U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses*

 

July 25, 2019

U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses*

by Michael Hudson, posted by special permission on the Saker blog

* Keynote Paper delivered at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, July 21, 2019.

Today’s world is at war on many fronts. The rules of international law and order put in place toward the end of World War II are being broken by U.S. foreign policy escalating its confrontation with countries that refrain from giving its companies control of their economic surpluses. Countries that do not give the United States control their oil and financial sectors or privatize their key sectors are being isolated by the United States imposing trade sanctions and unilateral tariffs giving special advantages to U.S. producers in violation of free trade agreements with European, Asian and other countries.

This global fracture has an increasingly military cast. U.S. officials justify tariffs and import quotas illegal under WTO rules on “national security” grounds, claiming that the United States can do whatever it wants as the world’s “exceptional” nation. U.S. officials explain that this means that their nation is not obliged to adhere to international agreements or even to its own treaties and promises. This allegedly sovereign right to ignore on its international agreements was made explicit after Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright broke the promise by President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand eastward after 1991. (“You didn’t get it in writing,” was the U.S. response to the verbal agreements that were made.)

Likewise, the Trump administration repudiated the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration, and is escalating warfare with its proxy armies in the Near East. U.S. politicians are waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, Iran, and oil-exporting countries that the United States is seeking to isolate if cannot control their governments, central bank and foreign diplomacy.

The international framework that originally seemed equitable was pro-U.S. from the outset. In 1945 this was seen as a natural result of the fact that the U.S. economy was the least war-damaged and held by far most of the world’s monetary gold. Still, the postwar trade and financial framework was ostensibly set up on fair and equitable international principles. Other countries were expected to recover and grow, creating diplomatic, financial and trade parity with each other.

But the past decade has seen U.S. diplomacy become one-sided in turning the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, SWIFT bank-clearing system and world trade into an asymmetrically exploitative system. This unilateral U.S.-centered array of institutions is coming to be widely seen not only as unfair, but as blocking the progress of other countries whose growth and prosperity is seen by U.S. foreign policy as a threat to unilateral U.S. hegemony. What began as an ostensibly international order to promote peaceful prosperity has turned increasingly into an extension of U.S. nationalism, predatory rent-extraction and a more dangerous military confrontation.

Deterioration of international diplomacy into a more nakedly explicit pro-U.S. financial, trade and military aggression was implicit in the way in which economic diplomacy was shaped when the United Nations, IMF and World Bank were shaped mainly by U.S. economic strategists. Their economic belligerence is driving countries to withdraw from the global financial and trade order that has been turned into a New Cold War vehicle to impose unilateral U.S. hegemony. Nationalistic reactions are consolidating into new economic and political alliances from Europe to Asia.

We are still mired in the Oil War that escalated in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which quickly spread to Libya and Syria. American foreign policy has long been based largely on control of oil. This has led the United States to oppose the Paris accords to stem global warming. Its aim is to give U.S. officials the power to impose energy sanctions forcing other countries to “freeze in the dark” if they do not follow U.S. leadership.

To expand its oil monopoly, America is pressuring Europe to oppose the Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia, claiming that this would make Germany and other countries dependent on Russia instead of on U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG). Likewise, American oil diplomacy has imposed unilateral sanctions against Iranian oil exports, until such time as a regime change opens up that country’s oil reserves to U.S., French, British and other allied oil majors.

U.S. control of dollarized money and credit is critical to this hegemony. As Congressman Brad Sherman of Los Angeles told a House Financial Services Committee hearing on May 9, 2019: “An awful lot of our international power comes from the fact that the U.S. dollar is the standard unit of international finance and transactions. Clearing through the New York Fed is critical for major oil and other transactions. It is the announced purpose of the supporters of cryptocurrency to take that power away from us, to put us in a position where the most significant sanctions we have against Iran, for example, would become irrelevant.”[1]

The U.S. aim is to keep the dollar as the transactions currency for world trade, savings, central bank reserves and international lending. This monopoly status enables the U.S. Treasury and State Department to disrupt the financial payments system and trade for countries with which the United States is at economic or outright military war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly responded by describing how “the degeneration of the universalist globalization model [is] turning into a parody, a caricature of itself, where common international rules are replaced with the laws… of one country.”[2] That is the trajectory on which this deterioration of formerly open international trade and finance is now moving. It has been building up for a decade. On June 5, 2009, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited this same disruptive U.S. dynamic at work in the wake of the U.S. junk mortgage and bank fraud crisis.

Those whose job it was to forecast events … were not ready for the depth of the crisis and turned out to be too rigid, unwieldy and slow in their response. The international financial organisations – and I think we need to state this up front and not try to hide it – were not up to their responsibilities, as has been said quite unambiguously at a number of major international events such as the two recent G20 summits of the world’s largest economies.

Furthermore, we have had confirmation that our pre-crisis analysis of global economic trends and the global economic system were correct. The artificially maintained uni-polar system and preservation of monopolies in key global economic sectors are root causes of the crisis. One big centre of consumption, financed by a growing deficit, and thus growing debts, one formerly strong reserve currency, and one dominant system of assessing assets and risks – these are all factors that led to an overall drop in the quality of regulation and the economic justification of assessments made, including assessments of macroeconomic policy. As a result, there was no avoiding a global crisis.[3]

That crisis is what is now causing today’s break in global trade and payments.

Warfare on many fronts, with Dollarization being the main arena

Dissolution of the Soviet Union 1991 did not bring the disarmament that was widely expected. U.S. leadership celebrated the Soviet demise as signaling the end of foreign opposition to U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism and even as the End of History. NATO expanded to encircle Russia and sponsored “color revolutions” from Georgia to Ukraine, while carving up former Yugoslavia into small statelets. American diplomacy created a foreign legion of Wahabi fundamentalists from Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya in support of Saudi Arabian extremism and Israeli expansionism.

The United States is waging war for control of oil against Venezuela, where a military coup failed a few years ago, as did the 2018-19 stunt to recognize an unelected pro-American puppet regime. The Honduran coup under President Obama was more successful in overthrowing an elected president advocating land reform, continuing the tradition dating back to 1954 when the CIA overthrew Guatemala’s Arbenz regime.

U.S. officials bear a special hatred for countries that they have injured, ranging from Guatemala in 1954 to Iran, whose regime it overthrew to install the Shah as military dictator. Claiming to promote “democracy,” U.S. diplomacy has redefined the word to mean pro-American, and opposing land reform, national ownership of raw materials and public subsidy of foreign agriculture or industry as an “undemocratic” attack on “free markets,” meaning markets controlled by U.S. financial interests and absentee owners of land, natural resources and banks.

A major byproduct of warfare has always been refugees, and today’s wave fleeing ISIS, Al Qaeda and other U.S.-backed Near Eastern proxies is flooding Europe. A similar wave is fleeing the dictatorial regimes backed by the United States from Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia and neighboring countries. The refugee crisis has become a major factor leading to the resurgence of nationalist parties throughout Europe and for the white nationalism of Donald Trump in the United States.

Dollarization as the vehicle for U.S. nationalism

The Dollar Standard – U.S. Treasury debt to foreigners held by the world’s central banks – has replaced the gold-exchange standard for the world’s central bank reserves to settle payments imbalances among themselves. This has enabled the United States to uniquely run balance-of-payments deficits for nearly seventy years, despite the fact that these Treasury IOUs have little visible likelihood of being repaid except under arrangements where U.S. rent-seeking and outright financial tribute from other enables it to liquidate its official foreign debt.

The United States is the only nation that can run sustained balance-of-payments deficits without having to sell off its assets or raise interest rates to borrow foreign money. No other national economy in the world can could afford foreign military expenditures on any major scale without losing its exchange value. Without the Treasury-bill standard, the United States would be in this same position along with other nations. That is why Russia, China and other powers that U.S. strategists deem to be strategic rivals and enemies are looking to restore gold’s role as the preferred asset to settle payments imbalances.

The U.S. response is to impose regime change on countries that prefer gold or other foreign currencies to dollars for their exchange reserves. A case in point is the overthrow of Libya’s Kaddafi after he sought to base his nation’s international reserves on gold. His liquidation stands as a military warning to other countries.

Thanks to the fact that payments-surplus economies invest their dollar inflows in U.S. Treasury bonds, the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit finances its domestic budget deficit. This foreign central-bank recycling of U.S. overseas military spending into purchases of U.S. Treasury securities gives the United States a free ride, financing its budget – also mainly military in character – so that it can taxing its own citizens.

Trump is forcing other countries to create an alternative to the Dollar Standard

The fact that Donald Trump’s economic policies are proving ineffective in restoring American manufacturing is creating rising nationalist pressure to exploit foreigners by arbitrary tariffs without regard for international law, and to impose trade sanctions and diplomatic meddling to disrupt regimes that pursue policies that U.S. diplomats do not like.

There is a parallel here with Rome in the late 1st century BC. It stripped its provinces to pay for its military deficit, the grain dole and land redistribution at the expense of Italian cities and Asia Minor. This created foreign opposition to drive Rome out. The U.S. economy is similar to Rome’s: extractive rather than productive, based mainly on land rents and money-interest. As the domestic market is impoverished, U.S. politicians are seeking to take from abroad what no longer is being produced at home.

What is so ironic – and so self-defeating of America’s free global ride – is that Trump’s simplistic aim of lowering the dollar’s exchange rate to make U.S. exports more price-competitive. He imagines commodity trade to be the entire balance of payments, as if there were no military spending, not to mention lending and investment. To lower the dollar’s exchange rate, he is demanding that China’s central bank and those of other countries stop supporting the dollar by recycling the dollars they receive for their exports into holdings of U.S. Treasury securities.

This tunnel vision leaves out of account the fact that the trade balance is not simply a matter of comparative international price levels. The United States has dissipated its supply of spare manufacturing capacity and local suppliers of parts and materials, while much of its industrial engineering and skilled manufacturing labor has retired. An immense shortfall must be filled by new capital investment, education and public infrastructure, whose charges are far above those of other economics.

Trump’s infrastructure ideology is a Public-Private Partnership characterized by high-cost financialization demanding high monopoly rents to cover its interest charges, stock dividends and management fees. This neoliberal policy raises the cost of living for the U.S. labor force, making it uncompetitive. The United States is unable to produce more at any price right now, because its has spent the past half-century dismantling its infrastructure, closing down its part suppliers and outsourcing its industrial technology.

The United States has privatized and financialized infrastructure and basic needs such as public health and medical care, education and transportation that other countries have kept in their public domain to make their economies more cost-efficient by providing essential services at subsidized prices or freely. The United States also has led the practice of debt pyramiding, from housing to corporate finance. This financial engineering and wealth creation by inflating debt-financed real estate and stock market bubbles has made the United States a high-cost economy that cannot compete successfully with well-managed mixed economies.

Unable to recover dominance in manufacturing, the United States is concentrating on rent-extracting sectors that it hopes monopolize, headed by information technology and military production. On the industrial front, it threatens disrupt China and other mixed economies by imposing trade and financial sanctions.

The great gamble is whether these other countries will defend themselves by joining in alliances enabling them to bypass the U.S. economy. American strategists imagine their country to be the world’s essential economy, without whose market other countries must suffer depression. The Trump Administration thinks that There Is No Alternative (TINA) for other countries except for their own financial systems to rely on U.S. dollar credit.

To protect themselves from U.S. sanctions, countries would have to avoid using the dollar, and hence U.S. banks. This would require creation of a non-dollarized financial system for use among themselves, including their own alternative to the SWIFT bank clearing system. Table 1 lists some possible related defenses against U.S. nationalistic diplomacy.

As noted above, what also is ironic in President Trump’s accusation of China and other countries of artificially manipulating their exchange rate against the dollar (by recycling their trade and payments surpluses into Treasury securities to hold down their currency’s dollar valuation) involves dismantling the Treasury-bill standard. The main way that foreign economies have stabilized their exchange rate since 1971 has indeed been to recycle their dollar inflows into U.S. Treasury securities. Letting their currency’s value rise would threaten their export competitiveness against their rivals, although not necessarily benefit the United States.

Ending this practice leaves countries with the main way to protect their currencies from rising against the dollar is to reduce dollar inflows by blocking U.S. lending to domestic borrowers. They may levy floating tariffs proportioned to the dollar’s declining value. The U.S. has a long history since the 1920s of raising its tariffs against currencies that are depreciating: the American Selling Price (ASP) system. Other countries can impose their own floating tariffs against U.S. goods.

Trade dependency as an aim of the World Bank, IMF and US AID

The world today faces a problem much like what it faced on the eve of World War II. Like Germany then, the United States now poses the main threat of war, and equally destructive neoliberal economic regimes imposing austerity, economic shrinkage and depopulation. U.S. diplomats are threatening to destroy regimes and entire economies that seek to remain independent of this system, by trade and financial sanctions backed by direct military force.

Dedollarization will require creation of multilateral alternatives to U.S. “front” institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and other agencies in which the United States holds veto power to block any alternative policies deemed not to let it “win.” U.S. trade policy through the World Bank and U.S. foreign aid agencies aims at promoting dependency on U.S. food exports and other key commodities, while hiring U.S. engineering firms to build up export infrastructure to subsidize U.S. and other natural-resource investors.[4] The financing is mainly in dollars, providing risk-free bonds to U.S. and other financial institutions. The resulting commercial and financial “interdependency” has led to a situation in which a sudden interruption of supply would disrupt foreign economies by causing a breakdown in their chain of payments and production. The effect is to lock client countries into dependency on the U.S. economy and its diplomacy, euphemized as “promoting growth and development.”

U.S. neoliberal policy via the IMF imposes austerity and opposes debt writedowns. Its economic model pretends that debtor countries can pay any volume of dollar debt simply by reducing wages to squeeze more income out of the labor force to pay foreign creditors. This ignores the fact that solving the domestic “budget problem” by taxing local revenue still faces the “transfer problem” of converting it into dollars or other hard currencies in which most international debt is denominated. The result is that the IMF’s “stabilization” programs actually destabilize and impoverish countries forced into following its advice.

IMF loans support pro-U.S. regimes such as Ukraine, and subsidize capital flight by supporting local currencies long enough to enable U.S. client oligarchies to flee their currencies at a pre-devaluation exchange rate for the dollar. When the local currency finally is allowed to collapse, debtor countries are advised to impose anti-labor austerity. This globalizes the class war of capital against labor while keeping debtor countries on a short U.S. financial leash.

U.S. diplomacy is capped by trade sanctions to disrupt economies that break away from U.S. aims. Sanctions are a form of economic sabotage, as lethal as outright military warfare in establishing U.S. control over foreign economies. The threat is to impoverish civilian populations, in the belief that this will lead them to replace their governments with pro-American regimes promising to restore prosperity by selling off their domestic infrastructure to U.S. and other multinational investors.

US Warfare on Many Fronts —————————————————————— Dedollarization defense

Military warfare (the Near East, Asia)NATO and bilateral treaty (Saudi, ISIS, Al Qaida). color revolutions and proxy wars. Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and pressure for Europe to withdraw from NATO unless the U.S. alleviates its New Cold War threats.
Dollarization is monetary warfare. The US Treasury-bill standard finances the mainly military U.S. balance-of-payments deficit. SWIFT threatens to isolate Iran and Russia Dedollarization will refrain from foreign central banks financing U.S. overseas military spending by keeping their savings in dollars.Creation of alternative payments clearing system.
The IMF finances US client regimes and seeks to isolate those not following US policy. An alternative global financial organization, such as Europe’s INSTEX to circumvent US anti-Iran sanctions, and Russo-China alternative to SWIFT.
Creditor policy forcing austerity on debtor economies, forcing them to privatize and sell off their public domain to pay debts. An international court empowered to write down debts to the ability to pay, based on the original principles that were to guide the BIS in 1931.
The World Bank finances trade dependency on US food exports and opposes national food self-sufficiency. An alternative development organization based on food self-sufficiency. Annulment of World Bank and IMF debt as “odious debt.”
Unilateral US trade war based on levy of US protectionist tariffs, quotas and sanctions, Countervailing sanctions, and creation of an alternative to the WTO or a strengthened organization free of US control.
Cyber War, spycraft via US internet platforms, and Stuxnet sabotage. Work with Huawei and other alternatives to US internet options.
Class War: austerity program for labor MMT, taxation of rentier income and capital gains.
Neoliberal monetarist doctrine of privatization and creditor-oriented rules Promotion of a mixed economy with public infrastructure as a factor of production.
US patent policy seeks monopoly rents. Non-recognition of predatory monopoly patents.
Investment control Deprivatization and buyoutsof US assets abroad.
International law and diplomacy The U.S. as the world’s “exceptional nation,” not subject to international laws or even to its own treaty agreements.Veto power in any organization it joins. The basic principle that the U.S. is not subject to any foreign say over its laws and policies.

Global Problems caused by US Policy ——————————-  Response to U.S. Disruptive Policy

U.S. refuses to join international agreements to reduce carbon emissions, Global Warming and Extreme Weather.U.S. diplomacy is based on control of oil to make other countries dependent on U.S. energy dominance. Trade and tax sanctions against U.S. exporters and banks. Taxes on U.S. tax avoidance by the oil industry’s “flags of convenience” (convenient for tax avoidance).Taxation or isolation of U.S. exports based on high-carbon production.
Attempt to monopolize new G5 Internet technology, Sanctioning of Huawei, insistence on US priority in high-tech. Rejection of patents on basic IT, medicine and other basic human needs.
Patent laws in pharmaceuticals, etc. Taxation of monopoly rents.

There are alternatives, on many fronts

Militarily, today’s leading alternative to NATO expansionism is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with Europe following France’s example under Charles de Gaulle and withdrawing. After all, there is no real threat of military invasion today in Europe. No nation can occupy another without an enormous military draft and such heavy personnel losses that domestic protests would unseat the government waging such a war. The U.S. anti-war movement in the 1960s signaled the end of the military draft, not only in the United States but in nearly all democratic countries. (Israel, Switzerland, Brazil and North Korea are exceptions.)

The enormous spending on armaments for a kind of war unlikely to be fought is not really military, but simply to provide profits to the military industrial complex. The arms are not really to be used. They are simply to be bought, and ultimately scrapped. The danger, of course, is that these not-for-use arms actually might be used, if only to create a need for new profitable production.

Likewise, foreign holdings of dollars are not really to be spent on purchases of U.S. exports or investments. They are like fine-wine collectibles, for saving rather than for drinking. The alternative to such dollarized holdings is to create a mutual use of national currencies, and a domestic bank-clearing payments system as an alternative to SWIFT. Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela already are said to be developing a crypto-currency payments to circumvent U.S. sanctions and hence financial control.

In the World Trade Organization, the United States has tried to claim that any industry receiving public infrastructure or credit subsidy deserves tariff retaliation in order to force privatization. In response to WTO rulings that U.S. tariffs are illegally imposed, the United States “has blocked all new appointments to the seven-member appellate body in protest, leaving it in danger of collapse because it may not have enough judges to allow it to hear new cases.”[5] In the U.S. view, only privatized trade financed by private rather than public banks is “fair” trade.

An alternative to the WTO (or removal of its veto privilege given to the U.S. bloc) is needed to cope with U.S. neoliberal ideology and, most recently, the U.S. travesty claiming “national security” exemption to free-trade treaties, impose tariffs on steel, aluminum, and on European countries that circumvent sanctions on Iran or threaten to buy oil from Russia via the Nordstream II pipeline instead of high-cost liquified “freedom gas” from the United States.

In the realm of development lending, China’s bank along with its Belt and Road initiative is an incipient alternative to the World Bank, whose main role has been to promote foreign dependency on U.S. suppliers. The IMF for its part now functions as an extension of the U.S. Department of Defense to subsidize client regimes such as Ukraine while financially isolating countries not subservient to U.S. diplomacy.

To save debt-strapped economies suffering Greek-style austerity, the world needs to replace neoliberal economic theory with an analytic logic for debt writedowns based on the ability to pay. The guiding principle of the needed development-oriented logic of international law should be that no nation should be obliged to pay foreign creditors by having to sell of the public domain and rent-extraction rights to foreign creditors. The defining character of nationhood should be the fiscal right to tax natural resource rents and financial returns, and to create its own monetary system.

The United States refuses to join the International Criminal Court. To be effective, it needs enforcement power for its judgments and penalties, capped by the ability to bring charges of war crimes in the tradition of the Nuremberg tribunal. U.S. to such a court, combined with its military buildup now threatening World War III, suggests a new alignment of countries akin to the Non-Aligned Nations movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Non-aligned in this case means freedom from U.S. diplomatic control or threats.

Such institutions require a more realistic economic theory and philosophy of operations to replace the neoliberal logic for anti-government privatization, anti-labor austerity, and opposition to domestic budget deficits and debt writedowns. Today’s neoliberal doctrine counts financial late fees and rising housing prices as adding to “real output” (GDP), but deems public investment as deadweight spending, not a contribution to output. The aim of such logic is to convince governments to pay their foreign creditors by selling off their public infrastructure and other assets in the public domain.

Just as the “capacity to pay” principle was the foundation stone of the Bank for International Settlements in 1931, a similar basis is needed to measure today’s ability to pay debts and hence to write down bad loans that have been made without a corresponding ability of debtors to pay. Without such an institution and body of analysis, the IMF’s neoliberal principle of imposing economic depression and falling living standards to pay U.S. and other foreign creditors will impose global poverty.

The above proposals provide an alternative to the U.S. “exceptionalist” refusal to join any international organization that has a say over its affairs. Other countries must be willing to turn the tables and isolate U.S. banks, U.S. exporters, and to avoid using U.S. dollars and routing payments via U.S. banks. To protect their ability to create a countervailing power requires an international court and its sponsoring organization.

Summary

The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism. Their danger to world peace and prosperity threatens a reversion to the pre-World War II colonialism, ruling by client elites along lines similar to the 2014 Ukrainian coup by neo-Nazi groups sponsored by the U.S. State Department and National Endowment for Democracy. Such control recalls the dictators that U.S. diplomacy established throughout Latin America in the 1950s. Today’s ethnic terrorism by U.S.-sponsored Wahabi-Saudi Islam recalls the behavior of Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Global warming is the second major existentialist threat. Blocking attempts to reverse it is a bedrock of American foreign policy, because it is based on control of oil. So the military, refugee and global warming threats are interconnected.

The U.S. military poses the greatest immediate danger. Today’s warfare is fundamentally changed from what it used to be. Prior to the 1970s, nations conquering others had to invade and occupy them with armies recruited by a military draft. But no democracy in today’s world can revive such a draft without triggering widespread refusal to fight, voting the government out of power. The only way the United States – or other countries – can fight other nations is to bomb them. And as noted above, economic sanctions have as destructive an effect on civilian populations in countries deemed to be U.S. adversaries as overt warfare. The United States can sponsor political coups (as in Honduras and Pinochet’s Chile), but cannot occupy. It is unwilling to rebuild, to say nothing of taking responsibility for the waves of refugees that our bombing and sanctions are causing from Latin America to the Near East.

U.S. ideologues view their nation’s coercive military expansion and political subversion and neoliberal economic policy of privatization and financialization as an irreversible victory signaling the End of History. To the rest of the world it is a threat to human survival.

The American promise is that the victory of neoliberalism is the End of History, offering prosperity to the entire world. But beneath the rhetoric of free choice and free markets is the reality of corruption, subversion, coercion, debt peonage and neofeudalism. The reality is the creation and subsidy of polarized economies bifurcated between a privileged rentier class and its clients, eir debtors and renters. America is to be permitted to monopolize trade in oil and food grains, and high-technology rent-yielding monopolies, living off its dependent customers. Unlike medieval serfdom, people subject to this End of History scenario can choose to live wherever they want. But wherever they live, they must take on a lifetime of debt to obtain access to a home of their own, and rely on U.S.-sponsored control of their basic needs, money and credit by adhering to U.S. financial planning of their economies. This dystopian scenario confirms Rosa Luxemburg’s recognition that the ultimate choice facing nations in today’s world is between socialism and barbarism.

  1. Billy Bambrough, “Bitcoin Threatens To ‘Take Power’ From The U.S. Federal Reserve,” Forbes, May 15, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billybambrough/2019/05/15/a-u-s-congressman-is-so-scared-of-bitcoin-and-crypto-he-wants-it-banned/#36b2700b6405. 
  2. Vladimir Putin, keynote address to the Economic Forum, June 5-6 2019. Putin went on to warn of “a policy of completely unlimited economic egoism and a forced breakdown.” This fragmenting of the global economic space “is the road to endless conflict, trade wars and maybe not just trade wars. Figuratively, this is the road to the ultimate fight of all against all.” 
  3. Address to St Petersburg International Economic Forum’s Plenary Session, St Petersburg, Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2009, from Johnson’s Russia List, June 8, 2009, #8, 
  4. https://www.rt.com/business/464013-china-russia-cryptocurrency-dollar-dethrone/. Already in the late 1950s the Forgash Plan proposed a World Bank for Economic Acceleration. Designed by Terence McCarthy and sponsored by Florida Senator Morris Forgash, the bank would have been a more truly development-oriented institution to guide foreign development to create balanced economies self-sufficient in food and other essentials. The proposal was opposed by U.S. interests on the ground that countries pursuing land reform tended to be anti-American. More to the point, they would have avoided trade and financial dependency on U.S. suppliers and banks, and hence on U.S. trade and financial sanctions to prevent them from following policies at odds with U.S. diplomatic demands.  
  5. Don Weinland, “WTO rules against US in tariff dispute with China,” Financial Times, July 17, 2019. 

 

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Pentagon Angst over China-Russia Strategic Unity

Global Research, July 22, 2019

Sino/Russian unity represents a vital anti-imperial alliance. A DOD/Pentagon white paper called Russia a strategic US  threat, especially united with China.

NYT editors addressed the issue, falsely calling both countries “adversaries.” Indeed they’re “growing closer,” both nations portrayed as strategic threats to US rage for global dominance.

The Times:

“(S)ince Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in 2014 (sic), Chinese and Russian authorities have increasingly found common cause, disparaging Western-style democracy (sic) and offering themselves as alternatives to America’s postwar leadership.”

“Now China and Russia are growing even closer, suggesting a more permanent arrangement that could pose a complex challenge to the United States.”

Fact: No Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine or any other country occurred — a US/NATO specialty, not how the Kremlin operates.

Fact: So-called “Western-style democracy” is pure fantasy, not the real thing.

Fact: The US poses an imperial threat to Russia, China, and other countries, not the other way around.

China’s Xi Jinping earlier called Sino/Russia ties stronger than ever, the “best in history,” both nations “each other’s most trustworthy strategic partners,” adding:

“President Putin and I have built good working relations and a close personal friendship” — bilateral ties deepening, Xi calling Putin his “best and bosom friend.”

Leaders of both nations regard each other as key strategic allies — a vital counterforce to endless US aggression, threatening world peace, stability, and security.

Both countries rely on mutual cooperation, sharing a multi-world polarity worldview. They’re jointly implementing Beijing’s hugely ambitious One Belt One Road initiative for greater regional integration and development, involving well over $1 trillion in longterm investments.

The 2,500 mile Power of Siberian pipeline, linking Russia’s Far East to China to be completed this year will supply around 38 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to China annually for 30 years, according to agreed on terms between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation.

Construction of the Power to Siberia-2 pipeline will deliver another 30 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to China via a Western route – both projects and other major ones of huge importance to both countries.

Putin and Xi have met face-to-face around two dozen times — testimony to their longterm strategic partnership and friendship.

China is an economic powerhouse, Russia the world’s dominant military power, its super-weapons exceeding the best in the West.

Russia is rich in what China needs most — oil and gas, technological expertise, industrial equipment, and state-of-the-art weapons.

Sharing a common border, both countries want them for defense, not offense like the US, NATO and Israel operate.

A Sino/Russian Investment Committee fosters expanding economic and financial ties, diversifying trade to reduce dependence on global economic conditions.

It promotes and facilitates cooperation in technology-intensive industrial, financial, commercial, and military areas.

Both nations are increasingly trading in their own currencies, bypassing dollar transactions. Global de-dollarization is an idea whose time has come.

Dollar hegemony as the world’s reserve currency facilitates US global dominance.

It finances Washington’s reckless spending, global militarism, its empire of bases, endless wars, corporate takeovers, as well as speculative excesses creating bubbles and economic crises – at the expense of democratic freedoms and beneficial social change.

Ending dollar dominance would be the political, economic, financial, military equivalent of cutting the biblical Sampson’s hair, eliminating his strength.

According to the DOD/Pentagon white paper, the US and its allies aren’t acting effectively enough to counter Sino/Russian aims — falsely accusing both countries of using “gray zone” tactics to foment instability.

It’s how US-dominated NATO, Israel, and their imperial partners operate, not Russia and China.

They’re growing world powers, the US a nation in decline politically, economically and militarily — despite spending countless trillions of dollars to maintain global supremacy.

The myth of American exceptionalism, the indispensable state, an illusory moral superiority, and military supremacy persist despite hard evidence debunking these notions.

The US has been declining for decades. The late Gabriel Kolko believes it began during US aggression against North Korea, continued during a decade of Southeast Asia war, and accelerated post-9/11.

It’s the same dynamic that doomed all other empire in history. The US is declining  because of its imperial arrogance, hubris, endless wars against invented enemies, and unwillingness to change.

Ruinous military spending persists while vital homeland needs go begging.

The US ruling class serves privileged interests exclusively at the expense of peace, equity and justice.

Its power and influence are waning on the global stage while Russia and China are rising — especially united for common longterm constructive aims.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

The World Is Dedollarizing

Global Research, July 19, 2019

What if tomorrow nobody but the United States would use the US-dollar? Every country, or society would use their own currency for internal and international trade, their own economy-based, non-fiat currency. It could be traditional currencies or new government controlled crypto-currencies, but a country’s own sovereign money. No longer the US-dollar. No longer the dollar’s foster child, the Euro. No longer international monetary transactions controlled by US banks and – by the US-dollar controlled international transfer system, SWIFT, the system that allows and facilitates US financial and economic sanctions of all kinds – confiscation of foreign funds, stopping trades between countries, blackmailing ‘unwilling’ nations into submission. What would happen? – Well, the short answer is that we would certainly be a step close to world peace, away from US (financial) hegemony, towards nation states’ sovereignty, towards a world geopolitical structure of more equality.

We are not there yet. But graffities are all over the walls signaling that we are moving quite rapidly in that direction. And Trump knows it and his handlers know it – which is why the onslaught of financial crime – sanctions – trade wars – foreign assets and reserves confiscations, or outright theft – all in the name of “Make America Great Again”, is accelerating exponentially and with impunity. What is surprising is that the Anglo-Saxon hegemons do not seem to understand that all the threats, sanctions, trade barriers, are provoking the contrary to what should contribute to American Greatness. Economic sanctions, in whatever form, are effective only as long as the world uses the US dollar for trading and as reserve currency.

Once the world gets sick and tired of the grotesque dictate of Washington and the sanction schemes for those who do no longer want to go along with the oppressive rules of the US, they will be eager to jump on another boat, or boats – abandoning the dollar and valuing their own currencies. Meaning trading with each other in their own currencies – and that outside of the US banking system which so far even controls trading in local currencies, as long as funds have to be transferred from one nation to another via SWIFT.

Many countries have also realized that the dollar is increasingly serving to manipulate the value of their economy. The US-dollar, a fiat currency, by its sheer money mass, may bend national economies up or down, depending in which direction the country is favored by the hegemon. Let’s put the absurdity of this phenomenon in perspective.

Today, the dollar is based not even on hot air and is worth less than the paper it is printed on. The US GDP is US$ 21.1 trillion in 2019 (World Bank estimate), with current debt of 22.0 trillion, or about 105% of GDP. The world GDP is projected for 2019 at US$ 88.1 trillion (World Bank). According to Forbes, about US$ 210 trillion are “unfunded liabilities” (net present value of future projected but unfunded obligations (75 years), mainly social security, Medicaid and accumulated interest on debt), a figure about 10 times the US GDP, or two and a half times the world’s economic output.

This figure keeps growing, as interest on debt is compounded, forming part of what would be called in business terms ‘debt service’ (interest and debt amortization), but is never ‘paid back’. In addition, there are about one to two quadrillion dollars (nobody knows the exact amount) of so-called derivatives floating around the globe. Aderivative is a financial instrument which creates its value from the speculative difference of underlying assets, most commonly derived from such inter-banking and stock exchange oddities, like ‘futures’, ‘options’, ‘forwards’ and ‘swaps’.

This monstrous debt is partly owned in the form of treasury bonds as foreign exchange reserves by countries around the world. The bulk of it is owed by the US to itself – with no plans to ever “pay it back” – but rather create more money, more debt, with which to pay for the non-stop wars, weapon manufacturing and lie-propaganda to keep the populace quiet and in lockstep.

This amounts to a humongous worldwide dollar-based pyramid system. Imagine, this debt comes crashing down, for example because one or several big (Wall Street) banks are on the brink of bankruptcy, so, they claim their outstanding derivatives, paper gold (another banking absurdity) and other debt from smaller banks. It would generate a chain reaction that might bring down the whole dollar-dependent world economy. It would create an exponential “Lehman Brothers 2008” on global scale.

The world is increasingly aware of this real threat, an economy built on a house of cards – and countries want to get out of the trap, out of the fangs of the US-dollar. It’s not easy with all the dollar-denominated reserves and assets invested abroad, all over the globe. A solution may be gradually divesting them (US-dollar liquidity and investments) and moving into non-dollar dependent currencies, like the Chinese Yuan and the Russian Ruble, or a basket of eastern currencies that are delinked from the dollar and its international payment scheme, the SWIFT system. Beware of the Euro, it’s the foster child of the US-dollar!

There are increasingly blockchain technology alternatives available. China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela are already experimenting with government-controlled cryptocurrencies to build new payment and transfer systems outside the US-dollar domain to circumvent sanctions. India may or may not join this club – whenever the Modi Government decides which way to bend – east or west. The logic would suggest that India orients herself to the east, as India is a significant part of the huge Eurasian economic market and landmass.

India is already an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – an association of countries that are developing peaceful strategies for trade, monetary security and defense, comprising China, Russia, India, Pakistan, most Central Asian countries and with Iran waiting in the wings to become a full-fledged member. As such, SCO accounts for about half of the world population and a third of the world’s economic output. The east has no need for the west to survive. No wonder that western media hardly mention the SCO which means that the western average public at large has no clue what the SCO stands for, and who are its members.

Government-controlled and regulated blockchain technology may become key to counter US coercive financial power and to resist sanctions. Any country is welcome to join this new alliance of countries and new but fast-growing approach to alternative trading – and to finding back to national political and financial sovereignty.

In the same vein of dedollarization are Indian “barter banks”. They are, for example, trading Indian tea for Iranian oil. Such arrangements for goods to be exchanged against Iranian petrol are carried out through Indian “barter banks”, where currencies, i.e. Iranian rials and Indian rupees, are handled by the same bank. Exchange of goods is based on a list of highest monetary volume Indian trade items, against Iranian hydrocarbon products, for example, Iran’s large import of Indian tea. No monetary transaction takes place outside of India, therefore, US sanctions may be circumvented, since no US bank or US Treasury interference can stop the bilateral trade activities.

At this point, it might be appropriate to mention Facebook’s attempt to introduce a globe-spanning cryptocurrency, the Lira. Little is known on how exactly it will (or may) function, except that it would cater to billions of facebook members around the world. According to Facebook, there are 2.38 billion active members. Imagine, if only two thirds – about 1.6 billion – opened a Libra account with Facebook, the floodgate of libras around the world would be open. Libra is or would be a privately-owned cryptocurrency – and – coming from Facebook – could be destined to replace the dollar by the same people who are now abusing the world with the US-dollar. It may be projected as the antidote to government-controlled cryptocurrencies, thus, circumventing the impact of dedollarization. Beware of the Libra!

Despite US and EU sanctions, German investments in Russia are breaking a 10-year record in 2019, by German business pouring more than €1.7 billion into the Russian economy in the first three months of 2019. According to the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce, the volume of German companies’ investments in Russia is up by 33% – by € 400 million – since last year, when total investments reached € 3.2 billion, the largest since 2008. Despite sanctions which amounted to about € 1 billion combined for 140 German companies surveyed and registered with the Chamber of Commerce, and despite western anti-Russia pressure, Russia-German trade has increased by 8.4 percent and reached nearly € 62 billion in 2018.

In addition, notwithstanding US protests and threats with sanctions, Moscow and Berlin continue their Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project which is expected to be finished before the end of 2019. Not only is the proximity of Russian gas a natural and logical supply source for Germany and Europe, it will also bring Europe independence form the bullying sales methods of the United States. And payments will not be made in US dollars. In the long-run, the benefits of German-Russian business and economic relations will far outweigh the illegal US sanctions. Once this awareness has sunk in, there is nothing to stop Russian-German business associations to flourish, and to attract other EU-Russian business relations – all outside of the dollar-dominated banking and transfer system.

President Trump’s trade war with China will eventually also have a dedollarization effect, as China will seek – and already has acquired – other trading partners, mostly Asian, Asian-Pacific and European – with whom China will deal in other than dollar-denominated contracts and outside the SWIFT transfer system, for example using the Chinese International Payment System (CIPS) which, by the way, is open for international trade by any country across the globe.

This will not only circumvent punishing tariffs on China’s exports (and make US customers of Chinese goods furious, as their Chinese merchandise is no longer available at affordable prices, or no longer available at all), but this strategy will also enhance the Chinese Yuan on international markets and boost the Yuan even further as a reliable reserve currency – ever outranking the US-dollar. In fact, in the last 20 years, dollar-denominated assets in international reserve coffers have declined from more than 90% to below 60% and will rapidly decline further as Washington’s coercive financial policies prevail. Dollar reserves are rapidly replaced by reserves in Yuan and gold, and that even in such staunch supporters of the west as is Australia.

Washington also has launched a counter-productive financial war against Turkey, because Turkey is associating and creating friendly relations with Russia, Iran and China – and, foremost, because Turkey, a NATO stronghold, is purchasing the Russian S-400 cutting-edge air defense system – a new military alliance which the US cannot accept. As a result, the US is sabotaging the Turkish currency, the Lira which has lost 40% since January 2018.

Turkey will certainly do whatever it can to get out from under the boot of the US-dollar stranglehold and currency sanctions – and further ally itself with the East. This amounts to a double loss for the US. Turkey will most likely abandon all trading in US dollars and align her currency with, for example, the Chinese Yuan and the Russian ruble, and, to the detriment of the Atlantic alliance, Turkey may very likely exit NATO. Abandoning NATO will be a major disaster for the US, as Turkey is both strategically, as well as in terms of NATO military power one of the strongest – if not the strongest – nation of the 29 NATO members, outside of the US.

If Turkey exits NATO, the entire European NATO alliance will be shaken and questioned. Other countries, long wary of NATO and of storing NATO’s nuclear weapons on their soils, especially Italy and Germany, may also consider exiting NATO. In both Germany and Italy, a majority of the people is against NATO and especially against the Pentagon waging wars form their NATO bases in their territories in Germany in Italy.

To stem against this trend, the former German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, from the conservative German CDU party, is being groomed to become Jean-Claude Juncker’s successor as President of the European Commission. Mr. Juncker served since 2014. Ms. Von der Leyen was voted in tonight, 17 July, with a narrow margin of 9 votes. She is a staunch supporter of NATO. Her role is to keep NATO as an integral part of the EU. In fact, as it stands today, NATO is running the EU. This may change, once people stand up against NATO, against the US vassal, the EU Administration in Brussels, and claim their democratic rights as citizens of their nation states.

Europeans sense that these Pentagon initiated and ongoing wars and conflicts, supported by Washington’s European puppet allies, may escalate into a nuclear war, their countries’ NATO bases will be the first ones to be targeted, sinking Europe for the 3rdtime in 100 year into a world war. However, this one may be all-destructive nuclear – and nobody knows or is able to predict the damage and destruction of such a catastrophe, nor the time of recovery of Mother Earth from an atomic calamity.

So, let’s hope Turkey exits NATO. It would be giant step towards peace and a healthy answer to Washington’s blackmail and sabotage against Turkey’s currency. The US currency sanctions are, in the long run, a blessing. It gives Turkey a good argument to abandon the US dollar and gradually shift towards association with eastern moneys, mainly the Chinese Yuan, thereby putting another nail in the US-dollar’s coffin.

However, the hardest blow for Washington will be when Turkey exits NATO. Such a move will come sooner or later, notwithstanding Ms. Von der Leyen’s battle cries for NATO. The breaking up of NATO will annihilate the western power structure in Europe and throughout the world, where the US still maintains more than 800 military bases. On the other hand, the disbanding of NATO will increase the world’s security, especially in Europe – for all the consequences such an exit will bear. Exiting NATO and economically exiting the US-dollar orbit is a further step towards dedollarization, and a blow to US financial and military hegemony.

Finally, investments of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road, will be mostly made in Yuan and local currencies of the countries involved and incorporated in one or more of the several BRI land and maritime routes that eventually will span the globe. Some US-dollar investments may serve the People’s Bank of China, China’s Central Bank, as a dollar-divesting tool of China’s huge dollar reserves which currently stands at close to two trillion dollars.

The BRI promises to become the next economic revolution, a non-dollar economic development scheme, over the coming decades, maybe century, connecting peoples and countries – cultures, research and teaching without, however, forcing uniformity, but promoting cultural diversity and human equality – and all of it outside the dollar dynasty, breaking the nefarious dollar hegemony.

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This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

IN MAJOR THREAT TO DOLLAR’S RESERVE STATUS, RUSSIA OFFERS TO JOIN EUROPEAN SWIFT-BYPASS

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational.

And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.

Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year.

“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.”

… and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed the foreign ministry’s take:

“We are tracking the information regarding this. If I’m not mistaken, there have already been statements from our side that, taking into account the first experience of using this system, when it is activated, we cannot rule out interaction in this regard,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters.

“This is an important project. It is aimed at protecting the interests of European economic operators against the background of illegal attempts to restrict their activities by third countries,” he added.

Earlier, the Russian foreign ministry hinted at precisely what will take place next, when it said that “The full potential of Instex will only be able to be deployed if it will be open to the participation of countries which are not members of the European Union.” Such as Russia and China.

Ironically, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has previously described Instex as “not sufficient” even though Russia was far more promise, and said Instex was “a good tool in the implementation of projects . . . that the United States has strongly torpedoed” but called for it to be expanded to include crude oil.

“If the encouraging statements by the EU . . . will be backed up by concrete steps and practical advances, including in relation to the use of Instex for servicing trading in Iranian oil, it will help stabilise the difficult situation created around the JCPOA,” it said.

Russia has strengthened its ties with Iran in recent years as part of Moscow’s increased geopolitical importance in the Middle East, including its role of propping up the Assad regime in the war in Syria.

At a meeting with Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani last month, Russian president Vladimir Putin vowed to continue developing trade ties with Tehran and said Moscow was committed to a project to expand the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran. As the FT correctly notes, efforts to rescue the nuclear deal have been a rare area of co-operation between Brussels and Moscow, whose relations have soured in recent years.

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Since US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last May, its other signatories — Germany, France, UK, China and Russia — have scrambled to find ways to maintain trade with Iran. But they have been stymied by companies’ reluctance to risk Washington’s wrath.

As a reminder, Instex was launched in January but subsequently delayed by bureaucratic hurdles and the complications caused by the US sanctions. It only became operational last month and has been criticised by both Tehran – for having big limitations – and the US – for existing.

Iran has a more valid point: just 10 EU states are members and the mechanism’s initial credit line of several million euros is a fraction of EU-Iran trade, which stood at more than €20bn annually before the US sanctions.

Meanwhile, it appears that Moscow will get an invite because as the FT adds, Brussels is interested in bringing Russia into Instex, but it would first seek to get the channel up and running with humanitarian aid trades before potentially expanding its scope or membership.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy head, said this week that the trade mechanism “has always been conceived to be open to third countries . . . and we are already seeing interest by some of them to participate in that”, although she did not identify them. “The issue of whether or not Instex will deal with oil is a discussion that is ongoing among the shareholders,” she added.

And while Iran wants Europe to buy its oil so that it can use the hard currency earnings to import basic commodities and medicines through Instex, Russia is seeking to find ever more creative ways to chip away at US global dominance, with a focus on the dollar’s reserve currency status.

Additionally,  Moscow previously said that it would look into ways to facilitate or finance Iranian oil exports if Instex was not launched or proved to be ineffective.

As we discussed extensively last summer, the idea behind Instex was to set up a mirror image transaction system that replaces potentially sanctionable international payments between Europe and Iran with payments that do not cross Iran’s borders, nor are they denominated in dollars to avoid giving the US veto rights.

As a final point, the FT quotes analyst who said that China, which has repeatedly defied US sanctions on Iran, has greater potential to hand Tehran an economic lifeline by continuing to purchase Iranian crude exports; it has yet to be seen if China will also join Instex.

Source

IMF who? Lagarde shows ECB is the top dollar job in QE age

July 17, 2019

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

IMF who? Lagarde shows ECB is the top dollar job in QE age

(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 “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China.”)

Christine Lagarde just quit her top post at the International Monetary Fund in order to run the European Central Bank. This shows just far the euro has come (and central bankers), and represents either a historic step backwards or a leap of faith forward in the fight against the global domination of the US dollar.

The dollar’s dominance is what allows Washington to impose murderous, illegal sanctions on countries like Iran, Cuba, Korea and elsewhere, which is why many are so keen to end it.

The dollar’s imposition began after World War II, when the war-ravaged powers were forced to accept equating US paper with (but actually above) gold, a move which Charles de Gaulle bitterly referred to as the “exorbitant privilege” of the United States. The logic is simple: a $100 dollar bill cost Washington only the price of a piece of paper, whereas everyone else still had to mine, barter, earn or steal $100 worth of gold (or its equivalent in goods) to acquire that banknote.

The expensive US failure in Vietnam caused Richard Nixon to end this policy in 1971, but QE – printing money out of thin air – was opposed back then, so a replacement tool had to be quickly found in order to maintain US empire. The solution to effectively maintain the Bretton Woods system was found with the petrodollar” agreement of 1973: every barrel of Saudi oil sold to anyone had to be purchased in dollars, and surplus Saudi profit would be invested in US banks and in US debt securities (“petrodollar recycling”, per Henry Kissinger).

Washington had no qualms about propping up the ruthless, reactionary House of Saud to maintain US economic hegemony. The system expanded to other oil producers to the point where: no dollars? No oil.

The petrodollar keeps money flowing into the US and allows the US to “print gold” – it finances their huge budget deficits, high demand for the dollar fights off their inflation, it gives their banks a source of income for which they do zero genuine work, and the US themselves can buy “as much oil as they can print” from the Saudis. This is obviously a tremendous bargain for the US – the only reason the Saudis accept it is because they know they have absolutely zero legitimacy and would be deposed instantly without US arms and military support.

But the great deal is only for some in the US, as they are rabid neoliberal capitalists: from 1980 onwards the US elite funnelled these huge monies into Wall Street and other asset classes which only their fellow elite can touch, as opposed to intelligently and patriotically using the income to improve the overall conditions of their own nation, or even just raising wages (neoliberals call these concepts “socialism”).

Pick your poison: the US or the IMF?

The IMF, which is always led by a European, has long-pushed something to end this scam that weakens everyone for the US’ benefit, via the concept of the SDR (special drawing rights): a basket of international currencies which could replace the dollar as the world’s backing currency. Who needs the Fed when the SDR can provide international liquidity and financial stability? It wasn’t a great system, but it was closer to the IMF’s original aim of having an international monetary system, instead of the current US empire system of (petrodollar) tribute, which is no different from the Roman era.

The Great Recession pushed the superiority of the SDR to the fore – in 2009 China publicly supported, for the first time, that an international reserve currency be based on the SDR and be run by the IMF. The immorality and business failures of US bankers caused the Great Recession – it was only logical that the Americans lose their banking primacy.

The IMF was thus poised to become top banker, and one of their own was even about to be democratically elected.

In 2011 then-current IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a major backer of the SDR basket, was outpolling Nicolas Sarkozy 2 to 1 to head the world’s 5th-largest economy and the neo-imperialist master of North and West Africa. He was certain to win, but on American soil he was accused of attempted rape of a hotel maid, dooming his presidency. The charges were dropped, but Strauss-Kahn admitted the liaison. People screamed “conspiracy” – I always found it highly coincidental that Strauss-Kahn found a maid whose native language was French in a country where seemingly all the cleaning women are Latinas? Conspiracy theorists assumed Sarkozy was behind it, with few noting how the IMF, the SDR and Strauss-Kahn threatened US economic hegemony.

QE means the US’ 1% never have to pay for their crimes

The US pushed back the IMF with one arm while the other arranged the current global financial regime – Quantitative Easing.

QE has been a total failure for the average person worldwide, but nowhere more so than in Europe. Incredibly, 1.5 years after it became official, PressTV and I remain one of the very few people to write about the statistical reality of Europe’s “Lost Decade”. I saw it happening in painful slow-motion, being PressTV’s chief correspondent in Paris.

The reason the Mainstream Media doesn’t want to talk about the failure of QE to provide broad economic growth is because their pro-capitalist media are owned by the same billionaires who get all the profit from QE.

The printing of trillions of paper money (which are certainly not backed by trillions in newly-mined gold) has, just like the oil-produced fruits of the petrodollar, gone to remake the same asset bubbles which sparked the Great Recession.

Once again, only the wealthy are profiting from shady capitalist practices: Housing Bubble II, new stock market records despite the endemic failure of the “real-economy” (evidenced by the Lost Decade), and absurd records in the prices of absurd luxury goods like MBS’ purchase of a da Vinci painting – this has all been paid for by the neoliberal-neoimperialist policy of QE which has failed the average Western citizen and continued the economic misery of the developing world.

But QE has proven one thing: governments are the most powerful forces in society, not bankers. This is something which socialist-inspired democracies are based on, but which only the 1% appear to take advantage of in Western liberal democracies.

Lagarde moving from the IMF to ECB would have been thought of as a step down pre-QE, mainly because nobody imagined that the head of the ECB could create several trillions of dollars simply by tapping a keyboard, as her predecessor Mario Draghi did. The IMF has a lot of money, but they do not have the power to create money.

Lagarde: More bad news for Europe’s 99%

When Lagarde was announced as the new head of the ECB the Western mainstream media provided – of course – none of this background, nor any perspective which fairly criticises the record of neoliberal thought and practice. Instead, their leading media justified Lagarde on one criterion – gender. The New York Times’ article was, “In Tense Times, ‘Call in the Woman’: Lagarde Will Lead the E.C.B”.

The Times championed Lagarde’s own claim that she deserved the job because she was not a male: “As I have said many times, if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look a lot different today.”

Such a claim is preposterous and shows how little Lagarde understands the principles and practices of neoliberal economics. However, everyone can quickly see that it also denies the existence of empresses, queens, Thatchers and Clintons; it also denies that women have played any role in shaping the positive and negative aspects of our modern world; it is a justification entirely based on divisive, distracting “identity politics” instead of a class-based true feminism.

Certainly, nobody would claim that simply being a male would be all that is necessary to head the ECB. And yet, such nonsense is all it takes in 2019 – we must all cheer simply because the new boss is female. This is what works with the average American today.

But the ECB is not American – why Lagarde?

The Times repeated the same misleading claim – that Lagarde is an “antitrust lawyer by training” : she worked for the world’s biggest law firm, based in Chicago (the Qom of neoliberal capitalist thought), meaning that she likely worked to manipulate the law in order to maintain trusts, not to dismantle trusts. The Times was forced to acknowledge that she has no experience as a central banker and will thus have a “steep learning curve”.

The West continues to put people in power based on the most absurd pretences of qualification for public service, even when such posts are unelected.

Investopedia had the same assessment as The Times: “However, the absence of an economics background or a discernible opinion on monetary policy means she would have to rely on financial technocrats a fair amount. Lagarde, who says she faced sexism and discrimination in her professional life….”

Lagarde clearly does not have the background required – just like The Times, Investopedia ignores this to assert her “gender qualifications”.

Pity the poor European Mainstream Media reader: Largarde is only a shiny tool whose ascension will do nothing but put an unqualified person in charge of the QE money-printing scheme. She will obviously kowtow to “technocrats” who insist that QE will eventually, one day stop creating Lost Decades.

Lagarde thus got the job not her qualifications but her ideology: it is not Islamic, nor socialist, nor moral – she believes in phony technocratism, because for Lagarde and her ilk “technocrats” are synonymous with “the 1%”. I know Lagarde well from covering the Tapie Affair in France: she was found guilty of negligence and misuse of public funds in a case where she got Sarkozy’s friend Bernard Tapie a hugely controversial 400-million euro payout from the French public coffers.

She only doesn’t have a criminal record and didn’t go to jail, which would seemingly have disqualified her for the ECB Post because…because Frances judicial system is not independent but totally corrupted by 1% influence – the judge simply decided to let her go scot-free, despite her guilt.

Negligence, misuse of public funds, payouts for millionaires – now we understand why Lagarde is considered to be “qualified” to run the ECB, and their QE scam, and to continue the phony “the 99% must work their nation out of debt” justification for austerity policies. More “Western-style leadership”…..

The leap of faith forward I mentioned at the start is this: the ECB runs the world’s largest macro-economy – it is possible they could decouple themselves from the dollar’s decades of exorbitant privilege, and the Chicago school of (neoliberal) capitalism, and start pursuing policies which do not flood the 1% with cheap credit to buy cheaply the lives of people across Europe.

However, the legal structures of the EU and the Eurozone are written in post-1989 language which is even more typically American than what underpins the system of the US itself. Therefore we can have little basis for faith that the cabal of bankers and public-into-private national finance minsters which is the Eurogroup, which runs the Eurozone with zero democratic accountability or even transparency, is going to start caring about the 99% in any of their respective nations.

The selection of the French Lagarde illustrate that Europe is no longer sovereign, but content to be a tool of US economic hegemony.

The BRICS countries hold out hopes for ending the petrodollar-fuelled US global finance domination, but they have effectively lost Brazil via the US-orchestrated coup against Dilma Roussef, and they have foolishly not offered to make it BRIICS, with the second ‘I’ standing for Iran. No need, really: China, Russia and Iran continue to make the most headway against the dollar, via the Belt and Road Initiative but especially the unstoppable petroyuan.

Cryptocurrency is another unstoppable way for countries to oppose US control over the global financial system, which is why The New York Times and the US treasury secretary just screamed, “Cryptocurrencies Pose National Security Threat, Mnuchin Says”. Cryptocurrency was indeed created in order to end the US petrodollar and QE schemes, which is why they are so wonderful and why they must be supported.

Lagarde leaving the IMF for the ECB is definitely a historic shift in the (Western) priority rankings. It is simply tragic for the West’s billion of innocents that unaccountable, unelected central bankers and their ineffective, corrupt cronies have become their political elite. This, of course, has equally lamentable consequences for those nations suffering under neoimperialism, illegal sanctions and other Washington-based policies.

زخمٌ جديدٌ في «طريق الحرير» الصينية: مواجهة لـ«الحمائية» الأميركية

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 الثلاثاء 30 نيسان 2019

انتهت أعمال قمة «منتدى الحزام والطريق»، التي عُقدت في بكين بحضور أكثر من 37 من رؤساء دول وحكومات ووفود، مسجّلة صفقات يزيد إجمالي قيمتها على 64 مليار دولار أميركي

اختتم الرئيس الصيني شي جين بينغ، قبل يومين، قمة «منتدى الحزام والطريق»، بحضور قادة من 37 دولة ومنظمة دولية، من بينهم الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين. القمة، وهي الثانية للمنتدى، شكّلت مرحلة جديدة في مسيرة مبادرة «حزامٌ واحد وطريقٌ واحد» التي أطلقتها بكين قبل ستة أعوام، وتهدف إلى إعادة إحياء طريق الحرير التاريخي، الذي كان يربط الصين بعشرات الدول تجارياً.

شي أعلن في نهاية القمة التي احتضنتها بكين لمدة ثلاثة أيّام، التوصل إلى توافقات واسعة بشأن تدعيم «التعاون العالي الجودة» في إطار المبادرة، مع سعيٍ لطمأنة المتشككين في أن مشروع البنية التحتية الهائل سيركز على «تنمية مفتوحة ونظيفة وصديقة للبيئة» مع الأطراف المختلفة، التي تُجري «مشاورات على قدم المساواة»، مؤكداً أن مزيداً من الدول ستنضم إلى هذا المشروع لإنشاء بنى تحتية تربط بين آسيا وأوروبا وأفريقيا. وفي مؤتمر صحافي، أكد الرئيس الصيني أن مبادئ السوق ستطبق في جميع مشاريع التعاون التي تتضمنها المبادرة التي تهدف إلى إحياء «طريق الحرير» القديم الذي كان يربط بين الصين وآسيا وأوروبا، مشيراً إلى أن الشركات هي المحرك الأساسي لكل مشاريع المبادرة التي ستطبق عليها كل مبادئ السوق، فيما تلعب الدول دوراً داعماً.

أكّد شي أن المبادرة ستواصل رفض «الحمائية» في انتقاد لواشنطن التي تتبع سياسة حمائية (أ ف ب )

وفي تصريحات خلال الجلسة الختامية للقمة، قال شي إن «المزيد من الأصدقاء والشركاء سينضمون إلى المبادرة»، موضحاً أن «الجميع دعم فكرة تطوير شراكة، واتفقوا على تعزيز آليات التعاون». ووُقّعت اتفاقيات تعاون بقيمة تزيد على 64 مليار دولار أميركي في مؤتمر للمديرين التنفيذيين خلال المنتدى. كذلك، أشار البيان الختامي المشترك إلى أن الزعماء اتفقوا على أن يحترم تمويل المشاريع الأهداف العالمية المتعلقة بالديون، وعلى الترويج للنمو الاقتصادي الصديق للبيئة». من جهتها، أعلنت الصين، في بيانٍ منفصل، أنها وقّعت مذكّرة تفاهم مع دول عديدة، من بينها إيطاليا وبيرو وباربادوس ولوكسمبورغ وجاميكا.

أمّا على صعيد مهاجمة الولايات المتحدة المبادرة الصينية، واتهامها بإيقاع الدول النامية في ديون بعرض تمويل رخيص لا يمكنها تحمّله، فقد حاول شي في خطابه تبديد هذه المخاوف. وقال: «هذا العام، يرسل المنتدى رسالة واضحة: المزيد من الأصدقاء والشركاء سينضمون إلى دائرة الحزام والطريق»، مؤكداً أن المبادرة ستواصل رفض «الحمائية»، في انتقاد لواشنطن التي تبنّت سياسات حمائية في عهد الرئيس دونالد ترامب.

والمبادرة التي تم اقتراحها عام 2013، امتدت من آسيا وأوروبا إلى أفريقيا والأميركيتين وأوقيانوسيا، لتفتح مساحة جديدة للاقتصاد العالمي بنتائج أفضل من المتوقع. ووقّع أكثر من 150 دولة ومنظمة دولية على وثائق تعاون مع الصين في إطار المبادرة. واللافت أنه خلال السنوات الخمس الماضية، تجاوز حجم التجارة بين الصين والدول الأخرى المشاركة في المبادرة 6 تريليونات دولار أميركي، فيما تجاوزت استثمارات الصين في الدول المشاركة في المبادرة 90 مليار دولار. كذلك، حظيت المبادرة بدعم قوي من قبل القادة ورجال الأعمال الأجانب. وقد تمظهر ذلك في الكلمات الافتتاحية للرؤساء.

تم توقيع اتفاقيات تعاون في القمة بقيمة تزيد على 64 مليار دولار أميركي

من جانبه، دعا بوتين الدول المشاركة في المنتدى للانضمام إلى مشروعي الطريق البحري الشمالي و«طريق الحرير». وفي كلمته، أوضح الرئيس الروسي أن بلاده تولي اهتماماً كبيراً لتطوير الطريق البحري الشمالي، مضيفاً: «نحن نفكر في إمكانية ربطه بطريق الحرير الصيني، وبالتالي إقامة طريق نقل عالمي وتنافسي، يربط شمال شرق، وشرق وجنوب شرق آسيا بأوروبا». وأكد بوتين أن هذا المشروع الضخم يعني قيام تعاون وثيق بين دول أورآسيا لزيادة حركة الترانزيت وبناء محطات استقبال البضائع والحاويات في الموانئ، وكذلك المراكز اللوجيستية.

يُذكر أن الطريق البحري الشمالي هو وجهة نقل تمتد من المحيط الأطلسي إلى المحيط الهادئ على طول سواحل شمالي روسيا في الدائرة القطبية الشمالية. ويعبر هذا الطريق بحور الشمال بمحاذاة سيبيريا إلى الشرق الأقصى الروسي على الحدود مع اليابان وكوريا، وصار متاحاً أمام حركة الملاحة البحرية مع ذوبان الجليد في القطب الشمالي.

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$0 in Iran oil sales? Anything to stop Muslim democracy… but they won’t stop it

April 27, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

If 7,000 Greeks can stop the Persian empire at the narrow pass at Thermopylae, I think it’s absurd to think Iran can’t stop 20-30% of global oil traffic at the 3 kilometer-wide shipping lane in the Strait of Hormuz. That would, of course provoke a global crisis and economic disaster.

That’s the “nuclear option” for Iran. It is reportedly part of a military plan called “Ghadir”, which evokes the alpha letter of modern Iranian Islamic history – Ghadir Khumm is the location where Prophet Mohammad anointed Imam Ali his successor, but (those who came to be called) Sunnis amazingly rejected the Prophet’s wishes. Shia – which means “partisans of Ali” – did not.

The US has severely overestimated their military capability to defend this attempt to politicise oil and get Iranian oil exports to zero. Mining the strait, mini-subs, kamikaze speedboats – all of these will be hugely effective against anything the US Navy has. For all the US drones and satellites and aircraft carriers, there is no way they can protect the Straits of Hormuz long-term, not any more than they could hold any of a thousand Afghan mountain passes long-term. Should we trust history or the sales pitches of corrupt Pentagon contractors?

No military can stop endless kamikazes. But who wants to be a kamikaze? What could produce the desire to be a kamikaze?

$0 in oil sales may do it.

There is undoubtedly a part of the Iranian psyche which now wants a final showdown. The years of talking, talking, talking about the JCPOA pact on Iran’s nuclear energy program… and then its failure, thanks to US unilateralism and spineless European hypocrisy, has created a lot of existential angst for Iranians. How can Iranian diplomacy work when the opponents refuse diplomacy and honor?

That is an existential and philosophical question, but there is also a lot of undeniable frustration since the inhumanly effective 2012 Triple Sanctions (US, UN, EU). Iranian society has been forced to become perceptibly more desperate, more coarse, less warm, less Iranian – it is difficult to admit this.

Iran cannot be forced into starvation indefinitely. That is why blocking the Strait of Hormuz – if it ever happens – will certainly be accompanied with an ultimatum: the West must end Iran’s isolation and finally accept the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. The world must live with us, finally, because it cannot live without us in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, due to Islamophobia, even more so than 40 years of media-led Iranophobia, nobody in the West is going to burn a draft card for Iran. The opposition to the obviously immoral war on Iraq produced just a day of street protests in the US – hardly worth the effort. Neither is Iran in the position of the USSR, meaning it has no chance to save the West from racist fascists – after all, the West supports the racist fascists (Taliban in the 1980s, ISIL today, et al).

Because nobody in the West will put any pressure on the governments to stop the oppression of Iran, perhaps Iran has to force the issue by closing the Strait of Hormuz? Is Iran backed into a corner?

I say no, because Iran is not going to sell $0 in oil in month of May.

Firstly, should Iran be worried? Answer: no. The world needs Iranian oil (and revolutionary culture)

When is the last time the US policy worked out in the Middle East? Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen – all have had their growth retarded, but are not destroyed… just like Iran.

As Pepe Escobar pointed out, it’s much easier to retard the Colombian dream of Eurasian integration by attacking its weakest major point – Iran, as opposed to China and Russia.

The bottom line is: can the US do what it claims – reduce Iranian oil sales to $0. No, they cannot.

It certainly seems like the US is foolishly believing self-aggrandising and duplicitous claims from Gulf princes, who are overestimating their oil production abilities.

However, we must first remember that Saudi hatred for Iran is not based on religion – even though “Saudis are not Muslims – they are Wahhabis,” as the regional saying goes – it is based on politics: they hate Iran for proving that all monarchies are immoral, ineffective, undemocratic and a hindrance to the type of democracy Muslims want (Islamic socialist). Their animosity is based on Iran’s ability to make Muslims aware of their modern Islamic socialist rights, and to show how acquiring these rights does not – as the West insists – require the exclusion of their culture, history and religion. Iran, in the manner of all true revolutionaries, insists on constantly couching it in these drastic but honest terms, thus continually flouting their rebellion and their success in the face of the horrific Gulf monarchs.

But the Gulf monarchs, shockingly, are liars: They will NOT be able to give China and India enough replacement oil.

Saudi production peaked at 11 million bpd (barrels per day) last November, which was the system’s maximum stress level, but is now down below 10 million. Offsetting Iranian production – getting up to at least 12 million bpd – thus seems impossible: “A 2-million-bpd Saudi production increase would move the Kingdom’s oil production into unchartered territory and would wipe out completely the kingdom’s spare capacity,” according to Gary Ross, head of global oil analytics at S&P global, via Reuters.

Anyway, Saudi Arabia is not going to increase oil production in May despite the sanctions – they want higher prices to continue bankrupting shale oil / fracking. Because the Saudi state full of disorganised and egotistical princes, they are also full of conflicting agendas.

As far as the UAE, they produce only 3 million bpd, so they aren’t capable of tipping the output scales drastically.

Furthermore, OPEC is at its lowest production since 2015, and Venezuela and Libya show no signs of regaining former glories anytime soon. Even if slow increases from the Saudis and UAE arrive, there are other drains on oil inventories to offset even before cutting off Iran.

So why should Iran feel like we aren’t needed anymore?

Only an administration as filled with incompetents as the Trump administration is could take such lies and mixed signals seriously. But the US is about Israel first, corporations second and everyone else last, therefore any attempt to foment regional stability and higher oil prices makes their constituents happy. Of course, it also advances capitalism-imperialism.

Iran – still no retreat, no surrender… still no big deal

Even just moderately-intelligent Westerners know that “Iran sanctions aren’t a realistic path to peace”, because the sanctions are not designed for peace, but for fomenting internal civil war and to support regional US imperialism.

There is another way Iran could decisively end Western antagonism: simply accede to Western demands, as encapsulated by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s totally-absurd 12 demands. All Iran has to do is – just like the North Vietnamese, North Koreans, Cubans and Chinese – is renounce their revolution entirely, like Egypt, post-Sankara Burkina Faso and now, to a lesser extent, Julian Assange-betraying Ecuador.

I examined what steps Iran would have to actually take in order to get the Cold War called off in this article, Iran detente after Trump’s JCPOA pull out? We can wait 2 more years, or 6, or…., which caps my upcoming book on Iran.

Beyond Pompeo’s fatheaded nonsense, it all comes down solely to capitalist-imperialist logic: Iran must sell off a controlling chunk of the nation into Western hands. There is no way Iran will do that – there are just too many people who are too committed to upholding the 1979 Revolution, the Constitution and Iranian sovereignty.

It’s not as if Iran’s politicians are as out-of-touch, arrogant and stupid as a Persian Gulf prince: the current budget is based on only exporting just 1.5 billion barrels per day with a price of only $54 per barrel (or $83 million per day) because we all knew back in early 2016 that a Trump presidency would hit Iran, Cuba and Palestine the hardest. The price is already around $70. If we assume that things really progress badly, we must also assume the price of oil will rise – a price of $80 means Iran needs to sell just 1 million barrels per day ($80 million per day) to stay under budget. Last month, with some countries already instituting cutbacks, Iran sold 1 million barrels.

The reality is that it is all about China and India for Iran – they sell 3 times more oil to them than even Iran’s #3 customer. Reports are conflicting, negotiations are ongoing – we can’t truly say with 100% confidence what will happen in Beijing and New Delhi.

But… India is the more compliant nation, and they are reportedly going to reduce sales to 100,000 bpd using a rupee payment system. The links are going to remain open, and that is all that matters – the numbers will certainly be fudged. Long-term, Iran is quite happy to sell oil in non-dollar denominations and be the pioneer in that move away from the petrodollar.

Regarding China: Some reports say China will actually increase imports from Iran up to 1 million bpd, totally sabotaging the US. I would hold out absolute certainty until the US and China signs their trade deal next month. However, I highly doubt China is going to sabotage the key node – and the absolutely key energy node – in their Belt and Road Project. China might sell out Iran for a couple years, perhaps during the Trump administration, but long-term? No way. China is not an island, and Iran is the only country which has proven to be revolutionary enough for Red China to trust, which is why they have such serious multi-decade plans already signed. Hard to predict the future, but there’s always both short- and long-term considerations, and long-term China and Iran are united, firmly.

Beyond the two big customers, Turkey says they will flout sanctions, but Turkey also talks a much better game than they punch.

Regardless, Iran will still sell oil “illegally”. Iran, as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently joked, has a “PhD in that area” of sanctions-busting. Iran was the first modern nation to barter oil for something other than US dollars, and they will be the first nation (I predict) to successfully implement a national crypto-currency.

Iran will obviously send oil to places like Turkey (and India, as Iraq is a top-3 supplier for them) through friendly Iraq. Will Iran lose some profit as a result? Yes, but it’s not like Iranian oil is going to be sold for pennies on the dollar to Iraqis – we are talking minor losses of 10-20%, I’d guess. Over decades that’s significant, but if we are talking about enduring 2 or 6 years more of Trump, then it’s certainly not enough to bankrupt Iran, which is the goal of the illegal US tactic. Crucially, it is certainly fair to assume that now-higher oil costs will offset this new surcharge for sanctions-busting via Iraq.

Regarding bankruptcy: It’s hard to say exactly how much hard currency reserves Iran has, but the IMF said $100 billion in 2017. What reduced oil sales really means – again, $0 won’t happen – is a cutback in new projects.

What does that mean? It means cutting out future infrastructure projects, as well as savings into the National Development Fund. Just as Cuba prioritises their far, far fewer pesos for health, education and food, so will Iran – neither country will starve, neither country will relent… and Iran will still make billions selling oil, unlike Cuba. The years of worsened sanctions has meant things like: Iran have to postpone record breaking projects, like Niayesh Tunnel, the 2nd-largest urban tunnel in the world, finished in 2013, or the Sadr double-decker Expressway, also finished in 2013… but only for a few years. It has meant things like: Iran will get all the global infrastructure in place and start broadcasting PTV Français, and even tap yours truly as its Paris correspondant, but a lack of money means that all the journalism is done solely in Tehran for now. But someday I’ll be reporting in French, Inshallah.

Of course, sanctions do more than retard Iranian growth – the existential angst leads to unnecessary inflation, reluctance for private domestic investment in the “real economy”, and major cutbacks in quality of life for the average Iranian. But, as I’ll point out later – Iran is not Yemen, which is what the US mistakenly thinks they can achieve.

People on the left and the right in Iran actually welcome each new tough sanction with a Persian carpet rollout – it necessarily fuels the “Resistance Economy” championed by Leader Ali Khamenei and others. There is no doubt that a sanctioned people do not just throw up their arms and quit – domestic capacities, initiatives and genius must be honed and further created. In 1995 Iran produced almost no cars – by 2010 they were 14th in the world and the undisputed Middle East leader. These are the types of things I am talking about, but which are not possible without socialist-inspired central planning and central control over industries.

Iran also has recent experience instituting a true War Economy, with rations and coupons to enforce economic egalitarianism, and that is another counterpunch to the US. It also creates countless future economic and cultural benefits.

The Iranian government are not Yemeni rebels, who have no factories, no bureaucracy, no refineries – and thus they are starving, sadly. The Iranian government is the stable status quo, and the status quo always has a million levers to pull before things get hairy… but because they are socialist-inspired, Iran’s government has three million levers. As I have repeatedly demonstrated over the years, the Iranian government controls essentially 100% of the non-Black Market and non-carpet economy. So, far beyond oil, the government actually has the power to completely mobilise the economy in favor of the People, which is something that Eurozone nations no longer have.

The end for US unipolar dominance will arrive swiftly. Iran’s reversal of isolation will also be swift, just as – all of a sudden – the US made detente with China in 1971 after decades of the same sanctions and exclusion Iran deals with. But detente certainly cannot happen during Trump’s first term, given how the US Deep State has so effectively mobilised against him to neuter his once-diplomatic foreign policy plans.

There is no long-term game plan for ending the phobia of Islamic democracy – in 2019, only Iran’s continued determination and success is the answer. Giving up in order to sell oil “legally” is not an answer, nor necessary. Iran has domestic levers to pull for years, and the experience to pull the right ones.

Maybe someday Iran will finally strike back and play their “now the talk really starts” exterior lever – closing the Straits of Hormuz? Iran is all about “neither East nor West but the Iranian Republic”, but I still don’t think that will happen until China feels secure enough to give the signal that they back Iran to the hilt, and that won’t come until the Belt and Road Initiative is further along.

As far as “more sanctions” – certainly disagreeable, but never terminal for Iran.

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 I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

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