Abu Trump al-Amriki

Embattled at home in a do-or-die war (or “witch hunt”) against powerful factions of the deep state, President Trump, in the first stop of his first foreign trip, lands with pomp and circumstance in the ultimate totalitarian theocracy.



A brilliant analysis and comment by Pepe Escobar on Sputnik News 

Trump will be lavishly entertained by a parasite monarchy that for decades exports the ideological matrix of all forms of Salafi-jihadi terrorism; a regime that denies the rights of its own population and teaches them to hate foreigners, non-Muslims, women, art and a culture-heavy past (as in bombing priceless historical sites in Yemen).

The same regime still denies, as a state, any implication in financing the most extreme terror outfits – without, for that matter, preventing influent pious nationals of doing so on an individual basis; interferes in the religious culture of Sunni Muslim nations all over the world and sterilizes any possible debate about Islam; foments an ethnic-confessional war between Sunnis and Shi’ites that envelops the whole Middle East in fire and blood with the only objective of enfeebling geopolitical rival Iran, all the while meekly invoking American protection.

Talk about a nasty theocracy with no redeeming qualities.
And that’s only the short version.


Trump’s lavish Riyadh get-together is being billed as part of his drive to support the renaissance of US manufacturing. That translates in fact as yet another bonanza for the industrial-military-security-surveillance complex, in the form of a series of mega-deals that include the totalitarian theocracy buying over $100 billion – and possibly more than $300 billion — in US weaponry.

On the side, Trump will propose his Arab NATO scheme – which is essentially the formalization of an already existing NATO-GCC symbiosis. This Arab NATO will – in theory — fight some strands of Islamic fundamentalism (Daesh, but not, for instance, Jabhat al-Nusra), but most of all what the GCC bills as the “existential threat” of Iran as well as, subtext applies, Shi’ism.

This will all be enshrined at a banquet shared by the whole GCC petrodollar gang and over 50 Muslim-majority nation leaders, all guests of the Alzheimer-suffering House of Saud nominal head, King Salman. Both Syria and Iran have not been invited. Trump is bound to deliver a speech to the Muslim world – a portentous temerity in itself.

The Arab NATO will be de facto led by none other than Trump himself, with his second-in-command none other than Saudi Warrior Prince Mohammad bin Salman, aka MBS.

The massive, brand new US weaponizing will be deployed – as the NATO-GCC spin goes – for “defense” against Iran, and most of all “defense” against Syria and Yemen, which, as the record shows, are guilty of not being led by Wahhabi fanatics.

Every grain of sand in the Arabian desert knows the main jihadi brigades in Syria, the so-called Army of Conquest, led by al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda, are funded by House of Saud-linked Wahhabi fanatics. Nusra will immensely benefit from the new weapon extravaganza.

On Iran, the House of Saud can even count on being fully supported by Trump’s generals, “Mad Dog” Mattis at the Pentagon and National Security Adviser HR McMaster, who’ve both been to Iraq and see Tehran as Evil incarnated.

When we add the cozy accommodation between Israel and Daesh, the whole panorama explodes any Dadaist/surrealist thermometer. Wounded Nusra jihadis have been routinely treated in Israeli military hospitals. When Daesh accidentally shelled Israelis in the occupied Golan Heights, Moshe Yaalon, former Israeli Minister of Defense, breathlessly stressed, the jihadis “immediately apologized to Israel.”

Of course they did. Daesh works to advance the key Israeli strategic objective across “Syraq”; to keep secular Arab states weak, fragmented, bleeding from perpetual wars. That also happens to be the exact same strategic objective of the US deep state, Trump or no Trump. The brand new massive weapons deal perfectly fits the bill.

So there could not be a more graphic illustration of how the battle lines are now drawn; on one side we have Washington, the House of Saud, GCC and Israel (the GCC is dying to strike a deal with Tel Aviv, selling the Palestinians down the drain for good); on the other side we have Iran, Syria – and Russia.

It’s raining cash for weapons!

The mere visit itself – with the whole House of Saud and its sprawling media empire gleefully prostrated in front of His Masters’ Voice – shows how little has changed since the good ol’ Roosevelt/King Saud USS Quincy days. Once again, the House of Saud is buying US protection – and the War Party Mafia certainly knows an “offer you can’t refuse” when it sees one.

The alliance between Abu Trump al-Amriki and deputy crown prince MBS is one for the ages. A selfish, aggressive warmonger posing as an economic expert, MBS is fast collecting powerful enemies in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is a lowly rentier state, the Bedouin version, infested by paternalism. The Saudi population was estimated at 26 million last year; active population at 18 million. There are at least 9.4 million immigrant workers, and at least 2 million illegals. In practice, we have no more than 8 million Saudis in the workforce, with only 41% actually working full-time.

MBS has been all over the West’s capitals promoting the “Vision 2030” program which would – in theory – reduce Saudi dependency on oil. That includes, among other things, lower salaries for state functionaries; fewer energy subsidies; selling plots of land around Mecca; and most of all selling 5% of oil giant Aramco to foreign investors through a massive IPO to take place next year, possibly generating over $100 billion to be invested in nuclear and solar energy projects.

That’s all in the conditional. What’s certain is that while preaching austerity, MBS took only a few hours in summer last year to buy the yacht of Russian billionaire Yuri Sheffler for 550 million euros after he saw it during his holiday in the Cote d’Azur.

Then there’s Yemen — for all practical purposes the House of Saud’s and especially MBS’s Vietnam. As a direct consequence of MBS’s war, the UN estimates 17 million Yemenis are “food insecure,” a.k.a. starving, including 3.3 million pregnant and breast-feeding mothers and children. Trump fully supports the war on Yemen.

On Daesh, first-class Algerian writer Kamel Daoud has nailed it: “Daesh has a mother, the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father, the ideological industry of Saudi Arabia.” Since 2009 WikiLeaks has made it clear that private donors in Saudi Arabia are the main source of financing for Salafi-jihadis.

Don’t expect Trump advisers to clue him in. Whatever it’s called, Salafism or Wahhabism, the official doctrine remains an ultra-puritan Islamism calling for an expansionist jihad. The House of Saud and a jihadi Caliphate are both sides of the same totalitarian theocracy coin. Trump welcomed by the House of Saud to fight Daesh qualifies as the ultimate Monty Python sketch.

Still, the House of Saud may always count on gullible/greedy Westerners – the same ol’ Roosevelt/King Saud effect. All it needs is a diversionist tactic. Enter, for instance, MBS’s interview broadcast a few weeks ago on al-Arabiya TV and Saudi TV, where he proclaims, “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran,” claiming, risibly, that Iranian Shi’ites want to seize Mecca. Actually, for years there have been secret CIA scenarios gaming exactly that – perpetrated by US commandos.

When MBS promised, like a Drama Queen, ahead of Trump’s visit, to carry “the war” against Iran into Iranian territory, he may have bitten more than he can chew. It might just be possible that Trump won’t frontally antagonize Tehran from now on, as he needs both Iran and Russia for some sort of peace deal in Syria (as Trump, Tillerson and Lavrov discussed at the White House).

So, for the moment, why not bask in the glow of Saudi adulation? It’s raining cash for weapons, and no one better than Abu Trump al-Amriki knows there’s no business like (proxy) war business.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.



… RELATED  VIDEOS …
(…repetita iuvant…)

Trump signs $380bn weaponry deal with Saudi’s regime,
diffuser of criminal Wahhabism,
best terrorist-gangs’ supporter in Middle East.


This just mean: Money for the USA war lobby, Weapons for Terrorism, Death for Middle Eastern Peoples
… and beyond …


Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia to reset ties

US President Donald Trump gets a royal Saudi welcome during his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

US First Lady Melania Trump, First daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among those accompanying the president in the trip. The Saudi King Salman personally welcomed Trump at the airport. The two sat together in the Saudi Royal court. Finalizing a U-S proposed arms deal worth billions of dollars is on the trip’s agenda. Riyadh is a major importer of US arms and has used them to wage one of the most horrible wars on the Yemeni nation killing thousands of civilians.


Under siege in Washington,
Trump reaps Saudi arms deal, stronger ties

US President Donald Trump has traveled to Saudi Arabia in his first trip abroad. Trump and the Saudi king signed a controversial multi-billion dollar arms deal amid Riyadh’s bleak human rights record.
The arms agreement would funnel arms worth up to 3-hundred billion dollars into Saudi Arabia over the next ten years. This is while Riyadh has unleashed a horrible war against its southern neighbor Yemen since March 20-15. Over 12-thousand Yemenis have fallen victim to the brutal war which goes on amid international silence. Riyadh is the biggest arms importer from the United States. Trump would travel to Israel, Italy, and Belgium after leaving Saudi Arabia.


Trump visits Saudi Arabia first, signs $380bn deal

Donald Trump’s received a lavish, royal welcome in Saudi Arabia, where he’s kicking off his first foreign tour as U.S. president. Trump’s signed a number of defence and business deals totalling in excess of $380bn, including an arms deal worth $110bn. Trump is the first American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any Muslim-majority country, his inaugural stop overseas and he’s pleased with his progress so far.


the show must go on

Saudi Night Fever:
Trump with traditional Arabian sword dance

Before His Election We Could Not Imagine Him
to Be So Much Buffoon

US President Donald Trump was spotted enjoying himself with dancers in a traditional Saudi sword ‘Ardha’ performance, Saturday, on his first overseas visit as president to Riyadh. Earlier in the day, Trump was decorated with the kingdom’s top civilian honour after a warm reception by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Saudi royal family. The two leaders also signed a series of agreements aimed at boosting their countries’ military and economic partnerships.


WHO warns of 300,000 Cholera cases
in Yemen within 6 months

The World Health Organization says the Cholera epidemic in Yemen could reach 300-thousand cases within six months.
A representative of the U- health agency has warned of an extremely high death toll, describing the outbreak as unprecedented. At least 242 people have died of cholera across Yemen over the past three weeks alone. Tens of thousands of others have been diagnosed with the disease. Humanitarian organizations say Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and its crippling sea and naval blockade are to blame for the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. According to the U-N, one child dies every ten minutes from preventable causes in the Arab country. This, as the United States is set to give the go-ahead for a huge controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia.


… and  more …


They Think You’re Stupid


Trump Dancing With The Devil (+18!)


SOURCES:
Sputnik News, by Pepe Escobar
archive from 'The Real Syrian Free Press'
archive from 'The Real Syrian Free Press'
archive from 'The Real Syrian Free Press'
~
Submitted by SyrianPatriots
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/abu-trump-al-amriki/
~

CrossTalk: Le Pen vs. Macron (ft. Pepe Escobar)

Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, China

By Pepe Escobar

April 22, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –  “Sputnik” – The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, does not come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance – and a military parade.

Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings.

Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both.

For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it.

Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around – what else — the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders.”

This happens just after China’s First Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, one of the top seven in the Politburo and one of the drivers of China’s economic policies, was received in Moscow by President Putin. They discussed Chinese investments in Russia and the key energy angle of the partnership.

But most of all they prepared Putin’s next visit to Beijing, which will be particularly momentous, in the cadre of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit on May 14-15, steered by Xi Jinping.

The General Office of the CCP – directly subordinated to Xi — only holds this kind of ultra-high-level annual consultations with Moscow, and no other player. Needless to add, Li Zhanshu reports directly to Xi as much as Vaino reports directly to Putin. That is as highly strategic as it gets.

That also happens to tie directly to one of the latest episodes featuring The Hollow (Trump) Men, in this case Trump’s bumbling/bombastic National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. HR McMaster.

In a nutshell, McMaster’s spin, jolly regurgitated by US corporate media, is that Trump has developed such a “special chemistry” with Xi after their Tomahawks-with-chocolate cake summit in Mar-a-Lago that Trump has managed to split the Russia-China entente on Syria and isolate Russia in the UN Security Council.

It would have taken only a few minutes for McMaster to read the BRICS joint communiqué on Syria for him to learn that the BRICS are behind Russia.

No wonder a vastly experienced Indian geopolitical observer felt compelled to note that, “Trump and McMaster look somewhat like two country bumpkins who lost their way in the metropolis.”

Follow the money

Exhibit B centers on Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to progressively replace the US dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system.

That also involves the key participation of Kazakhstan – very much interested in using gold as currency along OBOR. Kazakhstan could not be more strategically positioned; a key hub of OBOR; a key member of the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU); member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and not by accident the smelter of most of Russia’s gold.

In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has been swiftly promoting their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonize the internationally accepted SWIFT, controlled by the US.

Russia, on the other hand, has stressed the creation of “an alternative,” in the words of Russian Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiullina, in the form of the Mir payment system — a Russian version of Visa/ MasterCard. What’s implied is that were Washington feel inclined to somehow exclude Russia from SWIFT, even temporarily, at least 90 percent of ATMs in Russia would be able to operate on Mir.

China’s UnionPay cards are already an established fixture all across Asia – enthusiastically adopted by HSBC, among others. Combine “alternative” payment systems with a developing gold-backed system – and “toxic” does not even begin to spell out the reaction of the US Federal Reserve.

And it’s not just about Russia and China; it’s about the BRICS.

What First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov has outlined is just the beginning: “BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets.”

Russia and China already have established systems to do global trade bypassing the US dollar. What Washington did to Iran — cutting their banks off SWIFT – is now unthinkable against Russia and China.

So we’re already on our way, slowly but surely, towards a BRICS “gold marketplace.” A “new financial architecture” is being built. That will imply the eventual inability of the US Fed to export inflation to other nations – especially those included in BRICS, EEU and SCO.

The Hollow Men

Trump’s Generals, led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, may spin all they want about their need to dominate the planet with their sophisticated AirSeaLandSpaceCyber commands. Yet that may be not enough to counter the myriad ways the Russia-China strategic partnership is developing.

So more on than off, we will have Hollow Men like Vice-President Mike Pence, with empurpled solemnity, threatening North Korea; “The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” Forget this does not even qualify as a lousy line in a cheap remake of a Hollywood B-movie; what we have here is Aspiring Commander-in-Chief Pence warning Russia and China there may be some nuclear nitty-gritty very close to their borders between the US and North Korea.

Not gonna happen. So here’s to the great T. S. Eliot, who saw it all decades in advance: “We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together
 / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! / Our dried voices, when
 / We whisper together 
/ Are quiet and meaningless
 / As wind in dry grass / 
Or rats’ feet over broken glass / 
In our dry cellar.”

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Pentagon – and Daesh – Target Iran

By Pepe Escobar

April 03, 2017Information Clearing House” –  “Sputnik” – CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel channeled his full Dr. Strangelove in front of the US House Armed Services Committee this past Wednesday.

“We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means.”

As Orwellian as our times may be, this still ranks as a declaration of war. With the inbuilt consequence of smashing to bits the UN nuclear deal struck with Iran in the summer of 2015.

Joseph Strangelove did not bother to chainsaw his words.

Iran is one of the greatest threats to the US today (Pentagon official doctrine; number four after Russia, China and North Korea). Iran has increased its “destabilizing role” and poses “the greatest long-term threat to stability” in the entire Middle East.

Iran is sneaky; “I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone.” And that’s “an area between normal competition between states — and it’s just short of open conflict.”

Iran is involved in “lethal aid facilitation”; the use of “surrogate forces”; plenty of “cyber activities.”

The US has “not seen any improvement in Iran’s behavior.” The naughty boy/country in question still poses “credible threats” through its “nuclear weapons potential” and “robust” ballistic missile program.

So this is it; we’re going to take them out.

CENTCOM’s Endless Jihad

The easy way out would be to characterize this juvenile mobster-style outburst as brought to you by the House of Saud petrodollar fund.

Or to be reminded that Joseph Strangelove was addressing the very same crowd who despite acronym-laden 17 multibillion dollar intel agencies telling them over and over, via National Intelligence assessments, that Iran did not have, and was not planning to have, nuclear weapons, still mightily denounced Iran’s “nuclear threat.”

But reality always tops fiction.

No one less than the Islamic State/Daesh released a video in Farsi – complete with a message to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei —   declaring war on Iran because they are apostate Shi’ites and because they “tolerate” Jews.

No, this is not a Monty Python sketch. In fact, we have been propelled to the curioser and curioser situation of a CENTCOM that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq; distributed death and destruction free of charge; provoked a myriad, monster refugee crisis; is back at war in Iraq; is still implicated in regime change by all means in Syria; and “leads from behind” the Saudi destruction of Yemen, is now de facto, on the record, allied with Daesh – which it let fester – to take out Iran.

Feel free to call it CENTCOM’s jihad.

Joseph Strangelove’s performance took place right on cue as the neocon/neoliberalcon axis hysterically peddling its Russophobia – and Iranophobia — across the Beltway and beyond was celebrating a tasty geopolitical candy: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the magnificent Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. Or, in neocon shorthand, “the mullahs” meet “Hitler”.

There were predictable developments; Foreign Minister Javad Zarif confirmed the Russian military may use air bases in Iran on a “case by case basis” – essentially against Salafi-jihadis in Syria, as was the case in August last year, when Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34s flew missions from Hamadan airbase.

But, as Rouhani and Putin made it quite clear, the meeting went way beyond cooperating on a real, on the ground, war on terror.

The partnership now encompasses increased trade; energy investments; scientific exchanges; Russia building two new nuclear power plants in Bushehr, site of Iran’s first reactor; the upcoming membership of Iran in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and in the near future, the possibility of Russia-China helping Iranian banking institutions.

As the White House tries to get its act together before Secretary of State “T.Rex” Tillerson’s first official trip to Russia, in two weeks time, Russian “overtures to Iran” is now being packaged as one of the key problems preventing some sort of deal – alongside the same old “Russian aggression” meme in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and cyberspace.

For the Pentagon, Iran-Russia cooperation is anathema – in Syria or anywhere else, especially after Aleppo. That happens to mesh quite well with the White House Richelieu/Macchiavelli Steve Bannon’s worldview; Bannon was a naval officer during the Iran hostage crisis and regards Iran as an existential threat as much as the Pentagon brass.

So the picture now sold to internal US public opinion could not be more frightful; Iran “destabilizes” the entire Middle East while Russia “destabilizes” Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, Ukraine, actually the whole planet.
What Nuclear Deal?

At least Washington’s road map ahead on Iran is now being fully laid out; more – and tougher – sanctions; non-stop harassment coupled with brainwashing of Western public opinion; covert ops; and last but not least, outright war.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is avidly promoting the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Bill which, if approved, will bury the American commitment to the UN-sponsored nuclear deal; brand the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization; and open the gates to yet another sanctions flood.

It might as well be a case of all bark, no bite. Anyone who’s seen the writing on the wall across the Beltway knows that the Iran-Russia strategic partnership is one of the three key nodes, along with China, in the big story of the young 21st century; Eurasia integration, with Russia and Iran closing the energy equation and China as the investment locomotive. And there’s not much they can do to prevent it.

So once again the dogs of demonization bark while the Eurasian caravan passes.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

North Korea: The Really Serious Options on the Table

By Pepe Escobar

March 23, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – The National People’s Congress in Beijing made it clear that China in the 21st century as led by Xi Jinping now relies, as a state, on the  “core” leader’s “four comprehensives” as the letter of the law.

The “four comprehensives” are to build a moderately prosperous society; deepen economic reform; advance the law-based governance of China; and strengthen the Communist Party’s self-governance.

No foreign-policy adventure/disaster should be allowed to interfere with the “four comprehensives,” which, extrapolated, are also linked to the imperative success of the New Silk Roads (One Belt, One Road), China’s ambitious outreach across Eurasia.

But then there’s supremely unpredictable North Korea. And the notorious Lenin line resurfaces: “What is to be done?”

Pyongyang has successfully tested land-based, mobile, solid-fueled intermediate-range ballistic missiles. When operational, this development translates into a North Korean first-strike capability difficult to track, as well as the means to absorb an initial foreign attack and retaliate with – nuclear-tipped? – missiles.

Four North Korean missiles recently – and deliberately – aimed at the Sea of Japan constitute a clear message: We are able to hit US military forces in Japan and we can defeat any missile defense deployed or to be deployed by the US, Japan and South Korea.

Patience or bust

US Secretary of State “T Rex” Tillerson has officially proclaimed that the era of US “strategic patience” concerning North Korea is over, and “all options are on the table.” Yet this does not necessarily mean a new war in the Korean Peninsula led by President Donald Trump, which would be an absolute folly with horrific consequences, and all for nothing. Pyongyang carefully protects its crack team of engineers, who would put a nuclear program back on track in no time.

Team Trump knows very well that Seoul – extremely vulnerable to the North’s military machine – would veto military strikes against North Korea, as would Beijing.

It’s significant that Chinese media have chosen to emphasize Tillerson’s “moderate” tone on North Korea – while duly signaling the failure, once again, of trademark US sanctions policy.

Every major world actor knows that the abandonment of “strategic patience” plus a deluge of additional sanctions will inevitably lead to Pyongyang, in a flash, selling fissile material in the global black market for ready cash.

And overwhelming pressure on North Korea may lead to the lethal counterpunch of that country accumulating up to 50 nuclear weapons capable of hitting anywhere in South Korea and Japan by 2022.

So the only reasonable option is what for Washington, so far, has been anathema: to sit down at the negotiating table with Pyongyang and hammer out a definitive peace treaty to replace the current armistice that suspended, but did not officially end, the Korean War. That is what I heard over and over again when I visited North Korea for Asia Times.

And it should be crystal clear: peace treaty first; then the end of sanctions; then North Korea ending its nuclear-weapons program. That also happens to be what the Chinese government wants; Beijing is terrified of a war sooner or later disturbing the currently frozen – albeit dissolving – status quo.

The problem is that Team Trump – just like the previous US administration of Barack Obama – assumes that Pyongyang, under pressure, must relinquish its nuclear-weapons program before the negotiations start. Wishful thinking, as anyone who has been to North Korea knows. North Korea is for all practical purposes a nuclear power. The only way it might get on the road to becoming a “normal” nuclear power, like for instance Pakistan, is for the Korean War to be finally over.

The ‘invisible’ Tokyo-Beijing gamble

But then there’s a fascinating parallel development, as relayed by European Union diplomats directly dealing with Asia. Japanese industrialists mostly don’t buy Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative old-guard xenophobia concerning China. Japanese exports to China are actually rising compared with Japanese exports to the US.

Former minister Ichiro Ozawa, aka “Shadow Shogun,” president of the Liberal Party and former leader of several opposition parties, is plotting to unseat Abe in the next general election. He is calling for the merger of his Liberal Party, the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party, saying, quite rightly, “We can’t win if we fight separately,” adding that the three parties “can unite on basic policies” as they all call for shutting down nuclear plants, scrapping the new national-security laws and rejecting the next increase in the consumption tax.

As important, the LP, DPJ and SDP strongly favor Tokyo-Beijing rapprochement, and Ozawa’s pedigree as a “friend of China” is well established.

In December 2009, when he was secretary general of the ruling DPJ, Ozawa famously led a group of 600 Democratic parliamentarians and businessmen to China. At the beginning of his political career as a Liberal Democratic Party member of parliament, Ozawa was the closest political ally of prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, who is most remembered for normalizing Japanese relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972. It is from “Kaku-san” that Ozawa inherited the title of “Shadow Shogun,” and it is to this day that Ozawa believes that his mentor was scapegoated for the Lockheed scandal and driven out of office because he saw close China-Japan relations as as key to East Asian peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile in South Korea, after the debacle over the impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-hye, there are considerable forces warming up to Beijing. A political majority in South Korea favors economic cooperation with China – for instance, in the aeronautics industry – coupled with an Asian entente to solve the North Korea problem.

The most probable winner of the next presidential election to be held on May 9 is Moon Jae-in, a firm supporter of the Sunshine Policy of closer contacts and economic cooperation with Pyongyang and no revival of the military pressure inaugurated by former president Kim Dae-jung and pursued by Seoul from 1998 to 2008.

Facts on the geopolitical ground spell out massive unpopularity of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system possibly to be deployed by the end of next month in South Korea.

When Tillerson urged Beijing to refrain from creating economic policies that could hinder the deployment of THAAD, that could have been coded language acknowledging that Beijing has moved heavy electronic-warfare jammers up to positions where THAAD may be rendered useless against a possible North Korean response.

And that ties in perfectly with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently describing Beijing and Pyongyang as being as close as “lips and teeth” – though, of course, teeth can sometimes bloody lips, and China has also called on North Korea to suspend nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in US and South Korean military exercises. “The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming towards each other,” Wang said on the sidelines of the recently concluded National People’s Congress in Beijing, defining it as China’s task to “apply brakes on both trains”.

Doing it the Asian way

Beijing could possibly deliver calibrated economic pressure on North Korea (suspension of coal imports) and at the same time imprint on Washington the necessity of dialogue, eventually bringing both parties to the table.

At the Obama-Xi Sunnylands summit in 2013, Xi stressed a “new type of relations between major powers,” based on “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”. It hasn’t happened – yet.

But absent a torrent of off-message late-night tweets, the Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, next month might well deliver a compromise.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo-Beijing track, invisible to the Trump-Xi track, could be laid with Abe out of power.

The first major consequence of a Tokyo-Beijing rapprochement might be a negotiated solution for North Korea that would include a “soft” end of the Kim dynasty.

However it happens, South Korea would likely refuse a lightning-quick reunification, German-style. North Korea would remain as the same state for at least another decade, with Chinese cadres, including influential members/associates of the Politburo, helping remaining technocrats in the North to step beyond the Kim dynasty.

Under this optimistic scenario, after one century of hardcore conflict, Japan and China might aim for some sort of reconciliation – call it a historical compromise – very much aligned to Xi Jinping’s ideas, now that he’s finalizing being completely in charge of the People’s Liberation Army and totally in control of the Communist Party machine.

A mix of Japan’s high technology and China’s industrial solidity would mean a quick overtaking of the US, an economic-policy convergence beyond the short-term profitability of financial speculation, stressing economic balance, with the priority being job preservation and solidarity-based social policies.

Talk about a major intellectual advance of the East over the West. But first, gotta talk to Pyongyang.

Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times

This article was first published at Asia Times

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

F. William Engdahl – What is happening in the world?

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‘The time to invest in Iran is now’

March 08, 2017

by Pepe Escobar for the Asia Times‘The time to invest in Iran is now’

The shift in the global balance of financing power towards Russia, India and China — especially China — is opening up opportunities for Tehran

It’s a beautiful late winter morning, the snowy Alborz mountains glittering under the sun, and Professor Mohammad Marandi from the faculty of world studies at the University of Tehran is taking me on the road, westbound.

Sprawling west Tehran is a decentralization/connectivity spectacular, with its brand new highways, metro lines, artificial lakes and megamalls. While not on the epic scale of the construction rush in Beijing or Shanghai, it is similar in spirit and comparable to what’s going on in Istanbul.

The professor — arguably Iran’s leading political and cultural analyst —and I had been on a running conversation for days on all aspects of an evolving Russia-China-Iran strategic partnership, the massive Eurasia integration project pushed by China, and its myriad interconnected challenges.

Watching west Tehran go by, it was hard not to connect this new normal to the atmosphere of excitement surrounding the Iran nuclear deal struck in Vienna in the summer of 2015. But this had actually started even before President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, “linked to Iran’s stability and rising regional status,” Marandi said.

Cue to the former head of the Iranian National Security Council’s Foreign Relations Committee and professor at Princeton, Seyed Hosein Mousavian. He has been adamant that “America’s four-decade push for regime change in Iran is a failure.” On the nuclear deal, Mousavian noted, regarding the Trump administration rumble, “it is 170 pages, too much technicalities, they might not have time to go through different resolutions – and therefore they really don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The implementation of the deal should have signaled the acceptance of Iran by the West – hence renewed trade and commerce. Instead, the new normal points towards the China-driven New Silk Roads, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union; and towards Iran, alongside other emerging economies, seeking infrastructure finance and foreign investment from BRICS nations, especially the RIC triumvirate. In sum: look east.

Tehran did sign a rash of memorandums of understanding with French industry. But the heart of the trade and investment action is China. When President Xi Jinping visited Tehran in January last year, Rouhani said, “Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to US$600 billion in the next 10 years.”

Most deals, of course, involve oil and gas – but crucially they also span cooperation on nuclear energy and Iran’s positioning as an absolutely crucial hub of One Belt, One Road.

Compared to it, Russia-Iran trade, at almost US$2 billion last year, is not exactly newsworthy, although rising rapidly.

Post-sanctions, Russia-Iran signed almost US$40 billion in MoUs – but projects are mostly still only on paper. The problem is the overwhelming majority of Iranian companies are cash-strapped, so financing should come from Russian sources. “Secret code” exports – as in weapons – are back, as in the US$900 million contract for the S-300 defense missile systems, the first batch delivered to Iran last April.

The real secret though in reference to incipient trade is that Russia and Iran do not have much to exchange at globally competitive rates. Russia exports mainly metals, wood, electrical machines, paper, grain, floating structures, mechanically engineered products and weapons. Iran exports agricultural and seafood products.

 

With India, the heart of the matter is the development of the port of Chabahar. Here’s where China’s Maritime Silk Road meets India’s drive to connect the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Enter Indian investment on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway, ending in Sistan-Balochistan, close to the Pakistani border, as well as in the still-in-planning Chabahar-Hajigak railway, which translates as a direct connection to Afghanistan. All this spells out Iran blooming as a crucial integration/connectivity hub for China, India and the intersection of South and Central Asia.

 

On the energy front, the news is also encouraging. According to the head of National Iranian Oil Company, Ali Kardor, by next month Iran will be producing 4 million barrels of oil a day (there was a peak at 4.2 million before sanctions were tightened in 2011).

Iran used to be the second-largest OPEC producer. Sanctions forced it down to 2.5 million barrels a day and exports of just above 1 million. Now it’s back to OPEC’s number three, behind Saudi Arabia (10 million barrels a day) and Iraq (4.5 million).

Natural gas production will reach 1.3 billion cubic meters a day by 2021. For that to happen, NIOC needs to drill at least 500 new offshore wells. The problem is NIOC is deep in US$50 billion of debt; not only because of low oil prices but also bad financial and management decisions. Royal Dutch Shell and Total are keen to strike deals, but nothing has been signed yet.

Once again, I got a similar figure to what NIOC provided me roughly 10 years ago; Iran needs at least US$200 billion to upgrade its energy industry infrastructure, and to really start profiting from an astonishing US$7 trillion in gas reserves. It’s fair to assume substantial funds could be provided, eventually, by the AIIB and other sources from Russia and China. Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia expects major developments “in a few months.”

Socially, Iran is not a powder keg. The average standard of living improved roughly 70% since the Islamic revolution. Women accounted for 70% of Iran’s science and engineering students in 2015. The healthcare system, by 2014, was the 30th most efficient in the world, way ahead of the US (in 50th).

Much will depend on the upcoming presidential elections. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was politely dissuaded by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, in person, from running again. Marandi confirms President Rouhani, up for re-election, is way less popular than Foreign Minister Zarif, who in turn is less popular than the number one superstar: Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force — who’s not running for office. The reason for Rouhani’s woes; his record on the economy has been far from stellar.

Tehran will soon drop the US dollar in its financial and foreign exchange reports. That will certainly imply more currency swap agreements, and Iran only accepting payment for oil and gas in euros or in a basket of currencies.

Iran trades mostly with China, the EU and the UAE. Trump claimed during his campaign that Iran was handed a US$150 billion gift by the nuclear deal. Not true. The Central Bank’s frozen oil funds repatriated since January 2016 from the UAE, Britain, India, Greece, Italy and Norway amount to less than US$10 billion. And only US$12 billion of blocked assets were released from Japan, South Korea and India, on installments.

Before we arrived back in Tehran, Marandi told me that all in all, “ I believe whoever invests now in Iran will have an amazing return. The time to invest is now.” The RIC in BRICS are doing it. Europeans are doing it – although not much so far. And Americans are not doing it – at their loss. We wrapped it up at a traditional Iranian restaurant downtown, serving first-class food to middle and upper middle class families. The bill: less than US$30 for two. A fabulous return on investment.

The swamp strikes back

FEBRUARY 16, 2017

The swamp strikes back

by Pepe Escobar for Sputnik International

The tawdry Michael Flynn soap opera boils down to the CIA hemorrhaging leaks to the company town newspaper, leading to the desired endgame: a resounding victory for hardcore neocon/neoliberalcon US Deep State factions in one particular battle. But the war is not over; in fact it’s just beginning.

Even before Flynn’s fall, Russian analysts had been avidly discussing whether President Trump is the new Victor Yanukovich – who failed to stop a color revolution at his doorstep. The Made in USA color revolution by the axis of Deep State neocons, Democratic neoliberalcons and corporate media will be pursued, relentlessly, 24/7. But more than Yanukovich, Trump might actually be remixing Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping: “crossing the river while feeling the stones”. Rather, crossing the swamp while feeling the crocs.

Flynn out may be interpreted as a Trump tactical retreat. After all Flynn may be back – in the shade, much as Roger Stone. If current deputy national security advisor K T McFarland gets the top job – which is what powerful Trump backers are aiming at – the shadowplay Kissinger balance of power, in its 21st century remix, is even strengthened; after all McFarland is a Kissinger asset.

This call won’t self-destruct in five seconds

Flynn worked with Special Forces; was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); handled highly classified top secret information 24/7. He obviously knew all his conversations on an open, unsecure line were monitored. So he had to have morphed into a compound incarnation of the Three Stooges had he positioned himself to be blackmailed by Moscow.

What Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak certainly discussed was cooperation in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, and what Moscow might expect in return: the lifting of sanctions. US corporate media didn’t even flinch when US intel admitted they have a transcript of the multiple phone calls between Flynn and Kislyak. So why not release them? Imagine the inter-galactic scandal if these calls were about Russian intel monitoring the US ambassador in Moscow.

No one paid attention to the two key passages conveniently buried in the middle of this US corporate media story. 1) “The intelligence official said there had been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal.” 2) “…the situation became unsustainable – not because of any issue of being compromised by Russia – but because he [Flynn] has lied to the president and the vice president.”

Recap: nothing illegal; and Flynn not compromised by Russia. The “crime” – according to Deep State factions: talking to a Russian diplomat.

Vice-President Mike Pence is a key piece in the puzzle; after all his major role is as insider guarantor – at the heart of the Trump administration – of neocon Deep State interests. The CIA did leak. The CIA most certainly has been spying on all Trump operatives. Flynn though fell on his own sword. Classic hubris; his fatal mistake was to strategize by himself – even before he became national security advisor. “Mad Dog” Mattis, T. Rex Tillerson – both, by the way, very close to Kissinger – and most of all Pence did not like it one bit once they were informed.

A “man of very limited abilities”

Flynn was already compromised by his embarrassingly misinformed book co-written with neocon Michael Ledeen, as well as his juvenile Iranophobia. At the same time, Flynn was the point man to what would have been a real game-changer; to place the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff under White House control.

A highly informed US source I previously called “X”, who detailed to Sputnik how the Trump presidency will play out, is adamant “this decision makes Trump look independent. It is all going according to script.”

“X” stresses how “the NSA can penetrate any telephone system in the world that is not secure. Flynn was a man of very limited abilities who talked too much. You never hear from the real powers in intelligence nor do you know their names. You can see that in Flynn’s approach to Iran. He was disrupting a peace deal in the Middle East relating to Russia, Iran and Turkey in Syria. So he had to go.”

“X” adds, “the Russians are not stupid to talk among themselves on unsecured lines, they assumed that Flynn controlled his own lines. Flynn was removed not because of his Russian calls but for other reasons, some of which have to do with Iran and the Middle East. He was a loose cannon even from the intelligence perspective. This is a case of misdirection away from the true cause.”

In direct opposition to “X”, an analytical strand now rules there’s blood on the tracks; the hyenas are circling; a vulnerable Trump has lost his mojo; and he also lost his foreign policy. Not yet.

In the Grand Chessboard, what Flynn’s fall spells out is just a pawn out of the game because the King would not protect him. We will only know for sure “draining the swamp” – the foreign policy section – is doomed if neocons and neoliberalcons continue to run riot; if neoliberalcons are not fully exposed in their complicity in the rise of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; and if the much vaunted possibility of a détente with Russia flounders for good.

What’s certain is that the fratricide war between the Trump administration and the most powerful Deep State factions will be beyond vicious. Team Trump only stands a chance if they are able to weaponize allies from within the Deep State. As it stands, concerning the Kissinger grand design of trying to break the Eurasian “threat” to the unipolar moment, Iran is momentarily relieved; Russia harbors no illusions; and China knows for sure that the China-Russia strategic partnership will become even stronger. Advantage swamp.

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