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

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الأخبار

 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.

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Important events have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks that underline how the overall political reconfiguration of the region is in full swing. The Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) continues its diplomatic relations and, following Rouhani’s meeting in Baghdad, it was the turn of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be received in Tehran by the highest government and religious authorities. Among the many statements released, two in particular reveal the high level of cooperation between the two countries, as well as demonstrating how the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) is in full bloom, carrying significant prospects for the region. Abdul-Mahdi also reiterated that Iraq will not allow itself to be used as a platform from which to attack Iran:

“Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to launch any attacks against Iran. The plan is to export electricity and gas for other countries in the region.”

Considering that these two countries were mortal enemies during Saddam Hussein’s time, their rapprochement is quite a (geo)political miracle, owing much of its success to Russia’s involvement in the region. The 4+1 coalition (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria plus Hezbollah) and the anti-terrorism center in Baghdad came about as a result of Russia’s desire to coordinate all the allied parties in a single front. Russia’s military support of Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah (together with China’s economic support) has allowed Iran to begin to transform the region such that the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) can effectively counteract the destabilizing chaos unleashed by the trio of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One of the gaps to be filled in the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) lies in Lebanon, which has long experienced an internal conflict between the many religious and political currents in the country. The decision by Washington to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel pushed the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, to make an important symbolic visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin.

Once again, the destabilizing efforts of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are having the unintended effect of strengthening the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance). It seems that this trio fails to understood how such acts as murdering Khashoggi, using civilian planes to hide behind in order to conduct bombing runs in Syria, recognizing the occupied territories like the Golan Heights – how these produce the opposite effects to the ones desired.

The supply of S-300 systems to Syria after the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane took place as a result of Tel Aviv failing to think ahead and anticipate how Russia may respond.

What is surprising in Moscow’s actions is the versatility of its diplomacy, from the deployment of the S-300s in Syria, or the bombers in Iran, to the prompt meetings with Netanyahu in Moscow and Mohammad bin Salman at the G20. The ability of the Russian Federation to mediate and be present in almost every conflict on the globe restores to the country the international stature that is indispensable in counterbalancing the belligerence of the United States.

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange. Another military and economic example can be found in a third axis; not the Shia or Saudi-Israeli-US one but the Turkish-Qatari one. In Syria, Erdogan started from positions that were exactly opposite to those of Putin and Assad. But with decisive military action and skilled diplomacy, the creation of the Astana format between Iran, Turkey and Russia made Turkey and Qatar publicly take the defense of Islamist takfiris and criminals in Idlib. Qatar for its part has a two-way connection with Turkey, but it is also in open conflict with the Saudi-Israeli axis, with the prospect of abandoning OPEC within a few weeks. This situation has allowed Moscow to open a series of negotiations with Doha on the topic of LNG, with these two players controlling most of the LNG on the planet. It is evident that also the Turkish-Qatari axis is strongly conditioned by Moscow and by the potential military agreements between Turkey and Russia (sale of S-400) and economic and energy agreements between Moscow and Doha.

America’s actions in the region risks combining the Qatari-Turkish front with the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) , again thanks to Moscow’s skilful diplomatic work. The recent sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, together with the withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iranian nuclear agreement), has created concern and bewilderment in the region and among Washington’s allies. The act of recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel has brought together the Arab world as few events have done in recent times. Added to this, Trump’s open complaints about OPEC’s high pricing of oil has forced Riyadh to start wondering out aloud whether to start selling oil in a currency other than the dollar. This rumination was quickly denied, but it had already been aired. Such a decision would have grave implications for the petrodollar and most of the financial and economic power of the United States.

If the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance), with Russian protection, is strengthened throughout the Middle East, the Saudi-Israel-American triad loses momentum and falls apart, as seen in Libya, with Haftar now one step closer in unifying the country thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia, with Fayez al-Sarraj now abandoned by the Italians and Americans awaiting his final defeat.

While the globe continues its multipolar transformation, the delicate balancing role played by Russia in the Middle East and North Africa is emphasized. The Venezuelan foreign minister’s recent visit to Syria shows how the front opposed to US imperialist bullying is not confined to the Middle East, with countries in direct or indirect conflict with Washington gathering together under the same protective Sino-Russian umbrella.

Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with the conviction of American exceptionalism, is driving international relations towards two poles rather than multipolar ones, pushing China, Russia and all other countries opposed to the US to unite in order to collectively resist US diktats.

Basel 3: A Revolution That Once Again No One Noticed

April 07, 2019

By Aleksandr Khaldey

Basel 3: A Revolution That Once Again No One Noticed
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with https://www.stalkerzone.org/basel-3-a-revolution-that-once-again-no-one-noticed/
source: http://www.iarex.ru/articles/65626.html

Real revolutions are taking place not on squares, but in the quiet of offices, and that’s why nobody noticed the world revolution that took place on March 29th 2019. Only a small wave passed across the periphery of the information field, and the momentum faded away because the situation was described in terms unclear to the masses.

No “Freedom, equality, brotherhood”, “Motherland or death”, or “Power to Councils, peace to the people, bread to the hungry, factories to the worker, and land to the farmers” – none of these masterpieces of world populism were used. And that’s why what happened was understood in Russia by only a few people. And they made such comments that the masses either did not fully listen to them or did not read up to the end. Or they did listen to the end, but didn’t understand anything.

But they should’ve, because the world changed so cardinally that it is indeed time for Nathan Rothschild, having crumpled a hat in his hand, to climb onto an armoured Rolls-Royce [a joke referencing what Lenin did – ed], and to shout from on top of it to all the Universe: “Comrades! The world revolution, the need for which revolutionaries spoke about for a long time, came true!” [paraphrasing what Lenin said – ed] And he would be completely right. It’s just that the results of the revolution will be implemented slowly, and that’s why they are imperceptible for the population. But the effects, nevertheless, will be soon seen by absolutely everyone, up to the last cook who even doesn’t seek to learn to govern the state soon.

This revolution is called “Basel III”, and it was made by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Its essence is in the following: BIS runs the IMF, and this, in turn, runs the central banks of all countries. The body of such control is called BCBS – the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. It isn’t just some worthless US State Department or Congress of American senators. It’s not a stupid Pentagon, a little Department of the Treasury, which runs around like the CIA’s servant on standby, or a house of collective farmers with the name “White House”.

This isn’t even the banks of the US Federal Reserve, which govern all of this “wealth”. This is a Government of all of them combined. That real world Government that people in the world try not to speak about aloud.

BCBS is the Politburo of the world, whose Secretary General, according to rumours, is comrade Baruch, and the underground structure of the Central Committee is even more secret. It has many euphemisms, the most adequate of which is “Zurich gnomes”. This is what Swiss bankers are called. Not even owners of commercial banks, but namely those ordinary-looking men sitting in the Swiss city of Basel who Hitler – who tried to attach the whole world to the Third Reich, and who preserved neutrality with Switzerland during all the war – didn’t dare to attack. And, as is known, in Switzerland, besides Swiss rifleman, in reality there isn’t even an army. So who was the frenzied Fuhrer afraid of?

Nevertheless, the “recommendations” that were made by BCBS on March 29th 2019 were immediately, at the snap of the fingers, accepted for execution by all the central banks of the world. And our Russian Central Bank is not an exception. There is even the statement of the press service of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation posted on the official website of the Central Bank. It is called “Concerning the terms of implementation of Basel III”. The planned world revolution was in 2017 (magic of dates and digits or just a coincidence [a reference to 1917 – ed]?), but it has started only now.

Its essence is simple. In the world the system of exclusive dollar domination established in 1944 in Bretton Woods and reformed in 1976 in Jamaica, where gold was recognised as an equivalent of world money that became invalid, is being cancelled. The dollar indeed became world money, and gold became an ordinary exchange good, like metal or sugar traded in London on commodity exchanges. However, the weather was determined there by only three firms of the “Pool of London” that belong to an even smaller number of owners, but, nevertheless, it’s not gold, but oil that became the dollar filler.

We have lived in such a world ever since. Gold was considered as a reserve of the third category for all banks, from central to commercial ones, where the reserves were, first of all, in dollars and bonds of the US. The norms of Basel III demand an increase, first of all, in monetary reserves. This impeded the volumes of monetary resources of banks that could be used to carry out expansion, but it was a compulsory measure for saving the stability of a world banking system that showed to be insufficient in a crisis.

In Russia pseudo-patriots were very much indignant at this, demanding to reject Basel III, which they called a sign of “a lack of sovereignty”. In reality, this is a quite normal demand to observe international standards of bank security, which were becoming more rigid, but since we [Russians – ed] were not printing dollars, so of course it had an impact on us. And since the alternative is an exit from world financial communications into full isolation, so our authorities, of course, did not want to accept such nonsense that was even designated by pseudo-patriots as a “lack of sovereignty”. To call sovereignty – freedom, to put your head in the noose is, let’s agree, a strange interpretation of the term.

The Basel III decision meant that gold as a reserve of the third category was earlier estimated at 50% of its value on the balance sheets of world banks. At the same time, all owners of world money traded in gold not physically, but on paper, without the movement of real metal, the volume of which in the world wasn’t enough for real transactions. This was done in order to push down the price of gold, to keep it as low as possible. First of all, for the benefit of the dollar. After all, the dollar is tied to oil, which had to cost no less than the price of one gram of gold per barrel.

And now it was decided to place gold not in the third, but “just” in the first category. And it means that now it is possible to evaluate it not at 50, but at 100% of its value. This leads to the revaluation of the balance sheet total. And concerning Russia, it means that now we can quietly, on all legal grounds, pour nearly 3 trillion rubles into the economy. If to be precise, it is 2.95 trillion rubles or $45 billion at the exchange rate in addition to the current balance sheet total. The Central Bank of the Russian Federation can pour this money into our economy on all legal grounds. How it will happen in reality isn’t yet known. Haste here without calculating all the consequences is very dangerous. Although this emission is considered as noninflationary, actually everything is much more complicated.

During the next few months nothing will change in the world. The U-turn will be very slow. In the US the gold reserves officially total 8133.5 tons, but there is such a thing as a financial multiplier: for every gold dollar, the banks print 20-30 digital paper ones. I.e., the US can only officially receive $170 billion in addition, but taking into account the multiplier – $4.5 trillion. This explains why the Federal Reserve System holds back on increasing interests rates and so far maintains the course towards lowering the balance sheet total – they are cautious of a surge in hyperinflation.

But all the largest states and holders of gold will now revaluate their gold and foreign exchange reserves: Germany, Italy, France, Russia, China, and Switzerland – countries where the gold reserves exceed 1,000 tons. Notice that there is no mumpish Britain in this list. Its reserves are less than 1000 tons. Experts suspect that it is perhaps not a coincidence that the dates of Brexit and the date of Basel III coincide. The increased financial power of the leaders of Europe – Germany and France – is capable of completely concluding the dismantlement of Britain on the European continent. It was necessary to get out as soon as possible.

Thus, it seems that it is possible to congratulate us – the dollar era lasting from 1944 to 2019 has ended. Now gold is restored in its rights and is not an exchange metal, but world money on an equal basis with the dollar, euro, and British pound. Now gold will start to rise in price, and its price will rise from $1200-1400 per troy ounce up to $1800-2000 by this autumn. Now it is clear why Russia and China during all these years so persistently decanted its export income into the growth of gold reserves. There is now such a situation where nobody in the world will sell gold.

Injections of extra money will suffice for the world economy for 5-6 months. In the US this money can be used to pay off the astronomical debt. Perhaps this wasn’t Zurich’s last motive for making such a decision. But after all, the most important thing is an attempt to slip out from under the Tower of Pisa that is the falling dollar.

Since the dollar and oil are connected, the growth of the price of gold will directly affect the growth of the price of oil. Now a barrel costs as much as 1.627 grams of gold. A price growth will cause the world economy – where 85% of the money dollar supply turns into stock surrogates like shares, bonds, and treasuries – to cave in. The stock exchange will not be able to bundle together such an additional mass of money any more.

It will be good for oil industry workers – even, perhaps, best of all, but not for long. The economical crash because of expensive oil will become a crash for all oil industry workers too. It is precisely this that is the main reason why our rights for additional emissions can remain unused in full volume, although a gift in such a form will not be completely ignored. The May Decrees of Putin in the current context are being understood completely differently. Russia runs away from the oil-based economic model in all ways. Including by political reforms and changing the elites.

However, why is the decision of Basel a revolution? Because from the autumn the financial flood in the world economy will begin. It will entail the acceleration of Russia and China’s isolation from the dollar system and the crash of the economies that completely depend on the dollar – the vassal countries of the US. It will be worst of all for them. And this means that the reasons for increased distancing between the EU and the US will increase in number manyfold. A redrawing of the map of global unions awaits the world.

And the redrawing of these unions will be carried out not least by military methods. Or with their partial use, but in one way or another, reasoning involving force in the world will increase almost to the level of guaranteed war. “Almost” is our hope for rescue, because the US loses all main instruments of influence on this world. Except force.

But it’s not for this purpose that the “Zurich gnomes” created this world, so that the US is so simply turned into radioactive ashes. The US will be drenched with cold water like a broken down nuclear reactor, while the world has entered the zone of the most global transformations over the past few centuries. The revolution that so many waited for, were afraid of, and spoke so much about has started. Buckle up and don’t smoke, the captain and crew wish you a pleasant flight.

 

Iran looks East amid US trials and tribulations

February 12, 2019

Iran looks East amid US trials and tribulations

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

February 12, 2019

On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, this past Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made an effort to express Iran’s geopolitical stance in simple terms: ‘We have good relations with all nations in the world, we don’t want to break relations with any European nation’, and an explanation of the slogan ‘Death to America’.

The Ayatollah said ‘Death to America’ “means death to Trump, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. It means death to American rulers. We have no problems with the American people.”

So, the slogan is indeed a metaphor – as in death to US foreign policy as conducted for much of the past four decades.

That includes, of course, the dismantling, by the Trump administration, of the nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

In a rash rebuke of the centrist government of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif – who negotiated the JCPOA with the Obama administration, as well as Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany – Khamenei stressed he would not have signed it. His legendary distrust of the US now seems more than vindicated.

Payment system

For the Europeans who signed the JCPOA, what’s left is trying to pick up the pieces. Enter Instex – the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, a mechanism backed by the European Union, with its headquarters in Paris and run by a German banker, which in theory allows European banks and companies to keep trading with Iran without being fined, extra-territorially, by the US Department of Justice, or being totally excluded from the American market.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called it “an important geopolitical gesture.” But a “gesture” may not be enough, especially because initially it just covers humanitarian goods sold to Iran, such as pharmaceuticals, food and medical supplies.

Tehran pays Instex, and Instex reimburses the food and pharma companies involved. Further on down the road, small and medium-sized European companies might also use Instex to trade with Iran without being slapped with US sanctions.

What’s crucial in the long run about Instex is that the mechanism bypasses the US dollar. So, it will be under immense scrutiny all across the Global South. Instex won’t replace the Swift payment system anytime soon, because the capitalization is set at only $1 billion. The thing is whether other heavyweights, such as Russia, China and Turkey, will start using Instex to bypass US dollars and sanctions, trading way beyond “humanitarian goods”.

Instex, although an embryonic response, shows how Brussels and major European capitals are exasperated by the Trump administration’s unilateralism. Diplomats have been saying on and off the record that nothing will prevent the Europeans from doing business with Iran, buying their energy, investing in their market, and bypassing the US dollar in the process.

This has the potential to offer some breathing space to President Rouhani. The latest internal polls reveal that 40 years after the Islamic Revolution, over 70% of Iranians of all social classes have zero trust in any negotiations involving the US government. And that even includes an increasing number of millennials, for whom the Islamic Revolution is just an echo of a distant past.

That may not be the exact sentiment in Teherangeles, California – the capital of the Iranian diaspora, which may number over half a million people worldwide, mostly upper-middle-class. But it does reflect the pulse of the nation.

PayMon, crypto alternative

Over and over again, the Rouhani administration must tackle an insurmountable contradiction. National pride, boosted by Iran recapturing its role as a major power in Southwest Asia, is always undermined by intimations of social despair, as in countless families surviving on less than $200 a month, under rampant inflation and suffering the effects of the non-stop fall of the rial, whatever the feel-good factors constantly exhorted by the government.

An Iranian girl holds a poster of the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini on the 40th anniversary of his return from exile in Paris at his mausoleum in Tehran on February 1. Photo: AFP

Already in regard to Instex, there has been a backlash. Iran has been told it must join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body that seeks to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and that it must compromise on its missile program, which it regards as non-negotiable. The chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, branded the two conditions set by the Europeans as “humiliating”.

And on the European front, there’s no evidence yet that small companies trust that the Instex payment system will make them immune to retaliatory action by the US.

Iranians though are opening other creative fronts. Four banks – Bank Melli, Bank Mellat, Parsian Bank and Bank Pasargad – have developed a gold-backed cryptocurrency named PayMon, and negotiations are already advanced with the Europeans as well as Russia, Switzerland and South Africa to expand PayMon trading. Iranian officials are adamant that blockchain will be crucial to improve the nation’s economy.

The Iranian move mirrors Venezuela’s action in launching its own oil-backed cryptocurrency, the petro, last October. But count on the Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act to swing into overdrive in the US Congress.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have all but bypassed the US dollar in bilateral trade, using only ruble and rial and “in case of urgent need, the euro, if we have no other options”, according to the Russian Ambassador to Iran, Levan Dzhagaryan.

China, Russia, Iran and Turkey – the four key vectors of ongoing Eurasia integration – are investing in bypassing the US dollar on trade by any mechanism necessary. The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is also working on a common system for “boosting economic sovereignty”, as defined by President Putin. It has free-trade agreements with an array of partners, including China and Iran.

Arab NATO roll-call

This is the background in the run-up towards what is essentially an anti-Iran conference convened by the Trump administration in Warsaw this Wednesday.

No one in Europe that really matters wants to be publicly associated with Iranian demonization. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, is not going. EU-wide businesses increasingly tell their puny political leaders that the way to go is Greater Eurasia – from Lisbon to Vladivostok, from Murmansk to Mumbai, with Tehran in between, and everything linked to the China-driven Belt and Road Initiative.

Poland is an exception. Ruled by hardcore nationalists, it has been lobbying for a permanent US military base, which President Andrzej Duda wants to call “Fort Trump”.

Unable to force France, the UK, Germany and Italy out of doing business with Iran, what’s left for Washington is to have Persian Gulf governors plus Israel assembled in the same room, pledging their efforts towards an ill-defined, anti-Iran Arab NATO.

What this will certainly accomplish inside Iran is to promote even more hardliners and “Principlists” who are lobbying for a return to former President Ahmadinejad’s “Look East” strategy.

Iran is already looking East – considering its top Asian energy clients and the close ties with the Belt and Road Initiative and the EAEU. Team Rouhani now knows, in realpolitik terms, they cannot trust the US; and the EU is an immensely problematic partner. The next major step would be for Iran to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China wants it. And Russia wants it.

Venezuela looks to have been targeted for regime change essentially because it’s trying to bypass the US dollar on trade. That should not be a problem for Iran, which has been a target for regime change for decades.

Venezuela – The Straw that Breaks the Empire’s Back?

February 07, 2019

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

Venezuela – The Straw that Breaks the Empire’s Back?

Venezuela in the limelight, on practically all the written, audio and visual mainstream media, as well as alternative media. A purposeful constant drip of outright lies and half-truths, “fake news”, as well as misleading information of all shades and hues about Venezuela is drumming our brains, slowly bending our minds towards believing that – yes, the US has a vital interest in meddling in Venezuela and bringing about “regime change”, because of primarily, the huge reserves of oil, but also of gold, coltan and other rare minerals; and, finally, simply because Washington needs full control of its “backyard”. – BUT, and yes, there is a huge BUT, as even some of the respected progressive alternative media pretend to know: Amidst all that recognition of the AngloZionist empire’s evil hands in Venezuela, their ‘but’ claims that Venezuela, specifically Presidents Chavez and now Maduro, are not blameless in their ‘economic chaos’. This distorts already the entire picture and serves the empire and all those who are hesitant because they have no clue, whom to support in this antagonistic US attempt for regime change.

For example, one alternative news article starts, “It is true that some of Venezuela’s economic problems are due to the ineptitudes of the Bolivarian government’s “socialist command” economy, but this overlooks the role played by the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union….”. Bingo, with such a low-blow beginning, the uninformed reader is already primed to ‘discount’ much of the interference by Washington and its minions. Some of the-so-called progressive writers have already been brain-smeared, by calling Nicolás Maduro a “dictator”, when in fact, there is hardly any country farther away from a dictatorship than Venezuela.

In the last 20 years and since Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias was first elected in 1998 and came to power in 1999, Venezuela had another 25 fully democratic elections, of which 6 took place in the last year and a half. They were all largely observed by the US based Carter Institute, the Latin American CELAC, some were even watched by the European Union (EU), the very vassal states that are now siding with Washington in calling President Maduro an illegitimate dictator – and instead, they side with and support the real illegitimate, never elected, US trained and appointed, Juan Guaidó. Former President Carter once said, of all the elections he and his Institute observed, the ones in Venezuela were by far the most transparent and democratic ones. By September 2017, the Carter Center had observed 104 elections in 39 countries.

Despite this evidence, Washington-paid and corrupted AngloZionist MSM are screaming and spreading lies, ‘election fraud’; and Nicolás Maduro is illegal, a dictator, oppressing his people, depriving them of food and medication, sowing famine – he has to go. Such lies are repeated at nauseatum. In a world flooded by pyramid-dollars (fake money), the presstitute media have no money problem. Dollars, the funding source for the massive lie-propaganda, are just printed as debt, never to be repaid again. So, why worry? The same Zionists who control the media also control the western money machines, i.e. the FED, Wall Street, the BIS (Bank for International Settlement, the so-called Central bank of central banks), the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the banks of London. The western public, armchair warriors, all the way to caviar socialists, believe these lies. That’s how our unqualified brains apparently work.

A recent independent poll found that 86% of all Venezuelans, including from the opposition, want no interference by the US and her puppet allies, but want to remain a sovereign state, deciding themselves on how to resolve their internal problem – economics and otherwise.

Let me tell you something, if Mr. Maduro would be a dictator – and all the diabolical adjectives that he is smeared with were to apply, he would have long ago stopped the western propaganda machine, which is the western controlled media in Venezuela; they control 90% of the news in Venezuela. But he didn’t and doesn’t, because he believes in freedom of speech and freedom of the ‘media’ – even if the “media” are really nothing more than abject western lie-machines presstitute. Mr. Maduro is generous enough not to close them down – which any dictator – of which there are now many in Latin America (take a pick: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guatemala, Honduras….) would have done long ago.

***

From the very beginning, when Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, Washington attempted to topple him to bring about “régime change”. The first real coup attempt took place on 11 April 2002. Under full command by Washington, Chavez was ousted for less than 2 days, when an on-swell of people and the vast majority of the military requested his reinstatement. Chavez was brought back from his island seclusion and, thus, the directly Washington-led coup d’état was defeated (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”). But the pressure mounted with economic sanctions becoming ever bolder and, in the case of Venezuela, they had severe economic and humanitarian impacts because Venezuela imports close to 90% of her food and medication – still today – and most of it from the US.

Both Chavez and Maduro had very little leeway of doing differently what they have already done. Sanctions, boycotts, outside money manipulations, driving inflation to astronomical levels and constant smear propaganda, these predicaments are biting hard. The US has a firm grip on Venezuela’s dollar dependency.

Last week, Washington confiscated about US$ 23 billion Venezuela’s reserve money in US banks, blocked them from use by the legitimate Maduro government, and, instead, handed them to their US-appointed, puppet, never elected, “president”, Juan Guaidó. – He is now able to use Venezuela’s money in his US-EU-and Lima-Group supported “shadow” government. Will he dare? – I don’t think so. However, he has already invited US petro, companies to come to Venezuela and invest in and take over the petrol industry. Of course, it will not happen, as President Maduro stays in power, firmly backed by the military.

All of this sounds like a bad joke. Did you ever heard of Juan Guaidó, before the US and her European vassals almost unanimously and obediently aped Washington in supporting him?

Likewise, the Bank of England withheld 1.2 billion dollars’ worth of Venezuelan reserve gold, refusing to respond to the Maduro Government’s request to return the gold to Caracas. Both cases represent an extreme breach of confidence. Up to now, it was ethically, commercially and financially unthinkable that reserve money and gold deposited in foreign banks would not be safe from hooligan theft – because that’s what it is, what the US is doing, stealing other countries money that was deposited in good fate in their banks.

In a recent interview with RT, President Maduro, said there was absolutely no need for “humanitarian aid”, as the UN suggested, prompted by the US. This so-called humanitarian aid has everywhere in the world only served to infiltrate ‘foreign and destabilizing’ elements into countries, just look at Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, to name just a few. While the US$ 23 billion blocked in New York banks could have supplied Venezuela with 20 years-worth of medication for the Venezuelan people, Maduro asserted, Venezuela has enough liquidity to feed and medicate her people.

However, what this latest Trump plunder (the money and gold confiscation) does, is hammering one more nail in the western monetary system’s suicide coffin. It sends an ever-clearer signal to the rest of the world, to those that haven’t noticed yet, the AngloZionist empire cannot – I repeat – CANNOT – be trusted. Ever. And the European Union is intrinsically and “vassalically” linked to the Washington rogue state – not to be trusted either. There is virtually no circumstance under which a countries’ assets in western foreign lands – as bank deposits, or foreign investments – are safe. It will prompt a move away from the dollar system, away from the western (also entirely privately-owned) SWFT international transfer system by which sanctions can be enacted.

Indeed, the Russia and China and much of the SCO (Shanghai Organization Cooperation) members are no longer dealing in US dollars but in their own currencies. We are talking about half the world’s population broke free from the dollar hegemony. Europe has started a half-assed attempt to circumvent the dollar and SWIFT system for dealing with Iran. Europe’s special purpose vehicle, or SPV, is called INSTEX — short for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. It is a project of Germany, France and the UK, suspiciously chaired by the latter, to be endorsed by all 28 EU members.

It aims in a first instance at shipping “humanitarian aid” to Iran. Similarly, to Venezuela, Iran’s foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, after learning about the details, considered the conditions of INSTEX as insulting and rejected any dealings with Europe under this system. Iran, he said, does not need “humanitarian aid”, not from Europe, not from anybody. In the meantime, what was to be expected, has already happened. The Trump Administration issued a stern warning of “sanctions” to the EU, if they would attempt to deal with Iran outside of the dollar system. Europe is likely caving in, as they always do.

***

Back in Venezuela, the NED (National Endowment for Democracy), the extended arm of the CIA, has for the last two decades trained funded and infiltrated ‘traitor’ agents into Venezuela, with the goal to assist the opposition to foment unrest, to carry out assassinations and other ‘false flags’, and to simply create chaos and unrest. However, some of these agents are also lodged in Venezuela’s financial institutions, as the Fifth Column, where they sabotage – often with threats – any economic policies that could rescue Venezuela from its economic predicament.

In June 2017, I was privileged to be a member of an economic advisory team to Mr. Maduro. During three days of intense discussions with government, a number of potential short- medium and long-term solutions emerged. They were well received by Mr. Maduro and his economic team. What became of these recommendations? – Well, maybe there are strong foreign-directed forces at play to prevent their implementation.

Clearly, any accusation that the Maduro Government may bear the blame for some of the economic chaos, have to be vigorously rejected. Mr. Maduro has very little space to maneuver the economy other than what he is already doing. His actions are severely limited by the ever-stronger squeeze by western claws.

With or without Venezuela’s new crypto currency, the oil-based Petro, the Venezuelan economy, including a major proportion of her imports, is strongly linked to the US dollar. With military threats and sanctions left and right, there is little that the Government can do in the immediate future to become autonomous. Yes, Russia and especially China will most likely help with balance of payment support loans, with investments in the oil industry to ease Venezuela’s US-dollar debt burden and vamp up oil production; and in the medium and longer run they may also help boosting Venezuela’s agricultural sector towards 100% food self-sufficiency.

What is the real reason, you may ask, behind Trump’s intense ‘coup d’état’ attempt – aka, Bolton, Pompeo and Elliott Abrams (the ‘regime change’ envoy), or the diabolical troika’s killer mission?

  • Is it oil and other natural riches, like gold, coltan, diamonds and many more rare minerals? Venezuela with some 301,000 MMbbl (billions of barrels) of known reserves has about 12% more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia. Shipping from the Gulf to Texas refineries takes 40-45 days and the risk of passing through the Iran-controlled strait of Hormuz. Delivering oil from Venezuela to Texas takes some 2-4 days.
  • Is it that Venezuela committed a mortal sin when circumventing the petro-dollar, when trading her hydrocarbons, notably with China and Russia in other currencies, like the gold-convertible yuan? – Remember, Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadhafi attempted similar dollar-escaping actions – and look what it brought them. The US-dollar hegemony depends very much on oil and gas trade in US dollars, as per an agreement of the seventies between the US and Saudi Arabia, head of OPEC.
  • Is it that Washington cannot tolerate any socialist or socialist leaning country in its “backyard”? – Cuba and Nicaragua beware!
  • Is Venezuela a crucial stepping stone to fully dominate Latin America and her resources? – And, hence, a step closer to ‘full power dominance’ of the world?
  • Or all of the above?

I believe it’s all of the above, with a strong accent on Venezuela’s abandoning the US-dollar as hydrocarbon trading currency – putting the dollar-hegemony even more at risk. Once the dollar ceases to be the main reserve currency, the US economy will slowly collapse – what it is already doing. Twenty years ago, the US-dollar dominated world reserve coffers with about 90%. Today that proportion has sunk to less than 60%. The dollar is rapidly being replaced by other currencies, notably the Chinese yuan.

Now let’s cut to the chase. – It is clear that the Trump Administration with these stupid actions of dishing out sanctions left and right, punishing allies and foes alike, if they deal with Russia, Iran, or Venezuela – and this special blunt regime change aggression in Venezuela, nominating a 35 year old US puppet, trained in the US by CIA as Venezuela’s new ‘interim president’, confiscating Venezuela’s reserve assets in New York and London, stopping importing petrol from Venezuela and punishing anybody who imports Venezuelan oil – except, of course, Russia and China. The ‘might’ of the US stops short of interfering in these non-dollar deals. With these and more ridiculous actions and military threats – Washington is actually not only isolating itself, but is accelerating the fall of the US economy. Ever more countries are seeking alternative ways of doing business with currencies and monetary systems other than the dollar-based fraudulent SWIFT, and eventually they will succeed. All they need to do is joining the China-Russia-SCO system of transfer in their local currencies and the currencies of the eastern SCO block – and dedollarization is moving a step further ahead.

Dedollarization is the key to the end of the US (dollar) hegemony, of the US economic supremacy. The arrogant Trump, plus the impunity of the unfettered diabolical and outright dumb Bolton-Pompeo-Abrams approach of military threats and intimidations, may just make Venezuela the straw that breaks the Empire’s back.

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 Vineyard of 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.

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Saker interview with Michael Hudson on Venezuela, February 7, 2019

February 06, 2019

[This interview was made for the Unz review]Saker interview with Michael Hudson on Venezuela, February 7, 2019

Introduction: There is a great deal of controversy about the true shape of the Venezuelan economy and whether Hugo Chavez’ and Nicholas Maduro’s reform and policies were crucial for the people of Venezuela or whether they were completely misguided and precipitated the current crises.  Anybody and everybody seems to have very strong held views about this.  But I don’t simply because I lack the expertise to have any such opinions.  So I decided to ask one of the most respected independent economists out there, Michael Hudson, for whom I have immense respect and whose analyses (including those he co-authored with Paul Craig Roberts) seem to be the most credible and honest ones you can find.  In fact, Paul Craig Roberts considers Hudson the “best economist in the world“!
I am deeply grateful to Michael for his replies which, I hope, will contribute to a honest and objective understanding of what really is taking place in Venezuela.
The Saker

The Saker: Could you summarize the state of Venezuela’s economy when Chavez came to power?

Michael Hudson: Venezuela was an oil monoculture. Its export revenue was spent largely on importing food and other necessities that it could have produced at home. Its trade was largely with the United States. So despite its oil wealth, it ran up foreign debt.

From the outset, U.S. oil companies have feared that Venezuela might someday use its oil revenues to benefit its overall population instead of letting the U.S. oil industry and its local comprador aristocracy siphon off its wealth. So the oil industry – backed by U.S. diplomacy – held Venezuela hostage in two ways.

First of all, oil refineries were not built in Venezuela, but in Trinidad and in the southern U.S. Gulf Coast states. This enabled U.S. oil companies – or the U.S. Government – to leave Venezuela without a means of “going it alone” and pursuing an independent policy with its oil, as it needed to have this oil refined. It doesn’t help to have oil reserves if you are unable to get this oil refined so as to be usable.

Second, Venezuela’s central bankers were persuaded to pledge their oil reserves and all assets of the state oil sector (including Citgo) as collateral for its foreign debt. This meant that if Venezuela defaulted (or was forced into default by U.S. banks refusing to make timely payment on its foreign debt), bondholders and U.S. oil majors would be in a legal position to take possession of Venezuelan oil assets.

These pro-U.S. policies made Venezuela a typically polarized Latin American oligarchy. Despite being nominally rich in oil revenue, its wealth was concentrated in the hands of a pro-U.S. oligarchy that let its domestic development be steered by the World Bank and IMF. The indigenous population, especially its rural racial minority as well as the urban underclass, was excluded from sharing in the country’s oil wealth. The oligarchy’s arrogant refusal to share the wealth, or even to make Venezuela self-sufficient in essentials, made the election of Hugo Chavez a natural outcome.

The Saker: Could you outline the various reforms and changes introduced by Hugo Chavez? What did he do right, and what did he do wrong?

Michael Hudson: Chavez sought to restore a mixed economy to Venezuela, using its government revenue – mainly from oil, of course – to develop infrastructure and domestic spending on health care, education, employment to raise living standards and productivity for his electoral constituency.

What he was unable to do was to clean up the embezzlement and built-in rake-off of income from the oil sector. And he was unable to stem the capital flight of the oligarchy, taking its wealth and moving it abroad – while running away themselves.

This was not “wrong”. It merely takes a long time to change an economy’s disruption – while the U.S. is using sanctions and “dirty tricks” to stop that process.

The Saker: What are, in your opinion, the causes of the current economic crisis in Venezuela – is it primarily due to mistakes by Chavez and Maduro or is the main cause US sabotage, subversion and sanctions?

Michael Hudson: There is no way that’s Chavez and Maduro could have pursued a pro-Venezuelan policy aimed at achieving economic independence without inciting fury, subversion and sanctions from the United States. American foreign policy remains as focused on oil as it was when it invaded Iraq under Dick Cheney’s regime. U.S. policy is to treat Venezuela as an extension of the U.S. economy, running a trade surplus in oil to spend in the United States or transfer its savings to U.S. banks.

By imposing sanctions that prevent Venezuela from gaining access to its U.S. bank deposits and the assets of its state-owned Citco, the United States is making it impossible for Venezuela to pay its foreign debt. This is forcing it into default, which U.S. diplomats hope to use as an excuse to foreclose on Venezuela’s oil resources and seize its foreign assets much as Paul Singer hedge fund sought to do with Argentina’s foreign assets.

Just as U.S. policy under Kissinger was to make Chile’s “economy scream,” so the U.S. is following the same path against Venezuela. It is using that country as a “demonstration effect” to warn other countries not to act in their self-interest in any way that prevents their economic surplus from being siphoned off by U.S. investors.

The Saker: What in your opinion should Maduro do next (assuming he stays in power and the USA does not overthrow him) to rescue the Venezuelan economy?

Michael Hudson: I cannot think of anything that President Maduro can do that he is not doing. At best, he can seek foreign support – and demonstrate to the world the need for an alternative international financial and economic system.

He already has begun to do this by trying to withdraw Venezuela’s gold from the Bank of England and Federal Reserve. This is turning into “asymmetrical warfare,” threatening what to de-sanctify the dollar standard in international finance. The refusal of England and the United States to grant an elected government control of its foreign assets demonstrates to the entire world that U.S. diplomats and courts alone can and will control foreign countries as an extension of U.S. nationalism.

The price of the U.S. economic attack on Venezuela is thus to fracture the global monetary system. Maduro’s defensive move is showing other countries the need to protect themselves from becoming “another Venezuela” by finding a new safe haven and paying agent for their gold, foreign exchange reserves and foreign debt financing, away from the dollar, sterling and euro areas.

The only way that Maduro can fight successfully is on the institutional level, upping the ante to move “outside the box.” His plan – and of course it is a longer-term plan – is to help catalyze a new international economic order independent of the U.S. dollar standard. It will work in the short run only if the United States believes that it can emerge from this fight as an honest financial broker, honest banking system and supporter of democratically elected regimes. The Trump administration is destroying illusion more thoroughly than any anti-imperialist critic or economic rival could do!

Over the longer run, Maduro also must develop Venezuelan agriculture, along much the same lines that the United States protected and developed its agriculture under the New Deal legislation of the 1930s – rural extension services, rural credit, seed advice, state marketing organizations for crop purchase and supply of mechanization, and the same kind of price supports that the United States has long used to subsidize domestic farm investment to increase productivity.

The Saker: What about the plan to introduce a oil-based crypto currency? Will that be an effective alternative to the dying Venezuelan Bolivar?

Michael Hudson: Only a national government can issue a currency. A “crypto” currency tied to the price of oil would become a hedging vehicle, prone to manipulation and price swings by forward sellers and buyers. A national currency must be based on the ability to tax, and Venezuela’s main tax source is oil revenue, which is being blocked from the United States. So Venezuela’s position is like that of the German mark coming out of its hyperinflation of the early 1920s. The only solution involves balance-of-payments support. It looks like the only such support will come from outside the dollar sphere.

The solution to any hyperinflation must be negotiated diplomatically and be supported by other governments. My history of international trade and financial theory, Trade, Develpoment and Foreign Debt, describes the German reparations problem and how its hyperinflation was solved by the Rentenmark.

Venezuela’s economic-rent tax would fall on oil, and luxury real estate sites, as well as monopoly prices, and on high incomes (mainly financial and monopoly income). This requires a logic to frame such tax and monetary policy. I have tried to explain how to achieve monetary and hence political independence for the past half-century. China is applying such policy most effectively. It is able to do so because it is a large and self-sufficient economy in essentials, running a large enough export surplus to pay for its food imports. Venezuela is in no such position. That is why it is looking to China for support at this time.

The Saker: How much assistance do China, Russia and Iran provide and how much can they do to help?  Do you think that these three countries together can help counter-act US sabotage, subversion and sanctions?

Michael Hudson: None of these countries have a current capacity to refine Venezuelan oil. This makes it difficult for them to take payment in Venezuelan oil. Only a long-term supply contract (paid for in advance) would be workable. And even in that case, what would China and Russia do if the United States simply grabbed their property in Venezuela, or refused to let Russia’s oil company take possession of Citco? In that case, the only response would be to seize U.S. investments in their own country as compensation.

At least China and Russia can provide an alternative bank clearing mechanism to SWIFT, so that Venezuela can by pass the U.S. financial system and keep its assets from being grabbed at will by U.S. authorities or bondholders. And of course, they can provide safe-keeping for however much of Venezuela’s gold it can get back from New York and London.

Looking ahead, therefore, China, Russia, Iran and other countries need to set up a new international court to adjudicate the coming diplomatic crisis and its financial and military consequences. Such a court – and its associated international bank as an alternative to the U.S.-controlled IMF and World Bank – needs a clear ideology to frame a set of principles of nationhood and international rights with power to implement and enforce its judgments.

This would confront U.S. financial strategists with a choice: if they continue to treat the IMF, World Bank, ITO and NATO as extensions of increasingly aggressive U.S. foreign policy, they will risk isolating the United States. Europe will have to choose whether to remain a U.S. economic and military satellite, or to throw in its lot with Eurasia.

However, Daniel Yergin reports in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 7) that China is trying to hedge its bets by opening a back-door negotiation with Guaido’s group, apparently to get the same deal that it has negotiated with Maduro’s government. But any such deal seems unlikely to be honored in practice, given U.S. animosity toward China and Guaido’s total reliance on U.S. covert support.

The Saker: Venezuela kept a lot of its gold in the UK and money in the USA.  How could Chavez and Maduro trust these countries or did they not have another choice?  Are there viable alternatives to New York and London or are they still the “only game in town” for the world’s central banks?

Michael Hudson: There was never real trust in the Bank of England or Federal Reserve, but it seemed unthinkable that they would refuse to permit an official depositor from withdrawing its own gold. The usual motto is “Trust but verify.” But the unwillingness (or inability) of the Bank of England to verify means that the formerly unthinkable has now arrived: Have these central banks sold this gold forward in the post-London Gold Pool and its successor commodity markets in their attempt to keep down the price so as to maintain the appearance of a solvent U.S. dollar standard.

Paul Craig Roberts has described how this system works. There are forward markets for currencies, stocks and bonds. The Federal Reserve can offer to buy a stock in three months at, say, 10% over the current price. Speculators will by the stock, bidding up the price, so as to take advantage of “the market’s” promise to buy the stock. So by the time three months have passed, the price will have risen. That is largely how the U.S. “Plunge Protection Team” has supported the U.S. stock market.

The system works in reverse to hold down gold prices. The central banks holding gold can get together and offer to sell gold at a low price in three months. “The market” will realize that with low-priced gold being sold, there’s no point in buying more gold and bidding its price up. So the forward-settlement market shapes today’s market.

The question is, have gold buyers (such as the Russian and Chinese government) bought so much gold that the U.S. Fed and the Bank of England have actually had to “make good” on their forward sales, and steadily depleted their gold? In this case, they would have been “living for the moment,” keeping down gold prices for as long as they could, knowing that once the world returns to the pre-1971 gold-exchange standard for intergovernmental balance-of-payments deficits, the U.S. will run out of gold and be unable to maintain its overseas military spending (not to mention its trade deficit and foreign disinvestment in the U.S. stock and bond markets). My book on Super-Imperialism explains why running out of gold forced the Vietnam War to an end. The same logic would apply today to America’s vast network of military bases throughout the world.

Refusal of England and the U.S. to pay Venezuela means that other countries means that foreign official gold reserves can be held hostage to U.S. foreign policy, and even to judgments by U.S. courts to award this gold to foreign creditors or to whoever might bring a lawsuit under U.S. law against these countries.

This hostage-taking now makes it urgent for other countries to develop a viable alternative, especially as the world de-dedollarizes and a gold-exchange standard remains the only way of constraining the military-induced balance of payments deficit of the United States or any other country mounting a military attack. A military empire is very expensive – and gold is a “peaceful” constraint on military-induced payments deficits. (I spell out the details in my Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1972), updated in German as Finanzimperium(2017).

The U.S. has overplayed its hand in destroying the foundation of the dollar-centered global financial order. That order has enabled the United States to be “the exceptional nation” able to run balance-of-payments deficits and foreign debt that it has no intention (or ability) to pay, claiming that the dollars thrown off by its foreign military spending “supply” other countries with their central bank reserves (held in the form of loans to the U.S. Treasury – Treasury bonds and bills – to finance the U.S. budget deficit and its military spending, as well as the largely military U.S. balance-of-payments deficit.

Given the fact that the EU is acting as a branch of NATO and the U.S. banking system, that alternative would have to be associated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the gold would have to be kept in Russia and/or China.

The Saker:  What can other Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and, maybe, Uruguay and Mexico do to help Venezuela?

Michael Hudson: The best thing neighboring Latin American countries can do is to join in creating a vehicle to promote de-dollarization and, with it, an international institution to oversee the writedown of debts that are beyond the ability of countries to pay without imposing austerity and thereby destroying their economies.

An alternative also is needed to the World Bank that would make loans in domestic currency, above all to subsidize investment in domestic food production so as to protect the economy against foreign food-sanctions – the equivalent of a military siege to force surrender by imposing famine conditions. This World Bank for Economic Acceleration would put the development of self-reliance for its members first, instead of promoting export competition while loading borrowers down with foreign debt that would make them prone to the kind of financial blackmail that Venezuela is experiencing.

Being a Roman Catholic country, Venezuela might ask for papal support for a debt write-down and an international institution to oversee the ability to pay by debtor countries without imposing austerity, emigration, depopulation and forced privatization of the public domain.

Two international principles are needed. First, no country should be obliged to pay foreign debt in a currency (such as the dollar or its satellites) whose banking system acts to prevents payment.

Second, no country should be obliged to pay foreign debt at the price of losing its domestic autonomy as a state: the right to determine its own foreign policy, to tax and to create its own money, and to be free of having to privatize its public assets to pay foreign creditors. Any such debt is a “bad loan” reflecting the creditor’s own irresponsibility or, even worse, pernicious asset grab in a foreclosure that was the whole point of the loan.

The Saker:  Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my questions!

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