One Click Closer to Annihilation Last week Washington threatened Iran, Syria, China, Venezuela and Russia – By Philip Giraldi – THE UNZ REPORTc

Last week Washington threatened Iran, Syria, China, Venezuela and Russia
Doomsday Clock

The nuclear war doomsday clock maintained on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website has advanced to two minutes before midnight, the closest point to possible atomic apocalypse since the end of the Cold War. In 1995 the clock was at fourteen minutes to midnight, but the opportunity to set it back even further was lost as the United States and its European allies took advantage of a weakened Russia to advance NATO into Eastern Europe, setting the stage for a new cold war, which is now underway.

It is difficult to imagine how the United States might avoid a new war in the Middle East given the recent statements that have come out of Washington, and, given that the Russians are also active in the region, a rapid and massive escalation of something that starts out as a minor incident should not be ruled out.

President Donald Trump set the tone when he harangued the United Nations last Tuesday, warning that the United States would go it alone in defense of its perceived interests, with no regard for international bodies that exist to limit armed conflict and punish those who commit war crimes.

Trump’s 35-minute speech featured an anticipated long section targeting Iran. He commented that:

Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond… We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America,’ and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth.”

There are a number of things exaggerated or incorrect in Trump’s description of Iran as well as in the conclusions he draws. The Middle East and other adjacent Muslim countries are in chaos because the United States has destabilized the region starting with the empowering of the Islamist Mujadeddin in the war against Soviet Afghanistan in the 1980s. It then invaded Afghanistan in 2001 followed by Iraq in 2003, enabling the rise of ISIS and giving local al-Qaeda affiliates a new lease on life, before turning on Damascus with the Syria Accountability Act later in the same year and then destroying the Libyan government under Barack Obama. These were, not coincidentally, policies promoted by Israel that received, as a result, bipartisan support in Congress.

The emotional description of disrespecting “neighbors, borders and sovereign rights” fits the U.S. and Israel to a “T” rather than Iran. The U.S. has soldiers stationed illegally in Syria while Israel bombs the country on an almost daily basis, so who is doing the disrespecting? Washington and Tel Aviv are also the principal supporters of terrorists in the Middle East, not Iran, – arming them, training them, hospitalizing them when they are injured, and making sure that they continue their work in attacking Syria’s legitimate government.

And as for “most dangerous weapons,” Iran doesn’t have any and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel and the U.S. have not signed. Nor would Iran have any such weapons in the future but for the fact that Trump has backed out of the agreement to monitor and inspect Iranian nuclear research and development, which will, if anything, motivate Tehran to develop weapons to protect itself.

Trump also elaborated on the following day regarding Iran’s alleged but demonstrably non-existent nuclear program when he indicated to the Security Council that Washington would go after countries that violate the rules on nuclear proliferation. He clearly meant Iran but the comment was ironic in the extreme, as Israel is the world’s leading nuclear rogue nation with an arsenal of two hundred nuclear devices, having stolen the uranium and key elements of the technology from the United States in the 1960s.

Trump’s new appraisal of the state of the Middle East is somewhat a turnaround. Five months ago he said that he wanted to “get out” of Syria and bring the soldiers home. But in early September, the secretary of state’s special representative for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey, indicated that the U.S. would stay to counter Iranian activities.

And John Bolton has also recently had a lot to say about Iran, Syria and Russia. Last Monday he confirmed that Washington intends to keep a military presence in Syria until Iran withdraws all its forces from the country. “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.” On the following day, speaking at a Sheldon Adelson funded United Against Nuclear Iran Summit, he said the “murderous regime” of “mullahs in Tehran” would face serious consequences if they persist in their willingness to “lie, cheat and deceive. If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens there will indeed be hell to pay. Let my message today be clear: We are watching, and we will come after you.”

John Bolton also warned the Russians about their decision to upgrade the air defenses in Syria in the wake of the recent Israeli bombing raid that led to the shooting down of a Russian intelligence plane. He said absurdly and inaccurately “The Israelis have a legitimate right to self-defense against this Iranian aggressive behavior, and what we’re all trying to do is reduce tensions, reduce the possibility of major new hostilities. That’s why the president has spoken to this issue and why we would regard introducing the S-300 as a major mistake.”

Bolton then elaborated that “We think introducing the S-300s to the Syrian government would be a significant escalation by the Russians and something that we hope, if these press reports are accurate, they would reconsider.” And regarding who was responsible for the deaths of the Russian airmen, Bolton also has a suitable explanation “There shouldn’t be any misunderstanding here… The party responsible for the attacks in Syria and Lebanon and really the party responsible for the shooting down of the Russian plane is Iran.”

Bolton’s desire to exonerate Israel and always blame Iran is inevitably on display. He is curiously objecting to the placement of missiles that are defensive in nature, presumably because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked him to do so. The only way one can be threatened by the S-300 is if you are attacking Syria, but that might be a fine point that Bolton fails to grasp as he was a draft dodger during the Vietnam War and has since that time not placed himself personally at risk in support of any of the wars he has been promoting.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also spoke on Monday, at the Pentagon. His spin on Iran was slightly different but his message was the same. “As part of this overarching problem, we have to address Iran. Everywhere you go in the Middle East where there’s instability you will find Iran. So in terms of getting to the end state of the Geneva [negotiations] process, Iran, too, has a role to play, which is to stop fomenting trouble.”

To complete the onslaught, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at the same United Against Nuclear Iran Summit as Bolton, accused European nations seeking to avoid U.S. sanctions over the purchase of Iranian oil as “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the number-one state sponsor of terrorism. I imagine the corrupt ayatollahs and IGRC [Revolutionary Guards] were laughing this morning.”

Even the U.S. Congress has figured out that something is afoot. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, who were carefully briefed on what to think by the Israeli government, warned after a trip to the Middle East that war between the United States and Iranian proxies is “imminent.”

Iran is fun to kick around but China has also been on the receiving end of late. Last Wednesday the U.N. Security Council meeting was presided over by Donald Trump, who warned that Beijing is “meddling” in U.S. elections against him personally. It is a bizarre claim, particularly as the only country up until now demonstrated as having actually interfered in American politics in any serious way is Israel. The accusation comes on top of Washington’s latest foray into the world of sanctions, directed against the Chinese government-run Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission and its director Li Shangfu for “engaging in significant transactions” with a Russian weapons manufacturer that is on a list of U.S. sanctioned companies.

The Chinese sanctions are serious business as they forbid conducting any transactions that go through the U.S. financial system. It is the most powerful weapon Washington has at its disposal. As most international transactions are conducted in dollars and pass through American banks that means that it will be impossible for the Chinese government to make weapons purchases from many foreign sources. If foreign banks attempt to collaborate with China to evade the restrictions, they too will be sanctioned.

So if you’re paying attention to Trump, Bolton, Mattis, Pompeo and Haley you are probably digging a new bomb shelter right now. We have told Iran that it cannot send its soldiers and “proxies” outside its own borders while Syria cannot have advanced missiles to defend its airspace, which Russia is “on notice” for providing. China also cannot buy weapons from Russia while Venezuela is also being threatened because it has what is generally believed to be a terrible government. Meanwhile, America is in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to stay while nearly all agree a war with Iran is coming soon. Everyone is the enemy and everyone hates the United States, mostly for good reasons. If this is Making America Great Again, I think I would settle for just making America “good” so we could possibly have that doomsday clock go back a couple of minutes.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is <a:inform@cnionline.org” title=”mailto:inform@cnionline.org” href=”mailto:inform@cnionline.org”>inform@cnionline.org</a:inform@cnionline.org”>.

← The Path to World War III 

I felt unable to move an inch, I fell on the ground,’ says sister of 12-year old Palestinian killed in deadliest day in Gaza in weeks – By Ahmad Kabariti `- MONDOWEISS

Israel/Palestine

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Friday marked one of the deadliest days at the fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israel since protests began in Gaza last March, as Israeli forced killed seven including two children.

Four of the seven were shot dead east of Gaza City in circumstances where it appears the demonstrators posed no threat to Israeli soldiers. “Amateur videos showed them kneeling down and kissing the ground on the Israeli side as gunfire could be heard,” the AP reported. 

The youngest casualties on Friday were Mohammed al-Houm, 14, and Nasser Mosabeh, 12.

Around 1,200 mourners took part in the funeral of Musabeh on Saturday. Mourners chanted slogans against the U.S. and Israel. The procession stretched across the streets of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. He was wrapped in a beige canvas and carried through the city on a stretcher hoisted overs shoulders.

Musabeh’s sister, Duaa Musabeh, 18, said she had brought her brother to the Friday protests where she worked as a volunteer medic, but ordered him to stay back in a safer space. She said he usually was around away 300 yards from the bulge of protesters. 

At the time of Musabeh’s killing, Duaa had approached the border fence to evacuate injured marchers. By the time she when returned to the area where she expected to find her brother it was after dark. Musabeh was missing. After a frantic, a man showed her a picture released by a nearby hospital that was trying to identify a boy who had been shot in the head and died. 

“I did not believe it. I felt unable to move an inch, I fell on the ground,” Duaa murmured slowly.

The Israeli military estimated around 20,000 Palestinians protested on Friday at multiple sites along the fence. At least 509 were injured, three in serious condition, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. Additionally four paramedics, four journalists and 90 children were shot with live ammunition.

“A total of 191 people have been killed since the start of demonstrations in Gaza on March 30th as recorded by the Ministry of Health,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness, “176 were killed by Israeli forces during the demonstrations and 15 from Israeli airstrikes.” This figure includes 33 children, three three persons with disabilities, three paramedics and two journalists.

In this same period over 10,000 have been hospitalized for injuries, around half of them wounded by live fire. Gunness added, at least have been 77 cases of injuries required amputation, among them 14 children and one woman. Twelve patients have been paralyzed due to spinal cord injury and two of them have died, a UN spokesperson stated Saturday. 

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says it had treated more than 2,000 injured with gunshot wounds, of whom 90 percent were hit in the lower limbs. Nearly half of those shot had fractures that included severely splintered bones. The youngest patient treated was seven years old, the group said in a statement.

“The threat of life-long disabilities for these patients is getting bigger as time goes on,” the group said.

While Musabeh’s burial was taking place, Gaza’s ruling party Hamas dispatched a delegation to Cairo in a desperate attempt to negotiate an easement to the 11-year blockade that has intensified in recent months. Gaza is home to some 2 million Palestinians, of whom 80 percent are aid dependent. Over recent months the Trump administration has cancelled all of their planned support to Palestinian refugees, totaling over $300 million. 

The World Bank warned last week that Gaza’s economy is in “free fall.” It cited the blockade as a factor but also economic sanctions from Hamas’s political rival, the Palestinian Authority, and a steep reduction in international aid, particularly from the Trump administration.

It said unemployment youth unemployment has skyrocketed to 70 percent.

“A combination of war, isolation, and internal division has left Gaza in a crippling economic state and exacerbated the human distress,” said Marina Wes, the World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza, “A situation where people struggle to make ends meet, suffer from worsening poverty, rising unemployment and deteriorating public services such as health care, water and sanitation, calls for urgent, real and sustainable solutions.”

About Ahmad Kabariti

Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.

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Russia’s Military Operation in Syria: Three Years On – Peter KORZUN – Strategic Culture Foundation

Russia’s Military Operation in Syria: Three Years On

Russia’s military operation in Syria was launched on September 30, 2015. Over 63, 000 servicemen, including 26,000 commissioned officers and 434 generals, have seen combat there to receive invaluable experience. Russian forces have used 231 new types of advanced weapons, including aircraft, surface-to-air systems, and cruise missiles. It’s interesting to note that the representatives of arms-producing companies are in place to assess the systems’ performance. The Syrian experience is to be taken into account as new weapons are developed.

All in all, the Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted 39,000 sorties or over 100 flights daily on average, destroying 121,466 targets and killing more than 86,000 militants, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported. The service has launched 66 long-range cruise missile strikes. The operations have been supported by A-50 and Tu-214R early warning and control aircraft as well as Il-20M1 electronic warfare (EW) planes. It should be noted that the Aerospace Forces group has not been large, with estimated 30-50 combat aircraft and 16-40 helicopters deployed at any given moment.

The Su-35S is a brand-new air superiority fighter, which has proven to be a formidable weapon. Dave Majumbar, a leading military expert and defense editor of The National Interest, believes that “It is only a matter of time before the Russians manage to sell more of these jets around the world—especially to those nations that either do not want to or are unable to buy Western aircraft”. The Su-34M frontline bomber is the workhorse to bear the brunt of the work. And it is doing it with flying colors. The plane is equipped with the SVP-24 Tefest special computing subsystem to provide for enhanced accuracy. The GLONASS satellite navigation system is used to constantly compare the position of the aircraft and the target and measure the environmental parameters. The information from datalinks allows computing an “envelope” (speed, altitude, and course) inside which a gravity bomb is automatically released at the precise moment to strike with the same accuracy as cutting edge smart munitions do. Even if GLONASS were jammed, the sensors would do the job. Fire-and-forget guidance allows the pilot to concentrate on detecting threats and targets. The weather conditions or time of the day play no role. Su-35s and Su-30SMs also have contributed to air-to-surface operations though their prime mission is air cover. The MiG-29 SMT came to Syria in September 2017 for testing.

Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers as well as Tu-22M3 long range bomber, accompanied by Su-30SMsSu-35s and Su-27SM3s, saw combat for the first time. The strategic bombers used the brand new Kh-101 and Kh-55 cruise missiles with conventional warheads contained inside the body of the planes.

The successful performance in Syria prompted the decision to renew the production of Tu-160 bombers upgraded to the M2 version. On Nov. 17, 2015 two Tu-160s launched 16 Kh-101 missiles to knock out the targets with the aircraft returning to the Engels air base in Russia.

The operation in Syria is the first time Russia demonstrated its ability to launch massive long-range high-precision strikes, including the satellite-guided Su-24M and Su-34 have used Kh-29L laser-guided air-to-surface missiles as well as Kh-25ML lightweight missile with a modular range of guidance systems and a range of 10 km. Russian media have reported that Su-34s use the upgraded Kh-35U turbojet subsonic cruise anti-ship missile with a range of 300 km (160 mi). Two Su-57 fifth generation jets have gone through a two-day testing period in Syria. Il-76 and An-124 have conducted 2,785 flights to provide the forces with the logistical support they need.

The Mi-28N and the Ka-52 attack helicopters of Army aviation saw their first ever battle tests, liberating the cities of Palmyra and Aleppo. Both use Ataka anti-tank missile systems. Mi-24Ps support the forces on the ground.

During the three-year period 86 surface ships, 14 submarines and 83 auxiliary vessels have taken part in the operation. Admiral Kuznetsov, the only Russian aircraft carrier, was in the area in the period Nov.2016-Jan. 2017. Su-33s and conducted 420 sorties, including 117 at night time, to hit 1252 targets. Ka-52K and Ka-31SV (Ka-35) naval aviation reconnaissance and combat helicopters have made their first flights in combat conditions. Bastion and Oniks coastal anti-ship missile systems protect the naval group near the Syria’s shore. Naval Kalibr cruise missiles, installed on surface ships as well as submarines, are able to precisely strike land targets at a distance of 2,600km. They have been used 13 times to deliver 100 strikes. The ability to fire long-range sea and air-launched cruise missiles has ushered Russia into the club of the chosen. It no longer has to rely exclusively on nuclear weapons.

Buk-M2s and Pantsir-S1 were the first systems deployed in Syria. The latter has proven to be the most effective weapon against drones. It is defending the Hmeimim base from UAV attacks daily with no drone having penetrated the Pantsir-protected space. The S-400 has been deployed in Hmeimim to protect the skies over a large part of Syria since November 2015 to be later joined by S300V4. air defense missile systems are protecting the Tartus naval base where Russian Navy ships are anchored. The Krasukha-4 mobile electronic warfare system was delivered to Hmeimim on Sept.25 to boost the air defenses. The system can jam communications systems, disable guided missiles and aircraft, and neutralize Low-Earth Orbit spy satellites and radars (AWACS) at the ranges of 150-300km.

Hmeimim is well guarded by Army, SOF and Marines supported by T-90A and T-72B2 MBTs and Msta-B 152mm towed howitzers. The Uran-6 mine clearing robot was used to demine Palmira and Aleppo. Its operations were supported by Scarabey and Sfera reconnaissance robotic systems. The Uran-9 tracked Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or a remote-controlled tank, has coped with the most difficult missions in combat conditions. 

The new Tigr 4×4, multipurpose, all-terrain infantry mobility vehicle, is widely used for a broad range of missions across the country, including the support of military police missions. The Typhoon-U mine-resistant assault vehicle used by paratroopers is also in Syria having gone through tests there before entering service.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have conducted over 25, 000 sorties to detect 47,500 targets. Roughly 70 drones were carrying out missions daily. The overall flight time of ForpostOrlan-10Aileron and Zala drones is equal to 140, 000 hours. The situation is monitored round the clock.

In 2017, the Terminator tank support fighting vehicle saw combat as a unique system destined for urban warfare. The first batch of the systems that have no analogues in the world entered service with the Russian Army in March.

The Kornet anti-tank system with air defense capability has proven to be a reliable and very deadly weapon. The system’s portable-transportable launcher can be installed on wheeled and tracked vehicles. The Solntsepyok heavy flamethrower has become indispensable for striking enemy in mountainous areas and underground tunnels and bunkers.

Russian military advisors also trained and advised soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), while developing relationships with pro-government militias. Russia managed and funded the Fifth Corps in 2016. The force, which consists of volunteers, is deployed alongside other SAA units. Russian high-ranking officers and generals on train, advice and assist missions have often led Syrian troops to victories sharing their experience and expertise.

In 2015, Russia was predicted to plunge in a protracted conflict with no end in sight, which would be sapping its resources without any positive results achieved. Western experts believed Russia was to sustain a long-term deployment far from its borders. It has turned out differently.

Since the start of Russia’s operation, the Syria’s government has gone from the brink of collapse to near victory, with its control established control over the larger part of the country. It is firmly in power. Aleppo has been cleared of terrorists and control of Palmyra regained. This century, Russia’s victory in Syria is the only example of successful military operation achieved in a short period of time with positive results, paving the way for a negotiated solution, with the focus shifting to a political process. The time has come for diplomats, not guns, to talk.

Russia has become the key actor in Syria and its post-conflict reconstruction. On Sept. 17, Moscow and Ankara agreed to a diplomatic solution for Syria’s northern Idlib province. The Russia-initiated Astana peace process has made progress, such as the establishment of de-escalation zones among other things, unlike the UN-brokered talks. Post-war reconstruction has started in many areas.

Three years on, it is safe to say the success in Syria has reaffirmed Russia’s status as a global superpower with power projection capability. Moscow has become the key stakeholder in the Middle East. Its global political clout has grown immensely as the world is shifting from a unipolar pattern to multipolar configuration. 

Global De-Dollarization Spells Jolts and Crises for US Economy – By Jon Jeter – MINT PRESS

US Dollar
BENJAMIN MEET MAO

The Trump administration’s bellicosity has combined with the volatility of the global economy to sharply accelerate what has become an international movement: ditching the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

BEIJING — In January, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to denounce Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Twenty-four hours later, Pakistan’s central bank announced that it no longer would use the U.S. dollar in international transactions, and would instead switch to the Chinese yuan.

Four months later, in response to the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the United States’ nuclear weapons pact with Iran, the European Union announced that it would use its own currency, the euro, to pay for Iranian crude oil.

Earlier this month, Moscow and Beijing announced a plan to use their own national currencies in bilateral trade. Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that the move would “increase the stability of banks’ servicing of export and import operations while there are ongoing risks on global markets.”

 

The Trump administration’s bellicosity has combined with the volatility of the global economy to sharply accelerate what has become an international movement: ditching the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. When Trump was inaugurated, the greenback was used in nearly 90 percent of all international transactions; today that figure has dropped to roughly two-thirds, according to Shabbir Razvi, the director of International Finance Solutions Associates. As the economist Peter Schiff told RT recently:

I think the world is in the process of trying to de-dollarize.”

 

Money makes the world go round, especially if you can print it

The prospect is an ominous one for a U.S. economy that many believe is closing in on perhaps the worst recession in history. International reserve status was closely tied to gold supplies and the British pound was the international reserve currency for all of the 19th century and half of the 20th — until the 1948 post-war conference In Bretton Woods, New Hampshire anointed the U.S. dollar as the primary currency for international trade.

When the Nixon Administration uncoupled the U.S. dollar from the gold standard, the U.S. brokered a deal to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom with military aid and equipment in exchange for an agreement by the Saudis to invest petrodollar revenues back into U.S. Treasury bonds. Saudi Arabia held US$164.9 billion in U.S. government debt as of the end of June this year.


Read more by Jon Jeter


The dollar’s special status is to U.S. hegemony what Samson’s hair was to his super strength. If the dollar were to be replaced as the international reserve currency, the U.S. could no longer pay its bills simply by printing more money. The result, for a country that is no longer the world’s dominant exporter on the international market, could cause the economy to freeze up, and possibly produce apocalyptic shortages of fuel and food.

The prime beneficiary of the dollar’s decline is clearly China.

 

Ring out the buck, ring in the yuan

As of the end of the second quarter, overseas institutional and individual holdings of yuan-denominated financial assets totaled 4.9 trillion yuan — roughly $717 billion — according to ICBC International, the Hong Kong investment banking arm of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, one the country’s big-four banks. The share of yuan-denominated stocks and bonds as a percentage of total assets held by global investors increased to about 2.5 per cent and 3.0 per cent, respectively from the year-ago period.

Putin has been publicly calling for the international community to rethink the dollar as the international reserve for more than a decade — before the collapse of the housing market in 2008  triggered a global recession — but Trump’s belligerent foreign policy and restoration of trade tariffs with China, Canada and the EU has caused much of the world to join the conversation.

Kay Van Petersen — global macro strategist at Saxo Capital Markets, based in Singapore — told reporters:

The unintended consequence of the U.S. fighting across multiple fronts drills home the point that the world needs an alternative to the U.S. dollar for trade and transfers. If anything, the trade war will lead to a redoubling of efforts on the structural roll-out of the yuan to echo this internationalisation theme.”

The use of the yuan outside mainland China soared for a period after the global financial crisis in 2008, but quickly declined until picking up again this year. But replacing the dollar with the yuan is clearly part of Beijing’s long-term strategy, as the leadership pressures trading partners to accept the yuan as payment for Chinese exports.

In 2014, China linked the Hong Kong stock market with the Shanghai exchange, and in 2016, began allowing foreigners to invest in mainland Chinese capital markets. The Chinese authorities also launched yuan-denominated gold contracts on the Hong Kong and Dubai exchanges last year, as well as new “Petroyuan” oil-futures contracts on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange in March this year.

Many economists believe that it is inevitable that China, the world’s largest oil importer, will unseat the U.S. as the world’s financial superpower. In retaliation for the Trump administration’s restoration of tariffs on Chinese imports, the country has slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods.

Said Hayden Briscoe, head of Asia-Pacific fixed income at UBS Asset Management:

We now think these oil [-producing] countries, who are selling oil into these contracts and are getting paid in yuans, are starting to recycle their profits back into Chinese government bonds, and this is going to continue for decades.”

Financiers are well aware of strategies to dethrone the U.S. dollar and the impact that will have on Wall Street. There is no shortage of economists and political scientists who believe that it was Muammar Gaddafi’s proposal to create a gold-backed pan-African currency that led to the Obama administration’s military intervention to topple the Libyan dictator’s government. The decline of the dollar will likely take years to complete but it mirrors the decline of the U.S. as the world’s lone superpower. As one economist told the RT network recently:

Eventually, the evolution of global finance will be very much related to the evolution of the global balance of power. This will not happen overnight. It will take time and many more crises and balance shifts. No one really knows what the new system will look like.”

Top Photo | A man walks past a poster showing a U.S. dollar outside an exchange office in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 3, 2016. Amr Nabil | AP

Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

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Upping the ante again? Rumors that Russia is developing air-launched satellite killer – By RT – SOTT

MIG 31 space

© RT
A screenshot from RTD documentary on MiG-31 shows the jet flying in the Earth’s statosphere

A photo of a MiG-31 interceptor jet carrying a huge missile has sparked speculation that Russia has revived an old project involving an air-launched anti-satellite weapon system. 

MiG-31 is a superfast Mach-3 fighter jet which recently acquired fame as the platform for the hypersonic Kinzhal missile. A new photo has emerged of a MiG-31 carrying an even bigger rocket during a flight in Zhukovsky, an air range near Moscow. Some believe the black projectile is a full-scale mock-up of a new missile, which may be used to deliver small payloads into orbit or rake down enemy satellites on short notice. 

The photo was first published on jetphotos.com by user ShipSash and has been extensively reported on Saturday by The Drive. The defense news website reports that the MiG-31 with ID number ’81 Blue’ slightly differs in design from the MiG-31BM, the standard upgraded variant of the jet. It appears to be one of two experimental aircraft of this design. Those may be the long-speculated “Izdelie 08” variant, meant as a platform for launching anti-satellite weapons. 

The Soviet Union did develop an air-launched direct ascent missile called 79M8 Kontakt, which was meant to be launched from a MiG-31D. Intended as a counterpart for the US ASM-135 anti-satellite missile, the Soviet system wrapped up in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet military. There were attempts to repurpose it as a system for space launches of small payloads, but it didn’t get far. 

MiG-31D  79M8 Kontakt missile

© airwar.ru
A 79M8 Kontakt missile and a MiG-31D jet in Kazakhstan circa 2003.

In 2009, then-commander of the Russian Air Forces Aleksandr Zelin announced that the system would be revived. Around the same time, reports emerged about an upgrade of the Krona radio-optical facility, which was meant as a ground component for the system providing targeting data for the Kontakt/MiG-31D pair. 

The MiG-31Ds remain at the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan, where the Krona facility is located and where the testing of the entire anti-satellite system took place. But Russia could have used the old project as the foundation of a new weapon system, which would be part of a multi-layer anti-satellite capability, The Drive believes. 

However, there are other possible explanations for the mystery missile spotted over Zhukovksy. It may also be an air-launched ballistic missile similar to the variant of a DF-21D developed by China or an air-launched hypersonic boost-glider.

The US Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare: The S-300 May Destroy and Expose the F-35 – By Federico Pieraccini – STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION

The US Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare: The S-300 May Destroy and Expose the F-35

The tragic episode that caused the death of 15 Russian air force personnel has had immediate repercussions on the situation in Syria and the Middle East. On September 24, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed allies and opponents that the delivery of the S-300 air-defense systems to the Syrian Arab Republic had been approved by President Vladimir Putin. The delivery had been delayed and then suspended as a result of Israeli pressure back in 2013.

In one sense, the delivery of S-300 batteries to Syria is cause for concern more for Washington than for Tel Aviv. Israel has several F-35 and has claimed to have used them in Syria to strike alleged Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah. With the S-300 systems deployed in an updated version and incorporated into the Russian command, control and communications (C3) system, there is a serious risk (for Washington) that Israel, now incapable of changing the course of events in Syria, could attempt a desperate maneuver.

It is no secret that Greece purchased S-300s from Russia years ago, and that NATO and Israel have trained numerous times against the Russian air-defense system. Senior IDF officials have often insisted that they are capable taking out the S-300s, having apparently discovered their weaknesses.

Tel Aviv’s warning that it will attack and destroy the S-300 battery should not be taken as an idle threat. It is enough to look at the recent downing of Russia’s Il-20 surveillance aircraft to understand how reckless a desperate Israel is prepared to be. Moreover, more than one IDF commander has over the years reiterated that a Syrian S-300 would be considered a legitimate target if threatening Israeli aircraft.

At this point, it is necessary to add some additional information and clarify some points. Greece’s S-300s are old, out of maintenance, and have not had their electronics updated. Such modern and complex systems as the S-300s and S-400s require maintenance, upgrades, and often replacement of parts to improve hardware. All this is missing from the Greek batteries. Secondly, it is the operator who uses the system (using radar, targeting, aiming, locking and so forth) that often makes the difference in terms of overall effectiveness. Furthermore, the system is fully integrated into the Russian C3 system, something that renders useless any previous experience gleaned from wargaming the Greek S-300s. No Western country knows the real capabilities and capacity of Syrian air defense when augmented and integrated with Russian systems. This is a secret that Damascus and Moscow will continue to keep well guarded. Yet two years ago, during the operations to free Aleppo, a senior Russian military officer warned (presumably alluding to fifth-generation stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22) that the range and effectiveness of the Russian systems may come as a surprise.

The following are the words of Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu concerning the deployment of the S-300 to Syria and its integration with other Russian systems:

“Russia will jam satellite navigation, onboard radars and communication systems of combat aircraft, which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria. We are convinced that the implementation of these measures will cool hotheads and prevent ill-considered actions threatening our servicemen. Otherwise, we will respond in line with the current situation. Syrian troops and military air defense units will be equipped with automatic control systems, which have been supplied to the Russian Armed Forces. This will ensure the centralized management of the Syrian air defense forces and facilities, monitoring the situation in the airspace and prompt target designation. Most importantly, it will be used to identify the Russian aircraft by the Syrian air defense forces.”

If the Israelis will follow through with their reckless attempts to eliminate the S-300 (if they can find them in the first place, given that they are mobile), they will risk their F-35s being brought down. The US military-industrial complex would suffer irreparable damage. This would also explain why Israel (and probably the US) has for more than five years put enormous pressure on Moscow not to deliver the S-300 to Syria and Iran. The US State Department’s reaction over the future purchase by Turkey and India of the S-400 confirms the anxiety that US senior officials as well as generals are experiencing over the prospect of allies opting for the Russian systems. This would allow for a comparison with weapons these allies purchased from the US, leading to the discovery of vulnerabilities and the realization of the US weapons’ relative inferiority.

Given Tel Aviv’s tendency to place its own interests above all others, it would not be surprising to find them using the possibility of attacking the S-300 with their F-35s as a weapon to blackmail Washington into getting more involved in the conflict. For the United States, there are two scenarios to avoid. The first is a direct involvement in the conflict with Russia in Syria, which is now unthinkable and impractical. The second – much more worrying for military planners – concerns the possibility of the F-35’s capabilities and secrets being compromised or even being shown not to be a match against air-defense systems nearly half a century old.

An illuminating example of how the United States operates its most advanced aircraft in the region was given in eastern Syria around Deir ez-Zor. In this part of Syria, there is no threat from any advanced air-defense systems, so the US is often free to employ its F-22 in certain circumstances. The Russian military has repeatedly shown radar evidence that unequivocally shows that when Russian Su-35s appear in the same skies as the F-22, the US Air Force simply avoids any confrontation and quickly withdraws such fifth-generation assets as the F-22. The F-35 is not even ready in its naval variant, and has yet to be deployed on a US aircraft carrier near the Middle Eastern theater or the Persian Gulf; nor is it present in any US military base in the region. The US simply does not even consider using the F-35 in Syria, nor would it risk its use against Russian air defenses. Israel is the only country that so far may have already used these aircraft in Syria; but this was before the S-300 came onto the scene.

The F-35 program has already cost hundreds of billions of dollars and will soon reach the exorbitant and surreal figure of over 1 trillion dollars. It has already been sold to dozens of countries bound by decades-long agreements. The F-35 has been developed as a multi-role fighter and is expected to be the future backbone of NATO and her allies. Its development began more than 10 years ago and, despite the countless problems that still exist, it is already airborne and combat-ready, as the Israelis insist. From the US point of view, its employment in operations is played down and otherwise concealed. The less data available to opponents, the better; though the real reason may lie in a strong fear of any revelation of potential weaknesses of the aircraft damaging future sales. At this time, the Pentagon’s marketing of the F-35 is based on the evaluations provided by Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, and on the tests carried out by the military who commissioned it to Lockheed Martin. Obviously, both Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force have no interest in revealing any weaknesses or shortcomings, especially publicly. Corruption is a big thing in Washington, contrary to common assumptions.

The combination of Israel’s ego, its inability to change the course of events in Syria, coupled with the loss of its ability to fly throughout the Middle East with impunity due to Syria now being equipped with a superior air defense – all these factors could push Israel into acting desperately by using the F-35 to take out the S-300 battery. Washington finds itself in the unenviable position of probably having no leverage with Israel over the matter ever since losing any ability to steer events in Syria.

With the Russian air-defense systems potentially being spread out to the four corners of the world, including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and who knows how many other countries waiting in the queue, Russia continues to increase its export capacity and military prestige as it demonstrates its control of most of the Syria’s skies. With the introduction of the the S-500 pending, one can imagine the sleepless nights being spent by those in the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin’s headquarters worrying about the possibility of an F-35 being taken down by an S-300 system manufactured in 1969.

S-300’s to Syria Sets the Stage for the Standoff to End – By Tom Luongo =Strategic Culture Foundation

S-300’s to Syria Sets the Stage for the Standoff to End

In the game of power politics, appeasement always ends in tears. Once you commit to a path you have no option but to see it through to its fullest end or fold when the stakes rise beyond an acceptable level.

Vladimir Putin responded to Israel’s betrayal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the only move he could make short of touching off World War III, crossing the US/Israeli red line of giving S-300 missile defense systems to Syria and upgrading their anti-missile technology and integration to the point of creating, what The Saker is calling, “a de facto no-fly zone” over Western Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ball’s in your court Bibi and Trump.

And the response from them has been pretty much nothing. The US State Department called it a “dangerous provocation.” Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton quickly ran out and said nearly contradictory things about the US’s long-term plans in Syria.

All of it looks like panic.

Because, last week Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the stakes for Syria’s enemies by brokering a deal which precluded the invasion the US, U.K., France and Israel wanted. They thought they were in control of the situation, that they had maneuvered Russia and Syria into a no-win situation in Idlib.

The narrative had been prepared.

The White Helmets were in place along with the drums of chlorine. All that was needed was the chaos of war between the pro-Syria coalition and the head-chopping Salafist animals holed up in Idlib.

And then the unthinkable happened. Erdogan chose sides.

The whole plan unraveled quickly because without war how can the “Animal” Assad use chemical weapons against civilians? This is why the attack on Syria by those four Israeli F-16s was so sloppy. I said last week that it looked like a setup to provoke Russia into reacting emotionally and it didn’t work.

Why?

Because morons like John Bolton and the rest of the neoconservative ‘adults in the room’ make the same mistake over and over again with every one of these operations. And they never learn.

And that mistake is expecting people with vastly different cultures and experience to respond to tragic situations the same way they would. Bolton and Netanyahu expected the Russians to react the same way hyper-neurotic Israelis and Americans with their variations on Manifest Destiny as the world’s chosen people would to the deaths of 15 airmen aboard one of their planes.

They expected a hue and cry large enough to force Putin to do something stupid by pressuring him via fifth columnists within the Kremlin and Russian media. In their masturbatory fantasies they even considered Putin being overthrown because he took one too many slaps to the face.

This is what passes for analysis by the best and brightest foreign policy experts in the US

That should scare you. These people make policy.

These are the people who form the core of the Deep State ‘resistance’ to Donald Trump by yanking papers from his desk, plotting coups and handing him bad intelligence to prevent him from re-aligning US foreign policy with the shifting realities of the twenty-first century.

And their dreams of conquest ran aground against the rocks that are Russians. This is a culture that threw 20 million people at the Germans to stop their advance across the European continent 75 years ago. They have a different mindset and a different perspective on what sacrifice and suffering entails.

And for that reason, Putin’s response was measured and devastating. Israel showed no remorse, blaming the Russians themselves for the deaths of their men. That is the very definition of chutzpah. This is what psychopaths do, blame their victims by refusing to accept responsibility for anything.

Well, now, it doesn’t matter. Now the board state has been set.

If Russia’s anti-missile and electronic warfare capabilities are as good as the scuttlebutt says they are then the anti-Syrian alliance is out of moves.

Because under no circumstances can we be the aggressors here. The Chosen People tell themselves they are defending the rights of the oppressed. That narrative is all-important.

So, now the question is what comes next?

In my mind we are still looking at a path to the Grand Bargain in the Middle East I’ve been banging on about for over a year. The neocons don’t want it. The worst elements of Israeli and Saudi society don’t want this.

The US Deep State and arms dealers don’t want this.

But, it’s now on the table and, unfortunately for Netanyahu, the final deal will be a lot worse for him than it would have been had he taken Putin’s off a few months ago of Iran pulling back all assets 100 kilometers from the Israeli border.

Now, he will lose all pretense of Israeli air superiority. Now the US has to commit to proving it can overwhelm Russian forces in Syria without concomitant losses which puncture the myths of US military dominance.

As I’ve said in the past, that myth is one of the major pillars of US financial and political stability. The loss of that myth far outweighs the gains on the ground in Syria. But, unfortunately, last week’s attack proves to me the people involved don’t understand this or care about it.

Because if they did they wouldn’t have tried to go down this path.

But it’s the path we’re on now, and one of the few highlights from Trump’s UN General Assembly address was his saying something positive about the political solution to Syria. After last week’s incident he will not have much, if any leverage, in that negotiation.

Press review: S-300s coming to protect Syrian skies and Russia’s grain boom spooks US – TASS PRESS REVIEW

September 25, 13:00UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday

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S-300 air defense systems

S-300 air defense systems

© Dmitry Rogulin/TASS

Media: S-300s coming to protect Syrian skies

Russia will provide Syria with the S-300 air defense systems. Thus, Moscow will ensure the safety of Russian military personnel in Syria and strengthen the capabilities of Syria’s air defenses, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a telephone call with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday. Russia had to take this step following the downing of its Il-20 aircraft, which claimed the lives of 15 servicemen. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the S-300 systems will be deployed to Syria within two weeks, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Moscow’s decision will bring Russia and Israel to the brink of a direct armed conflict, Israeli military expert Andrei Kozhinov told Kommersant. “Any statements claiming that the S-300 deliveries will not complicate relations with Israel are unrealistic since it is a serious threat to us,” he said. In Kozhinov’s opinion, after getting the S-300 systems, the Syrians will have carte blanche in downing Israeli aircraft. They will also be able to control the air space as far as Ben-Gurion International Airport. The expert added that using the “Russian umbrella” as cover, Iran would inevitably step up arms trafficking to Syria and Lebanon – a move that Israel would have to respond to. At the same time, Kozhin noted that Israel had been developing methods to counter the S-300 systems for years.

Meanwhile, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee Andrei Krasov told Izvestia that the delivery of the S-300s to Syria may cool down a lot of hotheads. “Syria currently has the Russian S-200 systems. The delivery of the advanced S-300 complexes will significantly ensure Syria’s security against possible foreign airstrikes. Their range is rather wide, about 250 kilometers. As for the areas of deployment, first of all, big cities and strategic facilities need to be protected,” he stressed.

Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security and former Commander of the Russian Aerospace Force Viktor Bondarev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Russia should “place priority on the protection of our military servicemen rather than relations with Israel.” “A treacherous attack on our aircraft was provoked by Israel. It is not us but them who should be concerned about maintaining normal relations with us and Syria because together with the Syrian army, we have been eliminating terrorists,” he noted.

 

Kommersant: China blasts US sanctions as ‘trade bullyism’

The White House will release an “administration-wide, broadside” in the coming weeks that would be used to accuse China of cyberattacks, election meddling and intellectual property theft, the Axios news website reported, citing White House sources. Meanwhile, China’s State Council has published a white paper on trade disputes with the US, which slams Washington’s policies as “trade bullyism” and being “disrespectful towards the Chinese state and people.” Beijing earlier demanded that Washington remove “the so-called sanctions” imposed over China’s purchases of Russian Su-35 aircraft and S-400 air defense systems, Kommersant writes.

As for trade, China is urging the US to hold talks, but it does not intend to pull back in the defense field. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said at a briefing on September 21 that defense cooperation between Beijing and Moscow would go on.

Senior Researcher at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin pointed out that the US had actually applied the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act retrospectively. “The law took effect on August 2, 2017, while the contracts to purchase the S-35s and the S-400s were signed in 2015 and 2014 respectively,” the researcher said, adding that most of the money had been transferred at the time.

“US sanctions apply to those engaged in ‘significant transactions’ with Russian defense agencies but there is no clarification of what ‘significant’ means,” Kashin pointed out. “Since definitions are vague, any country can be targeted by sanctions, including those who pay Russia for the repair and upgrading of the military equipment they had bought earlier,” the expert emphasized.

 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: US spooked by Russia’s grain boom

American farmers are facing financial losses due to Russia’s booming grain exports, while more and more agricultural companies in the US are closing down. According to The Wall Street Journal, record harvests in Russia are the reason, Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote.

Indeed, Russia produced a record yield in the past agricultural year, which ended on June 30, 2018, collecting a total of 135.4 mln tonnes and exporting over 40 mln tonnes of wheat. Grain exports doubled compared to the previous year. Our country took the lead for the second time, following its first lead in 2016. The US remains Russia’s main rival on the world grain market.

Russian experts believe the country will continue to beef up its position on the global market. The Ministry of Agriculture expects a yield of 150 mln tonnes this year. About 30 mln tonnes of wheat are planned to be exported.

Russian grain prices are indeed lower than its rivals. However, Russia is not conducting any sort of “dumping”, Director General of the ProZerno think tank Vladimir Petrichenko stressed. According to him, it is just that other exporters, including France and the US, sell grain at extremely high prices due to elevated expenses. This season, Australian grain is particularly expensive, the expert noted.

Russia will increase its grain exports, said Russian Grain Union President Arkady Zlochevsky. The country has resources to accomplish this task since revenues earned on the global market allow Russian grain companies to pour money into bolstering production.

“We are now competing for India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Indonesia is particularly important, because it will soon become the number one grain buyer in the world,” Petrichenko emphasized.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Will Turkey and Saudi Arabia lock horns in Syria?

Turkey has pledged to expand its zone of influence in Syria to Kurdish-controlled areas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Taking into account that Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen its presence in the Kurdish zones, there is a risk of a direct standoff between Ankara and Riyadh, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

It is no secret that areas east of the Euphrates River are considered the US zone of influence. “I don’t think the US can give up the Eastern Euphrates area because its military and political presence there is strategically important for Washington,” Turkish political expert Kerim Has told the paper.

“At the same time, the possibility of the US making some concessions and accepting Ankara’s presence in the territories adjacent to the Eastern Euphrates area, might happen only on two conditions. First, if Washington and Ankara agree on the possible ‘co-existence’ of the Turkish regime with Kurdish militias in the region, which seems unlikely at the moment. Second, if Washington thus undermines cooperation between Ankara and Moscow in resolving the Syrian crisis and ensuring Syria’s territorial integrity.”

However, the possible expansion of the Turkish-controlled forces east of the Euphrates River will not only raise the question of a possible conflict with the US, an ally of the Kurdish units, but also risks a standoff with Saudi Arabia. In mid-September, moderate Syrian opposition sources said that Saudi intelligence agents had met with leaders of the tribes residing east of the Euphrates. According to reports, the talks were aimed at making sure the tribes accepted the authority of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a multiethnic alliance with its backbone made up of Kurdish militias. In return, the Saudis promised financial assistance.

A month ago, Saudi Arabia acknowledged shelling out about $100 mln on “projects to stabilize” northern Syria. The money was used to reconstruct infrastructure facilities and create conditions for the return of refugees. Overall, the possible advance of pro-Turkish forces to the east bank of the Euphrates River may be firmly opposed.

 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Too few online shoppers in Russia

The number of Russians who shop online every day has dropped from seven to two percent over the past four years, as seen from a poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

According to the pollster, 81% of Russians use the Internet on a regular basis but not all of them have skills and wish to learn how to shop online. Some like to try things on and thoroughly inspect them before making a purchase, which is hard to do at a pickup point or in a delivery guy’s presence.

However, almost all young internet uses (aged 16-29 years) place orders online regularly, Association of Internet Trade Companies (AITC) President Artyom Sokolov said. “By the same token, these are not ‘everyday’ orders,” he noted, adding, “Actually, in my view, a person who buys things online every day is hard to imagine.”

Experts also say that Russians have taken a more balanced form of consumer behavior. In the past, they used to order things online on a daily basis but now people have a more responsible approach towards online shopping and the number of impulse purchases has been declining.

Another thing to note is that there is a group of people who purchase goods and services online so often they stop realizing it is actually online trade. It means that those polled could have forgotten to mention ordering taxis via mobile apps and using car sharing services.

Market participants are confident that in fact, online trade is flourishing. The AITC expects Russia’s online trade to grow by 20% in 2018. Social media will be helpful as they have accumulated more than seven percent of online trade and the number may rise by 50%-80% within the next two years.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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