Trump’s Drastic Cuts to UNRWA Spell More Poverty, Hopelessness, and Radicalization in Palestine – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D (MINT PRESS)

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from abut $350 million to $65 million and pressured other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, was established in December 1949 by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 to address the basic humanitarian needs of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who became refugees in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

As its name reveals, UNRWA’s mission was centered on providing relief rations, basic healthcare, education and employment opportunities for the refugees who lost all of their livelihood. Underlying UNRWA’s establishment was the goal to integrate refugees into the neighboring Arab host countries, so as to diffuse tensions and promote regional peace and stability.

Motivated by political objectives, the United States and Britain have been the biggest contributors to UNRWA’s budget. This has remained the case until recently when U.S. President Donald Trump announced in February of this year his decision to drastically cut U.S. contributions to UNRWA. Over the years, these two big powers saw in this humanitarian agency an effective vehicle for containing frustration and despair among the refugees.

 

Indeed, in spite of some of its shortcomings, UNRWA has been able to provide badly needed services, particularly for destitute refugee families. UNRWA became an important apparatus of employment for many skilled refugees.

Until it began in the past few years to introduce reductions in its services, UNRWA’s schools once provided the best education to be had in their communities, employing the most talented Palestinian teachers and graduating very successful students who excelled in various fields of knowledge and expertise.

School girls listen to Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, during the launch of a global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza. Adel Hana | AP

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from about $350 million to $65 million and, against all advice from his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, he pressured some other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

 

The first impact of Trump’s drastic cuts

UNRWA, which had already been struggling financially to meet its increasing demands, owing to the influx of more Palestinian refugees as a result of the Syrian crisis, found its operations severely hampered at a most critical time for so many Palestinian refugees. Supposedly compelled by the financial constraints, UNRWA recently decided to further shrink most of its modest services. Then, more worrisome for the refugees, it dismissed more than 1,000 Palestinian refugee employees from work in the Gaza, which has been lingering under siege for about 12 years.

Gaza, where unemployment has exceeded 80 percent, is considered one of the most troubled places on earth for human survival. Due to the tight siege, clean water is very scarce; Gazans get fewer than four hours of electricity per day; and the healthcare system has practically crumbled, as medical supplies are not coming in. On the whole, people are tormented by, on the one hand,  the ongoing contest of powers between Hamas, which has unilaterally controlled the strip since 2007, and the Palestinian Authority, and, on the other, the Israeli occupation that dominates the airspace and sea as well as all entry points by land.

A Palestinian employee sits during a protest at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City, July 25, 2018. UNWRA staff are protesting the agency's decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

UNRWA’s decision, which seems to be the product of financial considerations, is nonetheless interpreted by many Palestinians as a politically-motivated move, owing to its timing and place of execution. Palestinians maintain that of all places where UNRWA operates, Gaza cannot be the first where such severe austerity measures should be introduced. The agony in the Gaza Strip is incalculable, especially as people have endured three wars with Israel in the past decade alone.

The new measures by UNRWA fell like a thunderbolt on refugee employees who have been dismissed, as no other opportunities for employment are available. Such measures led one of the dismissed employees, caught in despair and anguish, to try to set himself on fire in protest. Employees whose jobs were terminated have carried out an open-ended hunger strike with their families inside UNRWA headquarters.

 

Hopelessness and frustration: the breeding ground for extremism

Especially in a troubled area like the Middle East, the many crises that have developed over the years have contributed to the deepening of extremist tendencies among some groups and organizations.

By all accounts, the displacement of many refugees in the most recent conflicts during the past few years has widened the base of radicalization in the region. Radicalization becomes inevitable during times of total despair and profound frustration unless alternative creative, innovative solutions are introduced — i.e., unless some robust, systematic international programs of aid to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and to replace despair with hope are instituted.

In essence, radicalization of individuals can be viewed as a factor that leads to abnormalizing the behavior of those who fall victims to this tendency. More broadly, when radicalization spreads in a group or community, it can deform the social structure and lead to behavior that lacks balance — this may be called “the imbalancing” of communities. Creative and innovative policies are required to tackle the underlying root causes of radicalization.

Palestinian children sit next to hanged clothes, on the First day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. A U.N. inquiry has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed and at least 227 injured by "Israeli actions" while sheltering at U.N. locations during last year's Gaza war. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday, April 27, 2015, he deplores the deaths and calls U.N. locations "inviolable."

UNRWA’s measures of cutting its services and dismissing close to 10 percent of its Palestinian workforce in Gaza are bound to hamper the educational process for hundreds of thousands of students, especially as other Palestinian employees in other locations feel quite vulnerable and may, as a result, resort to protesting such measures. In effect, the learning process of Palestinian students will be impacted and their educational rights violated.

The implications of violating the educational rights of refugees cannot be overlooked. Radicalization usually finds its way among disgruntled and frustrated young people, those who believe that their future offers them nothing more than despair and anguish. The Gaza Strip has been in a state of war and under total siege for many years — thus, to begin with, services are limited if provided at all. Dismissing of employees in the thousands by the organization in whose name and for whom it was created adds insult to injury, as it threatens the very livelihood of tens of thousands of people, when accounting for the members of the families of those who are dismissed and whom they support.

 

An impact that rolls on into a darkened future

Wars, especially when compounded by chronic despair and frustration, usually affect societies both in the present and the future: while present effects might be measurable, those that might occur in the future are often accompanied by surprise. With the continuation of such measures by UNRWA, entire generations may be expected to be kept without formal education. These may be easily subjected to some kind of informal, unstructured education — i.e., indoctrination and radicalized mobilization by a number of organizations that generally thrive in an environment of chaos and anarchy.

Some scholars have studied the interplay between radicalization and feelings of deprivation. For example, Fathali M. Moghaddam (2005) has stressed the need for education to nurture feelings of tolerance and equality among different groups. Ervin Staub (2007) has focused on preventive measures against radicalization, mainly through teaching, learning and education. More recently, however, Kartika Bhatia and Hafez Ghanem (2017) drew the link between the decline in education, rise of unemployment and empowerment of radicalization.

By writing this article, the author hopes to shed light on such an important underlying problem faced by Palestinian refugees. Coming to terms with this problem now, policy-makers and strategists can avert crucial problems in the future, mainly the deepening of frustration and the potential rise of radicalization in the region.

School girls look while pass the house morning of Mohammed Ayyoub, 14, who was killed by Israeli soldiers during a protest on Gaza's border with Israel, east of Jebaliya,, April 21, 2018. Adel Hana | AP

The recent waves of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding a number of European countries could have been averted with sound, foresighted policies. In writing this article, the author is motivated by the sense of urgency to highlight the ramifications of the ferocious assault of displacement on the rights of the refugees, particularly those pertaining to education. At the same time, the author is also motivated by his own background as a Palestinian refugee who was born and grew up in a refugee camp, Dheisheh near Bethlehem: every time I read about the plight and the agony of new refugees, I cannot help reflecting on my own upbringing and observation of the effect of deprivation on the lives of so many people around me.

Palestinian refugees have been subjected to serious injustice everywhere they went. UNRWA’s recent measures of reducing the already modest services it provides to the refugees, and its termination of thousands of jobs solely for Palestinian employees, raise a number of compelling moral and legal questions. The international community is responsible for the catastrophe endured by Palestinians. Thus, even if the United States under Trump resorts to punitive financial measures to achieve political ends, the world community should not allow UNRWA to crumble. Cutting services and dismissing Palestinian employees from their jobs is not the answer, nor is it the solution to the worsening financial problem.

 

Constructive reforms, not drastic and destructive cuts, are needed

A comprehensive assessment of UNRWA’s structure needs to be carried out, as its bureaucracy has massively expanded. It is a well-documented fact that the average salary of a foreign employee in UNRWA is about 10 times that of a Palestinian employee. UNRWA was created to serve Palestinian refugees and to employ them, as its mandate stipulates.

Attempts by the U.S. Congress to redefine the refugee status for Palestinians — i.e., to exclude all descendants from the current UNRWA definition of Palestinian refugees — aim at liquidating the problem of those refugees in time by dissolving UNRWA. The specific goal is to limit the definition to fewer than 40,000 Palestinian refugees, rather than the current 5.3 million. The calculation is that even the new limited number will further shrink, as elderly refugees will die and the definition will not apply to their descendants.

This can only exacerbate the already fragile security environment in the Middle East. Such attempts stem from many concerted efforts by Israel and its lobbying groups in the U.S. to influence American decision-makers. For example, in its annual conference in the last week of July, CUFI, Christians United For Israel in the United States, an organization that has become synonymous with AIPAC, lobbied members of Congress for redefining the status of Palestinian refugees. This is quite short-sighted, as it completely evades the political, legal and humanitarian consequences of this action. From a cost-benefit analysis, securing the necessary funds for UNRWA to maintain its operations, and actually to enhance them, is less costly than having to deal with increasing instability, deepening frustration and the resultant growing radicalization.

The High Commissioner of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, has reflected an excellent understanding of the potential ramifications of cutting services and terminating jobs for Palestinian refugees. In a number of interviews he gave to the media, especially after Trump announced that he will be reducing U.S. contributions to UNRWA’s budget, Krahenbuhl clearly spoke of the impending radicalization among young refugees. Therefore, it is inconceivable to allow the dissolution of UNRWA to happen under his supervision. This stands in total contradiction with the reputable record he has.

With a comprehensive assessment, serious reform, and reliance on more skilled Palestinian expertise, UNRWA can be enabled to cross this threshold and continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission. Sadly, the Palestinian problem is not over, and no just settlement for the refugees has been achieved. Therefore, the outcry of Palestinian refugees should be heard at the highest level of decision-making in the UN, including that of the office of the Secretary-General himself, Antonio Guterres.

This is the time to heed the call for human justice and dignity for Palestine’s refugees. This is the time when perspicacity should override narrow political considerations. This is the time to prevent more seeds of radicalization from being planted.

Top Photo | A wall painting made by Palestinian employees is seen at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City. July 25,2018. UNWRA staff were protesting the agency’s decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D. was Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Politics Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, he was a Fulbright scholar in Palestine, where he wrote his book: From Religious Salvation to political transformation: the rise of Hamas in Palestinian Society. Ahmed is the author of numerous studies dealing with the Middle East. Ahmed is frequently called upon by the local and international media for analyses of various political issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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AngloZionist attack options against Iran – By THE SAKER – [This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

 

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

In the past few days, the Internet has been flooded with a frankly silly rumor about the US soliciting Australia’s assistance in preparing an attack on Iran.  Needless to say, that report does not explain what capabilities Australia would possess which the USA would lack, but never-mind that.  Still, the report was picked up in too many places (see here, here and here ) to be ignored.  In one of these reports, Eric Margolis has described what such a US attack could look like.  It is worth quoting him in full:

Outline of a possible AngloZionist attack on Iran

The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980. This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, waterworks, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two-thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

There is a lot of interesting material in this description and I think that it is worth looking into it segment by segment.

First, I can only agree with Margolis that neither the USA nor Israel want a ground war against Iran: the country is too big, the Iranians too well prepared and the size of the force needed for such a campaign way beyond what the Empire can currently muster.

Second, Margolis is absolutely correct when he says that Iran does not have the means to stop a determined AngloZionist (missiles and aircraft) attack. Iran does have some modern air-defense capabilities, and the attackers will sustain a number of losses, but at this point, the size disparity is so huge that the AngloZionists will achieve air superiority fairly soon and that will give them an opportunity to bomb whatever they want to bomb (more about that later).

[Sidebar: assessing Iranian air defenses is not just a matter of counting missiles and launchers, however, and there is much more to this.  According to one Russian source Iran has 4 long range anti-aircraft missile S-300PMU-2 systems (with 48Н6Е2 Mach 6,6 interceptor missiles), 29 military anti-aircraft self-propelled missile complexes Tor-M1, some fairly advanced anti-aircraft missile complexes like the Bavar-373, a passive electronically scanned array radar (whose illumination and guidance system almost certainly includes modern Chinese electronics) and an impressive number of radar systems early warning radar of the Russian, Chinese and Iranian manufacture.   This category includes systems like the high-potential long-range radar detection and target designation Najm-802 radar (has 5120 receiving and transmitting modules, operates in the decimeter S-range and is designed to detect ballistic targets and small elements of high-precision weapons), the Russian meter radar “Nebo-SVU” advanced early warning and control system with a fixed-array radar, as well as a meter range early warning radar of the type “Ghadir” .  Most importantly, these radars are all integrated into the network-centric missile defense system of Iran. For example, the “Ghadir” radar is able to detect not only the tactical fighters of the USAF, the KSA and Israel, but also ballistic missiles immediately after launch (at a distance of about 1100 km). As a result, the presence of Iranian radio engineering units of multi-band radar detection facilities in the Western direction (the Persian Gulf) will allow the Iranians to prepare a flexible echeloned air defense to defend against high-intensity missile strikes.  And yet, no matter how much the Iranians have improved their air defenses, the sheer number of of missiles (including the new advanced AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile delivered by B-1B bombers) means that the Iranian defenses will inevitably be overwhelmed by any massive attack.]

I therefore also agree with Margolis that the Iranian oil industry cannot be protected from a determined US/Israeli attack.  In fact, the entire Iranian infrastructure is vulnerable to attack.

Margolis’ final paragraph, however, makes it sound like Iran does not have credible retaliatory options and that I very much disagree with.

Example one: Iranian capabilities in the Strait of Hormuz

For one thing, the issue of the Strait of Hormuz is much more complicated than just “the US Navy has practiced for years to combat this threat“.  The reality is that Iran has a very wide range of options to make shipping through this strait practically impossible.  These options range from underwater mines, to fast craft attacks, to anti-shipping missiles, to coastal artillery strikes, etc.

[Sidebar: Therein also lies a big danger: the Israelis and or the US could very easily organize a false flag attack on any ship in the Strait of Hormuz, then accuse Iran, there would be the usual “highly likely” buzzword from all the AngloZionst intelligence agencies and, voilà, the Empire would have a pretext to attack Iran.]

In fact, the mere fact of issuing a threat to shipping through this narrow body of water might well deter insurances from providing coverage to any ships and that might stop the shipping all by itself.  Should that not be enough, Iran can always lay even a limited amount of mines, and that will be enough (please keep in mind that while the USN could try to engage in mineclearing operations, to do so right off the coast of Iran would expose USN minesweepers to an extreme danger of attack).

Margolis does mention this issue when he writes:

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

However, I believe that grossly under-estimates the Iranian capabilities in this context.  Let’s take one example, the Iranian submarine force.

The Iranian submarine force is a highly specialized one.  According to the 2018 Edition of the IISS’s Military Balance, the Iranians currently have 21 submarines deployed:

  • 3 Taregh-class diesel-electric submarine  (Russian Kilo-class Project-877EKM)
  • 1 Fateh-class coastal submarine
  • 16 Ghadir-class midget submarines
  • 1 Nahand-class midget submarine

When most people hear “diesel-electric,” they think of old diesel trucks, and are not impressed, especially when these are contrasted with putatively “advanced” nuclear attack submarines. This is, however, a very mistaken opinion because submarines can only to be assessed in the environment they are designed to operate in. Naval geography is typically roughly divided into three types: blue water (open ocean), green water (continental shelves) and brown water (coastal regions). Nuclear attack submarines are only superior in the blue water environment where autonomy, speed, diving depth, weapon storage capacity, advanced sonars, etc. are crucial. In comparison, while diesel-electric submarines are slower, need to resurface to recharge their batteries and are typically smaller and with fewer weapons onboard, they are also much better suited for green water operations. In shallow brown water, midget submarines reign, if only because nuclear attack submarines were never designed to operate in such an environment. Now take a quick look at the kind of environment the Strait of Hormuz constitutes:

 

Notice the interesting combination of very shallow and shallow depth typical of brown water and then the green water type of environment when going further into the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.  With this in mind, let’s see what kind of submarine force Iran has acquired/developed:

For brown water operations (Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz) Iran has a relatively large and capable fleet of midget submarines. For green water operations (the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea), Iran has three formidable Taregh/Kilo-class submarines (which are even capable of limited blue water operations, though with much less autonomy, speed, armament or sonar than a nuclear attack submarine).  Just like “diesel-electric”, the term “midget” submarine makes it sound that we are talking about a toy or, at best, some primitive third world hack which, at best, could be used to smuggle drugs. In reality, however, the Iranian “midgets” can carry the same heavyweight torpedoes (533 mm) as the Kilos, only in smaller quantities. This also means that they can carry the same missiles and mines. In fact, I would argue that Iranian Ghadir-class “midget” submarines represent a much more formidable threat in the Persian Gulf than even the most advanced nuclear attack submarines could.

[Sidebar: the USA has stopped producing diesel-electric submarines many years ago because it believed that being a hegemonic power with a typical (aircraft carrier-centric) blue water navy it had no need for green or brown water capabilities. Other countries (such as Russia, Germany, Sweden and others) actively pursued a diesel-electric submarine program (including so-called “air-independent propulsion” – AIP – ones) because they correctly understood that these submarines are much cheaper while being also much better suited for coastal defensive operations.  Ditching diesel-electric submarines was yet another major mistake by US force planners; see this article on this topic.  The new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer were supposed to partially palliate to this lack of green and brown capabilities, but both turned out to be a disaster]

The Russian Kilo-class submarines are some of the most silent yet heavily armed submarines ever built, and they could potentially represent a major threat to any US naval operations against Iran.  However, we can be pretty sure that the USN tracks them 24/7 and that the Kilos would become a prime target (whether in port or at sea) at the very beginning of any AngloZionist attack. But would the USN also be capable of keeping track of the much smaller (and numerous) Iranian midget submarines? Your guess is as good as mine, but I personally very much doubt that, if only because these relatively small subs are very easy to hide. Just take a look at this photo of a Ghadir-class submarine and imagine how easy it would be to hide them or, alternatively, create decoy looking just like the real thing. Yet this midget submarine’s torpedoes could sink any vessel in the Persian Gulf with a single torpedo.

While the US definitely has a lot of very capable reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities available to try to locate and then destroy these threats, we also know that the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario and that they are truly masters at what is called maskirovka in Russian military terminology: a combination of camouflage, concealment, deception, and misdirection. In fact, the Iranians are the ones who trained Hezbollah in Lebanon in this art and we all know what happened to the Israelis when they confidently waltzed into southern Lebanon only to find out that for all their reconnaissance/intelligence capabilities they were unable to deal with even a relatively primitive (technologically speaking) Hezbollah missile capability. For all the patriotic flag-waving, the truth is that if the Iranians decide to block the Strait of Hormuz the only option left for the US will be to land a force on the Iranian shore and engage in a limited but still extremely dangerous offensive land-attack operation. At this point, whether this counter-attack is successful or not will be irrelevant, as there will be so much combat activity in this narrow bottleneck that nobody will even consider to bring ships through it.

I also believe that Margolis is wrong when he writes that all Iran could do would be to stage “isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value“.  One very real Iranian option would be to strike US targets (of which there are plenty in the Middle-East) with various missiles.  Furthermore, Iran can also launch missiles at US allies (Israel or the KSA) and interests (Saudi oil fields).

Example two: Iranian missile capabilities

I would not trust everything the CSIS writes (they are a very biased source, to put it mildly), but on this page, they posted a pretty good summary of the current Iranian missile capability:

On the same page, CSIS also offers a more detailed list of current and developed Iranian missiles:

(You can also check on this Wikipedia page to compare with the CSIS info on Iranian missiles)

The big question is not whether Iran has capable missiles, but how many exactly are deployed.  Nobody really knows this because the Iranians are deliberately being very vague, and for obvious and very good reasons.  However, judging by the example of Hezbollah, we can be pretty sure that the Iranians also have these missiles in large enough numbers to represent a very credible deterrent capability.  I would even argue that such a missile force not only represents a capable deterrent capability, but also a very useful war-fighting one.  Can you imagine what would happen if US bases (especially airbases and naval facilities) in the region came under periodic Iranian missile attacks?  Judging by the Israeli experience during the First Gulf War or, for that matter, the recent Saudi experience with the Houthi missiles, we can be pretty sure that the US Patriots will be useless to defend against Iranian missiles.

Oh sure, just like the US did during the First Gulf War, and the Israelis did in 2006, the AngloZionists will start a massive hunt for Iranian missile sites, but judging by all the recent wars, these hunts will not be successful enough and the Iranians will be able to sustain missile strikes for quite a long time.   Just imagine what one missile strike, say, every 2-3 days on a US base in the region would do to operations or morale!

Reality check: the US is vulnerable throughout the entire Middle-East

Above I only listed two specific capabilities (subs and missiles), but the same type of analysis could be made with Iranian small speedboat swarms, electronic warfare capabilities or even cyber-warfare.  But the most formidable asset the Iranians have is a very sophisticated and educated population which has had decades to prepare for an attack by the “Great Satan” and which have clearly developed an array of asymmetrical options to defend themselves and their country against the (probably inevitable) AngloZionist attack.

You have probably seen at least one map showing US military installations in the Middle-East (if not, see here, here or here).  Truth be told, the fact that Iran is surrounded by US forces and bases presents a major threat to Iran.  But the opposite is also true. All these US military facilities are targets, often very vulnerable ones.  Furthermore, Iran can also use proxies/allies in the region to attack any of these targets.  I highly recommend that you download this factsheet and read it while thinking of the potential of each listed facility to become the target of an Iranian attack.

The usual answer which I often hear to these arguments is that if the Iranians actually dared to use missiles or strike at the US bases in the region, the retaliation by the USA would be absolutely terrible.  However, according to Eric Margolis, the initial and main goal of a US-Israeli attack on Iran would be to “totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era“.  Now let me ask you this simple question: if Margolis is correct – and I personally believe that he is – then how would that outcome be different from the “absolutely terrible” retaliation supposedly planned by the USA in case of Iranian counterattack?  Put differently – if the Iranians realize that the AngloZionists want to lay waste to their country (say, like what the Israelis did to Lebanon in 2006), what further possible escalation would further deter them from counter-attacking with the means available to them?

To answer this question we need to look again at the real nature of the “Iranian problem” for the AngloZionists.

Real AngloZionist objectives for an attack on Iran

First and foremost, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran has any kind of military nuclear program.  The fact that the Israelis have for years been screaming about this urbi et orbi does not make it true.  I would also add that common sense strongly suggests that the Iranians would have absolutely no logical reason to develop any kind of nuclear weapons.  I don’t have the time and space to argue this point again (I have done so many times in the past), so I will simply refer to the US National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” and leave it at that.

[Sidebar: I don’t believe that the Iranians ever had a nuclear weapons program either, but that is irrelevant: even if they once had one, that would put them on par with many other countries which took some initial steps in the development of such a capability and then gave it up.  The only point is that it is the official US position that there is no current military nuclear program in Iran.]

The real problem of Iran is very simple.  Iran is the only country in the world which is:

  1. Islamic and leads the struggle against the Saudi/Daesh/ISIS/al-Qaeda/etc. ideology of takfirism and the terrorism they promote
  2. Openly anti-Zionist and anti-Imperialist and combines conservative religious values with progressive social policies
  3. Successful politically, economically and militarily and thereby threatens the monopoly of power of Israel in the region

Any one of those features by itself would already constitute a grievous case of crimethink from the point of view of the Empire and would fully deserve a reaction of absolute hatred, fear and a grim determination to eliminate the government and people which dare to support it.  No wonder that by combining all three Iran is so hated by the AngloZionists.

This entire canard about some Iranian nuclear a program is just a pretext for a hate campaign and a possible attack on Iran.  But in reality, the goals of the AngloZionists is not to disarm Iran, but exactly as Margolis says: to bomb this “disobedient” country and people “back to the pre-revolutionary era”.

Here is the key thing: the Iranians perfectly understand that. The obvious conclusion is this: if the purpose of an AngloZionist attack will be to bomb Iran back into the pre-revolutionary era, then why would the Iranians hold back and not offer the maximal resistance possible?

Because of the threat of a US nuclear retaliation?

US nuclear attack options – not much of an option in reality

Here again, we need to look at the context, not just assume that the use of nuclear weapons is some kind of magical panacea which immediately forces the enemy to give up the fight and to unconditionally surrender. This is far from being the truth.

First, nuclear weapons are only effective when used against a lucrative target.  Just murdering civilians like what the USA did in Japan does absolutely no good if your goal is to defeat your opponent’s armed forces.  If anything, nuking your opponents “value” targets will might only increase his determination to fight to the end.  I have no doubt that, just as during the first Gulf War, the USA has already made a typical list of targets it would want to strike in Iran: a mix of key government buildings and installations and a number of military units and facilities.  However, in most cases, those could also be destroyed by conventional (non-nuclear) weapons.  Furthermore, since the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario (the USA has always had Iran in its sights since the 1979 Revolution), you can be quite sure that all the peacetime facilities have been duplicated for wartime situations. Thus while many high-visibility targets will be destroyed, their wartime counterparts will immediately take over.  One might think that nukes could be used to destroy deeply buried targets, and this is partially true, but some targets are buried too deep to be destroyed (even by a nuclear blast) while others are duplicated several times (say, for 1 peacetime military headquarters there would be 4, 5 or even 6 concealed and deeply buried ones).  To go after each one of them would require using even more nukes and that begs the question of the political costs of such a campaign of nuclear strikes.

In political terms, the day the USA uses a nuclear weapon against any enemy it will have committed a political suicide from which the Hegemony will never recover. While a majority of US Americans might consider that “might makes right” and “screw the UN”, for the rest of the world the first use of nuclear weapons (as opposed to a retaliatory counter-strike) is an unthinkable abomination and crime, especially for an illegal act of aggression (there is no way the UNSC will authorize a US attack on Iran). Even if the White House declares that it “had to” use nukes to “protect the world” against the “nuclear armed Ayatollah”, the vast majority of the planet will react with total outrage (especially after the Iraqi WMD canard!). Furthermore, any US nuclear strike will instantly turn the Iranians from villains into victims. Why would the US decide to pay such an exorbitant political price just to use nuclear weapons on targets which would not yield any substantial advantage for the US? Under normal circumstances, I would think that this kind of unprovoked use of nuclear weapons would be quite unthinkable and illogical. However, in the current political context in the USA, there is one possibility which really frightens me.

Trump as the “disposable President” for the Neocons?

The Neocons hate Trump, but they also own him.  The best example of this kind of “ownership” is the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem which was an incredibly stupid act, but one which the Israel Lobby demanded.  The same goes for the US reneging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or, for that matter, the current stream of threats against Iran.  It appears that the Neocons have a basic strategy which goes like this: “we hate Trump and everything he represents, but we also control him; let’s use him to do all the crazy stuff no sane US President would ever do, and then let’s use the fallout of these crazy decisions and blame it all on Trump; this way we get all that we want and we get to destroy Trump in the process only to replace him with one of “our guys” when the time is right“.   Again, the real goal of an attack on Iran would be to bomb Iran back into a pre-revolutionary era and to punish the Iranian people for supporting the “wrong” regime thus daring to defy the AngloZionist Empire.  The Neocons could use Trump as a “disposable President” who could be blamed for the ensuing chaos and political disaster while accomplishing one of the most important political objectives of Israel: laying waste to Iran.  For the Neocons, this is a win-win situation: if things go well (however unlikely that is), they can take all the credit and still control Trump like a puppet, and if things don’t go well, Iran is in ruins, Trump is blamed for  a stupid and crazy war, and the Clinton gang will be poised to come back to power.

The biggest loser in such a scenario would, of course, be the people of Iran. But the US military will not fare well either. For one thing, a plan to just “lay waste” to Iran has no viable exit strategy, especially not a short-term one, while the US military has no stomach for long conflicts (Afghanistan and Iraq are bad enough). Furthermore, once the USA destroys most of what can be destroyed the initiative will be in the Iranians’ hands and time will be on their side. In 2006 the Israelis had to fold after 33 days only, how much time will the US need before having to declare victory and leave? If the war spreads to, say, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, then will the US even have the option to just leave? What about the Israelis – what options will they have once missiles start hitting them (not only Iranian missiles but probably also Hezbollah missiles from Lebanon!)?

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan was fully correct when he stated that a military attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”.  Alas, the Neocons have never been too bright, and stupid stuff is what they mostly do.  All we can hope for is that somebody in the USA will find a way to stop them and avert another immoral, bloody, useless and potentially very dangerous war.

The Saker

Syrian War Report – July 6, 2018: Syrian Army Retakes Multiple Points On Border With Jordan – By South Front (VT)

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439

…from SouthFront

The military operation of government forces in southern Syria was once again resumed after the Damascus government and local militants groups had failed to reach any kind of fully-fledged reconciliation agreement that would allow to settle the situation in the area via a peaceful way.

On July 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Saida and the nearby abandoned air defense base in the province of Daraa. Additionally, the SAA advanced along the border with Jordan liberating over 10 villages between the border points of 71 and 79.

https://southfront.org/wp-content/plugins/fwduvp/content/video.php?path=https%3A%2F%2Fsouthfront.org%2Fsyrian-war-report-july-6-2018-syrian-army-retakes-multiple-points-on-border-with-jordan%2F&pid=1337

According to pro-government sources, the SAA faced a little resistance during their operation along the border. Russian troops were spotted there.

The operation is also supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Nonetheless, the number of airstrikes is limited. Currently, government forces are developing their operation in the direction of the Nassib border crossing.

Clashes between Turkish-backed militants, reportedly members of Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, and government troops have taken place in the village of Tadef in the province of Aleppo. Turkish-backed forces captured some positions, but were forced to withdraw from them later. According to pro-government sources, the withdrawal was ordered by the Turkish military to de-escalated the situation.

Such incidents show the real sentiments among the so-called moderate opposition groups backed by Turkey and limitations of Ankara’s control of these groups.

The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that on July 4 ISIS fighters had ambushed a convoy of the US-led coalition in the village of Namliyah in the eastern part of Deir Ezzor province. According to Amaq, ISIS employed 18 IEDs against the convoy killing four US troops. Other sources say that only two US servicemen were killed. The US-led coalition has not commented on these reports so far.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured the villages of Madinah and Qabr Taha from ISIS in the southern part of Hasakah province. The SDF is continuing it operation in the direction of the Tuwaymin area.

The Sydney rally to defend Julian Assange: An important step forward – By WSWS

Julian Assange

18 June 2018

Yesterday, Sunday June 17, a demonstration was held in Sydney’s Town Hall Square to fight for the immediate and unconditional freedom of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. The rally demanded that the Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull secure the release of Assange from his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and his safe return to Australia.

The rally was introduced and chaired by longstanding Socialist Equality Party (SEP) leader Linda Tenenbaum. It was addressed by SEP National Secretary James Cogan; Evrim Yazgin, the president of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at the University of Melbourne; and Sue Phillips, the national convener of the Committee For Public Education (CFPE). It concluded with a powerful speech by well known journalist and documentarist John Pilger, who has been a tireless fighter for the freedom of Julian Assange and the media.

The rally was based on the political principle that the defense of Assange is inseparably linked to the fight against the oppressive capitalist system, which is the cause of war, social inequality and all attacks on democratic rights.

An audience of several hundred people, including many students and workers, attended and vigorously applauded the speakers. They attended despite a total establishment media blackout and the hostility of the entire official political set-up towards the defence of Assange.

Opening the rally, Tenenbaum declared, “The Socialist Equality Party has organised this rally to begin the fight to build a powerful defence campaign in Australia, New Zealand and internationally that will bring together all those committed to democratic rights—the right of journalists to inform the population, their right to freedom of speech, and the right of everyone to be informed of the truth. These are issues of the most fundamental character. The suppression of the truth, of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, goes hand in hand with the destruction of democratic rights.”

In his address, James Cogan declared that the rally was “crucial for the working class, because it is part of the greater struggle for all the social and democratic rights of the vast mass of humanity.”

Cogan explained that increasing awareness of and concerns about the danger of war were developing within the working class and youth “in these times when the American president speaks casually of ‘totally destroying’ entire countries with nuclear weapons.”

“Of perhaps the most decisive importance,” Cogan continued, “the working class and the youth are coming back into struggle in the United States—the epicenter of world reaction and capitalist degradation.

“One cannot understand the determination of the American ruling elite to silence WikiLeaks and Assange without an understanding of their fear of the working class. The capitalist ruling classes and their representatives in the US and internationally are terrified of the power that the Internet provides to the working class, to ordinary people.

“It gives them access to alternative analysis and news; the ability to exchange information and opinions; and to politically organise across national borders: to unite together as an international force.”

The speaker observed, “Over the past three weeks, as we have promoted this rally, and the vigils that are taking place on June 19, we have revealed the extent of the support for Assange and WikiLeaks that exists in the working class in Australia and internationally.

“The establishment has abandoned him. Millions of people have not. What governments and political parties do now, at a time when Assange faces immense danger, is not going to be forgotten.”

The speech delivered by John Pilger provided a fierce and penetrating exposure of all those politicians, newspaper editors, journalists, ex-liberals and “ex-lefts” who have abandoned Julian Assange to the wolves. It constituted a powerful defence of democratic rights.

“I know Julian Assange well,” he began. “I regard him as a close friend, a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously; and I know why they smear him.

“In 2008, a plan to destroy both WikiLeaks and Assange was laid out in a top secret document dated 8 March, 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessments Branch of the US Defence Department. They described in detail how important it was to destroy the ‘feeling of trust’ that is WikiLeaks’ ‘centre of gravity.’

“This would be achieved, they wrote, with threats of ‘exposure [and] criminal prosecution,’ and an unrelenting assault on reputation. The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech.

“Their main weapon would be personal smear. Their shock troops would be enlisted in the media—those who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth. The irony is that no one told these journalists what to do. I call them Vichy journalists—after the Vichy government that served and enabled the German occupation of wartime France.”

Pilger’s invocation of “Vichy” was a well chosen metaphor, and one that is particularly apt today.

A whole layer of pseudo-left organisations boycotted the rally. Nothing could more clearly expose the relationship between the “identity politics” of this cowardly milieu and the interests of imperialism. They utilised the filthy “rapist” slander campaign, concocted against Assange in Sweden, to line up with their own governments and disown any defence of the courageous whistleblower.

Against this affluent, self-interested and anti-working class layer, Pilger insisted, “No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of ‘unworthy’ lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.”

The rally was not a one-off event. The International Committee of the Fourth International will continue to develop and extend the fight for Julian Assange’s freedom throughout the world, and to mobilise the vast social power of the international working class in defence of social and democratic rights. Sunday’s rally underscored the fact that such a struggle can be waged only on the basis of an anti-imperialist, anti-war and socialist perspective.

Linda Tenenbaum

Outcome of Assange Case Could Undermine the Rights of Millions – by Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Australians march through Brisbane to protest the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Dec. 10, 2010. Tertius Pickard | AP
War on Wikileaks

If Australia reneges on its obligations to protect Assange and fight for his rights, the implications such actions would hold for every other citizen of the country are as vast as they are chilling.

LONDON – As the sixth anniversary of his extended stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London approaches, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is faced with increasingly limited options. Barred from communicating with the outside world and from receiving most visitors, Assange’s only hope of avoiding extradition to the United States on trumped-up espionage charges comes down to the governments of the two countries of which he is a citizen: Australia and Ecuador.

In an unexpected move last week, the Australian government sent officials to meet with Assange and later confirmed that Australia would finally extend consular assistance to the Australian-born journalist after years of failing to do so and even threatening to revoke his Australian passport. The Australian government, in the past, has attempted to argue that it can do little to help Assange’s situation, asserting that it was “unable to intervene in the due process of another country’s court proceedings or legal matters.”

It has also failed to publicly comment on the UN’s finding that Assange has been subjected to arbitrary detention by the United Kingdom — asserting, as recently as last week, that the government’s position on the matter is “confidential,” and deflecting responsibility by claiming that the UN’s findings “are directed at the United Kingdom and Sweden, not at Australia.”

However, given the fact that Sweden has dropped all legal proceedings against him, and with his protected status at the Ecuadorian embassy in question, Australia is now coming under unprecedented pressure to act. And the political pressure the Australian government is facing involves the broader implications the Assange case holds for Australian citizens as a collective, not just for Assange as an individual.

As recently noted by Richard Hoffman at WSWS:

The issue at stake for the Australian government is its commitment to the protection of the human rights of its citizens, including internationally recognized legal and democratic norms such as free speech, the right of due process, freedom from cruel and degrading treatment, and the right not to be punished in the absence of a criminal act.”

Indeed, Assange’s detention in the embassy has been carried out in the complete absence of criminal charges, as the only remaining legal justification for his arrest by the U.K. government is his breach of bail.

However, as Hoffman writes, a breach of bail would not lead to incarceration in the U.K., as the primary punishment for such infractions is the payment of a bail bond, which was forfeited in Assange’s case. Thus, the only reasonable conclusion regarding the U.K.’s intention to detain Assange if he leaves the embassy is that it is to extradite him to the United States — the very basis for his protected status.

 

What undercutting Assange would mean for all Aussies

Thus, if Australia reneges on its obligations to protect Assange and fight for his rights, the implications such actions would hold for every other citizen of the country are as vast as they are chilling. It would set the legal precedent for Australia to allow any of its citizens to be detained, imprisoned and/or silenced by another government without charges, greatly weakening the rights of any Australian national living or traveling abroad. Essentially, it would mean that many of the rights granted to an Australian by right of one’s citizenship would evaporate the second he or she set foot on foreign soil.

Were Assange anyone else, the Australian government would be forced to act – at the very least – to maintain the appearance that it is committed to the rights of citizens and its own national sovereignty. However, Assange is no “normal” individual in this sense – his arrest is a “priority” to the U.S. government, which is now seeking to maximize pressure to extradite Assange while his protected status is at its weakest.

Australians march through Brisbane to protest the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Dec. 10, 2010. Tertius Pickard | AP

Thus, the degree to which the Australian government is influenced by the United States will be the deciding factor in this case. That influence, particularly under the current government of Australia, is as strong as ever and has been undeniable for decades. Indeed, since World War II, Australia has been very much a part of U.S. empire, hosting numerous U.S.-related military facilities and consistently offering support for U.S. wars in exchange for “preferential” access to U.S.-manufactured weapons.

That relationship has only grown stronger in recent years, in part due to Australia’s major role in facilitating the U.S. military’s “pivot to Asia” that was first announced under Barack Obama. With the current prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, having been a former executive at the U.S.-based “vampire squid” bank Goldman Sachs, the past influence of the U.S. on Australia’s government remains a factor that continues to demand attention.

Will the long-standing influence of the U.S. military-industrial complex be enough for Australia to choose to jeopardize the rights of its other 25 million citizens by setting a dangerous precedent in Assange’s case? The extent of the “consular assistance” that Australia has now extended to Assange will effectively answer that question.

 

Ecuador’s pivot towards U.S. empire

While Australia susses out its position, the most pressing threat to Assange’s security seems to come from the country that first granted him asylum, Ecuador. Once defiant in the face of U.S. pressure, Ecuador under President Lenín Moreno has sought to return to its neo-colonial status under the thumb of the United States, despite Moreno’s having campaigned as a loyalist to former President Rafael Correa, who had granted Assange asylum in the first place.

Moreno’s “betrayal” of Correa was foreshadowed by WikiLeaks’ releases in the past. In 2010, WikiLeaks’ released a 2007 document on Moreno written by the Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Linda Jewell. In the report, Jewell stated her view that then-Vice President Moreno would be “useful” to Washington:

Moreno welcomed the visit and expressed his admiration for the United States … He said that Ecuador had to get past its cultural inclination to always play the ‘blame game’ with respect to its problems, which so often includes blaming the U.S. for one thing or another … He will be a useful partner and advocate for many of our development assistance programs, and he will likely also be a useful and strategic conduit for political messages that may be difficult to deliver directly to Correa.”

This past Saturday, Correa’s Twitter account tweeted a screenshot of this same document, leading some to suggest that the document’s publication by Assange’s organization helped motivate Moreno’s recent decision to silence the journalist.

As the document foretold, Moreno indeed has sought to return his country to the sphere of U.S. influence. He has barred Correa from running for re-election and removed Correa loyalists from his cabinet. He has also begun paving the way for the U.S. military to regain its foothold in the country, which was abruptly ended in 2009 when Correa expelled the U.S. military from its base. The only exception is Ecuador’s granting of citizenship to Assange. However, this was done behind Moreno’s back and orchestrated by Correa ally María Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry.

As in Australia’s case, the actions of Moreno’s government in the Assange case will have similarly far-reaching implications for the rights of its citizens, especially if Moreno chooses to revoke Assange’s asylum. Yet, while Moreno is likely to avoid revoking Assange’s asylum directly, his decision to gag Assange suggests that he is opting to make Assange’s stay in the embassy so miserable that he will choose to leave of his own accord.

Correa has hinted that this is the case, as he has called Assange’s current treatment by Ecuador within the embassy a form of “torture,” and also noted months prior that Moreno was set to ensure that Assange’s days in the embassy were numbered. If Ecuador is willing to “torture” one of its own citizens in an effort to force him to “voluntarily” rescind its protections, its commitment to protecting the right to free speech and even the very dignity of its other citizens is immediately called into question.

Translation | Moreno delivers Ecuador to the USA, part of his betrayal of our people and the Patria Grande (shared homeland). Assange’s days in Ecuador’s embassy in London are numbered.

While the “vassal state” status of Australia and potentially Ecuador may do much to endanger the status of Assange, a negative decision by both governments on this single case would also set dangerous precedents for the rights of all citizens of both of those countries, a combined population of over 41 million people. As a result, the outcome of Assange’s case could well be much more damaging to Australia or Ecuador than the content of any past or future WikiLeaks release. If both countries fail to act on their obligation to protect one of their own, it will force them both to acknowledge that their citizens’ rights and their national sovereignty come second to the lures and demands of the American empire.

Top Photo | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange looks out the window of the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he has been confined since 2012. Luke MacGregor | Bloomberg

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The West is racing towards full-blown economic collapse and when it comes it will be devastating – By Egon von Greyerz /King World News (SOTT)

eye on the world

As the world edges closer to the next crisis, today the man who has become legendary for his predictions on QE and historic moves in currencies, told King World News there is no way out and this is why the global collapse will be devastating.

20th Birthday Celebration!

The ECB (European Central Bank) just had its 20th birthday. But there is really nothing to celebrate. The EU is in a total mess and the Euro, which was launched on January 1, 1999, is a failed currency. Every president of the ECB has had to deal with fires that had very little to do with price stability but were more a question of survival. Most of these fires were a lot more serious than the candles in the Euro cake above which Draghi is trying to blow out. During the Frenchman Trichet’s watch, he had to deal with the Great Financial Crisis that started in 2006…

West Racing Toward Full-Blown Collapse

The only mandate of the ECB is to maintain price stability. Well that clearly has been a very costly exercise. Between 2006 and 2011 the ECB balance sheet tripled from €1 trillion to €3 trillion. But the crisis didn’t finish in 2011. After a brief reduction in debt, the balance sheet expanded fast from €2.3 trillion in 2014 to €4 trillion today. It is quite remarkable to watch the creation of a supranational bank which automatically creates a purpose for its own existence in the form of massive money printing. This is no better than burning money and serves no purpose whatsoever. And it is of course far distant from its purpose of price stability.

Money printing creates high inflation and eventually hyperinflation. The only reason why we haven’t seen high conventional inflation in the EU is that all the printed money, just like in the US, has stayed with the banks. The result has been low inflation in consumer products but huge asset inflation. Thus, we have seen massive increases in stock, bond and property prices but not in consumer prices. So major money creation by the ECB and the Eurozone banks have so far had only minor inflationary impact. But as the velocity of money increases, so will inflation. This moment is not far away. The same will happen in the US. As velocity of money accelerates, US inflation will pick up rapidly.

The EU now has major economic and/or political problems in many countries. Italy’s new coalition government is a protest against the EU and Euro. With debt to GDP already the highest in Europe, the new regime will exacerbate the problems. Lower taxes and higher spending will guarantee that. As the chart below shows, Italian debt to GDP is already 140%. By 2050 this is projected to grow to 210%. As interest rates go up, servicing the growing debt will soon absorb all tax revenue. Italy will be bankrupt long before 2050 and default on all its debt.

Italian debt

Between now and 2050, the Italian working age population is forecast to decline by 1/3, from 36 million to 24 million. There will be a lot less people to pay for a much higher debt.

Italian working-age population

The consequences of massive debt, economic stagnation and population decline will be a much lower GDP, which is expected to decline 35% by 2050.

GDP 2016-2050

If the above forecast of a major fall in the population as well as a substantial increase in debt is even vaguely accurate, Italy is on its way to the Dark Ages.

I must stress here that I find it so sad that this glorious country is suffering so much already and will suffer a lot more. Personally I love Italy – the people, the food, the architecture, the history and the Giola di Vivere (joie de vivre) of the Italians. It will be so tragic to see all of this disintegrate. Hopefully it will take a long time, although, sadly, the crisis might actually be around the corner.

But Italy is just one of many countries which will collapse in coming years. Spain is in a similar situation and the prime minister has just been kicked out. Greece’s problems have never been resolved and this fine country is also bankrupt and so are the Greek banks. I could go on with Portugal, France, Ireland, the UK and many others. Most of these countries have insoluble problems. It is only a matter of degree and time when the EU/Eurozone house of cards comes down. The map below shows potential leaving countries and names.

EU leaving countries

Coming back to the ECB’s main objective of price stability, that has failed totally. The change from the local currencies of mark, franc, lira, pesetas, etc, has disguised what has really happened. Many countries like, Spain, Italy Portugal and Greece, used to be very inexpensive when they had their own currency. That is no longer the case. The change to the Euro has hidden the real inflation that has taken place in these countries. No wonder the Germans called it the TEURO. Teuer in German means expensive.

EU flag

The consequence of one currency fits all is a disaster for the weaker Eurozone countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal etc. The Euro is much too strong for these countries. This leads to weak exports as well as balance of payment and budget deficits. Countries like Germany on the other hand, benefit from a weak Euro which generates strong exports and surpluses. But the other side of the coin is that the ECB, which means mainly Germany, must finance the deficits of the weaker countries. And we all know that these debts will never be repaid. So whatever way you turn, the EU experiment will end in disaster. It is only a matter of how long it will take.

The Major Disease The World Will Face In Coming Years

If Italy, Greece or Spain had their own currencies, these would have weakened substantially already. Currency debasement is going to be the major contagious disease that the world will have to live with in coming years. It will happen to most currencies and spread like wildfire. Like many diseases, it normally starts in the periphery. Just take the examples of Turkey, Argentina and Venezuela. The currencies of these three countries have collapsed in this century and the fall is now accelerating.

The Turkish lira has lost 97% against gold since January 2000, and the fall is now picking up speed. For anyone who has been protected in gold, the gold price has gone up 38x vs the lira in the last 18 years (see chart below).

currency vs gold

The problem is worse in Argentina. Argentina used to have a very strong economy 100 years ago but lately they have gone through one crisis after the next. The Peso has lost 99% against gold since 2000. This means that gold is up 119x vs the peso in this century.

Finally let us look at the perfect example of a disastrously managed socialist economy with the resulting hyperinflation. I am taking about Venezuela of course. The Bolivar has lost 99.999% against gold since January 2000. So it now costs 550,000X more Bolivars to purchase an ounce of gold just in this century.

Comment: Except that Venezuela and it’s “disastrously managed socialist economy” has been a major target of financial, political and social sabotage for all those years from the empire to its north.

This all might sound unreal. These three currencies have lost between 97% and 99.999% in just 18 years. Well, it certainly isn’t unreal to the people in the three countries who have to suffer these precipitous losses of value of their money and disastrous falls in their standards of living.

And don’t think for one second that their governments told them to protect themselves, even when they knew they were going to print unlimited amounts of fiat money. No, the people had no warning. It is the same in all Western countries today. Governments in Europe, the US and Japan, just to mention a few, are already on the way to destroying their currencies in the 2000s. As the table shows, the Euro is down 75%, the Dollar 78% and the Yen 79% against gold since 2000. So inflation, leading to hyperinflation is already on the way in the West. It always starts slowly, although the fall so far in the last 18 years is already significant.

EU currency

But no government talks about how they are destroying their currency and no Western government tells their people to protect themselves by holding gold. They do the opposite. They manipulate the price of gold and see gold as a barbarous relic that has no place in a modern currency system. We know why they do this, of course, because gold can’t be printed or debased. Also, the gold price reveals their deceitful actions in ruining the currency and the economy.

Finally let’s look at two countries that understand gold and where the people buy and hold gold in important quantities.

Chindia gold demand

As the above chart shows, China and India have bought almost 25,000 tonnes since 2008. This means that on average they have bought the majority of annual gold mine production each year.

So my advice to investors is to learn from the recent economic problems/disasters in Turkey, Argentina and Venezuela. Any amount of personal gold, even very small, would have saved the holders in these countries from misery. It is also critical to heed the strong warning signs of deep trouble coming in Europe, Japan and the USA. A 75-79% fall in the currencies of these countries is telling us that they will all go to their intrinsic value of ZERO in the next few years.

And more importantly:

IGNORE THE PROPAGANDA FROM WESTERN GOVERNMENTS AND BANKS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND HISTORY OR GOLD. INSTEAD FOLLOW THE LEAD OF CHINA AND INDIA AND PROTECT YOURSELVES AGAINST THE COMING DESTRUCTION OF PAPER MONEY, WITH PHYSICAL GOLD AND SOME SILVER.” For those who would like to read more of Egon von Greyerz’s fantastic articles CLICK HERE.

Comment: See also: Gold set to breakout amid coming economic downturn, says financial expert

Singer-songwriter Roger Waters calls for defence of Assange By WSWS

By our reporters
4 June 2018

The above message was displayed above the stage of musician Roger Waters’ “Us + Them 2018” concert in Berlin, Germany on June 2.

Roger Waters was part of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd from 1965 to 1985. For the past 33 years, he has continued a solo career, which has included staging the largest live concert event in history.

Throughout his long career, singer-songwriter Waters has spoken out publicly against war, oppression and injustice.

He emailed the World Socialist Web Site last month to convey his support for international action to defend Julian Assange.

Netanyahu and May ‘partners in crime’ over Gaza’s ‘rivers of blood’, Palestinian activist tells RT – By RT

Netanyahu and May ‘partners in crime’ over Gaza’s ‘rivers of blood’,  Palestinian activist tells RT
British PM Theresa May is complicit in the ‘crimes’ of her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading UK-based Palestinian campaigner has told RT, a day before the Israeli leader visits London.

Netanyahu has this week been visiting his European allies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, lobbying them to follow the US and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

While he plans to do the same with May, London-based Palestinian activists are demanding he face questions over the scores of Palestinians shot in Gaza by the Israeli military in the past two months.

Up to 121 Palestinians have been killed and around 13,000 injured since the Great Return March started on March 30. Protesters marched to a fence, erected by the Israeli government, demanding the right to return to the land they were expelled or fled from following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. As they approached the fence they were shot at. Israel claims most of the protesters were Hamas ‘terrorists’ trying to infiltrate their country.

In the UK, thousands are expected to protest outside Downing Street on Tuesday for all of those killed, which include Palestinian nurse Razan Al-Najjar ,21, who was shot dead by Israeli snipers last Friday while helping those injured by the Israel Defence Force’s use of live ammunition.

Up to 50 UK health workers signed a letter saying they are “deeply concerned about the level of violence” in Gaza, citing that Al-Najjar’s death was in “violation” of the Geneva Conventions. They called on the government to follow suit and urged the UN to launch an independent inquiry into her visibly unprovoked killing.

Adie Mormech, from Stop Arming Israel and previously a lecturer in Gaza, told RT: “Razan is the second Palestinian medic to be killed in the last 2 months and many more have been shot and injured.

“The horror of these crimes against the Palestinians is clear for all who dare to look, well documented by all the major human right organisations and amidst the ongoing, crippling 11 year siege of Gaza that I spent two years living in, when it was deplorable but not as bad as it is now.

“One has to ask, how many medics, with their hands in the air, have to be executed by the Israeli army until the world holds Israel to account?”

The Downing Street protest comes shortly after it surfaced that the UK’s defense contractors are selling a record amount of arms to Israel.

According to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK last year issued £221m worth of arms licenses to defense contractors selling military equipment to Israel. A significant increase compared to £86 million ($114 million) in 2016.

Mormech said: “Britain has increased Israeli weapons exports the more Palestinians have been murdered. It is appalling and completely inexcusable that Israel is rewarded by Britain given the rivers of blood that are currently flowing through Gaza from the shootings and accompanying bombing campaigns.

“The fact Netanyahu is visiting the UK says to me that these are partners in crimes, profiting from the spoils of the brutality with which Israel is treating the Palestinians.”

The recent escalation of violence has prompted various British politicians to demand the the government halts its arms sales to Israel, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for their review in April.

The conduct by the IDF over the past sixty days has been met with international criticism from human rights organizations, who have called into question the appropriateness of using live ammunition against peaceful protesters. Israel blames Palestinian organization Hamas for the casualties, and claimed most of those killed were members of terrorist groups trying to make it into the country to attack Jewish forces and civilians.

The UN has launched a war crime investigation into what it described as Israel’s “wholly disproportionate” reaction to the protesters. The US was one of the two states opposed to the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution, while the UK was among the 14 to abstain.

By Claire Gilbody-Dickerson, RT

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Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video – By RT

 

Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video
The Northern Fleet, which is arguably the most powerful Russian naval force, is celebrating 285 years of operations. Its anniversary video shows state-of-the-art vessels and unique installations in the Russian Arctic region.

Established back in 1733, the Northern Fleet comprises some of Russia’s most remarkable military hardware, with 41 submarines, 37 surface vessels and ground troops making it a “cross-branch strategic force”, as the Russian Defense Ministry puts it in a Twitter post. Its anniversary video shows various military exercises staged by the Northern Fleet forces, including submarines firing cruise and ballistic missiles, Tu-95 strategic bombers flying training sorties and military divers holding underwater firing drills.

The flagship of the fleet is a nuclear-powered battlecruiser the ‘Pyotr Velikiy,’ one of the biggest nuclear-propelled ships in the world. The ‘Admiral Kuznetsov,’ Russia’s only serving aircraft carrier, which took part in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria in 2016, is also part of the Northern Fleet.

The naval force also has some of Russia’s most advanced nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines equipped with cruise and ballistic missiles. Two state-of-the-art submarines – a Yasen-M class vessel the Severodvinsk, carrying as many as 32 Onyx and Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles, and a Borei-class submarine the Yury Dolgorukiy, equipped with 16 Bulava nuclear ballistic missiles – are already in service in the fleet, while another Yasen-M class submarine, the Kazan, is currently undergoing sea trials.

The strategic force, which is particularly tasked with “defending Russia’s national interests in the Arctic,” also controls some unique military bases within the Polar circle. Of particular interest is Russia’s northernmost military base, called Arctic Shamrock.

The unique base is the world’s only permanent infrastructure facility built in the area located 80 degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The autonomous complex, which occupies an area of 14,000 square meters, allows up to 150 people to live and work there for as long as 18 months without any external support.

The Russian infrastructure in the Polar region is “unmatched” by any other country, the country’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said, in December 2017.

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Sinister Choreography of the MH17 Probe to Smear Russia – By Finian CUNNINGHAM – (Strategic Culture Foundation )

Sinister Choreography of the MH17 Probe to Smear Russia

The Dutch-led probe into the 2014 Malaysian airliner disaster has the hallmarks of a psychological operation to frame-up Russia and to justify further sanctions and aggression from the NATO powers.

The so-called Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released an update last Thursday on its ongoing probe into the MH17 air disaster over Eastern Ukraine, in which all 298 people onboard were killed. The JIT’s latest release moves the accusation of culpability closer to Russia, with the team claiming that an anti-aircraft Buk missile, which allegedly shot down the plane, was brought into Ukraine by Russia’s 53rd Brigade based in Kursk, southwest Russia.

Then on Friday, the day after the high-profile JIT presentation, a news report compiled by US-based McClatchy News and UK-based self-styled online investigative website Bellingcat was published claiming to have identified a senior Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer as being involved in the transport of the missile system.

The Russian GRU officer is named as Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov. The report includes a photograph of the named man, who is said to have at least one residential address in Moscow and who used the call sign “Orion”. Tellingly, the McClatchy report claims that news of identifying the Russian military officer was not known by the JIT when it made its presentation the day before. But McClatchy reported that the Dutch-led investigators now want to arraign “Orion”.

Over the weekend, the Dutch, Australian and British governments upped the ante by formally accusing Russia, and demanding that Moscow pay financial compensation to families of the crash victims. Most of those onboard the doomed MH17 were Dutch, Malaysian and Australian nationals.

What we are seeing here is a choreographed sequence trying to give the public impression that developments in the probe are taking a natural course based on “evidence” imputing blame to Russia. The same technique of media psychological operation can be seen in the Skripal poisoning affair in which Moscow is blamed for trying to assassinate a former spy in England. Allegations, purported evidence, and then sanctions (expulsion of Russian diplomats) all follow a choreographed sequence.

On the MH17 incident, Russia has vehemently denied any involvement in the passenger plane’s downing. Moscow says its own investigation into the incident points to the Kiev regime’s armed forces as being responsible, possibly using their stock of Soviet-era Buk anti-aircraft missiles. Significantly, Russia’s investigative results have been spurned by the JIT, while Moscow’s offers of contributing to the probe have been rebuffed. As in the Skripal affair, where the British authorities have also refused Russia’s offers of joint investigation, or Russia’s ability to independently verify the supposedly incriminating data.

In a dramatic twist, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that the missile casing displayed by the Dutch investigators bore features dating the weapon to 1986 when Ukraine was a Soviet Republic. The Russian military said that all such Buk models were replaced by its forces in 2011. Therefore, the alleged offensive weapon presented by the JIT last week could not have come from Russian forces. Besides, Moscow denies that any of its brigades crossed into Ukrainian territory.

The JIT, which includes investigators from Holland, Belgium, Australia, Malaysia and – invidiously – Ukrainian secret services, openly acknowledged in its presentation last week that it is cooperating with the Britain-based Bellingcat website. The latter is cited for its analysis of videos purporting to show the transport of a Russian military Buk convoy through Eastern Ukraine at around the time of the airliner being shot down. Those videos have already been exposed as fabrications.

Now it seems rather strange that the JIT was reported by McClatchy as not knowing of Bellingcat’s next “scoop” published the following day in which it claims to identify a Russian military officer, named as Oleg Ivannikov or Orion, for being involved in coordinating the transport of the Buk convoy, which the JIT says came from the 53rd Brigade in Russia’s Kursk.

The JIT and Bellingcat have collaborated in a previous update to its MH17 probe, in 2016, when the dubious videos were presented as purportedly showing the Buk convoy traversing Eastern Ukraine back to Russia. Bellingcat was cited again in the JIT’s update last Thursday.

That raises the question of why the information claiming to identify the Russian military officer was not available to JIT, even though the latter has worked closely with Bellingcat before? It was the next day when the McClatchy-Bellingcat news report came out, seemingly separate to the JIT presentation.

The sequence suggests a concerted effort to “build” a public perception that “clues” into the cause of the air crash and the incrimination of Russia are being assembled in an independent manner. When, in reality, the sequence is actually a deliberately orchestrated media campaign, to more effectively smear Russia.

Bellingcat’s media activities indicate that it is not the supposed “independent online investigative website” it claims to be. During the Syrian war, it has helped to peddle claims that videos sourced from the White Helmets are “authentic” when in fact there is strong evidence that the White Helmets have been fabricating videos of atrocities on behalf of NATO-sponsored terrorists in order to smear the Syrian government and its Russian ally.

For the Dutch-led JIT to associate with Bellingcat as a source of “evidence” is a matter of grave concern as to the probe’s professional credibility.

Moreover, what is also fatally damaging to the MH17 probe is that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) under the control of the Western-backed Kiev regime, which came to power in the NATO-backed February 2014 coup d’état, is the source for much of the so-called evidence implicating Russia or the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine for shooting down the MH17 airliner.

The dubious videos cited by the JIT and Bellingcat were sourced from the SBU. Those videos were purportedly posted on social media at the time of the plane crash by anonymous members of the public. The Russian government has dismissed those videos as fake.

The latest claims by McClatchy and Bellingcat of identifying a Russian military officer are based on allegations that mobile phone intercepts are attributable to the man named as Orion. Bellingcat appears to have expended a lot of effort trawling through digital phone books to identify the individual. The report also relies on embellishment of Orion’s alleged secret military career in Ukraine and South Ossetia by way of lending a sense of credibility and sinister innuendo.

However, the bottomline is that McClatchy and Bellingcat both admit that they are relying on the Ukrainian secret services for their phone intercepts, as they had previously for the videos of the alleged Russian Buk convoy.

The SBU and its Kiev masters have an obvious axe to grind against Moscow. Their partisan position, not to say potential liability for the air crash, thus makes the JIT and subsequent Western media reporting highly suspect.

Such close involvement of a Western media outlet (McClatchy) with a fake news engine (Bellingcat) and Ukrainian state intelligence is indicative of coordinated public psychological operation to smear Russia.

The prompt responses from Western governments calling for criminal proceedings against Moscow are further indication that the whole effort is an orchestrated campaign to frame-up Russia.

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