Bolivia’s Evo Morales calls out US imperialism in Venezuela and Latin America: ‘We are no longer your backyard’ – By teleSUR (Sott)

Evo Morales

© EFE
Morales explained, however, that United States’ interventionism is not only militaristic.

The Bolivian President warned that the United States is trying to orchestrate a military coup in Venezuela.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that Latin America “is no longer the United States’ backyard” while denouncing the United States’ attempt to convince its South American allies to help it orchestrate a military intervention or coup in Venezuela.

In an interview with news agency EFE, Morales explained that several Latin American leaders have confided in him that U.S. Vice president Mike Pence is “trying to convince some United States-friendly countries” help them seize control of the South American country and replace the current government led by Nicolas Maduro.

The real target, Morales explained, is not the Venezuelan president but “Venezuelan oil, and Venezuelans know that.”

Drawing parallels to 2011 military intervention in Libya, Morales said the U.S. isn’t interested in helping with alleged humanitarian crisis since, despite the current political and social turmoil in Libya, the U.S. will not intervene there since “the country’s oil is now owned by the U.S. and some European oil companies,” Morales asserted.

“One military intervention (in the region) would only create another armed conflict,” he added pointing to Colombia’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a general sign of an escalation of “military aggression to all Latin America and the Caribbean” region.

Comment: Morales is correct in expressing this concerning development: NATO adds Colombia to its list of members, and it’s about more than just Venezuela

Morales explained, however, that U.S. interventionism is not only militaristic.

“When there are no military coups, they seek judicial or congressional coups” as in the case of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s imprisonment, which is barring him from running in the upcoming 2018 elections.

“I am certain we will free Lula. If he returns, some countries in Latin America will again strengthen the ideological, programmatic and liberation struggle against the North American empire,” Morales said.

Comment: The President of Bolivia can count himself as one of the world’s few (but ever growing number) of leaders who has the knowledge and the guts to speak out on the egregious and destructive behavior of the US. Viva Morales! See also:

Trump And Kim Sign Declaration of Peace in Singapore (Because The Alternative is Too Expensive)- By Niall Bradley (Sott.net)

 

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump signing a “historic” document in Singapore

So Rocket Man and The Dotard have met. After last year’s epic mud-slinging, US President Donald Trump now says he and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have a “special bond”. The ‘optics’ of the summit reflect well on both leaders, who were cordial and without any of the hysterics and tantrums that had ‘analysts’ forecasting nuclear conflagration just last year.

But that’s all ancient history now. The signed document – a declaration, not a ‘deal’, ‘roadmap’ or anything more – is brief:

trump kim meeting

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

  1. The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Trump apparently had the following video played at the end of the meeting:

Call it gaudy or wishful thinking, but this messaging is so much better than “fire and fury”.

So Trump apparently wants to ‘bring the American Dream to North Korea’. The real deal-making potential for him lies in American firms being top of the queue for meeting North Korea’s development needs. He surely realizes that – for historical, geographical and cultural reasons – the North Koreans are more likely to embrace the Chinese Dream over the American one, but Trump will not settle for the US being completely cut out of the picture. That’s what we saw happen to US firms following the Iran Deal, and that’s why Trump tore it up.

Kim apparently turned to Trump at one point during their meeting and said:

“Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy from a science fiction movie.”

It is indeed historic, and whatever one thinks of Trump, or Kim for that matter, and whatever their ‘real intentions’, the very act of opening up before the world in this way makes fire, fury and missile attacks that much less likely. Not included in the document, but said by Trump afterwards, was that the US would “stop playing war games.” Again, actions have to meet words, but it’s clear that they have tangible meaning to Trump when he reveals that he’s again thinking of the bottom line:

“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them.”

By the way, the basic Trump-Kim agreement for a freeze of US war games on and around the peninsula in exchange for a freeze in nuke/ICBM testing is exactly what China and Russia called for before last year’s ‘rocket hysterics’ led into ‘sanctions like never before’. What will happen to those sanctions now? UN-agreed sanctions on North Korea were a useful tool only because China and Russia also upheld them. Both countries have already called for the sanctions to end, arguing that they have done their job of ‘bringing Kim to heel’. If the US is left unilaterally sanctioning North Korea for too long beyond this point, those American investment prospects will evaporate as North Korea bargains directly with its neighbors and the US is left looking like the sole unreasonable party – as is currently the case with the Iran Deal.

The losers, for now, are the deep staters and build-a-burgers in Japan, South Korea and Washington. They know nothing other than the post-WW2 Pax Americana and will resist entering uncharted territory without Uncle Sam taking the lead. They tried their best – with their ‘Libya model’ threats – to prevent this meeting from happening. The winners are the peoples of Korea, China and Russia. Trump gets kudos too, though it remains to be seen for what. Special peace prizes go to President Xi Jinping of China and Moon Jae-in of South Korea. One is also left wondering just what Putin – via Lavrov – said to Kim on the Russian state visit to the Hermit Kingdom just 10 days before this summit.

As we’ve said before, North Korea’s nukes aren’t really the issue. In fact, North Korea itself isn’t the issue either. This is about the US foothold in East Asia – in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere – and what becomes of that foothold in a situation where China’s star is rising and America’s fading. Trump sees what Eurasian integration (BRICS, Belt and Road, SCO, etc) means for US domination of – in this case – ‘our Pacific lake’. He wants to leverage US military advantages (while they still exist) in order to gradually replace the US military foothold in the region with a more constructive, profitable, and longer-lasting one: “We’ll pull back our troops and guns, if you give us access to your market resources. There’s no way we’re abandoning the whole region to Chinese economic, and later military, domination.”

Ironically, while China and Russia have responded positively to Trump’s moves to transform – rather than remove – US presence in East Asia, it’s a really hard sell for Trump on the domestic front because that military foothold was designed to ‘contain’ China, not ‘do trade deals’ with it. So Trump has to somehow convince US elites to get onboard with his plan to switch guns for iPhones and channel their warmongering impulses into something resembling a reasonably fair trade war with China.

I think he can pull it off. Nobody does deals like The Donald. Did you know he wrote a book about The Art of the Deal?

 

Niall Bradley (Profile)

Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at SOTT.net for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, NiallBradley.net. Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.

See Also:

 

At Least 525 Palestinians Injured Today by Israeli Forces on the Gaza Border- By Middle East Monitor (MINT PRESS)

Medics treat Palestinian children suffering from teargas inhalation during a protest near Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. Israeli soldiers shot and killed dozens of Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday. It was the deadliest day there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and cast a pall over Israel's festive inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem. (AP/Dusan Vranic)
Al-Quds Day

 

Activists on the ground in the east of Khan Younis also reported that ambulances were being targeted with gas bombs by Israeli forces.

At least 525 Palestinians have been wounded on the Gaza border by Israeli occupation forces who violently suppressed protests as part of Al-Quds Day, the Ministry of Health said today.

The Gaza Ministry of Health said at least seven people were in critical condition as a result of their injuries. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and live ammunition at demonstrators as they called for an end to the stifling 11-year blockade. At least three journalists have been wounded as they attempted to cover the protests, with Muhammad Al-Baba suffering injuries to his right leg after a gunshot wound.

Activists on the ground in the east of Khan Younis also reported that ambulances were being targeted with gas bombs by Israeli forces.

Palestinian factions, youth organisations and national figures had called on the public to devote the last Friday of Ramadan to protest against the occupation at the border. Demonstrations also occurred in the occupied West Bank, with events held to mark the Million Man March to Jerusalem at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The latest demonstrations are the first since Palestinian paramedic Razan Al-Najjar was killed by Israeli sniper fire last week. The 21-year-old’s death sparked outrage and an outpouring of grief across the world, with thousands of Palestinians attending her funeral, dubbing her “the angel of mercy.”

At least 123 Gazans have been killed since the Great March of Return started on 30 March. The protests were launched by thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who took to the borders to demand their right of return to their original homelands, called for ending the 11-year siege on Gaza and protested against the opening of the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

Top Photo | Medics treat Palestinian children suffering from teargas inhalation during a protest near Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. Israeli soldiers shot and killed dozens of Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday. It was the deadliest day there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and cast a pall over Israel’s festive inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem. (AP/Dusan Vranic)

MEMO is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

What Trump’s Policy of Energy Dominance Means for the World -By Alastair CROOKE – (STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION)

What Trump’s Policy of Energy Dominance Means for the World

Two weeks ago, we wrote about how President Trump’s foreign policy somehow had ‘folded’ into ‘neo-Americanism’, and quoted US Foreign Affairs Professor, Russell-Mead, suggesting that Trump’s 8 May metamorphosis (the exit from JCPOA), represented something new, a step-change of direction (from his being principally a sharp Art of the Deal negotiator), toward – pace, Russell-Mead – “a neo-American era in world politics – rather than an [Obama-ist] post-American one”. “The administration wants to enlarge American power, rather than adjust to decline (as allegedly, Obama did). For now, at least, the Middle East is the centrepiece of this new assertiveness”, Russell-Mead opined, explaining that this new Trump impulse stems from: [Trump’s] instincts telling him that most Americans are anything but eager for a “post-American” world. Mr. Trump’s supporters don’t want long wars, but neither are they amenable to a stoic acceptance of national decline”.

There is something of a paradox here: Trump and his base deplore the cost and commitment of the huge American defence umbrella, spread across the globe by the globalists (sentiments aggravated by the supposed ingratitude of its beneficiaries) – yet the President wants to “enlarge American power, rather than adjust to decline”. That is, he wants more power, but less empire. How might he square this circle?

Well, a pointer arose almost a year earlier, when on 29 June 2017, the President used a quite unexpected word when speaking at an Energy Department event: Unleashing American Energy. Instead of talking about American energy independence, as might be expected, he heralded instead, a new era of American energy “dominance”.

In a speech “that sought to underscore a break with the policies of Barack Obama”, the FT notes, Mr Trump tied energy to his America First agenda…“The truth is we now have near limitless supplies of energy in our country,” Mr Trump said. “We are really in the driving seat, and you know what: we don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty, and tell us what to do, and how to do it. That’s not going to happen. With these incredible resources, my administration will seek not only the American energy independence that we’ve been looking for, for so long – but American energy dominance,” he said.

It seems, as Chris Cook explains, that Gary Cohn, then chief economic adviser to the President had a part in the genesis to this ambition. Cohn (then at Goldman Sachs), together with a colleague from Morgan Stanley, conceived of a plan in 2000 to take control of the global oil trading market through an electronic trading platform, based in New York. In brief, the big banks, attracted huge quantities of ‘managed money’ (from such as hedge funds), to the market, to bet on future prices (without their ever actually taking delivery of crude: trading ‘paper oil’, rather than physical oil). And, at the same time, these banks worked in collusion with the major oil producers (including later, Saudi Arabia) to pre-purchase physical oil in such a way that, by withholding, or releasing physical crude from, or onto the market, the big NY banks were able to ‘influence’ the prices (by creating a shortage, or a glut).

To give some idea of the capacity of these bankers to ‘influence’ price, by mid – 2008, it was estimated that some $260 billion of ‘managed’ (speculative) investment money was in play in energy markets, completely dwarfing the value of the oil actually coming out of the North Sea each month, at maybe $4 to $5 billion, at most. These ‘paper’ oil-option plays would therefore often trump the ‘fundamentals’ of real supply, and real end-user demand.

‘Step one’ for Cohn, was therefore, for the US to manage the trading market, both in price and access – with U.S. antagonists such as Iran or Russia, being able to access the market on inferior terms, if at all. The putative ‘step two’, has been to nurse US shale production, build new American LNG export terminals, and open America to further oil and gas exploration, whilst strong-arming everyone from Germany to South Korea and China, to buy American LNG exports. And ‘thirdly’, with Gulf oil exports already under the US umbrella, there were then, two major Middle East energy producers beyond the boundaries of cartel ‘influence’ (falling more into rival Russia’s strategic energy-producing ‘heartland’): Iran – which is now the subject of regime change–style, economic siege on its oil exports, and Iraq, which is subject of intense (soft) political pressures (such as threatening to sanction Iraq under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) to force its adherence to the western sphere.

What would this Trump notion of energy dominance mean in simple language? The US – were energy dominance to succeed – simply would control the tap to the economic development – or its lack thereof – for rivals China, and Asia. And the US could squeeze Russia’s revenues in this way, too. In short, the US could put a tourniquet on China’s and Russia’s economic development plans. Is this why JCPOA was revoked by President Trump?

Here then, is the squaring of that circle (more US power, yet less empire): Trump’s US aims for ‘domination’, not through the globalists’ permanent infrastructure of the US defence umbrella, but through the smart leveraging of the US dollar and financial clearing monopoly, by ring-fencing, and holding tight, US technology, and by dominating the energy market, which in turn represents the on/off valve to economic growth for US rivals. In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony. Military conflict becomes a last resort.

Senior advisor Peter Navarro said on NPR earlier this week that “we can stop them [the Chinese] from putting our high tech companies out of business” and “buying up our crown jewels of technology … Every time we innovate something new, China comes in and buys it, or steals it.” 

Is this then Trump’s plan: By market domination and trade war, to prolong America’s ‘superiority’ of technology, finance and energy – and not somehow be obliged to “adjust to decline”? And by acting in this way, curtail – or at least postpone – the emergence of rivals? Two questions in this context immediately present themselves: Is this formula the adoption of neo-conservatism, by the US Administration, which Trump’s own base so detests? And, secondly, can the approach work?

It is not neo-conservatism, perhaps – but rather a re-working of a theme. The American neo-conservatives largely wanted to take a hammer to the parts of the world they didn’t like; and to replace it with something they did. Trump’s method is more Machiavellian in character.

The roots to both of these currents of thought lie however – more than partly – with Carl Schmitt’s influence on American conservative thinking through his friend, Leo Strauss, at Chicago (whether not, Trump has ever read either man, the ideas still circulate in the US ether). Schmitt held that politics (in contrast to the liberal/ humanist vein) has nothing to do with making the world fairer, or more just – that is the work of moralists and theologians – politics for Schmitt, concerns power and political survival, and nothing more.

Liberals (and globalists), Schmitt suggested, are queasy at using power to crush alternative forces from emerging: their optimistic view of human nature leads them to believe in the possibility of mediation and compromise. The Schmittian optic, however dismissed derisively the liberal view, in favour of an emphasis on the role of power, pure and simple – based on a darker understanding of the true nature of ‘others’ and rivals. This point seems to go to the root of Trump’s thinking: Obama and the ‘liberals’ were ready to trade the ‘crown jewels’ of ‘Our Culture’ (financial, technological and energy expertise) through some multilateral ‘affirmative action’ that would help less developed states (such as rival China up the ladder). Perhaps such thoughts too, lay behind Trump’s withdrawal from the Climate Accord: Why help putative rivals, whist, at same time, imposing voluntary handicaps on one’s own Culture?

It is on this latter, quite narrow pivot (the imperative of keeping American power intact), that neo-cons and Trumpists, come together: And both also share in their disdain for utopian liberals who would fritter away the crown jewels of western Culture – for some or other humanitarian ideal – only to allow America’s determined rivals to rise up and overthrow America and its Culture (in this optic).

The common ground between both currents, is expressed with remarkable candour through Berlusconi’s comment that “we must be aware of the superiority of our [western] civilisation”. Steve Bannon says something very similar, though couched in the merits of preserving (a threatened) western Judeo-Christian culture.

This sense of Cultural advantage that must at all costs be recuperated and preserved perhaps goes some (but not all) way towards accounting for Trump’s ardent support for Israel: Speaking to Israel’s Channel Two, Richard Spencer, a prominent leader of the American Alt-Right (and one component to Trump’s base), highlighted the deeply felt the dispossession of white people, in their own country [the US]:

“… an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. – Just as you want a secure homeland in Israel.” 

So, can the attempt to leverage and weaponise the American élites’ Culture – through the dollar, and putative energy hegemony, and its hold over technology transfer – succeed in holding on to American ‘Culture’ (in the reductionist construct of Trump’s base)? This is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, as they say. It may just easily provoke an equally powerful reaction; and a lot can happen domestically in the US, between now, and the November, US mid-term, elections, which might either confirm the President in power – or undo him. It is difficult to hold to any analytic horizon beyond that. 

But a larger point is whilst Trump feels passionately about American Culture and hegemony; the leaders of the non-West today, feel just as passionately that it is time for ‘the American Century’ to yield place. Just as after WWII, former colonial states wanted independence – so, now, today’s leaders want an end to dollar monopoly, they want an opt-out from the global, US-led order and its so-called ‘international’ institutions; they want to ‘be’ in their own distinctive cultural way – and they want their sovereignties back. This is not just cultural and economic nationalism, it portends a significant inflection point – away from neo-liberal economics, from individualism and raw commercialism – towards a more rounded human experience.

The tide, in the wake of WWII, surely was irreversible then. I can even recall the former European colonialists subsequently bemoaning their forced withdrawal: “They’ll [the former colonies] regret it”, they confidently predicted. (No, they never did.) The tide today runs strongly too, and has spread, even, to Europe. Where – who knows – whether the Europeans will have the spine to push back against Trump’s financial and trade machinations: It will be an important litmus for what comes next.

But what is different now (from then), is that currency hegemony, technological prowess, and energy ‘domination’, are not, at all, assured to western possession. They are no longer theirs. They began their migration, some time ago.

Does it matter? USA in a debt trap death spiral – By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – (SOTT)

Stock trader

The US economy and its financial structures have never recovered from the great financial meltdown of 2008 despite the passage of ten years. Little discussion has been given to the fact that the Republican Congress last year abandoned the process of mandatory budget cuts or automatic sequestration that had been voted in a feeble attempt to rein in the dramatic rise in US government debt. That was merely an added factor in what soon will be recognized as a classic debt trap. What is now looming over not just the US economy but also the global financial system is a crisis that could spell the end of the post-1944 dollar system.

First some basic background. When President Nixon, on advice of Paul Volcker, then at US Treasury, announced on August 15, 1971 the unilateral end of the Bretton Woods gold-dollar system, to replace it with a floating dollar, Washington economists and Wall Street bankers realized that the unique role of the US dollar as leading reserve currency held by all central banks and the currency for world commodity and other trade, especially oil, gave them something that appeared to be a gift from monetary heaven.

So long as the world needed US dollars, Washington could run government deficits without end. Foreign central banks, especially the Bank of Japan in the 1980’s and since the turn of the century, the Peoples’ Bank of China, would have little choice but to reinvest their surplus trade dollar earnings in interest-bearing AAA-rated US Treasury securities. This perverse dollar system allowed Washington to finance its wars in faraway places like Afghanistan or Iraq with other peoples’ money. During the Administration of George W. Bush, when Washington’s annual budget deficit exceeded annually one trillion dollars, Vice President Dick Cheney cynically quipped, “debt doesn’t matter; Reagan proved that.” Up to a point that appeared so. Now we are getting dangerously near to that “point” where debt does matter.

Federal Debt Rise

There are generally speaking three major divisions of debt measured in the US economy: Federal debt of Washington, corporate debt and private household debt. Today, owing in large part to ten years of historic low interest rates following the largest financial crisis in history – the 2007-2008 sub-prime crisis that became a global systemic crisis after September 2008 – all three sectors have borrowed as if there was no tomorrow because of the near-zero Federal Reserve interest rates and their various Quantitative Easings. Nothing so radical can last forever.

Since the financial crisis erupted in 2008 US Federal debt has more than doubled from $10 trillion to over $21 trillion today. Yet conditions were made manageable by a Federal Reserve emergency policy that dealt with the financial and banking crisis by buying almost $500 billion annually of that debt. Much of the remainder was bought by China, Japan and even Russia and Saudi Arabia. Further debt levels were restrained by the bipartisan spending caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that had kept recent deficits partially in check.

Now conditions of future US Federal debt and deficit growth are pre-programmed for systemic crisis over the next several years.

‘Trumponomics’ Disaster

The economics of the Trump Tax Cuts Act of 2017, signed in December, dramatically cut certain taxes on business corporations from 35% to 21%, but did not offset that with revenue increases elsewhere. The promise is that cheaper taxes will spur economic growth. This is a myth under present economic conditions and overall public and private debt burdens. Instead, the new tax law, assuming ideal economic conditions, will decrease expected revenues by a total of $1 trillion over the next 10 years. If the economy goes into severe recession, highly likely, tax revenues will plunge and the deficits will explode even more.

What the new Trump tax cut act will do is dramatically increase the size of the US annual budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as early as Fiscal Year 2019 the annual deficit that must be financed by debt will reach $1 trillion. Then the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee expects government debt issues of $ 955 billion for FY2018, compared with $ 519 billion in FY 2017. Then for FY 2019 and 2020 the deficit will exceed $1 trillion. By 2028, ten years from now, under mild economic assumptions, the size of the USA Federal debt will rise to an untenable $34 trillion from roughly $21 trillion today, and the deficit in 2028 will exceed $1.5 trillion. And this year 2018 alone, with historically low interest rates the cost of interest only on the total Federal debt will reach $500 billion.

Zombie borrowers…time bombs

Now after almost a decade of unprecedented low interest rates to bail out Wall Street and create new asset inflation in stocks, bonds and housing, the Fed is in the early stages of what some call QT or Quantitative Tightening. Interest rates are rising and have been for the past year, so far very gradually as the Fed is being cautious. The Fed however is continuing to raise rates, and now the Fed Funds stands at 1.75% after nearly ten years at effectively zero. Were they to stop now it would signal a market panic that the Fed knew something far worse than they say.

Because never in its history has the Federal Reserve indulged in such a monetary experiment with so low rates so long, the effects of reversing are going to be as well unprecedented. At the onset of the 2008 financial crisis the Fed rates were around 5%. That is what the Fed is aiming at to return to “normal.” However, with rising interest rates, the lowest credit sector, so-called non-investment grade or “junk bonds” face domino style defaults.

Moody’s Credit Rating has just issued a warning that, barring some sort of miracle, as US interest rates rise, and they are, as much as 22% of US corporations that are being kept alive borrowing at historically low interest, not only in shale oil but in construction and utilities, so-called “zombie” corporations, will face an avalanche of mass defaults on their debt. Moody’s writes that, “low interest rates and investor appetite for yield has pushed companies into issuing mounds of debt that offer comparatively low levels of protection for investors.” The Moody’s report goes on to state some alarming numbers: since 2009, the level of global non-financial junk-rated companies has soared by 58%, representing $3.7 trillion in outstanding debt, the highest ever. Some 40%, or $2 trillion, are rated B1 or lower. Since 2009, US corporate debt has increased by 49%, hitting a record total of $8.8 trillion. Much of that debt has been used to fund stock repurchases by the companies to boost their stock price, the main reason for the unprecedented Wall Street stock market bubble.

Fully 75% of federal spending is economically non-productive including military, debt service, social security. Unlike during the 1930s Great Depression when levels of Federal debt were almost nil, today the debt is 105% of GDP and rising. Spending on national economic infrastructure including the Tennessee Valley Authority and a network of federally-build dams and other infrastructure resulted in the great economic boom of the 1950s. Spending $1.5 trillion on a dysfunctional F-35 all-purpose fighter jet program won’t do it.

Into this precarious situation Washington is doing its very best to antagonize the very countries that it needs to finance these deficits and buy the US debt-China, Russia and even Japan. As financial investors demand more interest to invest in US debt, the higher rates will trigger the default avalanche Moody’s warns. This is the real backdrop to the dangerous US foreign policy actions of the recent period. No one in Washington seems to care and that’s the alarming fact.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

US Warns India Not to Buy Russian Weapons – By Peter KORZUN ( Strategic Culture Foundation)

US Warns India Not to Buy Russian WeaponsPeter KORZUN | 01.06.2018 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

The US does not shy away from openly threatening its allies and friends into submission. America’s major defense partners could face tough sanctions for purchases of Russian military equipment. Since January 29, the US has been imposing punitive measures under the CAATSA on foreign entities and individuals who cooperate with Russia in the field of defense or intelligence gathering. Congress is not inclined to give the administration the right of waiver to make an exception from the rule for some close allies. Despite that, many of them remain adamant in their intent to purchase the weapons they need from Russia.

Washington is exerting pressure on Turkey to make it abandon the plans to purchase Russia S-400 Triumf state-of-the-art air defense systems. So far, Ankara stood tall refusing to bow. US Congress is already considering the proposals on halting US arms sales to that country.

Unlike Turkey, India is not a NATO ally but its desire to acquire the Triumf triggers a negative reaction in the US. American lawmakers not only express concern over the planned deal but also issue warnings that sensitive American military technology may be banned from being shared with India in future. According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, “There is a lot of concern in the US administration and Congress with the S-400.” India’s decision will be made final before the October Russia-India summit. During the informal talks in Sochi in May 2018, President Putin and Prime Minister Modi discussed the ways to get around the US potential sanctions when the deal goes through. Both countries have pledged to jointly create a plan to keep it out of CAATSA. New Delhi has just concluded price talks on the S-400 deal with Moscow, saying it will go ahead, no matter what the US says or does.

Those who follow the news on arms trade know well that India is interested in purchasing 22 American Predator Guardian drones for its Navy. It’s also willing to acquire the weapon the US has not sold anyone so far: 80-100 Avenger (Predator C) armed drones for the Air Force. The price may be as high as $8 billion. The F-16 production on Indian soil is also in doubt. All these projects are questioned as the US sticks to its guns implementing the “do it or else” policy. But it will hardly work with India, a nation known for its independent foreign policy. It has never bowed to any pressure from outside since its independence.

Iraq, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, Morocco, Indonesia and Vietnam are among the countries threatened by sanctions if they go on with the plans to purchase Russian weapons. Many of them are particularly interested in the S-400. There is a catch here. If you make an exemption, others will feel humiliated and demand waivers too, but if you punish nobody then what is CAATSA for? Perhaps, the entire policy of punishing others in case of non-compliance with US laws is fundamentally wrong. It may not push Russia out of the international arms market but rather make its products a commercial success. After all, it’s an open secret that the S-400 is much more capable than the US Patriot air-defense system.

Turkey is told that if it buys Russia arms, the US won’t sell it F-35 aircraft. India may not get drones in case it purchases the S-400s. The essence is the same: sovereign countries are to be deprived of their right to have the best. They’d better be satisfied with what the US imposes or face punitive measures for daring not to comply. But many of them will not. For instance, there is little doubt that the pressure will make US-Indian relations hit a rough patch.

Defense Secretary James Mattis sought waivers for allies buying Russian weapons but failed to persuade Congress to give the administration this right. Besides, State Secretary Mike Pompeo holds a different view on the issue.

The “arms twisting” approach is prevalent in US foreign policy and even NATO allies are no exception. According to The Times, President Trump is expected to scale back America’s commitments or even issue an ultimatum over further American involvement in Europe.

No world leaders taking part in the St. Petersburg’s economic forum (SPIEF-2018) in May were happy about the US ultimatums as well as the sanctions against Russia, especially at a time it is leaving recession behind and oil prices are going up. The complains were made heard and concerns voiced at the conference held in the country, which is the prime target of American attacks. Nobody admired the trade wars the US has unleashed. May was the month the US stepped up its attacks on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline – the project Germany, Austria and some other European countries want to go through so much.

Israel was the only country to greet the US withdrawal from the Iran deal. Nobody endorsed the President Trump’s decision to cancel the meeting in Singapore with the North Korean leader (it may still take place, the talks are underway).

The US and its European allies appear to go separate ways on defense. On May 27, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for a European operation in North Africa to stem the immigrants’ flows. Austria will take over the EU Presidency for six months starting in July. The idea has been being floated since a long time ago. Europe’s main security concern is the protection of its borders, not taking part in US ventures in faraway places or provoking Russia by deploying forces near its borders. The EU is gradually moving to its own deterrence and defense posture, which may not necessarily meet US interests.

The US policy of diktat will backlash, bringing together those who are threatened by US sanctions. The EU is about to fight back, Turkey sticks to its guns, India has refused to bow. American allies will have to work out their own approaches to international problems, using quite different instruments to achieve the desired goals. The US global standing will be weakened. By trying to isolate others America will isolate itself. But the addiction to teach, dictate and bark orders is too great to get easily rid of. It takes time to realize that the times have changed. What worked well yesterday has become counterproductive today.

The Syria connection to Iran, Afghanistan and China – By Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author) (THE SAKER)

SYRIANFORALLSYRIANS

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the Hazaras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Shi’ite crescent’, revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All eyes on the SCO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will rebuild Syria?

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

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

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

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

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

No answer to ‘Animal Assad’: Syrian leader tells RT he does not have insulting nickname for Trump – By RT

US President Donald Trump infamously called his Syrian counterpart ‘animal Assad’ in one of his tweets. When asked whether he has a nickname for Trump, Assad told RT he does not use such language.

“This is not my language, so, I cannot use similar language. This is his language. It represents him,” Bashar Assad said in an exclusive interview with RT, which will be shown in full on Thursday at 11:30am GMT.

“I think there is a very known principle, that what you say is what you are. So, he wanted to represent what he is, and that’s normal,” he added.

He said Trump’s invention of an insulting nickname didn’t really matter for what happens in Syria.

“The only thing that moves you is what people that you trust, people who are level-headed, people who are thoughtful, people who are moral, ethical, that’s what should move anything inside you, whether positive or negative. Somebody like Trump will move nothing for me,” he said.

Speaking to RT’s Murad Gazdiev, Assad explained his government’s position on the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, including allowing militant forces safe passage to Idlib, the escalating tension with Israel and the continued presence of US troops in the north.

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Blowing Up the Iran Deal Brings Eurasia Closer to Integration – By Federico PIERACCINI ( Strategic Culture Foundation)

Blowing Up the Iran Deal Brings Eurasia Closer to Integration

The annulment of the Iran nuclear deal framework could not be fended off by the visits or entreaties of Merkel, Macron or May. Donald Trump has refused to renew the agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), removing the United States from the deal. In reality, it changes little for Washington, as the US never really removed any sanctions against Iran in 2015, and mutual trust has never risen above minimal levels. The American move, which was never surprising, arises from four fundamental factors, namely: the link (especially vis-à-vis electoral financing) between the Trump administration and the Israeli government of Netanyahu; the agreement between Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) and Donald Trump to acquire hundreds of billions of dollars worth of arms as well as investments in the United States; directly targeting European allies like Germany, France and England; and, finally, the wish to please the anti-Iranian hawks Trump surrounded himself with in his administration.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman are united against Iran and are now publicly cementing their alliance that has hitherto been shrouded in secrecy. The political rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been constant over the last 12 months, converging over anti-Iranian interests. Trump’s anti-Iran tilt enjoys support from the Netanyahu and bin Salman clans, representing a 180-degree change in US policy direction away from the one forged through the nuclear agreements reached by the previous administration.

Saudi money and Israel’s political support (and neoconservative pressure within the United States) are factors important to the Trump administration, particularly as it is besieged by domestic politics and has to deal with the Mueller investigation that buzzes annoyingly around the president of the United States.

Trump’s need to surround himself with the likes of Pompeo, Haspel and Bolton betrays an acquiescing desire to appease the deep state rather than fight it. Whatever fight might have been present in Donald Trump upon assuming his office has given way to a fruitful collaboration with the deep state. Donald Trump seems to have concluded that it is better to negotiate and find agreements with the deep state than to try, as he promised during his election campaign, to drain the swamp.

The decision on the JCPOA follows in the wake of other incendiary policies that can be labeled anti-Obama or pro-Israeli and pro-Saudi Arabia, and even anti-European. Washington has been struggling over several years with its medium-term strategic thinking, with decisions often being made suddenly on the basis of emotions or against the backdrop of a constant internal struggle between more or less conflicting elites.

The most recent example concerns the JCPOA, which seems to confirm a fairly evident trend over the last two years. Washington is starting to think first and foremost about America, focusing more on domestic matters rather than worrying about maintaining the liberal world order and sustaining the global status quo. Trump seems not to operate according to any particular logic or strategy — here renewing sanctions on Russia, there imposing trade tariffs on China, now breaking the agreement on the JCPOA, then bombing Syria, or even seeking an unprecedented rapprochement with North Korea. It is useless to search for any logical train of thought in all this, even less a grand strategy explaining Washington’s ultimate objectives. Policymakers in the US capital act on the basis of very short-term objective, namely: seeking to please Netanyahu and the moneybags that is MBS; punishing Russia; waving the specter of a trade war; asking allies to pay more for defense (NATO); or preventing European companies from working with important partners in Iran and even Russia (Nord Stream 2).

All this leads to a rifts even amongst European allies themselves, with France and England ready to bomb Syria and threaten Iran, while Germany and Italy oppose such moves on the basis of international law and the need for diplomacy.

With the undoing of the JCPOA and renewed sanctions on Russia, it seems that European countries finally intend to assert their own sovereignty by legislating against these harmful American actions. The European Parliament intends to adopt a new law that blocks the payment of fines to US authorities by any European company sanctioned for its relations with Tehran. Washington wants to force its European allies to choose between working with Tehran or Washington. It is mafia-like blackmail which even Brussels seems to have had a gutful of and intends to push back against with concrete actions. A similar situation in 1996 involving Brussels led Bill Clinton to suspend such destructive actions among allies in favor of diplomacy.

Trump seems to worry little about the medium- and long-term effects of his actions, seeming not to have any interest in harmonizing relations with allies, especially Merkel’s Germany, against which Washington has a negative trade balance only exceeded by Beijing. The only point of continuity between Obama and Trump concerns the objection to sabotaging Nord Stream 2 (the pipeline connecting Russia and Germany).

If the strategic thinking on Trump’s part is non-existent and concerns only very short-term objectives linked to the image that he likes to project of himself (of a tough guy who keeps his electoral promises, such as that regarding the Iranian agreement), the practical effect is that of a strategy that makes little sense from an American point of view. Policy-makers in American think-tanks have seeded many of Trump’s resulting actions, and the blame for the last fifteen years of failed policies can be laid at their feet. They are the true, if unintended, architects of the emerging multipolar world, and have inadvertently served to accelerate the ending of the American unipolar moment.

Once again, these policy-makers delude themselves into thinking that Trump’s moves — placing sanctions on Russia, a reanimated and bellicose presence and attitude in the Middle East, and the breaking up of the JCPOA – are a great opportunity to achieve some strategic objectives that have been lost over the last few years.

The calculation of these strategists is wrong and the consequences are quite the opposite to those intended, yet these self-proclaimed experts, blinded by money from dozens of lobbies (the Israel-based lobbyists, for example), become the victims of their own propaganda, insisting on many strategies that directly harm US interests globally and in the Middle Eastern region in particular.

The policy-makers belonging to such think-tanks as the Brookings Institute or the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) are more than convinced that strong pressure placed on Iran will arrest the expansion of the Shia Crescent over the Middle East and Iran’s general influence over the region (from Tehran to Beirut via Baghdad and Damascus). The sanctions on Russia and Iran serve, in their mind, to block European energy independence that would otherwise be achieved through cooperating with both countries. The rediscovered bellicosity in the region tends to counter the Russian presence, even if only psychologically, and reaffirms Washington’s willingness to remain committed to the region and defend its interests there (the Saudi dictatorship, above all, thanks to its pricing of oil in US dollars).

This last point is of enormous importance in terms of global strategy, and Saudi Arabia is a key partner in this regard, the American presence in the region, together with anti-Iranian policies, also serving to reassure the valuable Saudi ally, increasingly courted by Beijing through its petro-yuan convertible into gold.

Washington finds itself increasingly isolated in its economic and military policies. Merkel’s visit to Russia reaffirms the desire to create an alternative axis to the one between Brussels and Washington. The victory in Italy of two parties strongly opposed to new wars and the annulment of the JCPOA, and especially the sanctions against Russia, serves to form a new alliance, accentuating internal divisions within Europe. Macron, Merkel and May are all grappling with a strong crisis of popularity at home, which does not aid them in their decision-making.

Exactly the same problems affect MbS, Trump, and Netanyahu in their respective countries. These leaders find themselves adopting aggressive policies in order to alleviate internal problems. They also struggle to find a common strategy, often displaying schizophrenic behavior that belies the fact that they are meant to be on the same side of the barricades in terms of the desired world order.

In direct contrast, China, Russia, Iran, and now India, are trying to respond to Western madness in a rational, moderate, and mutually beneficial way. And as a result, Europeans may perhaps begin to understand that the future lies not in piggybacking on Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Trump seems to have offered the perfect occasion for European leaders to assert their sovereignty and start to move away from their traditional servility shown towards Washington.

While it is difficult to imagine a schism taking place overnight, the chances that Europe’s capitals will clash with Washington are no longer so remote, much to the pleasure of Moscow and Beijing, who aim to incorporate Europe into their mega-Eurasian project as the fourth major component after Asia, the Eurasian Union and the Middle East/Persian Gulf.

Trump Set to Recognize Israel’s Claim to Occupied Golan Heights and Its Sizable Oil Reserves – By Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Exporting Golan oil is problematic under international law but, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Major U.S. oil investors and lobbyists are therefore pushing hard for Trump to make that move.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – While President Trump has reneged on many of his campaign promises — namely, those more populist and non-interventionist in nature — he has undeniably fulfilled those that appealed to his pro-Israel, Zionist supporters. First, Trump announced late last year that his administration would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move was then followed by his more recent decision to unilaterally remove the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, which has long been criticized by Israel.

Both moves were highly controversial and poorly received by many U.S. allies, particularly European nations. They were also both orchestrated and promoted by Trump’s top donor, Zionist billionaire and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $30 million to the Republican Party following Trump’s fulfillment of his two major pro-Israel promises. Adelson was also responsible for the removal of H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and his replacement with pro-Israel hawk and Adelson confidant John Bolton.

However, recent statements made by Israeli government officials suggest that Trump’s work on behalf of pro-Israel hard-liners is only just beginning. According to an exclusive report published in Reuters, the Israeli government is now pushing the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a portion of Southern Syria that Israel has occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1981.

International law still refuses to recognize the area as part of Israel, even though Israel has sent over 20,000 Jewish settlers to live in the area in order to permanently change the area’s ethnic-demographic composition, turning the native Druze population into a minority. Many of the Druze living in the occupied Golan have long complained of being routinely discriminated against under Israeli rule, and continue to support the Syrian government. In addition, the UN has accused Israel of “forcing citizenship” onto the group in a bid to increase its claim to sovereignty over the region. Israel hopes to add an additional 100,000 Jewish settlers to the area by 2020 in order to strengthen this claim.

Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, told Reuters that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights was now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks between the two countries, and that such a move would likely come within a matter of months. Katz stated that U.S. recognition of the Golan was being peddled to the Trump administration as a way to further counter Iran, which has now become the guiding force behind the U.S.’ Middle East policy.

Katz asserted:

This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined [in law].”

Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pressing Trump on the issue since February of last year, when Netanyahu first met Trump at the White House. Now, Katz has claimed that those discussions have vastly expanded to involve various levels of the U.S. administration as well as several Congressmen.

“I reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen […] give or take a few months,” Katz opined.

 

In the Golan Heights, Oil and Water mix perfectly

An old Israeli tank sits in a position in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria,Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Katz may indeed have reason to be confident in an upcoming U.S. move that would recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Yet, while Katz has claimed that the motivation for such a move would benefit the U.S.’ new and aggressive Iran policy, it is more likely to benefit an Israeli resource grab, as well as powerful Israeli and American oil interests.

A major factor behind Israel’s initial seizure and continued occupation of the Golan are its fresh water resources. Indeed, the occupied Golan is one of three sources of fresh water to the Israeli state — and is the largest in size and most plentiful, as it comprises the mountain streams that feed Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Jordan river. This water is of major importance to Israel, now in its fourth year of a drought so massive that a NASA study called it the worst drought in the region in nearly 900 years.

Yet, the Golan’s importance to Israel grew immensely after massive oil reserves in the area were discovered in 2015. Following that discovery, the Netanyahu-led government granted exclusive drilling rights to Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of New Jersey-based energy company Genie Energy, Ltd.

As MintPress has previously reported, Genie Energy is backed by powerful interests in the U.S., such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, former Vice President and Halliburton executive Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Powerful Zionist billionaires, such as Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch and England’s Jacob Rothschild, are also connected to the company.

Afek, Genie Energy’s subsidiary in the Golan, is run by a close friend of Netanyahu and former Knesset member Efraim “Effie” Eitam. Eitam, who also previously served as minister of National Infrastructure as well as Housing and Construction, has repeatedly called to expel all Arabs from Israel, stating in 2006 that “we cannot be with all these Arabs and we cannot give up the land […] we will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system.” Eitam currently lives in Israel’s largest illegal settlement in the occupied Golan.

Genie Energy’s investments in the Golan are likely the strongest factor pushing the U.S. towards the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. Indeed, without a U.S. move recognizing Israel’s control over the region, Genie’s Israeli subsidiary will be unable to sell any oil it extracts from the occupied territory on the international oil market.

However, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Given that Genie’s contract to conduct exploratory drilling in the Golan Heights expires this year, its investors are in urgent need of a way to extract and sell the region’s oil – and a U.S. decision on Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights could be just the answer to the company’s problems.

Top Photo | Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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