Trump May be in Too Deep to Avoid War with Iran

 • JUNE 23, 2019

President Trump’s last-minute change of mind over launching US airstrikes against Iran shows that a military conflict of some description in the Gulf is becoming highly probable. His hesitation was most likely less connected with an Iranian surface-to-air missile shooting down a US surveillance drone than with his instinct that militarising the crisis is not in America’s best interests.

If Trump had not pulled back and the strikes against Iranian radars and missile batteries had gone ahead, where exactly would that have got him? This sort of limited military operation is usually more effective as a threat than in actuality. The US is not going to launch an all-out war against Iran in pursuit of a decisive victory and anything less creates more problems than it resolves.

Iran would certainly retain post-strike the ability to launch pin-prick attacks up and down the Gulf and, especially, in and around the 35-mile wide Strait of Hormuz through which passes 30 per cent of the world’s oil trade. Anything affecting this choke point reverberates around the word: news of the shooting down of the drone immediately sent the price of benchmark Brent crude oil rocketing upwards by 4.75 per cent.

Note that the Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a $130m (£100m) drone, in practice an unmanned aircraft stuffed with electronic equipment that was designed to be invulnerable to such an attack. The inference is that if US aircraft – as opposed to missiles – start operating over or close to Iranian airspace then they are likely to suffer losses.

But the dilemma for Trump is at a deeper level. His sanctions against Iran, reimposed after he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, are devastating the Iranian economy. The US Treasury is a more lethal international power than the Pentagon. The EU and other countries have stuck with the deal, but they have in practice come to tolerate the economic blockade of Iran.

Iran was left with no choice but to escalate the conflict. It wants to make sure that the US, the European and Asian powers, and US regional allies Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, feel some pain. Tehran never expected much from the EU states, which are still signed up to the 2015 nuclear deal, and has found its low expectations are being fulfilled.

A fundamental misunderstanding of the US-Iran confrontation is shared by many commentators. It may seem self-evident that the US has an interest in using its vast military superiority over Iran to get what it wants. But after the failure of the US ground forces to win in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Somalia, no US leader can start a land war in the Middle East without endangering their political survival at home.

Trump took this lesson to heart long before he became president. He is a genuine isolationist in the American tradition. The Democrats and much of the US media have portrayed Trump as a warmonger, though he has yet to start a war. His national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo issue bloodcurdling threats against Iran, but Trump evidently views such bellicose rhetoric as simply one more way of ramping up the pressure on Iran.

But if a ground war is ruled out, then Iran is engaged in the sort of limited conflict in which it has long experience. A senior Iraqi official once said to me that the Iranians “have a PhD” in this type of part political, part military warfare. They are tactics that have worked well for Tehran in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria over the past 40 years. The Iranians have many pressure points against the US, and above all against its Saudi and Emirati allies in the Gulf.

The Iranians could overplay their hand: Trump is an isolationist, but he is also a populist national leader who claims in his first campaign rallies for the next presidential election to “have made America great again”. Such boasts make it difficult to not retaliate against Iran, a country he has demonised as the source of all the troubles in the Middle East.

One US military option looks superficially attractive but conceals many pitfalls. This is to try to carry out operations along the lines of the limited military conflict between the US and Iran called the “tanker war”. This was part of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and the US came out the winner.

Saddam Hussein sought to throttle Iran’s oil exports and Iran tried to do the same to Iraq. The US and its allies weighed in openly on Saddam Hussein’s side – an episode swiftly forgotten by them after the Iraqi leader invaded Kuwait in 1990. From 1987 on, re-registered Kuwaiti tankers were being escorted through the Gulf by US warships. There were US airstrikes against Iranian ships and shore facilities, culminating in the accidental but very avoidable shooting down of an Iranian civil airliner with 290 passengers on board by the USS Vincennes in 1988. Iran was forced to sue for peace in its war with Iraq.

Some retired American generals speak about staging a repeat of the tanker war today but circumstances have changed. Iran’s main opponent in 1988 was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Iran was well on its way to losing the war, in which there was only one front.

Today Saddam is gone and Iraq is ruled by a Shia-dominated government. Baghdad is trying to stay neutral in the US-Iran crisis, but no Iraqi leader can afford to oppose Iran as the greatest Shia power. The political geography of this part of the Middle East has been transformed since the Iran-Iraq war, with change very much to the advantage of Iran. From the Afghan border to the Mediterranean – in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon – Shia communities are in control or are the most powerful forces in the state. The US and UK often refer to them as “Iranian proxies” but in practice Iran leads a sectarian coalition with a religious basis.


Compared with 28 years ago in the Gulf when the US was last fighting a limited war with Iran, the US is in a weaker position. Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE may have urged Trump to tear up the nuclear deal and confront Iran, but they show no enthusiasm to join any war that ensues. Supposing that this month’s pin-prick attacks on tankers were indeed carried out by Iran, which seems likely, then the purpose will have been to send message that, if Iran’s oil exports can be cut off, so too can those of the other Gulf producers. Trump thinks he can avoid the quagmire of another Middle East war, but he may already be in too deep.It is a coalition which has already won its main battles – with Shia parties in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon – and this outcome is not going to change. The Houthis in Yemen, who belong to a different Shia variant, have survived a prolonged attempt by Saudi Arabia and UAE to defeat them.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
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Iran goes for “maximum counter-pressure”

Iran goes for “maximum counter-pressure”

By Pepe Escobar – with permission and cross-posted with Strategic Culture Foundation

Sooner or later the US “maximum pressure” on Iran would inevitably be met by “maximum counter-pressure”.  Sparks are ominously bound to fly.

For the past few days, intelligence circles across Eurasia had been prodding Tehran to consider a quite straightforward scenario. There would be no need to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if Quds Force commander, General Qasem Soleimani, the ultimate Pentagon bête noire, explained in detail, on global media, that Washington simply does not have the military capacity to keep the Strait open.

As I previously reported, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would destroy the American economy by detonating the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.

Soleimani should also state bluntly that Iran may in fact shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the nation is prevented from exporting essential two million barrels of oil a day, mostly to Asia. Exports, which before illegal US sanctions and de facto blockade would normally reach 2.5 million barrels a day, now may be down to only 400,000.

Soleimani’s intervention would align with consistent signs already coming from the IRGC. The Persian Gulf is being described as an imminent “shooting gallery.” Brigadier General Hossein Salami stressed that Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with pinpoint precision. The whole northern border of the Persian Gulf, on Iranian territory, is lined up with anti-ship missiles – as I confirmed with IRGC-related sources.

We’ll let you know when it’s closed

Then, it happened.

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, went straight to the point; “If the Islamic Republic of Iran were determined to prevent export of oil from the Persian Gulf, that determination would be realized in full and announced in public, in view of the power of the country and its Armed Forces.”

The facts are stark. Tehran simply won’t accept all-out economic war lying down – prevented to export the oil that protects its economic survival. The Strait of Hormuz question has been officially addressed. Now it’s time for the derivatives.

Presenting detailed derivatives analysis plus military analysis to global media would force the media pack, mostly Western, to go to Warren Buffett to see if it is true. And it is true. Soleimani, according to this scenario, should say as much and recommend that the media go talk to Warren Buffett.

The extent of a possible derivatives crisis is an uber-taboo theme for the Washington consensus institutions. According to one of my American banking sources, the most accurate figure – $1.2 quadrillion – comes from a Swiss banker, off the record. He should know; the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – the central bank of central banks – is in Basle.

The key point is it doesn’t matter how the Strait of Hormuz is blocked.

It could be a false flag. Or it could be because the Iranian government feels it’s going to be attacked and then sinks a cargo ship or two. What matters is the final result; any blocking of the energy flow will lead the price of oil to reach $200 a barrel, $500 or even, according to some Goldman Sachs projections, $1,000.

Another US banking source explains; “The key in the analysis is what is called notional. They are so far out of the money that they are said to mean nothing. But in a crisis the notional can become real.  For example, if I buy a call for a million barrels of oil at $300 a barrel, my cost will not be very great as it is thought to be inconceivable that the price will go that high.  That is notional.  But if the Strait is closed, that can become a stupendous figure.”

BIS will only commit, officially, to indicate the total notional amount outstanding for contracts in derivatives markers is an estimated $542.4 trillion. But this is just an estimate.

The banking source adds, “Even here it is the notional that has meaning.  Huge amounts are interest rate derivatives. Most are notional but if oil goes to a thousand dollars a barrel, then this will affect interest rates if 45% of the world’s GDP is oil. This is what is called in business a contingent liability.”

Goldman Sachs has projected a feasible, possible $1,000 a barrel a few weeks after the Strait of Hormuz being shut down. This figure, times 100 million barrels of oil produced per day, leads us to 45% of the $80 trillion global GDP. It’s self-evident the world economy would collapse based on just that alone.

War dogs barking mad

As much as 30% of the world’s oil supply transits the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Wily Persian Gulf traders – who know better – are virtually unanimous; if Tehran was really responsible for the Gulf of Oman tanker incident, oil prices would be going through the roof by now. They aren’t.

Iran’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz amount to 12 nautical miles (22 km). Since 1959, Iran recognizes only non-military naval transit.

Since 1972, Oman’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz also amount to 12 nautical miles. At its narrowest, the width of the Strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km). That means, crucially, that half of the Strait of Hormuz is in Iranian territorial waters, and the other half in Oman’s. There are no “international waters”.

And that adds to Tehran now openly saying that Iran may decide to close the Strait of Hormuz publicly – and not by stealth.

Iran’s indirect, asymmetric warfare response to any US adventure will be very painful. Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran once again reconfirmed,

“even a limited strike will be met by a major and disproportionate response.”

And that means gloves off, big time; anything from really blowing up tankers to, in Marandi’s words,

“Saudi and UAE oil facilities in flames”.

Hezbollah will launch tens of thousands of missiles against Israel. As Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah has been stressing in his speeches,

“war on Iran will not remain within that country’s borders, rather it will mean that the entire [Middle East] region will be set ablaze. All of the American forces and interests in the region will be wiped out, and with them the conspirators, first among them Israel and the Saudi ruling family.”

It’s quite enlightening to pay close attention to what this Israel intel op is saying. The dogs of war though are barking mad.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted to CENTCOM in Tampa to discuss “regional security concerns and ongoing operations” with – skeptical – generals, a euphemism for “maxim pressure” eventually leading to war on Iran.

Iranian diplomacy, discreetly, has already informed the EU – and the Swiss – about their ability to crash the entire world economy. But still that was not enough to remove US sanctions.

Trump’s ‘near strike’ shows US hesitation caused by Iranian unity & patience

June 21, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog (Written for PressTV and cross-posted by permission)

Trump’s ‘near strike’ shows US hesitation caused by Iranian unity & patience

I am deeply skeptical that the US ever initiated a missile strike against Iran and then called it off, as was claimed by The New York Times.

Of course, the US “paper of record” routinely does terrible journalism – they repeatedly rely on anonymous sources, as they did for this claim. Anonymous sources cannot be considered credible, even if the The New York Times resorts to it over and over and over.

But their bad journalism does not stop there: the Times runs a scaremongering, tabloid, belligerent headline like Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back, and yet goes on to write:

“It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.”

About as clear as mud, I’d say. A smarter editor would have held the story… but this is The New York Times.

Every person and every nation has their own style of negotiating.

The historical US style is defined by never keeping promises, and by refusing to negotiate until peak US leverage has been obtained. US President Donald Trump’s business-influenced style is to use chaos and instability as a way to create turmoil among his opponents in order to increase his leverage. Trump Uses Chaos To Get Things Done, to quote a recent headline from The Atlantic.

Iran’s style is defined by transparency in their moral values – this causes vast consternation among the cynical practitioners of realpolitik who are a (overvalued) dime a dozen in the West. Iran’s style is also marked by the patience to follow a long term strategy – for example, in 2016 Iran signed a 25-year strategic relations agreement with China, another patient group.

Europe and the Eurozone nations – which are governed by the undemocratic structures of the European Union and the Eurogroup, respectively – have a negotiating style which can be defined as a high-class appearance which hides a pathetic, yet aggressive, servility.

It’s clear that negotiations between these groups and individuals reached a major impasse months ago, and also that the new lines and positions are now becoming clear.

As they have for nearly 40 years, the stance of the Iranian people continues to surprise and confound the West. Of course, they are used to dealing with compliant governments and puppet leaders….

The “aborted attack” on Iran proves that the shooting down of a US drone is viewed as a huge loss by the US: It is so important that many in Washington apparently want to start a war over it. But Iran’s drone victory is just a capper to a series of events and discussions in Iran which are proving the nation’s unity following the obvious failure of negotiating with the West.

(I write “the West” not because I am “anti-Western”, but because the non-Western JCPOA signatories (China & Russia) have actually upheld their word.)

After Washington reneged on the JCPOA in May 2018, it was natural that there was existential angst in Iran – years had been spent pursuing diplomacy, and then the nation’s archenemy said that diplomacy was impossible. It is natural that the Iranian people were exasperated by such Western belligerence and false promises, and that they did not know which way to turn back then.

However, it is clear one year later that the nation has recomposed itself and moved on.

There is routine public discussion in the tea houses and at the top levels of government that Iran should not even denigrate themselves with more diplomatic discussions. Clearly, Iran is not afraid – it is disgusted by the way the West has failed to honor their word. Politics change, but it seems as if Iran is going to wait until the 2020 US elections before seriously restarting more diplomatic efforts. This would also give the EU some time to grow a backbone. To the self-appointed “masters of the universe” in Washington – this reluctance to answer their phone calls is yet another slap in the face.

Not jumping at more negotiations, shooting down a drone, Iran publicly and politely declaring they will resume uranium enrichment, unexplained attacks in the Persian Gulf – all of these have caused the US to lose so much face in recent weeks.

Iran is making the US look bad, very bad. Therefore, it is little wonder that Washington and The New York Times have chose to wage maximum sabre-rattling with this “near attack”.

Frankly, I am unimpressed, and I think Iran will react the same way.

Iranians now appear united in their stance: negotiations were made in good faith and thus must be honored, or else there can be no new negotiations – certainly no jury would disagree. If a Western attack happens – sadly, it won’t be the first one.

Of course, this is merely the latest chapter in the effort to destabilise Iran to the point of civil war. The Iran-Iraq War, shooting down an Iranian passenger plane, sanctions on medicine, sanctions to achieve $0 in oil sales – for 40 years the US and their allies have single-mindedly sought to destabilise Iran to the point of creating a reactionary response which would overturn the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution.

Iranians have understood this reality for quite some time – they are united in this view as firmly as they are united in their wish that the West would honor diplomatic accords. Sadly, Westerners do not understand this reality – that the US goal in Iran is civil war, chaos and the end of Muslim Democracy. The Western public has been betrayed by their media and their 1% by decades of orchestrated Iranophobia.

Washington and Trump have actually foolishly painted themselves into a corner – after an “aborted attack” the only further escalation is an “actual attack”.

Of course, an attack on Iran has no future – 2019 Iran is not Afghanistan nor Iraq, to list two recent US military failures. An attack on Iran is to continue US policy: foment instability inside Iran, because Iran cannot be invaded.

But I would advise Iran not to play games with a cornered aggressor, and one led by such an inexperienced politician with such a lack of tethering to the idea of the “public good”.

Perhaps in the final 1.5 years of his term the erratic Trump can be switched to good sense on Iran? Perhaps Europe, China and Russia can help show that Iran is too strong to be endlessly antagonised? Perhaps the world will see that Iran has – in the Straits of Hormuz – a trump card it can play to demand the lies, sanctions and exclusions finally stop?

This will take more time. But Trump must know – at least instinctively – that Iran is not Syria, and that any strikes will have real consequences to Americans and American interests. That’s why he called off the strike… if he ever even called it on.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China.

Resistance report: Syrian Army kicks off long overdue Idlib offensive and Washington intensifies Iran threats

By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog

Resistance report: Syrian Army kicks off long overdue Idlib offensive and Washington intensifies Iran threats

On May 6, the Syrian Army finally kicked off the long awaited Idlib offensive to expel the US-backed Jihadists from the Idlib demilitarized zone. Having postponed the offensive for months due to Ankara’s reluctance to allow the Syrian Army to reclaim the area, Moscow and Damascus finally lost their patience after the latest Jihadist missile attack on Hmaimeem airport last week and decided to punish these terrorists once and for all. This is the first offensive that the Syrian Army and its allies are launching this year, and despite some claims that the Syrian Army offensive will target the entire Idlib Governorate, the operation will rather be limited to the so called demilitarized zone that stretches from the Al-Ghaab Plain to the Abu Dhuhour Crossing. The offensive is primarily lead by the Syrian Army in coordination with allied militias, with the Russian Air Force covering the skies, however Iranian forces will also be present to offer logistical support. Since launching the offensive, the Syrian Army has quickly managed to steamroll the terrorists in northwestern Hama, moving to capture the imperative town of Kafr Naboudeh, as they are marching towards the Al-Ghaab plain. To the west, Syrian Forces are moving to attack the remaining Jihadist-held towns in northeastern Latakia, especially targeting the imperative town of Kabbani. The Syrian Army will be successful if they can neutralize the Jihadist threat to the government held towns in the Hama and Idlib provinces, thus denying the terrorists to launch raids on these towns.

What remains to be seen now is how Ankara will react as they are deeply entrenched with the Jihadist forces across this area, having previously set up 12 “observation posts” stretching between Latakia and Aleppo provinces. It is also interesting to speculate what this offensive will mean for Ankara and its proxies, if the Syrian Army is successful. As the Jihadists lose more ground, Ankara loses influence over northwestern Syria while the SDF consolidates its hold over the land east of the Euphrates. One theory as to why Ankara has agreed to this territory could be that Moscow and Damascus have temporarily agreed to allow Ankara to launch an offensive on the SDF held territory to the east, as a way to replace the territorial losses sustained on the Idlib front. Indeed Damascus has vowed to retake every inch of Syria, but given the amount of players involved in this war and given the numerous obstacles standing in Damascus’ way, it seems that a pragmatic approach is the best way to go here. It would be preferable if eastern Syria was occupied by Ankara and its proxies rather than by Washington and its proxies due to the fact that Ankara is more likely to cooperate and strike deals with Moscow and Damascus than the insane people over in Washington.

Washington intensifies animosity towards Tehran

Another week, another threat. Washington’s threats against Iran have become a weekly ritual now as idiots Pompeo and Bolton issued new threats towards as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran. Tehran had earlier warned that if Iran cannot use the strait of Hormuz, then the IRGC would close it for everyone. This prompted Washington to ramp up its threats as they sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region, in what was described as a “clear and unmistakable message to Iran” by Bolton. He added that the decision was “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” Really? In this situation Iran is the aggressive one who is escalating things? The Persian Gulf is Iran’s lifeline, and Washington is looking to cut that lifeline, situated some 10 000 kilometres away from America’s eastern coastlines, yet Iran is the one that must argue for why it is not seeking war with the most aggressive evil regime the world has ever seen. On top of that the White House fool Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday, imposing new sanctions on Iran’s metal and mining sectors, with Trump even taking to Twitter to threaten anyone doing business with Iran to have their assets illegally seized by Washington. At the same time, the White House fool added that he is “looking forward to someday meeting with the leaders of Iran in order to work out an agreement and, very importantly, taking steps to give Iran the future it deserves,”

What kind of a sick statement is this? Washington truly has no limit as to how low it can sink. Do they actually believe that Tehran will capitulate and agree to humiliation? I have a hard time believing even the idiots in Washington are this stupid. They can’t seriously believe that Tehran is going to be enticed to come back to the table with these threats and sanctions imposed. As a matter of fact things in Iran is looking really bad for the proponents of the JCPOA and further negotiations with Washington and its vassals as the conservative bloc, known as “hardliners” in the West were actually proven right in their arguments that it is completely pointless to negotiate anything with the West. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been facing a lot of scrutiny in Iran lately for their naïve belief that this deal would thaw relations with the West, and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has vocally criticized the deal in several speeches this year. As conservatives gain more ground in Iran, a fact I suspect Washington fully understands, Tehran is eyeing the only option remaining now: confrontation. It is either that or lying down and accepting death and defeat. The only conclusion I can draw from this mess is that Washington is actively looking for war. They want to provoke Tehran into a first strike so that they can start a larger regional war not only against Iran but also Tehran’s allies in Hezbollah and the Iraqi militias in a bid to destroy the entire resistance to the Zionist empire altogether.

This week also saw Iran informing the five remaining signatories to the JCPOA of its decision to suspend the implementation of some of its commitments under the multinational agreement, exactly one year after Washington unilaterally abandoned the agreement. I am amazed over the amount of self-restraint and patience exercised by Tehran since Washington’s exit from the deal last year, as Tehran has given the remaining signatories almost 12 months’ time to compensate for Washington’s withdrawal and guarantee the survival of the deal. Nevertheless, no measures to blunt the impact of economic sanctions re-imposed on Tehran have been taken by the remaining signatories. Not only is the Islamic Republic entitled to suspend the implementation of the deal, but it also has the right to withdraw from it altogether, what is the point of remaining in the deal when the main reason for entering it is now all but gone?

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has also given the remaining signatories 60 days to meet their commitments, and if they fail to address Tehran’s concerns, Tehran will suspend the implementation of two more commitments under the JCPOA. Unsurprisingly, the EU immediately rejected the ultimatum and expressed “great concern” about Iran’s decision. In a statement issued on May 9, top EU diplomats said “We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments.”

In the statement, the Europeans further expressed regret about the re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran and said they would stay fully committed to “the preservation and full implementation” of the JCPOA, which they described as “a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all.”

What a pathetic statement. When Washington withdrew from the deal, no one dared to even say a word, but when Tehran seeks to suspend some of its implementation after having been betrayed, the EU wants to “assess Iran’s compliance?” The EU has had a year to come up with a plan to continue the deal despite Washington’s withdrawal, but do not have the guts to stand up to Washington’s criminal behaviour of unilateral sanctions and threats. Instead all they have done is to talk nonsense and issue poor statements about their so called “commitments”. Washington has threatened to sanction anyone doing business with Iran, this includes its European vassals, why should Iran believe that the EU would dare to stand up to Washington and risk being slapped with sanctions themselves for the sake of Tehran? Ayatollah Khamenei previously warned that he does not trust the Europeans and has no faith in their promises, he is absolutely right as he fully understands that the EU has no will of its own and are a bunch of cowards who let Washington dictate their interests.

Tehran has nothing more to lose than it already has here, why remain in a deal that leaves Tehran without the deterrence of nuclear weapons and still be sanctioned? This situation is even worse than the one before the JCPOA deal. I usually don’t agree with the conservative bloc on foreign policy matters, but I see no other choice here for Tehran to guarantee its own survival in the face of Washington’s relentless aggression and criminal behaviour.

THE NEXT ECONOMIC CRISIS AND THE LOOMING POST-MULTIPOLAR SYSTEM

The Next Economic Crisis and the Looming Post-Multipolar System

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

The Impending Crisis

At one time, specifically during the post-World War 2 Bretton Woods era, it looked like as if the capitalist model could be indefinitely sustainable and avoid plunging the world into major world conflicts. That era began to come to an end during the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, and came to a complete end at the end of the Cold War which ushered in the era of the so-called “globalization” which took form of unbridled competition for markets and resources. At first this competition did not show many signs of trouble. There were many “emerging markets” created as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc into which Western corporations could expand. However, the law of diminishing returns being what it is, the initial rapid economic growth rates could not be sustained and attempts to goose it using extremely liberal central bank policies, to the point of zero and even negative interest rates, succeeded in inflating—and bursting—several financial “bubbles”. Even today’s US economy bears many hallmarks of such a bubble, and it is only one of many. Sooner or later the proverbial “black swan” event will unleash a veritable domino effect of popping bubbles and plunge the global economy into a crisis of a magnitude it has not seen since the 1930s. A crisis against which the leading world powers have few weapons to deploy, since they have expended their monetary and fiscal “firepower” on the 2008 crisis, to little avail. The low interest rates and high levels of national debt mean that the next big crisis will not be simply “more of the same.” It will fundamentally rearrange the global economy.

The Once and Future Multipolar System?

While the 1944 Bretton Woods  conference sought to re-establish a global economic order that was destroyed in the Great Depression, the formation of the United Nations served a rather different aim. The UN Security Council, with five veto-wielding permanent members, meant that for as long as these five countries abided by its rules, there would be five spheres of influence and therefore also five relatively exclusive economic zones. British leaders in 1945, for example, hardly desired the dissolution of their empire; records of wartime discussions between FDR and Churchill show the two clashed repeatedly over the tariff barriers separating British colonial possessions from international trade.  That which became known as the “Iron Curtain” was a feature, not a bug, of that system—Churchill himself wanted one for his empire, after all. However, is the apparent multi-polar system of today any more viable than the one which appeared to emerge after 1945?

“We have always been at war with Eurasia”

The post-WW2 multipolar world did not come to pass because the French and British empires collapsed and its newly independent states became aligned with either the United States or the USSR, and the PRC was in no shape to exert much power outside of its own borders since it was recovering from decades of civil war and foreign occupation. Seven decades after WW2’s conclusion, however, one can readily see that the era of US and European economic dominance is giving way to a multipolar world in which Russia and China are once again capable of standing up for their economic interests.

However, a return to genuine multipolarity does not appear very likely. Russia and China need each other too much to risk conflict by pursuing their own separate and mutually exclusive economic spheres of influence. Rather, we can expect a gradual merger of the two, with Russia playing the leading role in certain geographical areas (for example, the Middle East and the Arctic), while China in others. When it comes to the US and the EU, the situation is slightly more complicated.

Welcome to Oceania, Citizen

While George Orwell imagined the future of Russia (Eurasia) and China (Eastasia) as imperial entities unintegrated with one another, a prediction that does not appear to be coming true, the establishment of Oceania, governed from the United States and UK playing the role of “Airstrip One” seems to be looming every closer. Only the status of Europe remains unclear at this point. The European Union is still unfit to shoulder world power responsibilities, it has barely weathered the last economic crisis, and the next one could easily be the final nail in its coffin. It certainly does not help that the United States is attempting to thoroughly economically dominate the European Union in order to deal with its own economic problems. Reducing European exports to the US and expanding US energy exports to the EU is very high on the list of White House priorities, to the point of risking trade war. Europe’s behavior following the US unilateral JCPOA withdrawal shows that the Europeans are incapable to oppose US power, even if it means defending important economic interests.

On the other hand, and in response to the Trump administration increasingly brazen attempts to subjugate Europe in political and economic terms,  France and Germany are pursuing efforts to establish a solid EU “core”. This “core” would boast a European army, a concept whose popularity has grown in recent years, and be capable of collective action in the event of a crisis even if it means shedding the less well integrated eastern and southern EU members or at least relegating them to second-class status. However, it remains to be seen whether anything viable can be created before the next crisis topples the European house of cards and leads to power struggles over the political and economic alignment of the individual European states.

Hybrid War Forever

Once that process of coalescence is complete, proxy wars will continue over certain parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, even Latin America, as the two power blocs will struggle over vital markets and resources, using the full array of military, political, economic, cyber, and information weapons that we have seen used in Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela. This hybrid warfare will be accompanied by a level of official propaganda that will make the current “Russiagate” reporting pale in comparison, however, at the same time, the rhetoric will be considerably more heated than the actual level of hostilities between the two nuclear weapons-wielding power blocs. Instead, that propaganda will be used to justify internal political censorship and repression, on a scale even greater than we have seen used against the Yellow Vests protests in France.  Deprived of the ability to expand into ever new territories, the West will gradually sink into stagnation , poverty, and domestic disorder. At that point, the world will be in a state of a genuine bi-polar Cold War, a war of political and economic attrition whose outcome is currently impossible to predict.

China’s Belt and Road Continues to Win Over Europe While Technocrats Scream and Howl

China’s Belt and Road Continues to Win Over Europe While Technocrats Scream and Howl

MATTHEW EHRET | 20.04.2019 | WORLD / EUROPEASIA PACIFICBUSINESS

China’s Belt and Road Continues to Win Over Europe While Technocrats Scream and Howl

On April 10th, China’s Premier Li Keqiang celebrated the completion of the 1st phase of the 2.5 kilometer Chinese-built Pelgesac Bridge in Croatia across the Bay of Mali Ston alongside Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. This ceremony marked a striking victory as the following day ushered in an important 16+1 Heads of State summit that saw Greece inducted as the newest member of a new alliance of Central and Eastern European nations who wish to cooperate with China. At this summit held on April 12, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated that this was “a very crucial moment for global and regional developments” and “we have to leave behind the crisis and find new models of regional and global cooperation.”

Of course, Greece’s involvement in this alliance (now renamed the 17+1 CEEC) has broadened its geographical boundaries to the west and is especially important as Greece’s Port of Piraeus is a strategic east-west trade gate way for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into Europe centered on the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route. Greece is painfully aware that its survival depends upon China’s BRI, as the EU programs for austerity, privatization and bailouts have brought only death and despair with a collapse of youth employment, crime rate spikes and suicide. It is also not lost on anyone that this breakthrough follows hot on the heels of Italy’s joining of the Belt and Road Initiative on March 26 and also serves as a precursor to the second Belt and Road Summit which will take place in Beijing at the end of April, involving over 126 nations who have already signed MOUs with the BRI and thousands of international businesses.

Ten additional BRI-connected agreements were signed between Croatia and China before the 17+1 Summit including the modernizing of rail lines (especially from Zagreb to the Adriatic port of Rijeka), telecommunications cooperation between Huawei and Croatian Telecom and major port, roads, harbors, education and cultural cooperation.

The Belt and Road Initiative, as Tsipras aptly pointed out, is not just another set of infrastructure programs designed to counterbalance western hegemony, but is rather a “new model of regional and global cooperation” founded upon a principle of mutual development and long term thinking not seen in the west since the death of Franklin Roosevelt and the takeover of the Anglo-American Deep State that ensued.

The fact that China formalized an economic and trade cooperation agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union in May 2018 is extremely relevant as it incorporated its five nation membership of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan directly into the BRI. Already China has invested $98 billion into the real economies of the EEU involving 168 BRI-connected projects.

The new model of development which has increasingly won over central, and eastern Eurasian countries as well as Greece and Italy have provided a breath of fresh air for citizens everywhere who are looking with despair upon a Trans-Atlantic system which can do nothing but demand obedience to a defunct set of rules that commands only austerity, hyperinflationary banking practices and no long term investment into the real economy. Thus the technocratic mobilization against the BRI over the past days in response to this new paradigm can only be seen as an absurd attempt to save a system which has already failed.

The Technocrats Defend their New World Disorder

Two recent counter-operations against the BRI and the new win-win operating system it represents are worth mentioning. The first is found in the formation of a trilateral alliance between the American-based Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Canada’s Finance and Development Agency (FinDev Canada) and fifteen members of the European Union announced on April 11. A second counter-operation was created several days earlier with the Canada-Germany-France-Japan “Alliance for Multilateralism” during the G7 meeting in France.

OPIC Acting President and CEO David Bohigian (Center) signed a memorandum of understanding with FinDev Canada Managing Director Paul Lamontagne (right) and EDFI Chairman Nanno Kleiterp (left).

While OPIC was founded in 1971, its use as a subversive force against the BRI was formalized on July 30, 2018 when it created a trilateral alliance with Japan and Australia in order to finance infrastructure in the Pacific basin. Added to this, a second trilateral alliance was created on April 11, 2019 when Canada’s Paul Lamontagne (head of FinDev Canada), the European Development Finance Institution’s Nanno Kleiterp and OPIC President David Bohigian signed a new agreement to create a parallel infrastructure financing mechanism. Taking aim at China, the press release stated that the alliance “will enhance transactional, operational, and policy-related cooperation among participants and underscores their commitment to providing a robust alternative to unsustainable state-led models.”

At this signing Bohigian stated “we’re trying to hold up an example for the world of the way development finance should work” clearly attacking China’s “incompetent” concept of development finance and thus ignoring the fact that over 800 million people have directly been lifted out of poverty by China’s approach to investment. Bohigian was clearly hoping that the world would ignore the vast debt slavery and chaos spread by 50 years of IMF-World Bank dominance that has produced no real growth of nations. Although the American BUILD Act has increased US government funding to OPIC from $29 billion to $60 billion over one year, no serious integrated design for development has been presented and instead provides fodder for laughter at best.

The other anti-BRI operation mentioned is the German-French-Japanese-Canadian “Alliance for Multilateralism” which saw Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stating at a press conference in France that “Canada has formally joined a German French coalition armed at saving the international world order from destruction by various world dictators and autocrats”. While Freeland didn’t mention Trump by name here, France’s ambassador to Canada Kareen Rispal was more candid stating “Mr. Trump doesn’t like to value multilateralism”. Citing his withdrawal from COP21, and criticism of the WTO, UN and NATO the envoy continued “it sends the wrong message to the world if we think that because Mr. Trump is not in favor of multilateralism, it doesn’t mean we- I mean countries like Canada, France and Germany and many others- are not still firm believers.”

What exactly this “Alliance for Multilateralism” IS remains another question entirely, as no actual policy was put forth. After the smoke had cleared, it appears to be nothing more than a lemming-like club of hecklers yelling at Putin, Xi Jinping, Trump and other “bad people” who don’t wish to commit mass suicide under a Green New Deal and technocratic dictatorship.

Commenting on these developments in an April 10 webcast from Germany, Schiller Institute President Helga Zepp-Larouche made the following apt observation: “Geopolitics has to be thrown out of the window, and the New Silk Road is the way to industrialize Africa, to deal with the Middle East situation to get peace there, to establish a decent working situation between the United States, Russia and China: And that is for Europe what we should demand. And the best way to do that is that all of Europe would sign MOUs with the Belt and Road Initiative, then that would be the single most important thing to stabilize world peace and get the world into a different domain.”

With Russia and China leading a new coalition of nations fighting to uphold the principles of sovereignty, self-development and long term credit generation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, a great hope has presented itself as the Titanic that is the City of London and Wall Street continues to sink ever faster into the icy waters of history.

International Criminal Lawyer to ST: ICC is Controlled by The US and EU

ST

DAMASCUS, (ST)- An International Criminal Lawyer has underscored that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has fallen under the influence of those who fund it mainly the EU, and US and private corporations who donate to it and who are very willing to use the court when it suits their interests.

Mr. Christopher Black told the Syria Times e-newspaper that the US will not recognize the court, nevertheless it attempts to use it through certain personnel placed in key positions to do its bidding.

“The Americans and British, for example, are putting pressure on the ICC to investigate and charge the Syrian government with war crimes.

This effort is fronted by certain lawyers pretending to represent Syrian refugees, but the lawyers all work for US and UK intelligence and NATO,” he said.

The veteran lawyer went on to say: “one of the US lawyers involved is Stephen Rapp who was once in charge of prosecutions at the Rwanda tribunal where he engaged in some corrupt practices, then became head of the Hariri tribunal which had the objective of making propaganda against Syria, then became the US roving ambassador for war crimes. Now he is acting on US government’s orders.”

He affirmed that US, EU and other NATO countries do not want the ICC to be used against them but they are very willing to use it to suit their interests.

“The USA did sign up to the Rome Treaty but withdrew its signature under President Bush because the Americans see themselves as the exceptional people, subject to no laws but their own, at the same time that they try to dictate to the world what the law should be,” Mr. Black added.

He made it clear that there are of course many atrocities that have been committed by American forces in all their wars and will be in the future but they do not want to be judged in a world court, have their officer and leaders put on trial, their national reputation disgraced.

“They [American forces] also view war crimes tribunals as only suitable for those who have defeated, as propaganda show trials to justify their wars and portray the defeated enemy as criminals. But they will never tolerate the same treatment for themselves because they see themselves in their arrogance above all others and subject to no one’s judgement,” the lawyer stated.

He underscored that the ICC is not accountable to any higher body. “For this reason, Russia and China and I suspect Syria have not joined it.  All national courts are part of a governmental system. Court decisions can be challenged at appeal levels and even to the government in certain cases. But there is no world government for the ICC to report to or where its decisions can be challenged.  So it has fallen under the influence of those that fund it mainly the EU, and US and private corporations who donate to it.”

The chance of the US or close allies being charged is zero

In response to a question about who will judge American, Israeli atrocities and their allies for their war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, the lawyer said: “No one will judge them except the peoples of those countries. There are no means possible to bring them to justice before an international body with the present world power structure. However, each country that has suffered under their aggression can lay their own charges, have their own trials, even in absentia, and show the world the crimes that they committed.”

He indicated that the Americans have made it very clear they will not permit their people to be arrested by the ICC or their allies. “As we saw this week with Afghanistan, when they don’t want to be investigated, the ICC will back off and will drop its investigations. They even have a law permitting them (a US law) to physically release any of their people even if they were arrested. So the chance of the US or close allies such as Israel being charged is zero.”

The lawyer asserted that the ICC is dominated by EU and US and other NATO countries such as Canada.

“Many of the staff are people that used to work under NATO -US command at the Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals which were in name UN tribunals but were in fact controlled by the USA. Key staff they can rely on to do what they want are placed in key positions,” he said.

Mr. Black concluded by saying: “Once again, the only people who can hold them accountable are the people of the nations they have attacked.”

Interviewed by: BasmaQaddour

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