The point should not be lost either that Brzezinski is the man who worked with the Saudis to arm the Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviets after he organized an intelligence operation to fool the Soviets into militarily entering Afghanistan in the first place.
The House of Saud did not work alone in Afghanistan during the Cold War either. It was rigorously backed by Washington. The United States was even more involved in the fighting. It is the same in Syria. If the diplomatic leak is to be believed about the meeting between Bandar and Putin, it is of merit to note that “Bandar Bush” told Putin that any “Saudi-Russian understanding” would also be part of an “American-Russian understanding.”
Has the “Redirection” Seen its Stalingrad?
Volgograd was called Stalingrad for a part of Soviet history, in honour of the Republic of Georgia’s most famous son and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It was Volgograd, back then called Stalingrad, where the Germans were stopped and the tide of war in Europe was turned against Hitler and his Axis allies in Europe. The Battle of Stalingrad was where the Nazis were defeated and it was in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe where the bulk of the fighting against the Germans was conducted. Nor is it any exaggeration to credit the Soviets—Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tajik, Tartar, Georgian, Armenian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Chechen, and all—for doing most of the fighting to defeat the Germans in the Second World War.
Judging by the bellicose 2013 New Years Eve speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the terrorist attacks in Volgograd will be the start of another Battle of Stalingrad of some sorts and the launch of another Russian “war on terror.” Many of the terrorists that Russia will go after are in Syria and supported by the House of Saud.
The opponents of the Resistance Bloc that Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian resistance groups form have called the battlefields in Syria the Stalingrad of Iran and its regional allies. Syria has been a Stalingrad of some sorts too, but not for the Resistance Bloc. The alliance formed by the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel has begun to unravel in its efforts to enforce regime change in Syria. The last few years have marked the beginning of a humiliating defeat for those funding extremism, separatism, and terrorism against countries like Russia, China, Iran, and Syria as a means of preventing Eurasian cohesion. Another front of this same battle is being politically waged by the US and the EU in the Ukraine in a move to prevent the Ukrainians from integrating with Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
Volgograd and the Conquest of Eurasia
While speculation has been entertained with warning in this text, most of what has been explained has not been speculative. The House of Saud has had a role in destabilizing the Russian Federation and organizing terrorist attacks inside Russia. Support or oppose the separatist movements in the North Caucasus, the point is that they have been opportunistically aided and used by the House of Saud and Washington. Despite the authenticity of the narrative about Bandar’s threats against Russia, Volgograd is about Syria and Syria is about Volgograd. Both are events taking place as part of the same struggle. The US has been trying to encroach into Syria as a means of targeting Russia and encroaching deeper in the heart of Eurasia.
When George Orwell wrote 1984 he saw the world divided into several entities at constant or “eternal” war with one another. His fictitious superstates police language, use total surveillance, and utterly manipulate mass communication to indoctrinate and deceive their peoples. Roughly speaking, Orwell’s Oceania is formed by the US and its formal and informal territories in the Western Hemisphere, which the Monroe Doctrine has essentially declared are US colonies, confederated with Britain and the settler colonies-cum-dominions of the former British Empire (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa). The Orwellian concept of Eurasia is an amalgamation of the Soviet Union with continental Europe. The entity of Eastasia on the other hand is formed around China. Southeast Asia, India, and the parts of Africa that do not fall under the influence of Oceanic South Africa are disputed territory that is constantly fought for. Although not specifically mentioned, it can be extrapolated that Southwest Asia, where Syria is located, or parts of it are probably part of this fictional disputed territory, which includes North Africa.
If we try to fit Orwellian terms onto the present set of global relations, we can say that Oceania has made its moves against Eurasia/Eastasia for control of disputed territory (in the Middle East and North Africa).
1984 is not just a novel, it is a warning from the farseeing Orwell. Nonetheless, never did he imagine that his Eurasia would make cause with or include Eastasia through a core triple alliance and coalition comprised of Russia, China, and Iran. Eurasia will finish, in one way or another, whatOceania has started. All the while, as the House of Saud and the other rulers of the Arab petro-sheikhdoms continue to compete with one another in building fancy towers, the Sword of Damocles is getting heavier over their heads.
Source: Global Research
Turkey is a democracy in name only. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ruling despot.
He’s led Ankara’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) since August 2001. He’s been prime minister since March 2003. Why Turks put up with him they’ll have to explain.
Last spring, anti-government protests rocked Ankara, Istanbul and other Turkish cities. Police violence followed. Brutality is longstanding policy. Corruption is deep-seated.
It’s rife in Turkey’s construction sector. Erdogan established a land sales office. Ostensibly it was to build affordable public housing.
Widespread privatizations followed. Billions of dollars worth of government assets were sold.
Sweetheart deals and bribes accompanied them. Well-connected companies got no-bid contracts. State banks provided generous financing.
Projects developed had nothing to do with public housing. Berat Albayrak heads Calik Holding. He’s well connected. He’s Erdogan’s son-in-law.
He may be linked to the corruption probe. He builds power plants in Turkmenistan. He’s involved in an AKP backed oil pipeline project. He has other government related business.
The current scandal stems from a year ago anonymous letter. It was sent to police. It alleged Ankara and local government authorities illegally facilitated construction projects. Huge profits were involved.
Surveillance, phone tapping, and other investigatory methods followed. They produced considerable evidence of corruption. Government ministers are involved. Million dollar bribes were paid.
State-run Halk Bank head was found with about $4.5 million in cash. It was at home. It was stashed in shoe boxes.
Millions more were seized from other suspects. Over a dozen are accused of bribery and money laundering, as well as gold and antiques smuggling.
On December 17, Turkey’s Financial Crimes and Battle Against Criminal Incomes department detained 47 people.
Sons of Ankara’s Economy, Interior and Environment and Urban Planning ministers are involved.
So is Fatih district municipality major Mustafa Demir and real estate tycoon Ali Agaoglu. Minister of European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis is being investigated.
Whether scandal touches Erdogan remains to be seen. He claims attempts to do so will be “left empty handed.”
On Christmas day, he reshuffled his cabinet. Three ministers resigned. He sack 10 others. He replaced them. Events are fast-moving.
Erdogan Bayraktar was Minister of Environment and Urban Planning. He was a member of parliament. He felt forced to resign both posts.
He said Erdogan should do so. He claimed suspect construction projects under investigation were approved with Erdogan’s full knowledge.
“With your permission, I want to make very short statements in the form of a press statement,” he said.
“It is of course a right and an authority for Mr. Prime Minister to work with whichever minister he wants and to remove whichever minister he wants from office.”
“But I do not accept the pressure being put on me which says, ‘Resign because of an operation in which there are statements of bribery and corruption and release a declaration that will relieve me.’ “
“I do not (accept it) because a big part of the zoning plans that are in the investigation file and were confirmed were made with approval from Mr. Prime Minister.”
“For the sake of the well-being of this nation, I believe the prime minister should resign.”
He accused him of involvement in suspect property deals. He’s linked to profiteering business interests.
Scandal heads closer to directly connecting him. Perhaps it will as investigations continue. Turkish Professor Soli Ozel called Bayraktar’s call for Erdogan’s resignation “extraordinarily dramatic.”
He’s “someone who was very close to the prime minister. This is someone you’d expect to fall on his sword without question.”
Other analysts see things potentially spinning out of control. Whether Erdogan can prevent it remains to be seen.
He may end up victimized by his own transgressions. It depends on how much public anger grows. He weathered previous crises. It’s hard to know if this one is too great to contain.
Investigations targeted over 90 suspects. Over two dozen were arrested. Dozens of police chiefs were sacked. Erdogan is far from squeaky-clean.
On December 21, Ankara’s police department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit head Hakan Yuksekdag was found dead in his car. Officially it was pronounced suicide.
Further investigation is being conducted. The incident occurred a day after 14 senior Ankara National Police Department officials were removed from their posts.
Erdogan blamed ongoing events on an international conspiracy. He vowed revenge on figures connected to Muhammed Fethullah Gulen.
He heads the movement bearing his name. He claims a million or more followers. They include judges and senior police officials.
He’s currently in self-imposed exile. He’s in Pennsylvania. He’s a writer, former imam, and Islamic opinion leader. He’s an important figure.
He’s involved with issues relating to Turkey’s future. He and Erdogan haven’t gotten along for years.
Former Minister of Internal Affairs Idris Naim Sahin said Erdogan’s actions fall short of law and justice. He’s trying to defuse public anger, he said. He’s shifting blame to do it.
Thousands of Istanbul, Ankara, and Ismir protesters demanded Erdogan’s resignation. They did so on Christmas. They did it in other cities. They protested last spring.
They’re justifiably outraged. Their longstanding anger hasn’t waned. Erdogan works against their well-being. Clashes with police erupted. Arrests followed.
Protesters chanted; “Three ministers aren’t enough. The whole government should resign. Corruption is everywhere. Resistance is everywhere.”
Opposition party members accused Erdogan of deepening despotic rule. Critics use the term “deep state.” It refers to a shadowy power structure. It lacks checks and balances.
Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) is Erdogan’s main rival. It’s Turkey’s oldest political party. It’s AKP’s Main Opposition in the Grand National Assembly. Kemal Kilicdaroglu heads it.
“Erdogan has a ‘deep state,’ ” he said. His AKP “has a ‘deep state.’ ” Efkan Ala is new Interior Minister.
He’s an Erdogan crony. He formerly was Diyarbakir Province governor. He’s part of what’s ongoing, said Kilicdaroglu.
He believes Ala’s appointment is part of an Erdogan power grab. He wants greater police control. Outgoing Interior Minister Muammer Guler fired hundreds of police officers. Senior commanders were sacked.
Erdogan’s new ministers were carefully chosen. He appointed officials “that will not show any opposition to him,” said Kilicdaroglu.
Turkey is more police state than democracy. Press freedom is compromised. Censorship is standard practice. Dissent is verboten. Challenging government authority is called terrorism.
No country imprisons more journalists than Turkey. Corruption is deep-seated. Neoliberal harshness writ large is policy. Popular interests are spurned.
Erdogan represents wealth, power and privilege. It’s hard imagining he’s not involved in corruption in some way. He’s gotten his son-in-law business tycoon sweetheart deals.
He prioritizes Turkey’s business model. It reflects capitalism’s dark side. It includes unrestrained profit-making, privatizations, cheap labor, deregulation, corporate-friendly tax cuts, marginalized worker rights, and speculative capital inflows.
Economic conditions are inherently unstable. Turkey suffers rolling recessions, crisis conditions, and fragile largely jobless recoveries. It’s increasingly dependent on imports of resources and capital goods.
Youth unemployment tops 22%. An entire generation is affected. Conditions are socially and economically unstable.
Privation fuels public anger. Eventually it may spiral out-of-control. It may be just a matter of time. Turkey has a long history of rebellion.
Erdogan is increasingly hated. He weathered last spring’s anti-government protests. It remains to be seen what’s next.
Nicolas Spiro heads Spiro Sovereign Strategy. “The dismissal of half an entire cabinet is worrying enough,” he said. “The corruption probe is escalating by the day.”
It’s “causing a further deterioration in market sentiment towards Turkey.” Erdogan’s new cabinet includes four deputy prime ministers.
Ayse Islam is the only woman appointed. She’s Family and Social Policy Minister. Others include:
Deputy prime minister: Bulent Arinc
Deputy prime minister: Ali Babacan
Deputy prime minister: Besir Atalay
Deputy prime minister: Emrullah Isler
Justice: Bekir Bozdag
Defense: Ismet Yilmaz
Interior: Efkan Ala
Foreign Affairs: Ahmet Davutoglu
European Union: Mevlut Cavusoglu
Finance: Mehmet Simsek
Economy: Nihat Zeybekci
Energy and Natural Resources: Taner Yildiz
National Education: Nabi Avci
Labour and Social Security: Faruk Celik
Environment and Urban Development: Idris Gulluce
Health: Mehmet Muezzinoglu
Transport: Lutfi Elvan
Food, Agriculture and Husbandry: Mehmet Mehdi Eker
Science, Industry and Technology: Fikri Isik
Culture and Tourism: Omer Celik
Forestry and Water Affairs: Veysel Eroglu
Customs and Trade: Hayati Yazici
Development: Cevdet Yilmaz
Youth and Sports: Akif Cagatay Kilic
Scandal erupted months ahead of next March’s local elections. Parliamentary elections involving Erdogan are scheduled in 2015.
If held today, voters might oust him. It’s way too early to know how they’ll react in 2015. Istanbul-based Global Source Partners analyst Atilla Yesilada said ongoing events suggest Erdogan is losing control.
“Forced to act, (he) tried to get rid of his burdens,” he said. “But this is a political crisis, and it is hard to tell how it will unfold. These investigations may expand in coming months.”
Doing so perhaps may link Erdogan to deep-seated corruption. If so, he may be forced to resign. The fullness of time will tell.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Damascus – It is Winter Solstice in the Levant. This is the day which astronomically marks the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days—a day which, since ancient times, has been celebrated with festivals, gatherings, rituals, feasting, singing, dancing and bonfires. Historically it has been viewed as a significant annual event because communities were not certain of living through the winter and had to prepare during the previous nine months for dramatic rises in starvation, communicable diseases, and infant deaths due to hypothermia. For this reason, and because such deaths were particularly common, the first months of winter became known as “the famine months” in the northern hemisphere.
Preparing for a tough next few months is what the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is doing these days, and the UN specialized agency is working in the face of daunting odds. UNWRA was founded in 1949, and for more than 60 years it has been plagued by harassments, intimidation, and countless conspiracies to close it down, efforts waged by the international Zionist lobby and designed to “put it out of its misery” as Prime Minister Netanyahu recently demanded from the US Congress.
UNRWA has a regional headquarters in Beirut, opposite the Shatila Camp, and one in Damascus, on Mezzah Boulevard, where this observer is a regular visitor these days and where talk often inevitably centers upon the grim link between the Syrian crisis and the conditions of over half a million Palestinian refugees living in 57 UNRWA camps. Other major concerns for UNRWA are the nearly one million Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, as well as the more than one million refugees in Gaza suffering from climatic conditions exacerbated by the brutal Zionist occupation of Palestine.
The UNRWA Syria Regional Crisis Response Plan for 2014, published this week, sets out the agency’s hoped-for projects to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees, and to help them weather the current dangers of frigid temperatures and lack of heat and sanitation. This winter solstice the outlook for Palestine refugees from Syria is increasingly bleak in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as communities, livelihoods, assets and support networks, painstakingly built over decades, are being destroyed.
Displacement among Palestinians is proportionally much higher than that of Syrians, and the threats to safe refuge in Syria, combined with severely restricted options for flight, has confronted Palestine refugees with unprecedented challenges. UNRWA emergency assistance is normally delivered as part of its well-established programs in health, education, community development, microfinance, relief, youth training and employment. Delivered by Palestinian staff, this support is a critical cornerstone, fostering resilience and continuity for both communities and families, in the face of growing hardship. Of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced within the country, and an estimated 85,000 have fled. Fifty-one thousand of these have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt, and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield. Those who have managed to land in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt face risky legal limbos compounded with living conditions so difficult that many decide to return to the dangers of Syria.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by expanding need, deepening poverty, and the growing numbers of registered refugees. As a result, the agency’s general fund, which supports UNRWA’s core activities and is 97 percent reliant on voluntary contributions, begins each year with a large projected deficit. UNRWA officials cite an immediate need for US$417.4 million to respond adequately to the needs of Palestinian refugees in Syria; US$90.4 million for those in Lebanon; and US$14.6 for the ones in Jordan. An additional US$2.4 million is required for emergency response needs outside the purview of the UNRWA’s field offices, including token cash assistance for Palestinian families from Syria in Gaza.
Winter storm Alexa, the fiercest storm to hit Gaza and the West Bank in over 100 years, is still wreaking havoc and bringing misery to thousands. As of 12/19/13, some 40,000 people in Gaza have been driven from their homes due to extreme flooding. The situation has been exacerbated by the fuel crisis that has left people without power for up to 21 hours a day and forced raw sewage to flow through the streets. People’s lives and health are at grave risk. Gaza’s Hamas government said 4,306 in all had been evacuated to schools and other centers used as makeshift shelters in the past four days. The strip’s 1.8 million people, trying to survive in one of the most densely populated tracts on earth, have also endured blackouts of around 12 hours a day since the lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage. The territory lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade curbing imports of fuel, building supplies and basic goods. Moreover, reports from UNRWA staff indicate that conditions are worsening due to severe Israeli restrictions on the camps. For instance, emergency responders cannot reconnect power lines downed due to the heavy snow, and the populace has little access to basic necessities such as running water. The crisis is deepening, and the problems are similar in virtually all of the vulnerable refugee camps. People face severe power outages, while some in the West Bank also face systematic attacks by the Israeli army.
Other problems weighing heavily on UNWRA include strikes and threats of strikes by UNWRA employees protesting claimed low wages. Dismay has also been expressed at what is widely perceived as the UNRWA’s weak humanitarian role in Gaza, where normal, day-to-day problems are compounded by the blockade and, most recently, the flood. The workers’ union at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza continued protests this week, calling for salary increases. One Hamas official has accused UNRWA officials of receiving exorbitant salaries, charging that the agency at the same time is not up to the tasks it is assigned to do. UNWRA officials who this observer spoke with denied this, but declined any information about any UNWRA salaries.
Like many aid agencies working in Syria, the UNRWA continues to lose staff. UNRWA teacher Suzan Ghazazweh, a popular and accomplished teacher at the Abbasyyeh School in Muzeirib, was killed by shrapnel when a shell struck her home on December 2, 2013. She is the tenth UNRWA staffer killed in Syria.
Enter Professor Alan Dershowitz!
Adding to UNWRA’s myriad problems is the fact that Professor Alan Dershowitz for some reason chose this winter solstice to retire after 46 years on the job at the Harvard Law School. Within hours, if he has not already done so, Alan will depart Harvard’s hallowed halls to devote more time to his current central cause, one which arguably poses his most difficult challenge—“saving Israel from itself and from UNWRA!” as he told a Harvard Crimson stringer on background recently.
The past few years Professor Dershowitz, apparently wanting to make a strong impression on his new students, would start off the beginning of semester classes by offering them his essential view of the law. During the first or second class meeting he reportedly often made references to some of the 13 out of 15 major cases he “won” for the likes of Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, Jim Bakker, Claus von Bulow and O. J. Simpson to name a few. He would explain to his classes:
“All my big cases I won on a legal technicality! Those cases were lost causes. Otherwise, why would these clients come to me? The first thing to remember as you continue your legal studies is to forget what the law says or even what the facts of a case are! American appellate courts will decide the facts and the law of a case based on what the best advocate says they are. That’s why I win!”
To one public international law class Professor Dershowitz is reported to have sneered, “And you can forget about claims of human rights based on international law and universal standards of morality. You’ll never win s— with that malarkey.”
As he begins preparation for his “legitimization case” on behalf of the last remaining 19th century colonial enterprise—the Zionist theft and continuing illegal occupation of Palestine—Alan, some associates claim, plans to come out swinging against the UNRWA. Throughout his teaching career, Dershowitz has been a loyal supporter, and some say main instigator, of AIPAC. Little surprise, then, that he has joined the Zionist Lobby’s more than two decades of attacks on the UNRWA, seeking to have the agency’s funding cut off. But until now, he has not been “lead attorney of record.”
One source who meets with Professor Dershowitz from time to time in Washington claims that Alan insists that UNWRA is another one of Israel’s growing number of existential threats, this because the UN agency “keeps the Palestinian refugee issue alive and allows human rights types to keep the issue of wrongful dispossession of their homes and land before the global community and with no end in sight.”
Though he makes regular trips to Israel, Alan doesn’t come around Lebanon or Syria much, and frankly this observer has only met him a couple of times. He claims to have a photographic memory and maybe that is why he doesn’t seem to cotton much to this observer. Perhaps he remembers, and even holds a grudge of some kind, from our first meeting more than a quarter century ago. On that day, Alan came to see me in my Congressional House Judiciary office in the Rayburn building. I am not sure who referred him, but only an hour earlier, my boss, Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, called to give me a last minute assignment. It was simple enough, and I had done it before. Congressman Conyers wanted me to escort a visiting judicial official from another country, in this case the chief justice from Egypt’s highest court, across the lawn from Rayburn for a meeting at the Supreme Court with our CJ, Warren Burger. An easy enough assignment it was, because Burger invariably was pleasant, with a southern style aura of gentility about him, but fifteen minutes before the Egyptian CJ was due to join me, an intense, smallish, fast-talking guy shows up, announces he is from the Harvard Law School, and must join “the Egyptian” during his meeting with Burger. Frankly it did not matter much to me one way or the other, but I did call my supervisor, Hayden Gregory, for advice. Basically his reply was, “Not a chance! No way!” Only later did I learn Alan had rubbed Hayden the wrong way over proposed “federal determinate sentencing guidelines,” an issue before our committee at the time.
Long story short, Alan would not take no for an answer. When I made it clear he was not invited and could not join the meeting he became angry and stormed off.
He may still remember, but with me it was not personal, and in any event all this is by way of saying that UNWRA had better baton down its hatches because they have more problems coming their way than they realize or are ready for.
Addressing the annual Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts on December 12, former CIA chief Michael Hayden outlined three possible outcomes of the ongoing conflict in Syria. The first would be further escalation of violence between ever more extreme Sunni and Shiite factions. The second possible outcome—which Hayden described as the most likely but also the most destabilizing for the region—is the dissolution of Syria and the end of a single state within the borders defined by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. “Option three is Assad wins,” Hayden went on, “and I must tell you at the moment, as ugly as it sounds, I’m kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes.”
The first option is not really an “outcome,” but a discrete stage in the conflict which is practically over: Sunni jihadists have already defeated the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the dwindling fighting force of the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC). Two weeks ago General Salim Idris, the FSA commander, even suggested that he might join forces with the government army in fighting Al Qaeda. On December 6 fighters belonging to the Islamic Front—a recently founded, Saudi-backed alliance of seven jihadist groups—captured the SMC bases and warehouses near the Turkish border, where vehicles and other U.S.-supplied “nonlethal” equipment were kept. They also forced Gen. Idris too flee Syria for Turkey. He later tried to put a brave face on the debacle, but the FSA is finished as a viable player.
The Administration initially reacted by suspending the $260 million rebel aid program, but there have been signs in recent days that the White House may give up on the “moderates” altogether and divert future supplies to hard-core Islamist groups, provided they are not affiliated to al-Qaeda. “It’s a pivotal point,” a senior U.S. official told the CNN. “We need to figure out, what extremists do we deal with?”
Dealing with Islamic extremists is never a good idea, but the White House will likely resolve it by calling the Islamic Front “moderate.” As it happens, the Islamic Front’s charter, released on November 26, calls for the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of Sharia. It also endorses jihad and welcomes the Muhajireen (foreign fighters) as “brothers.” One of the seven groups within the Islamic Front, the Ahrar al Sham, routinely conducts joint raids with al-Qaeda’s two Syrian branches, the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The assault on the Christian town of Malula last September was one such joint operation.
Michael Hayden should be commended for stating so bluntly what we have repeatedly argued since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, that Bashar al-Assad’s victory would be the least bad outcome for Western interests in the region. This view is gaining credence. “We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, Ryan Crocker, a respected veteran diplomat, told the New York Times on December 3. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.” As The Independent reported on the same day, Western security agencies now believe that returning jihad-veterans pose the most serious threat of terrorism in Europe and the United States.
Bashar’s army and police have performed surprisingly well for almost three years now. Over the past year they have been able to consolidate their positions in about one-half of the country they still control, but eradicating the rebellion altogether will prove impossible for as long as weapons and money are provided by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and jihadist volunteers keep arriving from all over the Sunni Muslim world. The current stalemate may create conditions for Syria’s eventual disintegration along both religious and ethnic lines.
The fragmentation of Syria and its end as a single state within the borders defined by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement may not be as destabilizing as General Hayden suggests. There is nothing sacrosanct about the lines of partition of the Ottoman Empire into Anglo-French spheres of influence, drawn rather arbitrarily by a British civil servant and a French diplomat almost a century ago. Syria’s effective partition along ethno-religious lines was introduced in 1922, during the French Mandate.
It is arguable that the breakup has already happened, and that Syria no longer exists as a single political entity. The government enjoys majority support along a wide belt extending from the heavily Druze southern border with Jordan and the Israeli-held Golan Heights, through Damascus and Homs, and up to the disputed city of Aleppo in the northwest. This belt—about 40 percent of Syria’s territory, with one-half of its people—also includes Syria’s strategically important Mediterranean coastline, which is inhabited mainly by Bashar’s fellow Alawites and Christians. The rebels are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims—which is not to say that all Syrian Sunnis support the rebels—and they control extensive tracts in the north and center of the country, and along the valley of the Euphrates to the sparsely populated Iraqi border in the east. The front lines are fluid, but it is a safe guess that the rebels dominate in one-half of Syria, with perhaps 40 percent of the population. Finally, Syria’s two million Kurds, ten percent of its people, have set up a de facto state in the northeast of the country (ca. 10% of Syria’s territory), with its own armed forces, police, courts, license plates, and Kurdish-language schools. They say that they would only seek autonomy within a future federalized Syria, but at the same time they reject any solution that would fall short of that goal.
Syria’s effective breakup would be followed by population exchanges, which is preferable to the chaotic ethno-religious cleansing of which Syria’s Christians have been the main victims. It is likely that, in addition to Alawites, Christians, Shia and Druze, many educated, urban Sunnis would also opt for the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state of southern and coastal Syria, governed by secularists, in preference to the putative Islamic Caliphate in the north and along east, with rival factions vying for power. It is also possible that outside forces—Turkey in particular—will insist on the maintenance of a single-state façade. It is not possible for Syria to be recreated as a centralized, secularist-governed state, however, and it is equally impossible for the jihadists to terrorize two-thirds of Syria’s 23 million people into submission.
Adam Smith said governments are “instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor.” Wars are waged to make them richer.
Howard Zinn called war “terrorism magnified a hundred times.” Make it many thousands of times.
Michael Parenti said “the best way to win a Nobel Peace Prize (is) to wage war or support those who wage (it) instead of peace.”
In his book titled “The Face of Imperialism,” he discusses a richly financed military/industrial complex. Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff call it the “military-industrial media complex.”
Waging wars requires selling them. Public support is needed. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky call it “Manufacturing Consent.”
Propaganda works as intended. Minds are manipulated to support war. Truth is suppressed. Fear is stoked. Patriotism, national security, and democratic values are highlighted.
Longstanding US policy facilitates earning obscene amounts from militarism, wars, homeland security, and related operations.
Doing so has nothing to do with external or internal threats. It’s unrelated to spreading democracy. It isn’t about humanitarian intervention.
It about advancing America’s imperium. Parenti calls the process “the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries. (It) “carves up whole continents.”
“(T)he dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials, and markets of another people.”
Capitalist imperialism differs from earlier forms. It dominates other economies and political systems. It accumulates enormous amounts of wealth.
It uses money to make more of it. It gains market control. It exploits resources and labor.
According to Marx and Engels:
Bourgeois capital “chases over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere…It creates a world after its own image.”
Societies are destroyed and remade to do it. Nations are pillaged for profit. Populations become disenfranchised. Workers become serfs. Local cultures become mass-market consumer ones.
Agribusiness replaces local farming. Competitive industries are eliminated. Foreign investment crowds out local capital.
Dominance legitimizes capital’s divine right. Plunder assures obscene profits. Capital accumulation demands more. Profiteering becomes a be-all-and-end-all.
Businesses price according to what the market will bear. Profiteers take advantage of emergency or other out-of-ordinary conditions to cash in excessively.
WikiLeaks calls profiteering “a pejorative term for the act of making profit by methods considered unethical.”
Price fixing is illegal. Price gouging reflects grabbing all you can. It’s charging more than what’s considered reasonable and fair.
War profiteers are in a class by themselves. They thrive on war. They depend on it. Their businesses require conflicts and instability to prosper. The more ongoing, the greater the potential profits.
Lot of players profit from wars. Companies develop technologies with military applications. Black marketeers cash in.
Politicians taking campaign contributions, special favors or bribes benefit handsomely. Nations do by acquiring control over territory, resources and exploitable people.
Private military contractors include companies offering a wide range of services. They provide everything from tactical combat to security to consulting to logistics to technical support.
In his book titled “Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War,” Pratap Chatterjee describes a company tainted by sweetheart deal no-bid contacts, bribes, kickbacks, inefficiency, shoddy work, corruption, fraud, gross overcharging, worker exploitation, and other serious offenses.
Other companies operate the same way. Military spending is hugely wasteful. Fraud and abuse are rampant. War is extremely profitable. Why else would so many be waged.
Mercenaries are guns for hire. They’re for sale to the highest bidder. They’re in it for the money. They’re unchecked, unaccountable and unprincipled.
Arms and munitions companies benefit most. Amounts spent are mind-bogging.
Bloomberg says defense budgets “contain hundreds of billions of dollars for new generations of aircraft carriers and stealth fighters, tanks that even the Army says it doesn’t need and combat vehicles too heavy to maneuver in desert sands or cross most bridges in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.”
According to BusinessWeek, redundancy wastes lots of money. “One need only spend 10 minutes walking around the Pentagon or any major military headquarters to see” it.
Why doesn’t Congress trim fat? Because politicians want lots of pork for constituents. It’s a great vote-getter.
BusinessWeek explained more, saying:
“Why is sensible military budgeting so difficult? Because lawmakers, including small-government Republicans, protect defense business in their home states with the ferocity of Spartans.”
“Even if the Pentagon offered up (sensible) cuts…Congress would almost certainly reject them.”
“The senators and representatives don’t have the political courage to face voters and tell them that the republic simply does not need the weapon under construction in their hometown.”
Trillions of dollars are spent. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta once said DOD “is the only major federal agency that cannot pass an audit today.”
Even during October’s 16 day shutdown, huge amounts of wasteful spending continued.
Ralph Nader calls now the time to address bloated military spending. Let’s “start shutting down the waste and fraud in our military budget,” he stresses.
Billions get tossed around mindlessly. Profiteers never had it better. Government watchdogs identify hundreds of billions of potential savings from unneeded weapons, defective ones, no-bid excess, overpayments, and outright fraud.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) conducts research on security, war and peace.
“A world in which sources of insecurity are identified and understood, conflicts are prevented or resolved, and peace is sustained,” it says.
It reports on “recent trends in military expenditure(s).”
Amounts spent are huge. In 2012, nominal global military spending exceeded $1.7 trillion. It’s around historic highs.
In real terms, it exceeds peak amounts spent during the Cold War. Post-9/11, spending increased sharply. America led the way.
In 2012, 15 nations accounted for over 80% military spending. SIPRI lists them as follows:
- America: $682 billion – 39%
- China: $166 billion – 9.5%
- Russia: $90.7 billion – 5.2%
- Britain: $60.8 billion – 3.5%
- Japan: 59.3 billion – 3.4%
- France: $58.9 billion – 3.4%
- Saudi Arabia: $56.7 billion – 3.2%
- India: $46.1 billion – 2.6%
- Germany: $45.8 billion – 2.6%
- Italy: $34 billion – 1.9%
- Brazil: $33.1 billion – 1.9%
- South Korea: $31.7 billion – 1.8%
- Australia: $26.2 billion – 1.5%
- Canada: $22.5 billion – 1.3%
- Turkey: $18.2 billion – 1%
- Others 18%
SIPRI calculates nominal military spending. Amounts America spends far exceeds annual defense authorizations.
Other allocations are for the Energy Department, State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Treasury, NASA, military construction, various categories related to security, and interest attributable to past defense outlays.
Black intelligence, Pentagon and other budgets add many tens of billions more. So do supplemental military allocations. Foreign aid is mostly military related.
The Library of Congress listed the top 10 2012 recipients and amounts as follows:
Israel: $3.075 billion
Note: Israel gets special benefits provided no other nations.
They include annual $3 billion + direct appropriations, undisclosed additional amounts, state-of-the-art weapons and technology, billions in loan guarantees, military loans as grants, privileged contracts for Israeli companies, trade exemptions, and more.
Special allocations are buried in various agency budgets. Low or no-interest loans are provided. Some are never repaid. Most often, whatever Israel wants it gets.
- Afghanistan: $2.327 billion
- Pakistan: $2.102 billion
- Iraq: $1.683 billion
- Egypt: $1.557 billion
- Jordan: $676 million
- Kenya: $652 million
- Nigeria: $625 million
- Ethiopia: $580 million
- Tanzania: $531 million
US defense related spending exceeds $1.5 trillion annually. It’s half or more what other nations spend in total.
Militarism defines America. So do permanent wars. They’re a national addiction. They’re part of the national culture.
Violence is the American way. Wars are glorified. Pacifism is considered sissy. Peace is deplored. Conflicts persist with no end.
War profiteers gorge themselves at the public trough. Their operations thrive on war. They depend on it.
They’re waged for profit and dominance. They continue without end. Peace is verboten. It’s a convenient illusion.
Howard Zinn once asked “(h)ow can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Why most Americans put up with it they’ll have to explain. Doing so lets Washington get away with mass murder and then some. It lets war profiteers benefit at our expense.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.