Lebanon is ‘held hostage by Iran’, yet coercion from the Gulf suggests otherwise

January 7, 2022

This picture taken on January 3, 2022 shows a view of a screen displaying a televised speech by the head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, airing during a memorial service marking the second anniversary of a US drone strike that killed the top commander of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) Qasem Soleimani alongside Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, at a hall in a school in the southern suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

A common trope over the past decade has been the notion that Lebanon has been “held hostage” by the Hezbollah movement and its chief backer, Iran. This is based on concerns of the growing political and military power of Hezbollah, which along with the Amal Movement has been part of the Lebanese government since 2005 with the support of their ally President Michel Aoun. Claims of 100,000-strong trained fighters within its armed ranks, also mean it is larger than the Lebanese military and is the country’s most powerful armed group.

Such beliefs have been reinforced largely over the movement’s ability to consolidate power in the absence of strong state institutions while managing to avoid accountability and responsibility over its actions. Hezbollah’s alleged role in the assassination in former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the acquittal of three members over their involvement is a case in point. More recently, the investigation into the Beirut Port blast has stalled due to Hezbollah and Amal boycotting cabinet meetings in protest over the perceived bias of the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar. Earlier calls by Hezbollah supporters for him to be removed led to intercommunal clashes with Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) militiamen. It was some of the worst street violence witnessed in the capital in years, leaving at least seven dead, all of whom were from the Shia community, sparking credible fears of a return to civil conflict and upending a fragile peace, although Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah vowed he would not be baited into civil war.

While it is understandable for segments of Lebanon’s sectarian society to view the country as being under the firm grip of an Iranian-supported Shia movement given its modern history which has had a lasting impact on the contemporary confessional political order, this idea is also rooted in deep-seated “othering” of the once-marginalised Shia Lebanese community who were and are still seen as an Iranian fifth-column.

This perception dates back well before the establishment of the modern Lebanese nation-state, where under four centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule, the Lebanese Shia (historically and colloquially known as the metwali) were discriminated against over alleged loyalties to Persia. After the end of French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon in 1943, the Shia were essentially excluded and underrepresented from the power-sharing arrangements between the Maronites and the Sunnis when they established the National Pact. It was following the activism of the charismatic cleric Sayyid Musa Al-Sadr in the 1960s and 70s that the Shia became more assertive of their rights and religious identities with the community becoming further empowered after the signing of the 1989 Taif Accord, both politically as there was more equitable distribution of powers for the country’s Muslim political elites, and militarily, as Hezbollah was the only militia allowed to keep its arms after the civil war ended.

OPINION: Lebanon may be independent, but it still depends on too many other states

Therefore, with this context in mind, one can appreciate the concerns about the political ascendency of the Hezbollah, the community it represents and the influence exerted in Lebanon of its main supporter Iran. These feelings will become more pronounced during and after the general and parliamentary elections scheduled this year, amid a worsening economic meltdown and potential for further social unrest. Yet while both Western and Arab media tend to focus on the idea that Lebanon is being held hostage by Iran via Hezbollah, the discourse is one-sided and there is relatively scant attention paid to the fact that the Gulf Arab states, headed by Saudi Arabia, have been pressurising and weighing in on the Lebanese government, undermining the country’s supposed independence in the process.

Riyadh has had a long history of playing an influential force in Lebanese politics, often supporting Hezbollah’s political rivals and acting as a protector of Sunni interests to counter those of Iran’s.

Speaking of hostage-taking, it is ironic to note that it was the Saudis who audaciously kidnapped an acting head of state, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017, who was coerced into announcing his short-lived resignation from Riyadh. It was later revealed that he was “verbally intimidated and beaten” during his detention.

The recent diplomatic fallout in October between Beirut and Riyadh, however, has resulted in concerted efforts to force the Lebanese government into making political concessions in order to mend and maintain important strategic relations.

Following remarks which surfaced by the then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the Saudis expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, recalled its own ambassador and banned all imports at a critical time when Lebanon was grappling with an economic crisis. Fellow Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE were also quick to summon their ambassadors in solidarity. Despite insisting that he wouldn’t step down over the row, Kordahi resigned last month, likely owing to external pressure and the potential devastating consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expats working in the Gulf who send vital remittances back home.

READ: Remembering the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon (1914-1918)

While Kordahi’s resignation may have had a cooling effect on the crisis, tensions clearly remain in light of Nasrallah’s comments earlier this week regarding the Saudis and King Salman, accusing Riyadh of exporting the ideology of Daesh, specifically referring to the monarch as a “terrorist”. The remarks were an apparent response to calls by King Salman the week before for an end of “terrorist Hezbollah’s” influence over the state.

Rather than defend a coalition member within his own government, Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Hezbollah, distancing the government from the comments. This was echoed by dual-Saudi citizen Hariri who insinuated that the only threat to Lebanon is “the one who wants the state of Lebanon to remain hostage to the state of Iran”.

The Lebanese government appears keen on appeasing Riyadh and its Gulf allies out of a rational fear of political and economic retribution, which has included the Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi ordering the deportation of Bahraini oppositionists and the announcement of an interception of “nearly 9 million Captagon tablets” smuggled in citrus fruits destined for the Gulf. “We want to send a message to the Arab world about our seriousness and our work to thwart evil from harming our Arab brothers,” Mawlawi insisted. He followed these political gestures by ordering the removal of posters deemed offensive to King Salman from the predominantly Shia areas of southern Beirut. In its attempts to salvage ties with the Gulf, the compliant Lebanese government risks allowing the latter to utilise their leverage further as the elections near.

At the strategic level then, the actions undertaken by the Saudi-led bloc are little to do with offensive comments by Lebanese politicians and leaders. Rather these have been shrewdly exploited in an attempt for the Saudis to play catch-up in trying to expand their own influence while steering the country away from Iran through Hezbollah. There may be compelling arguments that Hezbollah undermines Lebanon’s national sovereignty, however these often overlook or fail to recognise that it was Hezbollah that protected and reasserted Lebanon’s territorial integrity when the south was under foreign Israeli occupation. This may seem like harking back to the past, but it remains the biggest strategic threat to Israel to this day, having amassed an arsenal of “hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand missiles that can reach deeper into Israel“, providing a modest and credible deterrence against the prospects of any repeat invasions or a major flareup at the border.

As a fragile state with a history of foreign meddling and patronage from multiple actors, it would be disingenuous to use alarmist rhetoric that Lebanon is being “held hostage” by any one party or regional power. In reference to Hezbollah, this is based on an over-arching legacy of the civil war but also on prejudices against a formerly marginalised community that had historically never been a major player in the affairs of the country, now with unprecedented power and clout. Beirut, we are constantly being told, is under the firm control of Iran (apparently as Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa are too) yet challenging this narrative are the Gulf states who seem to be the ones calling the shots and who, according to Nasrallah, are in effect holding some 350,000 Lebanese expats “hostage”. In reality, it is the outdated, corrupt political system that has taken Lebanon hostage, a system which will unlikely be reformed as long as people identify and vote along sectarian lines. The country is in the all too familiar position of having to balance relations with foreign rival powers while maintaining the delicate balance on the ground among its diverse communities who are currently facing an unprecedented economic crises.

OPINION: The last time Iraq was free of foreign interference was during the Abbasids—even then it was short lived

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

The EU, Globalization and the Road to Serfdom

December 28, 2021

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

PART 1

It might be a good idea to start with some theoretical clarifications. Firstly, nationalism should not be confused with national sovereignty. Nations which are effectively ruled by outside agents – from Greece to Honduras – are not sovereign; they are colonies or vassals of some larger agency. And since they are not sovereign, the cannot be democratic, since decision making, and policies have been abrogated to an external ruling power. Secondly, nationalism: the term which in general is generally regarded as the all-weather bête noire by the orthodox left, can be and often is aggressive, racist, imperialistic, and so forth. But this is only half the story and there are ample reasons to believe that this view is both simplistic and narrowly focussed; ‘nationalism’ can be either a reactionary or a radical/progressive force, depending on the local and political circumstances. This is simply an historical fact. The latter phenomenon is particularly true of those nations which struggled under the yoke of imperialism – from Vietnam to Algeria both ex-French colonies – and who actively engaged in national repeat, national, liberation struggles involving a broad coalition of political forces

However, according to the conventional wisdom of the hyper-globalists both nation states and the whole concept of national sovereignty are now defunct. Their reasoning is based upon the following premises. 1.Most products have developed a very complex geography – with parts made in different countries and then assembled somewhere else – in which case labels of origin begin to lose their meaning. 2. Markets when left unfettered will arrive at optimal price, allocative, and productive efficiency. 3.This means that capital, commodities and labour should be free to move around the globe without let or hindrance to achieve these goals. 4. Any barriers to this process – capital controls, trade unions, exchange rate controls, welfare expenditures, minimum wage legislation, wages and even public goods – will result in price and allocative distortions. Q.E.D.

Such globalization has come to be seen and defined by its proponents as the ‘natural order’, almost a force of nature; an inevitable and inexorable process of increasing geographical spread and increasing functional integration between economic activities. This current orthodoxy goes by various other names, Washington consensus, market liberalisation, neo-liberalism and so on and so forth. In fact, there is nothing ‘natural’ about this stage of historical development, since the whole phenomenon has been politically driven from the outset. (Of which more later).

It is important to note, however, the difference between contemporary imperialism in its present stage – i.e., globalization – and the classical imperialism of pre-1914 vintage that Hobson, Lenin, Bukharin and Rosa Luxemburg were writing about. Classical imperialism was characterised by a shallow integration manifested in arms-length trade in goods and services through independent firms and international movement of portfolio capital and relatively simple direct investment. Note also that the British state granted Charters to investment entities such as the East India Company and the British South Africa Chartered Company to ‘develop’ (exploit) these colonial possessions. Thus, even at this early stage the British state actively intervened to facilitate and open up markets for British capital in India and Africa. This was the liberal epoch trade of the 19th century. Full-on globalization did not develop, however, due to inter-imperialist rivalries and mercantilist policies being carried out by the competing imperial powers (which eventuated in WW1). The opening up and liberalization of markets – which did not at that time occur – was and still is the conditio sine qua non for the development of full-blown globalization, which even today is nowhere near total.

This generalised retreat from a classical liberal colonialism began with the First World War and lasted until the early 1970s. This statist phase of the global economy was universalized in the west after the aftermath of WW2 in the form of social-democracy and the welfare state. Suffice it to say that this period is long gone having been systematically deconstructed by the present neo-liberal counter-revolution which began circa 1979. The neoliberal phase really got going in the 1980s. This was the time of the Washington Consensus a set of ideological prescriptions based upon archaic Ricardian trade theory (comparative advantage) to be followed to the letter and by all and sundry. It was argued that this would result in an economic nirvana attendant on the removal of distortions to the market mechanism brought about by welfare capitalism. To repeat: the tripod on which neoliberalism is based consists of 1. The free-movement of labour and ‘flexible’ labour markets, 2. the free movement of capital and commodities which in essence means the loss of control of monetary policy, exchange rate policy and capital controls. The neo-liberal regimen also involves 3. downward harmonisation of wages and working conditions, involving fixed term contracts, zero-hour contracts, the weakening or in the case of the United States, the virtual elimination of trade unions, stagnant wages, structural unemployment, which in turn leads to increased indebtedness which benefits the rentier class, and ongoing and deepening structural inequality. This is sometimes called austerity, but this is putting the horse before the cart. Austerity is the effect not the cause of liberalised financial, labour and commodity markets.

The present stage of neo-liberal imperialism differs from the classical stage insofar as we currently live in a world of deep integration organized primarily within and between geographical and complex global production networks as well as other mechanisms. Moreover, a new factor became apparent in this Brave New World – financialization. There has been a massive increase in both the size and scope of financial markets, with money moving electronically around the world at unprecedented speeds, generating enormous repercussions and instability. The system of unlimited fiat currencies mainly used for purely speculative purposes is resulting in ongoing asset price bubbles particularly in stocks, bonds and property, as well as other financial instruments, e.g. derivatives.

To wit:

  1. The surge of bank loans to Mexico in the 1970s – Th tequila crisis.
  2. The bubble in stocks and Real Estate in Japan – 1985-89
  3. The 1985-89 bubble in stocks and property in Norway, Finland and Sweden
  4. The bubble in real estate, stocks and currencies in East Asia in 1992-97
  5. The bubble in over the counter (OTC) stocks in the US, including hi-tech start-ups
  6. The 2002-2008. The property bubble in the US, UK, Spain, Ireland, Iceland and Greek sovereign debt. (Manias, Panics and Crashes – Kindleberger and Aliber – 2011)

Additionally, the global institutions, which emerged from the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the IMF, GATT/WTO, World Bank, and increasingly central banks around the world, play a crucial role of the construction of trade policies, co-ordination, guidance, as well as providing and enforcing legal statutes designed to keep the globalist ship afloat. But it should be understood that these institutions are highly politicised and ideologically driven and not disinterested arbiters of the common weal. This is amply illustrated by the recurring breakdowns in the various rounds of trade liberalization talks conducted by the WTO when what are perceived by the developing world (with some justification) as being unfair trade agreements foisted on the them by the more affluent and controlling developed states nations who control voting procedures. In passing, it should also be noted that the EU represents a regionalised version of these global institutional structures, the ECB, EC, Council of Ministers, Eurozone Finance Ministers, European Round Table of Industrialists and so forth. Moreover, there exists a revolving door – in career terms – between state institutions and private corporations. N.B. the ease of which big-time globalist financial honchos such as Henry (Hank) Paulson, Steve Mnuchin and Mario Draghi glide effortlessly between the leading US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, and the US Treasury Department and ECB.

Power to shape/control this system is concentrated in the hands of states and/or the newly emergent Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Of course, there is not going to be a simple answer to this as the relationship between these two pillars of modern imperialism is both fractious and permanently mutating. The received wisdom, as put forward by the various spokespersons for globalization, ranging from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) OECD, and IMF, to the globalist house journals – Financial Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal – of the global Transnational Uberklasse is predictable enough. Namely that the state is always in a subservient position vis-à-vis the dominant TNCs.

This perhaps would qualify as a procrustean effort to make the facts fit the theory. Contrary to the image of the all-powerful TNC demanding fealty and obedience from prostrate states, the relationship is somewhat more symmetrical; corporations and states are always to a certain degree joined at the hip.

‘’ … they are both competitive and competing, both supportive and conflictual. They operate in a fully dialectical relationship, locked into unified but contradictory roles and positions, neither one nor the other partner completely able to dominate.’’ (Picciotto, S. 1991 The Internationalisation of the State – Capital and Class 43.43-63)

The widespread notion that a TNC can simply up sticks and move lock, stock and barrel to a more compatible venue if its home base no longer suits it purposes is fanciful in the extreme. All TNCs have home bases, national HQs. Here is where global strategy is determined; here is where top-end R&D is carried out; here is where design and marketing strategies take place; here is where the domestic market is situated and where long-term domestic suppliers are located; here is where overseas operations are conceived planned and carried through; here is where AGMs of the Corporations takes place with published accounts circulated to all shareholders; here is where the local workforce, at all levels, is recruited; here is where the political bureaucracy and the above mentioned institutions are situated and amenable to lobbying. Picking an obvious example, the US defence industries, Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman are all based domestically and are not going to move out anytime soon.

It is unquestionably true that TNCs and states often have divergent goals: TNCs’ primary function is to maximise profits and enhance shareholder value, whereas the economic role of the state should be to maximise the economic welfare of its society. But although this conflictual relationship exists, states and TNCs need and lean on each other in a variety of ways. States might wish that TNCs are bound by allegiance to national borders – and in many ways they are (see above) – but total allegiance is not an option in a liberal capitalist economy. Indeed, it would be true to say that some states regard TNC (activities) as being complementary to their foreign policy. Here economic issues merge with geopolitical imperatives. For example:

‘’American political leaders have believed that the national interest has also been served by the foreign expansion of US corporations in manufacturing and services. FDI has been considered a major instrument through which the US could maintain its relative position in world markets, and the overseas expansion of TNCs has been regarded as a means to maintain America’s dominant world position.’’ (Gilpin, R. 1987 – The Political Economy of International Relations.)

On the other hand. Businesses, Corporations, TNCs, have always needed the state to provide the necessary infrastructure without which their operations would not be possible. This infrastructure includes what are sometimes called ‘public goods’ the built environment of roads, railways, airports, ports, canals, health services, education at all levels, a legal system, a centralised government with the power to tax and spend, as well as control monetary policy by a central bank, various procurement policies – in the US particularly involving the Military Industrial Complex – publicly funded research, which played an absolutely vital role in the development of the internet and Silicon Valley. In addition, there have been a range of cultural and political goods – the media for example – some of which were provided by the state, the BBC and public service broadcasting, and some by the market, newspapers and commercial television, albeit privately subsidised.

In short, the relationship between TNCs and states is complex and symmetrical and does not conform to the simplistic ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ globalist trope. In fact, the relationship has betimes been the other way around. During the post-war period both Japan and South Korea were at pains to block Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from overseas TNCs entering their economies, principally by operationalising import controls. This notwithstanding the fact that both countries were export orientated. The reasoning behind this policy was that the type nation-building mercantilism being which has been and is still the only way out of under-development could not work in an open liberalised economy. Similarly, Chinese development included inward FDI by overseas Corporations, BUT this time around the state-TNC roles were reversed. Automobile firms wished to invest in China for the simple reason of access to the world’s largest growing market which served as a powerful incentive for these firms to enter. But the Chinese government, consistent with its state-capitalist, mercantilist policies had complete control over such entry and adopted a policy of limited access to foreign firms. It is customary to imagine that TNCs always have the upper hand in the bargaining process, but this time it was different. Auto TNCs whose experience had conditioned them to play off states against each other, were subjected to the humbling experience of China who – given its control of FDI entry – was able to play off one TNC against another.

In fact, the East Asian development model – which for want of a better label I will call, state-capitalist mercantilism – has been successful in enabling states such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and possibly Thailand, and Malaysia to claw their way out of the trap of underdevelopment. This nation-building developmental strategy was first outlined by the German economist Freidrich List. The policy advocated imposing tariffs on imported goods while supporting free trade of domestic goods and stated the cost of a tariff should be seen as an investment in a nation’s future productivity – worked and was operationalised in the 19th century by both Germany and the United States, with a view to breaking British industrial and trade hegemony, which it did. As for free-trade, that was a policy strictly for the losers who to this day stay under-developed. It is also worth adding that the East Asian development bloc did not seek permission from the imperialist behemoth to carve out their own place in the sun.

We can say, therefore, that ultimately the negotiating relationship and outcomes between states and TNCs will depend on the relative bargaining strength in any specific instance. It is argued that if nation states are capable of so much why does the record show that they have achieved so little.

Well, South Korea was about equal to Tanzania in terms of all the economic, social and cultural indictors in the 1950s when it was just recovering from the Korean war.

South Korea is now one of the developing world’s long-term success stories. The country is now classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy, with PPP income exceeding $29,000.00 in 2010. Korean consumer electronics and other goods – auto-vehicles, Kia and Hyundai – have become synonymous with high quality and low price. Even more impressive is Korea’s achievements in social development, in education, and health. Life expectancy is now over 75 and the country’s HDI was placed 26th in 2004. As was the case in Japan inward investment was discouraged in favour of an infant protection industry and export led growth. Exports in such sectors as consumer electronics and auto-vehicles, and more recently in high technology have grown at an extraordinary rate. One very important reason for this has been a national strategy that has favoured the promotion of increasingly sophisticated exports and technology. Strong financial incentives for industrial firms to move up the value chain of skills and technology were built into most of the government’s policies. These policies included:

1. Currency Undervaluation: The effective exchange rate favoured cheaper exports and more expensive imports – an overt mercantilist approach

2. Preferential access to imported intermediate inputs needed to produce export goods

3. Targeted infant industry protection as a first stage before launching an export drive.

4. Tariff exemption on imports of capital goods needed in exporting activities

5. Tax breaks for domestic suppliers of inputs to exporting firms, which constitutes a domestic content incentive

6. Domestic indirect tax exemptions for successful exporters.

7. Lower direct taxation on incomes gained from exports.

8. The creation of public enterprises to lead the way in establishing a new industry.

9. The setting of export targets for firms.

(Todaro and Smith – Economic Development – 2009)

These policies were, of course, and still are, the exact opposite of the Ricardian free-trade comparative advantage model and are an anathema to any orthodox economists.

Herewith a development comparison Tanzania/South Korea.

Tanzania:

GDP, US$47,652 – GDP per capitaUS$857 – Education Expenditure US$1678.9, Govt Health Expenditure per capita US$24

South Korea:

GDP = US$1,411,042 – GDP per capitaUS$27,535 – Education Expenditure US$ 289,283.4 -Govt. Health Expenditure per capita US$159. (countryeconomy.com)

I think this is enough and don’t wish to labour the point, the gap is self-evidently enormous. But now the subsidiary question arises: what explains the divergent paths of development for two countries starting at the same point?

Well, according to the conventional wisdom ‘‘the incidence of wealth is only weakly related to the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised and is much more closely aligned to the ways in which states are aligned with the circuits of global capitalism.’’ Wrong! Political agency has everything to do with economic and social development, ‘‘and the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised.’’ If this were not the case East Asian development strategies would never have worked. Modernisation and development requires/required the indispensable political prerequisite of a modernising, nation-building ruling stratum which mobilises the whole nation in this revolution from above. This pattern has always been almost without exception the historical experience of capitalist development.

Such political and state institutions together with modernising class forces have/been and are, notably weak or even absent in what we generally refer to as the under-developed or developing world. ‘States’ (and I use this term advisably) such as Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo lack the political and social modern(ising), structures and institutions as we understand them which might bring about economic and social development. Crucially, the class structure of these societies is dominated by a comprador bourgeoisie, a self-aggrandising, self-serving elite whose interests are intertwined with the imperial overlord in the ongoing exploitation and looting of their own country. We also know that such nations are stuck in the production of raw materials and agricultural products – low value-added, low research-intensive, low-productivity, primary commodities – all of which are both price and income inelastic and have had a tendency toward price stagnation and decline in the long run – a structural deterioration in their terms of trade. (Oil may be an exception to this, but oil prices are notoriously volatile.) Thus, the unequal and increasing gap between the higher income and lower income countries. But is this the end of the matter? Well from a rigidly structuralist point of view it would seem to be. History, however, is an open ended and semi-voluntaristic process – as the famous quote goes, ‘Men make history, but do not do it as they please’ – and a number of possibilities for fundamental structural changes exist. But for real change to take place both economic and political/ideological conditions must be present.

‘’History has shown that the vicious circles of poverty and underdevelopment can be effectively attacked only by qualitatively changing the production structures of poor and failing states. A successful strategy implies an increasing diversification away from sectors with diminishing returns (traditional raw materials and agriculture) to sectors with constant and increasing returns (technology, intensive manufacturing and services) creating a new and more complex division of labour and new social-economic structures in the process. In addition to breaking away from subsistence agriculture, this will create an urban market for goods, which will further induce specialization and innovation, bring in new technologies, create both alternative employment and the economic synergies that unite a nation state. The key to economic development is the interplay between the sectors with increasing and diminishing returns in the same labour market.’’ (How Rich Countries got Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor – Erik Reinert).

Thus, if you wish to bake a cake these are the ingredients. But comprador bourgeoisies and their imperial sponsors have other priorities and preoccupations, nation-building and economic development are not among them.

PART 2

Turning to the EU the regional prototype for the globalization project, it was Patrick Buchanan, an American conservative who once correctly stated in ‘The American Conservative’ that the US Congress ‘is an Israeli occupied zone’’ by which he meant of course that Israel and the Israeli Lobby, both external and internal, has had a huge input into the framing and operation of US foreign policy. In a similar vein the EU is also occupied territory under the tutelage of US imperialism. (This process of blatant meddling in European affairs by the US-CIA started with ‘Operation Gladio’ in the late 1940s) but the perceived enemy was not merely Soviet communism, but also sotto voce European social and political theory and practise, notably, Gaullism and social-democracy, both of which have long since been politically cleansed with the EU being reconfigured as neo-liberal, and (since the alignment of the EU security structures have been aligned with NATO) neo-conservative vassal states overseen and represented by odious little Petainist/Quisling occupation regimes. This is only too apparent when the fawning behaviours of May, Macron and Merkel vis-à-vis the US are observed. Whenever the US master says jump, the Europeans will reply ‘how high’ And this is even more pronounced by the newly arrived Eastern European states. A group which Dick Cheney once described as the ‘new Europe.’ By which meant the political force which was operationalised to fundamentally change the political direction of the EU in the late 20th century. Euro-widening was meant to prevent euro-deepening, and it worked a treat.

The ongoing Americanisation of Europe carries with it the toxic values of liberal individualism, market liberalisation, structural inequality, a philosophy of winner takes all, and a rapacious/murderous imperialism. A nightmare Hobbesian world of a ‘war of everyman against everyman’; John Stuart Mill also weighed in with considerable disdain writing ‘I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that of trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which forms the existing type of social life are the most desirable lot of humankind … (J.S.Mill – Principles of Political Economy).

The Americanisation process has been going on for the last half century. It degrades Europe, causes it to regress, forces it to abandon everything in its progressive past contribution to the capitalist stage of production the antidotes which it allowed it to resist the liberal poison and promote democracy and equality despite it.

‘’Old Europe’’ has nothing to learn from ‘’Young America.’’ There will be no progress possible on any European project as long as the US grand strategy is not foiled.’’ (The Liberal Virus – Samir Amin)

One particular crisis in the EU – the unfolding to the denouement of the Greek debacle – has presented an archetypal learning curve for an understanding of the structural problems involved in the EU and occasioned a virtual industry of copious tracts which purport to explain the crisis, and I have no wish to repeat the whole sorry tale here. I would say, however, that if Syriza was in earnest in taking on the Troika it would have required not just an imaginary backing of a long-defunct and toothless euro social-democracy, but also a withdrawal from the euro – certainly a leap into the unknown. Assuredly this would have been a high-risk policy – and no-one should be under the illusion that there is any easy way out. The trouble is that social-democracy has vanished into history; the soft-options specialists. The SPD (Germany) PS (France) PASOK (Greece) PSOE (Spain) are political organizations which might (occasionally) refer to themselves as social-democrats, or even on occasion ‘socialists’ but of course they are nothing of the sort. ‘By their works shall thee know them.’

And,

‘’ … Syriza’s strategy was not only long-run but also attempted to incorporate the social virtues of Europe’s once dominant social-democratic heritage. What Syriza did not adequately understand, however, was that heritage was now history, buried deep under the refuse pile of new neo-liberal values.’’ (Looting Greece – Jack Rasmus)

Now we have Varoufakis going on to declare that the ‘nation is dead’. Well, that is certainly true of Greece, which is now to all intents and purposes a colony with the grotesque spectacle of Syriza now playing a governing role in a regime that at one time it stridently opposed. The assertion that nations as such are no longer sovereign – a statement which is wrong both theoretically and empirically – but has a limited application. Truth be told some states are more sovereign than others, and the sovereign nations call the shots vis-à-vis the vassal/colonies which are not sovereign. (One wonders if the United States, or Israel or indeed Syria which has been engaged in physically defending its sovereignty for some time, are not sovereign. I think they are, but Mr Varoufakis may wish to differ) Greek sovereignty and democracy disappeared when the Troika and EU finance ministers and French and German banks forced the surrender and took over the running(-down) of the Greek economy. But this was inevitable in a liberal internationalist globalist economy; open borders will simply mean that TNCs will be free to exploit the productive resources of any country in the world – particularly labour – in order to maximise their economic power at the expense of society’s. In other words, societies with open markets, will be unable to impose any effective controls to protect themselves from the rapacious incursions of TNCs as Polanyi pointed out long ago.

So, what does the ‘supra-national’ solution offer other than comforting words.

Try the following.

‘’DiEM2025 stands today as an attempt to learn the lessons of defeat, and to prepare for future struggles for building a stronger network, not of globalists, but left-wing internationalists whose strategies for advance include the dislocation of imperialist economic chains, as well as real progress in building the capacities of national societies to strengthen democracy and provide for the well-being of their nations.’’

All of which strikes this writer as a series of clichés and meaningless abstractions. Please note, the dog-eared phraseology, ‘learn the lessons of defeat’ ‘prepare for future struggles’ ‘strengthen democracy’ and ‘provide for the well-being of their populations.’ You might as well throw in motherhood and apple pie whilst you’re at it.

Then comes the dawn of realization that ‘a future Labour government which -assuming of course that the next government will be Labour – attempting to carry out its declared programme of bringing some elements of the economy under national control ‘’will come under the assault not only from the EU, but also Washington.’’ Really! Never occurred to me that! What does a Labour government do in this hypothetical situation? Surrender, Syriza style. No, we apparently need a Europe-wide supra-national strategy based upon what policies exactly? We must assume, according to the orthodoxy, that the nation state is either dead or dying, an article of faith of the globalist left and the Washington Consensus. Ergo, the policy the ‘left internationalists’ is one of inter alia ‘strengthening democracy’ – all very noble. But provided that the neo-liberal tripod of the three freedoms of movement – capital, labour, commodities – remains in place, political change will not take place. And provided the institutional infrastructure of globalized capitalism – the IMF, WTO, World Bank, the EU are overseeing and enabling the neoliberal project economic and political change will not take place. It is not the shackles of nationalism that give rise to the bureaucratic monstrosity which is the EU but precisely the opposite. The neo-liberal imperatives of open borders, liberalized markets, flexible labour markets and freedom of movement of labour, capital and commodities, might have had something to do with it. Unless these political/ideological roadblocks are addressed the status quo will continue and continue to deteriorate.

In terms of alliance building, political convergence between states cannot be constructed at regional (for example the EU) or even less so at global levels even if it is not achieved firstly at the level of nations. Because whether we like it or not, nations define and manage concrete realities and challenges, and it is only at these levels that changes in the social and political balance of forces to the advantage of the popular classes will or will not occur. Changes at the regional and global level may reflect national advances and certainly facilitate them – but nothing more.

In order to stop the onward march of globalist neoliberalism governments and state must regain control of their economies. There is no single way to achieve this critical goal, but without it hemispheric co-operation will remain little more than an empty rhetorical flourish. Moreover, everywhere electorates are looking to governments to be a counterweight to footloose corporations. It is this intuitive perception to rein-in markets that will increasingly occupy centre-stage between pro and anti the coming decade. For social-political movements the nation-state continues to be the chosen instrument for the organization of society. However much social institutions will have to adapt to new global pressures, what is not in doubt is that the nation-state remains the crucible for equality seeking movements the world over. Efficiency, profitability and competitiveness have not won the hearts and minds of the peoples worldwide.’’ (States Against Markets – Boyer and Drache)

Reform of the EU, which I understand to be the goal of the campaign of pro-EU aligned leftist factions, fails to take into consideration the fact that the EU cannot be reformed since its whole ideological structure and constitution is built upon neo-liberal technocratic assumptions which can clearly be identified in the interior belief-systems of the bureaucracy and consequently the daily practise and deliberations of its internal institutions. Being explicitly designed on a neoliberal model which was cemented by legal statutes have made such changes impossible.

‘’Any belief that the EU can be ‘democratised’ and reformed in a progressive direction is a pious illusion. Not only would this require an impossible alignment of left movements/governments to emerge simultaneously at the international level. On a more fundamental level, a system that was created with the specific aim of constraining democracy cannot be democratised. It can only be rejected.’’ (Thomas Fawzi – Lexit Digest)

Reinforcing the conservative structure of the EU’s political institutions, and here I have in mind the European Parliament, are dominated by two powerful blocs.

1. An alliance of political parties, centre-left and centre-right which form the usual centrist mish-mash, the extreme centre, as it has been called. This centrist bloc is composed predominantly of euro-enthusiasts and who command a working majority in the European parliament and other EU institutions. 2. The geo-political alliance – i.e., the infusion of members of the ‘New Europe’ into the EU, who were generally very pro-American and fanatically Russophobic, this along with the parallel expansion and incorporation of these new states into NATO has served to undermine some of the earlier Gaullist and social democratic traditions in Europe.

It seems clear, therefore, that the pro-EU bloc which dominates the political, economic and strategic agenda of the EU, in addition to the permanent institutional structures which are mandated to carry out existing policies, will continue to do so for any foreseeable future despite the pipe-dreams of the ‘left-wing internationalists’. Even Varoufakis has admitted that this approach is frankly ‘utopian’ – and if this is the case, the Remainer left can only play games and give a leftish veneer in an attempt to reform what they apparently believe is an unstoppable historical development (globalization). (Lexit Digest)

Having said all this the final outcome of this imbroglio may include elements of piecemeal reform and/and or outright rejection, which is what usually happens. We shall see. But it would be useful perhaps to have an open dialogue between all parties involved rather than highly partisan and misleading attempts to smear and shout down opponents – and we are all guilty to a degree in this respect – who may have something positive to offer.

Maduro to Al Mayadeen: We will not abandon Palestine

December 26, 2021

Net Source: Al Mayadeen

By Al Mayadeen

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says, in an interview for Al Mayadeen, that the Venezuelan people resisted fierce attacks launched by US imperialism and its allies, and discusses relations with some countries, including Iran and Syria.

Maduro to Al Mayadeen: We will not abandon Palestine

In an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro noted that 2021 was the first year in which Venezuela registered economic growth since “the beginning of the criminal imperialist US sanctions,”  adding that this growth was the result of Venezuela’s economy which produces food, goods, products, and services. The country has witnessed growth in its industries, trade, and its domestic market as a result of the Venezuelans’ continued effort.

Maduro considered that the people of Venezuela resisted the fierce attacks launched by the US imperial power and its allies around the world, “but we held on and resisted.” Maduro highlighted that the people of Venezuela did not suffice themselves with resistance, rather the important goal they sought after was to achieve progress by way of a collective effort through the stimulation of all economic sectors.

The Venezuelan President revealed that he finds inspiration in Venezuela’s heroic history, stressing the need to believe in the people in order to motivate its sense of pride and ameliorate its strengths, both spiritually and morally. Maduro added that when the individual sees a greater historical cause embodied in himself, he will ascend to the level of the difficulties and challenges that face him.

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro: I find inspiration in #Venezuela’s heroic history. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/VFv1klL5IW— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

According to Maduro, the people of Venezuela were no less than heroes before the challenges they faced, and he as a President had to be up to par with this heroic people. He also needed to have great faith and patience, as well as trust in the future, to rise up to the challenge and enter the battle.

The Venezuelan president pointed out that the late Cuban president, Fidel Castro, had always said that one must fight in all circumstances, fight until the last breath.

Commenting on opposition leader and US favorite Juan Guaido, Maduro described him as a sort of a “political Frankenstein” who was defeated, adding that “imperialism thought that Venezuela was its property” and that it had the ability to appoint a president for the country, through its colonialist comportment.

Nicolas #Maduro on #JuanGuaido: He was a kind of a political “Frankenstein” who was defeated. @NicolasMaduro #Venezuela pic.twitter.com/xKBqt4MYLD— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

He further clarified that the people of Venezuela confronted imperialism, and told its leaders and its Guaido that they shall not pass, and indeed they did not.

Maduro called for abandoning imperialism and its Frankenstein in the swamp, stressing that during the previous US administration, Trump appointed a High Commissioner called Elliott Abrams to rule over a “colony called Venezuela,” in accordance with Trump’s neo-colonialist and imperialist perspective.

However, Maduro noted, Abrams was “so shameless that he wrote my wife, asking her to divorce me,” and told her that they would allow her to take her family out of the country. He also added that Abrams asked him to “betray the people of Venezuela, Bolivar’s cause, and Chavez’s legacy, and to hand Venezuela over to US imperialism.

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: They wanted me to betray the people of #Venezuela#Bolivar’s cause, and #Chavez’s legacy, and to hand Venezuela over to #US imperialism. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/GvbAAL930v— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

According to the Venezuelan President, imperialism’s plans ran into the reality of the high Bolivarian ethical values “that we uphold.” Venezuela also witnessed surprises, which revealed the bravery of many people in this world, such as resistance factions, and movements of solidarity, and heads of states and governments, “that provided us with support and defended us.”

Every traitor of Venezuela is now in history’s ash heap

During his interview for Al Mayadeen, Maduro noted that he had always felt that Venezuela was not alone. At the UN, he said, they [Venezuela’s enemies] tried on numerous occasions to avoid recognizing the legitimacy of our government, and they were beaten by support from the vast majority of governments. He expressed his pride in the world’s solidarity and resistance movements, and their leaders.

Maduro emphasized that he knew who the traitors were, and where to find them, saying that those that attempt to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs will dry out and wither. Each traitor to Venezuela has gone to the ash heap of history, like Lenin Moreno and Mauricio Macri. But, he said, it is best to talk of things beneficial to our peoples, “instead of remembering that trash.” 

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: Each traitor to #Venezuela has gone to the ash heap of history. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/lePbDDPpQl— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

Venezuela’s President commented on the elections, saying they were exemplary, and some of the monitors were witnesses to our electoral system being the safest and most progressive in the world. He also highlighted that this election was the 29th in the 21 years since the Bolivarian revolution, and marks the 27th victory, and said “ we are a true power,” a power that is always renewing itself in its discourse, in its plans, and its leadership.

Regarding his country’s commitments and challenges, he emphasized the need to meet them. Every time a victory is achieved, Venezuela performs a comprehensive review, accompanied with self-criticism, and studies future plans, he added, stressing that before the year’s end, the plans will be ready for 2022, 2023, and 2024.

According to the Venezuelan President, his country is not living on its past glories, as with every victory they learn their lessons, and find renewed energy and strength for the future; everything is meticulously planned. The secret to building a revolution, he went on to say, lies in self-criticism, which they always do, as they remain vigilant 24 hours a day.

Facing the end of 2021, Maduro declared that he is currently enjoying the sweet taste of victory, and is readying himself to sacrifice and work to achieve new victories in the coming years, and that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela are a new body built to be part of this nation. 

The armed forces, he said, raised the banner of independence and fighting imperialism, the banner of freedom, the banner of the great liberator of America, Simon Bolivar. 

Discussing late Venezuelan leader and former President Hugo Chavez, Maduro told Al Mayadeen that he was a great military leader in whom one could find all the elements of comprehensive leadership. He considered that Chavez was the one who restructured the armed forces, giving them a new code based on resistance. He emphasized Venezuela’s armed forces role as the backbone of the revolution and the pillar of democracy and its existence.

The Venezuelan leader saw that imperialism devotes millions of dollars to buy off soldiers in many countries around the world, recruiting them so that they would organize military coups by using them as they did in Paraguay, Bolivia, Honduras, and Chile. Commander Chavez, he said, severed this relationship the United States had with Venezuela and said his country has sovereign military forces, which are the backbone for peace, stability, and democracy in Venezuela.

Chavez’s decision was a great shock

Maduro reminisced on the words of former President Chavez when he had to undergo complex surgery and said that if anything should happen that would impede his ability to perform his duties as president, then Maduro should assume responsibility.

He considered Chavez’s decision to be a great shock because he [Maduro] knew very well that when Chavez thinks of something and makes a decision, it is because he expects that something will happen, clarifying that “us revolutionaries” are obliged to deal with any conditions forced upon them, and as revolutionaries, they must be ready for battle, ready to surmount pain, injury, and grief, and that is what happened.

He expressed his satisfaction for the loyalty he showed Chavez’s legacy, and his honoring of the oath he swore before him and continuing to be in the frontlines of the confrontation, holding the banner of victory, of Venezuela.

Discussing his wife, Maduro said Cilia Flores is first and foremost, a leader from our country, and has had her own history. He added that she was a member of Parliament, a director in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and an Attorney General of Venezuela at one point, clarifying that she is firm in her opinions and resolute in her utterances, with people calling her the “first fighter.”

He declared that Flores continuously fights for children, the youth, and for Venezuelan women, and expressed his great pride to be her husband.

We will not abandon Palestine

On the Palestinian cause, President Maduro stressed that no one in the world dares to ask Caracas to abandon Palestine. “We cannot accept such demands. It is a sin to simply think about abandoning Palestine or leaving it by itself.”

“Palestine is humanity’s holy land, and we have the Palestinian land in such high regard. We hear the name ‘Palestine’ loud and high,” Maduro affirmed, condemning the Israeli occupation’s crimes against Palestinians, saying “Israel” would pay for them one day.

The Venezuelan leader sent a message to the Palestinian people, in which he affirmed Venezuela’s, the Venezuelan people’s, and the leader Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution’s support for Palestine. He reiterated his neverending total support of Palestine as Venezuela loves Palestine, all its people, and all its factions.

“We wish Palestine well, and we have cooperation agreements with it – agreements that are going very well. We would like to give more for Palestine,” President Maduro said, calling on the peoples of the world, all of its leaders, all Arabs, and all Islamic leaders not to leave Palestine alone.

He voiced additional support for Palestine, saying it deserved unwavering and fearless support from all world leaders, saying “Palestine is crying out for help; Palestine is asking for your support, crimes are committed against it every day, and its youth are killed every day.”

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: #Palestine is crying out for help; Palestine is asking for your support, crimes are committed against it every day, and its youth are killed every day.#Venezuela@NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/40AGYxyd4C— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

Commenting on the latest events in occupied Palestine, namely the Israeli crimes, violations, and abuses, Maduro said the occupation’s crimes were indescribable, and are unmatched in this world, reaffirming his support for the Palestinian people, concluding by dedicating “a big kiss to the heart of Palestine.”

Syria will rise again with Assad

President Maduro talked about Syria and its president Bashar Al-Assad, describing him as a courageous, heroic, fighting man who has a beautiful family and a wonderful people, expressing his regret over what happened to Syria, saying it was “destined to endure a criminal terrorist war.”

Maduro affirmed that the Syrian people have suffered a lot throughout the last 11 years, and they knew how to preserve and win. The Syrian Arab Army, alongside the unified Syrian people and President Bashar Al-Assad, will make Syria rise again and fully liberate it, he declared. 

“The Arab world; the whole world will be amazed at how Syria will resurrect in the following years,” Maduro added.

Moreover, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry will undertake several initiatives in 2020 to reactivate cooperation between Arab countries and Latin America to establish links on both monetary and financial levels, the Venezuelan leader announced.

A lot of things could happen in the coming years between Venezuela and the Arab world, he emphasized, divulging his belief that it will happen.

“I want to use this interview with Al Mayadeen to call on all the leaders, peoples, and investors to invest in Venezuela,” he said.

The leader called his country the land of opportunities, which offers all constitutional and legal guarantees for investments in oil, gas, petrochemicals, tourism, gold, diamonds, iron, steel, aluminum, and foodstuffs.

I thank God for meeting Qassem Soleimani

Speaking about Iran, Maduro said relations with the Islamic Republic have always been really good, “Whether with former President Ahmadinejad, former President Hassan Rouhani, or now with President Ebrahim Raisi.”

Maduro said he agreed on several new plans with President Raisi, and the intergovernmental committee of both countries is working on these new projects which include networking and cooperation between Iran and Venezuela.

The Venezuelan president also voiced his admiration for Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, describing him as a man of great wisdom and great intelligence.

He revealed that former Quds Force commander martyr Major General Qassem Soleimani visited Venezuela between March and April 2019. “We were in the midst of the electrical crisis launched by the imperialists of the north against Venezuela’s electrical network,” touching on the conversation the two figures had on several areas of cooperation, including electricity. Maduro confirmed that all matters discussed between them went on to be implemented.

The Venezuelan President praised Major General Soleimani, “He was a smiley, optimistic man, and I thank God for ever meeting him.”

He further said, “Soleimani combated terrorism and the brutal terrorist criminals who attacked the peoples of the Axis of resistance. He was a brave man.”

He stressed the importance of learning from these horrific crimes, such as the crime of assassinating martyr Soleimani. “Is this a world we want, where we witness the White House issuing an order to kill a hero of the struggle against terrorism in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon?”

The world must raise its voice again, he underscored, “in condemnation of the murder of the people’s hero, Major General Soleimani.”

President Nicolas Maduro concluded by thanking Al Mayadeen for the attention it gives to peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and for constantly covering its news on social media, not to mention its cooperation with the Venezuelan TeleSur TV channel.

“We must make more effort toward our spiritual, cultural, and political unification, and we must learn from the struggle and path of each one of our countries,” he concluded.

Rania Khalek interviews Prof. Seyed Mohammad Marandi on JPCOA

TUESDAY 21 DEC 21

RANIA KHALEK 

This video describes the status of the negotiations on the JPCOA but is broader than that.  It also demonstrates how the USA negotiates.

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 1:20 What has been achieved, why hasn’t there been a restoration of the nuclear deal yet?
  • 9:02 US and Europe want to keep sanctions in place
  • 16:36 Who is being constructive vs obstructing the talks?
  • 20:25 Why should Iran even resume talks?
  • 29:10 Does Iran see a difference between Trump and Biden?
  • 32:29 Iranian liberals as extensions of the West
  • 35:53 Is war between Iran and the US inevitable?
  • 43:53 Consequences of the US Assassination of Qassem Suleimani
  • 58:57 The Gulf States reevaluate their relationship with Iran
  • 1:06:24 Iranian domestic politics under Raisi

Germany’s Traffic Light Coalition Blinks Green for NATO Hostility to Russia

December 17, 2021

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

Finian Cunningham

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

If there is a new traffic light in Berlin it’s showing no stops for further U.S. and NATO aggression in Europe.

The new German coalition government headed up by Chancellor Olaf Scholz is only one week in power but already the signals are pointing to Berlin being more amenable to U.S.-led NATO hostility towards Russia.

The “traffic light” coalition (based on party colours) comprises the Social Democrat Party led by Scholz in partnership with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. Scholz gave an inaugural address to the Bundestag this week as the new chancellor having replaced Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats after her 16 years in power.

Following Merkel’s reign, which was hallmarked by stability and her dominant personal style, all eyes will be on the new government in Berlin and its impact on transatlantic relations. Scholz, who is relatively unknown, and his administration could hardly be met with a more challenging time given the heightened tensions between, on the one hand, the U.S.-led NATO military alliance and the European Union, and on the other, Russia.

Berlin’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (who takes over from Heiko Maas) brings to her post a more vociferous, critical position towards Russia. Baerbock, a leading Green lawmaker, announced this week that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany is being put on hold due to alleged Russian aggression towards Ukraine. The pipeline was already being held up since completion in September by an industrial certification process. But now Baerbock has introduced a geopolitical factor to cancel the project. Before her ministerial post, she was known as a trenchant critic of Nord Stream 2, opposing it because she provocatively claimed, it allowed Russia to “blackmail Europe”, and also apparently on environmental grounds. Ironically, the alternative to Russian gas supply would be the import of American shale gas which is more expensive and dirty owing to its environmentally destructive extraction method. In her latest Nord Stream 2 pronouncement, the German foreign minister is sounding remarkably like U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in linking the project’s future to tensions over Ukraine and putative Russian invasion plans.

Baerbock has also been a long-standing advocate of expanding NATO eastwards and of closer transatlantic ties with the United States.

This eastward expansion of the military alliance is exactly what has caused apprehension in Moscow which views the bloc as threatening Russia’s national security from the potential for advanced positioning of nuclear missiles on Russian borders. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has urged U.S. President Joe Biden as well as British and French counterparts to implement legal guarantees to safeguard Russia’s security. Those guarantees would include a prohibition on NATO’s further eastward expansion to include membership access for former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia.

With Baerbock as Germany’s top diplomat, it is likely that Russia’s concerns will be given short shrift. As the strongest political force in the European Union, a more hardline German policy will ramify across the entire EU and reinforce the position of Russophobic members like Poland and the Baltic states.

As for the new chancellor, 63-year-old Scholz was formerly the finance minister in Merkel’s last coalition government. That administration was robustly supportive of the Nord Stream 2 partnership with Russia. Under Merkel, Berlin rebuffed Washington’s objections to the pipeline saying that it was a sovereign matter for Germany. Scholz himself had in the past spoken out against American meddling over Germany’s energy policy. The Biden administration appeared to respect Berlin’s independence on the issue by dropping threats of sanctions against participating companies. That background might suggest that the chancellor’s office would hold Baerbock’s foreign ministry in check.

However, the recent escalation of tensions over Ukraine fuelled by Washington’s claims that Russia is planning to invade the country has hardened Germany’s stance towards Moscow, in particular on the issue of expanding economic sanctions as “severe consequences” for alleged Russian aggression. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed the U.S. claims of invasion plans, but disconcertingly Germany and the rest of the EU have gone along with Washington’s narrative, accepting dubious American “intel” as if good coin, reminiscent of the WMD propaganda leading up the war on Iraq. That paradigm shift suggests a premeditated, orchestrated objective for the U.S. The Europeans have been suitably suckered into the ploy. And, at last, the Nord Stream 2 project is within target of Washington’s policy torpedoes.

In his address to the Bundestag this week, Scholz called for “constructive dialogue” with Russia to “stop the spiral of escalation”. He also called for “mutual understanding”. That may sound like an enlightened policy of diplomatic engagement. But then, disappointingly, Scholz vowed that Germany would “speak with one voice with our European partners and transatlantic allies”. That means Berlin is henceforth deferring to the position of Washington and Kiev in terms of determining response to the accepted narrative of “Russian aggression”.

Whatever the shortcomings of Merkel – she was no radical critic of Washington – but she at least was capable at times of exerting a modicum of independence. Her unwavering support for Nord Stream 2, for example, despite American pressure. Also more recently, it has emerged that Merkel reportedly blocked supplies of NATO weapons to Ukraine much to the annoyance of the Kiev regime.

Olaf Scholz does not come across, at least so far, as a strong leader. His mealy-mouthed talk about “sharing one voice” with the U.S. and “partners” like Ukraine, as well as his ready acceptance of spurious allegations about Russian aggression, indicate that the new Berlin government will be a pliable tool for Washington’s policy of hostility towards Russia.

Historically, it is ominous that the first German overseas military action since 1945 occurred in 1999 under an SPD-Green coalition. That was when Germany joined in the NATO bombing of Serbia. These parties are coalition partners again at another crucial time for Europe.

If there is a new traffic light in Berlin it’s showing no stops for further U.S. and NATO aggression in Europe.

Biden threatens Russia with dire sanctions if it attacks Ukraine

December 12, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen Net

US President Joe Biden says the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine is not an option.

US President Joe Biden threatened that Russia would pay a “terrible price”

US President Joe Biden said he has clearly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against invading Ukraine, threatening that Russia would pay a “terrible price” and face devastating economic consequences.

In Delaware, Biden told reporters that the possibility of sending US forces to Ukraine was “never on the table.”

Earlier, Biden said the United States would provide additional defense aid to Kiev beyond what it currently provides and support NATO allies in the Alliance’s eastern flank.

“The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on the cards right now,” Biden stressed. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies under Article Five. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to… Ukraine.”

Russia has the right to defend its security

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier that Moscow pursues a peaceful foreign policy but has the right to defend its security in the medium and long terms.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his talks with US President Joe Biden, the Russian President added that his recent online meeting with US President Joe Biden was “open and constructive.”

“The conversation was open, substantive, and constructive… We have the opportunity to continue this dialogue, it seems to me… this is the most important thing,” Putin stressed.

Kremlin described the talks as “frank” and said the Russian President requested Washington to provide guarantees NATO would not continue its eastward expansion.

The Biden administration had prepared $200 million worth of aid to Ukraine over the past few weeks but postponed it to give diplomacy a chance for a possible easing of tensions between Kiev and Moscow. 

Related Posts

IRG Chief Commander: Military Option against Iran off the Table

Dec 3, 2021

By Staff, Agencies 

The top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRG], Major General Hossein Salami, confirmed that his country has managed to wear down the enemy and deprive it of the so-called military option against the country.

During his visit to the southwestern Ilam province on Thursday, Salami said the military option against Iran is off the table, as the country has become too powerful to fall victim to foreign aggression.

“The Leader’s vision was to wear down and undermine the enemy and this craft blocked the enemy’s approach and removed every option from the enemy’s table,” he said in a speech, referring to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

He further stressed that the enemy has instead resorted to economic warfare and sanctions against Iran.
“The Islamic, Revolutionary Iran of today is powerful and any enemy knows that this territory is not to be occupied…and now they have resorted to economic war and sanctions,” the top commander said.

His remarks came amid the seventh round of talks between Iran and the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna, aimed at removal of cruel and draconian sanctions on Iran.

Crimes without Punishment – Ever

November 25, 2021

A protest against US military aid to Israel. (Photo: File)
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. 

What a chamber of horrors the third millennium has been so far in the Middle East, without even a quarter of it having passed.  Iraq, Syria and Yemen on a scale unimaginable even at the high point of imperialism in the 19th century. An estimated 300 children under five dying every day in Yemen from malnutrition, Palestinians shot dead in their occupied country every day, Lebanon and Syria slowly strangled by US sanctions, Iran threatened with military destruction and the revelation of yet another massacre by the US, in Syria, where “about” 70 women and children were killed at Baghuz by bombs dropped one after the other to make sure that no-one escaped.

There is no suggestion that anyone should be punished for yet another ‘mistake.’  This is where thousands of years of drawing up covenants to make the world a safer place have ended up:  back where we started,  the law of the jungle.

This is what the guardians of ‘western civilization’ have given to the world just in the past three decades:

Two wars on Iraq, the ‘cradle of civilization’ shattered by the cradle of a violent hamburger junk culture, millions killed or displaced. Libya, the most developed country in Africa, pulled up by its roots, uncounted thousands killed, the leader of its 1969 revolution slaughtered as Hillary Clinton cackled with glee like one of the witches around the cauldron in  Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Syria torn to pieces, ancient cities and markets destroyed, and half a million killed. In Yemen, more than 230,000 dead, with 43 percent of prematurely born babies dying because of the lack of medical equipment and a genocidal famine – 75 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition –  continuing even as fresh supplies of weaponry are dropped off in the Saudi kingdom by the US and Britain. Iran,  Syria and Lebanon targeted with economic sanctions: in occupied Palestine, in Syria and in Iran the Zionist state continues its murderous march through history.

Not one of the global criminals responsible for these massive crimes against humanity has been punished.  They play golf or roam the world picking up millions for their speaking engagements and their ‘philanthropic’ foundations. Not one word of contrition or remorse has been spoken by any of them for the lives they have ended or ruined. Not even the death of children has forced admission of guilt out of them.  Others have been punished for lesser crimes but not this gang. They are completely remorseless.

Imagine the reaction if these crimes were committed in Europe and white people were being slaughtered or driven out of their homes, out of their countries and drowning in their thousands as they tried to escape across the seas.

Well, between 1939-45 it did happen and those responsible were hanged at Nuremberg. We have no Nuremberg now but we do have an International Criminal Court (ICC) which does punish the architects of war crimes and crimes against humanity – as long as their skin is the right color. With the exception of pale-skinned Balkan Serbs charged after the breakup of Yugoslavia, all those hauled before the ICC have been brown or black.

The tsunami of death and destruction which began rolling across the region when Napoleon landed in Egypt in 1798 shows no sign of receding.  Almost no country from the Atlantic coast of West Africa down to the Arab Gulf has avoided being swamped by it and many have been swamped several times.

The prime beneficiary of all of the above in the past century has been the settler state implanted in Palestine after 1918. Israel is the heart and soul of US foreign policy. Indeed, US foreign policy is no more than the Stars and Stripes draped over the interests of the Zionist state.

Take Iran as an example. After the death of Ayatullah Khumayni, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami sought to repair relations with the US. They offered investment concessions, diplomatic rapprochement and a political pathway into a region of critical interest, central Asia. Iranian society is conservative and God-fearing, rather like the US itself, but as long as Rafsanjani and Khatami refused to drop Iran’s righteous defense of the Palestinians, nothing else counted. Even in the ‘moderate’ Khatami’s time, economic sanctions were tightened, paving the way for the election of the ‘hardliner,’ Mahmud Ahmedinejad.

The attempted strangulation of Iran and Syria through war, assassination and sanctions necessarily involves Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base.  Since the 1980s Hezbollah has successfully fought off all attempts by Israel – backed to the hilt by the US of course –  to destroy it.  Far from being weakened, Hezbollah has gone from strength to strength, militarily and as a Lebanese political party. The lesson learned by the US and Israel is just that they have to try harder,  to tear Lebanon apart if that is what it takes to destroy Hezbollah.

The latest provocation through Israel’s agents took place in Beirut on October 14, in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Chiyah, bordering predominantly Maronite Christian Ain Rummaneh, where the ‘bus massacre’ of 27 Palestinians on April 13, 1975, was the trigger pulled to start the civil war.

This time snipers positioned on rooftops shot at Amal and Hezbollah supporters as they moved towards the Palace of Justice in Al Tayouneh to hold a vigil calling for the removal of Tariq al Bitar as the judge appointed to investigate the Beirut port explosion on August 5, 2020, on the grounds that he is running a heavily politicized inquiry heading towards a preordained conclusion, that this was a crime committed by Hezbollah.

Holding Hezbollah or Syria responsible for the crimes they have not committed was first tried after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Initially, four ‘pro-Syrian’ generals were imprisoned for four years before an international tribunal took over the prosecution and released them for lack of evidence. It immediately pointed the finger at Hezbollah, eventually finding one person, Salim Ayyash, guilty of “involvement” on the sole basis of tapped phone calls made through communications networks known to have been completely penetrated and manipulated by the Zionist state.

The tribunal cleared Hezbollah’s leadership. What this actually means is that if the leadership did not order the assassination, no senior figure in the movement would have carried it out.   Nasrallah and Hariri had differences but a good working relationship and it is virtually unthinkable that Nasrallah would ever have sanctioned such a heinous act.

The only beneficiaries of this monstrous act were the US, Israel and their agents in Lebanon.  Syria was embarrassed internationally and had to withdraw its remaining forces from the Bika’a valley. Lebanon was thrown into the chaos that gave birth to the rise of the anti-Syrian/pro-Saudi, US and Israel March 14 alliance.

Hezbollah produced intercepted reconnaissance footage showing that Israel had been tracking Hariri with drones wherever he went for years and was flying an AWACS plane and another reconnaissance aircraft over Beirut at the precise time of the assassination.  One of its agents had been located at the scene of the killing only the day before.   None of this circumstantial evidence was ever followed up by the tribunal.    Israel and the US have shed buckets of blood in Lebanon over many decades, have between them committed the most atrocious crimes, but the tribunal never even considered them as suspects.

The snipers waiting on the top of apartment buildings in Tayouneh on October 14 killed seven people, one a woman shot dead in her own home. Not just on rooftops, however, but on the ground, the demonstrators were surrounded by militiamen waiting to ambush them with guns, knives and even rocks.   Despite denials by Samir Geagea (Ja’ja), the head of the fascist/sectarian Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces (LF), the armed men were clearly LF and acting on his orders.   Of the 19 arrested, several quickly implicated him.

Geagea is one of the most murderous individuals in Lebanese history, which says a lot given the bloody track record of many others. During the civil war (1976-1989) he killed rivals within his own Maronite Christian ranks as well as Palestinians and other enemies outside them.  In 1994 he was sentenced to four life sentences for the assassinations of former Prime Minister Rashid Karameh (1987), National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun (1990), Falangist (Kata’ib) head Elias al Zayek (1990) and the attempted assassination of Defence Minister Michel Murr (1991).  In 1978 he and Elie Hobeika, at the behest of Bashir Gemayel, then head of the Falangists, led 1200 men in an attack on the north Lebanon family home of Tony Frangieh, leader of the Maronite Marada (Giants) faction.  Geagea was wounded and had to be taken away before Frangieh, his wife and three-year-old daughter were killed.

In the 1990 attack, Dany Chamoun’s wife and two of his sons were also killed.   If there is any poetic justice in any of this shedding of blood – including entirely innocent blood – it lies in the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the car bombing murder in 2002 of Elie Hobeika, Israel’s leading henchman in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982.

Geagea himself served eleven years of four life sentences before being released under amnesty after the assassination of Hariri and allowed to take up the leadership of the LF. His brutality is a powerful weapon in the hands of Israel and the US, whose ambassador, Dorothy Shea, has been open in her interference in Lebanese politics.

US economic sanctions against Lebanon have one primary target, Hezbollah; one secondary target, Syria; and one-third target, Iran. How many Christians die defending ‘Christian Lebanon’ is not an issue for the US and Israel any more than the number of Muslims who die fighting them.  All they want is the chaos that will further their ambitions.  They tore Lebanon apart before and they will do it again, mercilessly, ruthlessly, callously, without a care for the innocent blood of thousands that will be shed.

Whatever cause Samir Geagea thinks he is serving, the piecemeal destruction of Lebanon, indeed of the entire Middle East, is primarily about the protection of Israel.  However, Israel is not as safe as it used to be or it might think it still is. It is confronted by enemies who have not backed off one meter from the struggle to liberate Palestine.  Israel has tried hard to destroy them. Up to now, it has failed, so it is getting ready to try again. While planning/contingency planning is a constant, Israel now appears to be actively preparing for a massive military strike that would target  Iran’s nuclear plants and missile capacity.

In September the Zionist chief of staff, Avi Kohavi, said plans for such a strike had been “greatly accelerated.” The military has been given an additional $1.5 billion to buy aircraft, drones and ‘bunker buster’ bombs that would probably include the USAF’s new 5000 lb. (2,267 kg.) GRU-72 Advanced 5k Penetrator, which would be aimed at Iran’s underground nuclear installations. Anticipating a simultaneous war with Hezbollah, Israel has also been carrying out extensive military exercises in northern occupied Palestine, coordinated with all emergency civil services to deal with an expected crisis on the domestic front once the missiles start falling. Israel is clearly planning for a big war, and can be expected to throw everything into this attempt to crush its principal enemies once and for all.

Unlike the white settlers in South Africa, the Zionist leadership sees no writing on the wall, no indications that history is not on their side even as it builds up against them.  No more than Netanyahu does Naftali Bennett have any intention of giving anything back to the Palestinians except the smallest fragments of municipal responsibility. Like Netanyahu, he sees no need to negotiate, no need to give anything away.  Why would he, when in the last resort Israel even has nuclear weapons to destroy its enemies? This is the question to which there can be no answer until the day comes when Israel faces the reality that even its conventional weapons are not sufficient to destroy its enemies.

All appearances to the contrary, unlimited US economic and military support has been a curse for Israel. It has created the illusion of power. Israel is like a plant with shallow roots. Only as long as the US keeps watering it, can the plant thrive. There is no permanent, unbreakable bond between states and all appearances to the contrary, there never will be between Israel and the US. Slowly, Americans are waking up and Israel’s incessant pleading is already beginning to fall on deaf ears, as the public becomes more aware of Israel’s criminality and as congressmen and women (mainly women) are emboldened to speak out. The time may come when the US can no longer afford Israel. The time may come when public opinion has changed to allow a US government to treat Israel as it treats other states.

US economic and military aid has had the same effect on Israel as steroids have on a bodybuilder. The 97-lb weakling is now the neighborhood bully swaggering down the street with pumped-up muscles. He smacks people around or they run in fright but Hezbollah and Iran are not running. They are standing firm and preparing to defend themselves. In any case, in the next war, Israel will take damage it has never experienced before, to the point where so many Jewish Israelis will just want to get out that Israel as a Zionist state is likely to crumble from within and die of its own contradictions.  Is this what it is going to take for peace to become possible?

Tourism is returning to Syria which is great news for the people and the world

Nov 14, 2021, RT.com

moi

by Eva K Bartlett

The wonders of Damascus, Aleppo and Palmyra are finally opening up to the world again after a decade of Western funded war.

Tourism is finally, slowly, beginning to return to Syria, from Jordan and further afield. Naturally, the governments that fueled terrorism in hopes of toppling Syria’s government are not happy about this development.

I haven’t seen much reporting on this momentous turn of events so far. However, one article I came across mentioned, “international tour agencies have started advertising trips to Syria for later this year and into early 2022,” writing that tours were booking quickly, from the UK and Germany.

This, albeit slow, return of tourism is a good thing—for the shattered economy and the tourists. Before the war, around 8.5 million tourists visited Syria in 2010. With its ancient cities and UNESCO heritage sites like Palmyra, Krak des Chevaliers, old Damascus, and old Aleppo, among others, Syria is a historian’s dream. Over the years, Syrians I’ve encountered frequently told me they wished tourists would return and, now, they can. Even I would like to return as a tourist, not a journalist, to just enjoy traveling across the country, taking in its amazing and ancient culture.

Beautiful Syria

While my fifteen visits to Syria since 2014 have been to report on events on the ground, and to refute the brazen lies of war propagandists in Beirut, Istanbul or still further abroad, I have also had the chance to see much of the country.

It would take far more room than I have here to write about the interesting experiences and beautiful things I’ve seen there (in addition to the tragic testimonies taken), so I’ll just choose a few and suggest those interested to browse the videos in my Syria playlist and likewise those of my colleague Vanessa Beeley, who lives in Syria.

Many who haven’t visited or studied Syria mistakenly assume it is all desert, but it is a rich tapestry of lush coastal regions, mountains, vast forests and lakes as well. During a six month stay last year, I had the chance to join an exploration group to hike and to camp in Latakia’s forests.

When I returned in March last year, I re-visited Aleppo, where city’s historic souks were being painstakingly restored. I saw a little more reconstruction than I had in previous visits, although the Western sanctions against Syria target reconstruction, in addition to crippling the economy and causing the devaluing of the Syrian pound—because that’s how America likes to help Syrians.

At the incredible Aleppo citadel a year prior, I spent an afternoon wandering around, speaking with people, seeing families enjoying themselves, couples holding hands, kids playing, youths dancing…This freedom of movement and enjoyment of life was impossible under the rule of the terrorists whom the West dubbed “rebels”.

Visiting Syria will be not only a fascinating touristic experience, but a profoundly moving one, with each encounter ramming home how terribly the Syrian people have suffered during the war.

In Aleppo last March, I met a man traumatized by the torture he had endured by these Western-backed mercenaries, kept in underground prisons, often in solitary confinement. These underground prisons were common in areas terrorists occupied around Syria.

When I visited the Old City of Homs after its liberation in 2014, the destruction its ancient churches was still fresh.

Volunteers have planted a garden in the courtyard of the burned St. Mary’s Church in Homs. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS
Volunteers have planted a garden in the courtyard of the burned St. Mary’s Church in Homs. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS

Similarly, in 2014 when I visited ancient Maaloula (where Aramaic is still spoken) just following its liberation, the damage to its ancient monasteries and homes was visible, soot still on walls from fires terrorists set.

Unique altar from around 325 AD smashed by plundering terrorists.
Terrorists mortared the dome of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus church.
Cave where terrorists holed up.
Nusra & co-mortared and looted church in the 4th century A.D. Monastery of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus
Terrorists mortared the dome of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus church.
Where Virgin Mary statue once stood.
Clifftop vantage from which to terrorize villagers below.

In 2016 when I revisited, much restoration had been done.

When I went back in September 2018, during the Festival of the Cross, I attended mass and joined the celebrations afterwards, where men carried others on their shoulders, swigging Arak in the main square, and entire families climbed up the mountainside to celebrate late into the evening, fire spinners creating mesmerizing blazes.

A friend from the village, Abdo Haddad, summarized the importance of the Festival of the Cross:

“Tonight we are celebrating the finding of the cross that happened 1700 years ago. This celebration is represented by putting fire on top of the mountains, from Jerusalem to Constantinople, to tell the people in Constantinople that the cross was found. Maaloula is the only place in the world that is still celebrating this custom. The only time that this custom stopped is when the so-called rebels and other ‘revolution’ people in Syria invaded Maaloula, and instead of putting fire on top of the mountain, they put our houses on fire.”

Had terrorism succeeded there, or across Syria, a rich culture and history would have been erased.

The City of Jasmine

During much of my time last year in Syria I was in Damascus, and I walked around the city daily, getting to know it like I had never had the time to before.

In Damascus, there is ancient history, culture and art everywhere you walk. Fragrant jasmine & bright bougainvillea adorn walls and archways. You can catch a concert at the beautiful Opera House, first class seating, for the equivalent of a dollar.

No, most Syrians can’t afford this now thanks to the shattered economy, but they used to be able to.

Walking around the city you can encounter musicians sitting on the remnants of a historic column and playing for the enjoyment of locals, likewise find oud players, and at night find youths gathered in a central Old City park, playing guitar and singing.

While wandering along the historic Straight Street, you pass endless shops selling handmade crafts and antiques. You’ll find artisans carrying on historic traditions, carving wood, hammering intricate patterns of inlaid silver, creating incredible wood and shell mosaics to adorn furniture, weavers, glass blowers and more. Elsewhere, you’ll find herbal medicine shops with items I can’t even name in English, stores with beautiful pyramids of spices, and the historic markets near the beautiful Umayyad Mosque.

And while most of my encounters have been in Arabic, you will find some English speakers, some due to the nature of their work, others because they have lived abroad. Many will tell you that they support their president, and why.

In the winding back lanes you’ll see men delivering fresh milk by bicycle, kids playing football, and encounter residents eager to talk with foreigners again, equally eager to emphasize that media has been lying about events in Syria. Some are happy to show you around their old Damascene homes (damaged by terrorists’ mortars).

In the many antique shops of the old city, you’ll find exquisitely-carved furniture, ornate chandeliers, and shop owners keen to speak to tourists again, inevitably speaking longingly of how good it was in Syria before the war.

A recent report on a visit to Syria by twelve Jewish New Yorkers, who had left the country some decades ago, revealed they were welcomed by the city residents with open arms, with one of the visitors saying, “We went to shops in every place. They got to know us and said to us, ‘Welcome, this is your country, why aren’t you coming back? Look what happened to the country, please come back.’”

Given the monstrous war propaganda against Syria and Syrians this past decade, people might be surprised by the warm reception the US-based Jews got but that’s the thing about Syrians: they by and large don’t do sectarianism. That was foisted upon them by truly sectarian, tyrannical, entities like Saudi Arabia.

In my many visits to Syria, I’ve had countless encounters with Syrians telling me how they share holidays with their friends of other faiths. And if you visit Syria over Christmas and New Years, you’ll find Muslims going to the holy Christian sites in Old Damascus, and posing for photos in front of Christmas trees in al-Qassaa. Likewise, during ‘Eid holidays, you’ll see streets filled with Muslims and Christians, celebrating and eating together.

After so many years of being terrorized by terrorist mortars, missiles and snipers, as Syrians around the country were, Syrians in Damascus are finally able to walk their streets without fear of being maimed or murdered. The current terrorism they face is the West’s war on the Syrian economy.

Moving On

On Tuesday, the UAE’s foreign minister met with President Assad, in Damascus, another sign of the thawing of relations from countries that turned their backs on Syria. This follows Jordan’s reopening of its Syrian border and resumption of tourism.

The US, predictably, is crying about this turn of events.

Annoyed that countries are renewing ties with Syria, wretched Western politicians continue to make allegations about Syria that have been refuted, like a chemical attack in Douma, or repeating the initial lies about Syria: lies about peaceful protests and a revolution in the country, long-exposed lies that they should be ashamed to utter in 2021.

But, no matter how much hypocritical US representatives denounce Syria, those sociopaths who backed terrorism in Syria have lost the war, and Syria will re-build. backed terrorism in Syria have lost the war, and Syria will re-build. So, yes, it is a very good thing for Syrians that foreign visitors will return to that beautiful country and put money into its economy. And for the tourists: the only real thing you will be disappointed in if you visit Syria is your time there coming to an end.

RELATED LINKS:

Syria playlist (youtube)

SYRIA: My Published Articles From and on Syria (2014-2021)

There are positive developments on the ground in Syria, but for America it’s sanctions and suffering as usual

A Western-backed war couldn’t destroy Syria, now sanctions are starving its people

Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”

Devastation…and Inspiration: Recalling Liberated Ma’loula

Overcoming Savagery and Treachery, Maaloula’s Heroic Defenders Fight for the Future

The Terrorism We Support in Syria: A First-hand Account of the Use of Mortars against Civilians

University Hospital, Damascus: Meeting Victims of Western-backed Mortar and Rocket Terrorism

Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria

Syria: NOT A Revolution! (video)

Olive Harvest Season: Another Palestinian Struggle against “Israel’s” Eco-Terrorism

Nov 13 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Rasha Reslan

Traditionally a festive season, this year’s olive harvest is once again overshadowed by Israeli vandalism and assaults, resulting in low yields due to the devastating impacts of the Israeli eco-terrorism.

The olive harvest season is yet another Palestinian struggle in the face of the colonial Israeli entity.

It could and should have been a seasonal family celebration. It could and should have been a peaceful encounter with nature. It could and should have been a harvest in the grove, where trees are tightly enrooted and extend as deep as Palestinian ancestors. It could and should have been the annual olive oil harvest season…

Instead, it is yet another Palestinian struggle in the face of a colonial Israeli entity.

“Israel” could not care less about mankind; would it care about an olive tree?” – Abed from the occupied West Bank.

Every year, the olive harvest takes place in Palestine in October and November. Unfortunately, it is not the usual harvest festival, as Palestinian farmers face a triple challenge, particularly in the occupied West Bank, according to a recent report published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“My olives bear the brunt of Israeli aggression.” – A 60-year-old Palestinian woman from Salem village, east of Nablus city.

The triple challenge

The first is Israeli settlers, guarded by occupation forces, escalating their daily assaults against Palestinian farmers and their property. The second is “Israel” imposing access restrictions on farmers whose groves are located behind the separation barrier and close to Israeli settlements. The last is “Israel’s” acts of ecological terrorism that have long-lasting effects on climate.

“When I was a first-grader, I used to walk to school on footpath amid green plants at an olive orchid with my brother. As I became a freshmen student, the olive orchid was razed and an Israeli settlement was built in its place. “- Mohammad from Raba, a village in the West Bank village.

The nightmare season

To no one’s surprise, this harvest season too was disrupted by Israeli settlers, who physically assaulted farmers, vandalized or set fire to their trees, or harvested and stole their produce.

Last month, Israeli settlers committed daily assaults against Palestinians harvesting their olive season. In the West Bank, 365 Israeli settlers attacks were reported. This year, almost 8,000 olive trees have already been uprooted, although the season is not over yet.

“Life’s work disappeared in a second.”- Fouad from Raba.

“It’s like watching your children being cut down in front of you.”

Furthermore, ICRC data revealed that “over the period of one year (August 2020 – August 2021) more than 9,300 trees were destroyed in the occupied West Bank.”

“Here is what our eyes saw: a barren land, and dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of dead olive trees.” – Mona from the occupied West Bank.

“My uncle had a stroke at the sight of the trees being cut in front of him,” Mona added.

According to a study published in 2012 by the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), Israeli occupation forces have uprooted 800,000 Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank since 1967.

In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen English, Lobby and Advocacy Director at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) Moayyad Bsharat said that the UAWC has organized a yearly campaign to help Palestinian farmers in their olives harvest season, adding that 250 volunteers from several Palestinian universities have participated in this year’s campaign.

Bsharat further stated that 95 Israeli attacks against Palestinians have been reported during the campaign.

He also commented on “Israel’s” decision to designate UAWC among five other Palestinian organizations as “terrorist”, saying, as a Palestinian agricultural institution, we have been subjected to persecution and incitement campaigns by Israeli organizations for more than ten years. 

“The occupation and its settlers have a racist colonial project in the region, which is not restricted to plundering, confiscating, and occupying the land, but extends to uprooting the Palestinians entirely from it.”

“I mean, this classification presents “Israel” as a rogue entity against international law. If you review the Security Council’s definition of terrorism, you will find it embodied entirely in the occupation and its settlers. It is the one who kills children and women, arrests innocent civilians, and demolishes homes …”, he stressed.

“For us, the Israeli occupation’s decision is an intense expression of the size and importance of the work we are doing, and this is a renewed affirmation that we will pursue our mission and will not leave the Palestinian farmers who are facing the occupation on their own,” Bsharat concluded.

“I cannot enter my land” 

“I have 20 Dunams of olive trees. I cannot enter my land. The Israeli occupation forces prevent us from passing; they assault us whenever they see us in the area. They steal our water and vandalize our trees. I am in constant fear of losing my land and my tress.”

Palestinian farmers are deprived of their basic right to access their land, except for a few days a year. Meanwhile, Israeli permit approval rates have been diminishing over the years. The year-round restrictive access regime in these areas, which impedes essential agricultural activities, has continued to have an impact on olive productivity and value.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the approval rate fell from 71% of applications in 2014 to 37% in 2019. The rate further declined in 2020 to 24%. Furthermore, the Israeli authorities issued new standing regulations in September 2019 that limit the number of days farmers can access their land.

No other income 

Many Palestinian families rely on olive trees for their primary source of income, and vandalized trees mean less income and fewer opportunities for Palestinian families in general, and children in particular. The entire olive sector, including olive oil, table olives, pickles, and soap, is worth over $100 million per year, according to Oxfam International.

According to UN figures, olive trees cover approximately 48% of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza. Olive trees account for 70% of fruit production in Palestine and approximately for 14% of the Palestinian economy. 93% of the olive harvest is used to make olive oil.

“I don’t have any other income. I was counting on this harvest season to provide food to the table and to admit my son to college. After the Israeli settlers uprooted my olive trees, I cannot afford anything. My son just lost his hope of going to the university.”- Moaed from the West Bank.

West Bank trade remains largely isolated from global markets due to restrictions imposed on the movement of goods to, from, and within the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a July 2011 study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“My loss is so devastating to my family and my co-workers. I could not export our virgin olive oil because of the Israeli harsh restrictions. It is so hard for us to accept this nightmare.”- Zakaria from the occupied West Bank.

“We are the olive trees”

“Our relationship with the olive trees is untypical. It is not just a tree. It is part of my childhood memory,” explains a smiling Abed under an ancient 12-meter olive tree.

“Olive trees are a constant reminder that the danger is nearing us. The colonial entity aims to uproot our identities and construct a new identity which is different from ours”, Abed sighs.

In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen English, the young Palestinian man, speaking emotionally, added that “Israel” wants to erase his memories and banish him from existence, affirming that the Palestinian olive tree is a symbol. 

“We are the olive trees. It symbolizes how the colonial Israeli entity wants to uproot Palestinians and expel them from their own land, just like it uproots an olive tree; “Israel” wants to kill me in the same way it kills an olive tree and builds a new future on our past”.

Abed commented on the famous photo of an old Palestinian woman holding onto an olive tree, by saying that this Palestinian woman is not holding onto the tree because it is a tree. “The olive tree symbolizes her childhood, her first love, her first family gathering, her roots, and her fear of being uprooted from her land.”

“The Olive tree is so important since it represents our Palestinian identity. It is directly related to our land, our steadfastness, and our resilience”. 

“And just as they uproot our olive trees and we replant them, we will liberate Palestine and return to Palestine, all of Palestine,” he concluded.

Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad: ‘Change’ in International Attitude Towards Syria

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on 

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/01213020/FADt0VQWQAAsWEX.jpg

Esteban CarrilloForeign and Expatriates Minister Faysal Mikdad confirmed a ‘change’ in the international political environment towards Syria in comments to Syrian media on 30 September.

Mikdad’s comments come amidst an opening of reconciliation between West, Gulf states and Syria

In comments to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Mikdad said that “the change has reflected the achievements of the Syrian Arab Army, in cooperation with allies and friends, on the ground in the war against terrorism.”

On 20 September, Mikdad led a Syrian delegation to a UN meeting in New York, where he also met with Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Felix Plasencia Gonzalez, on strengthening bilateral ties between Syria and Venezuela.

Regarding the General Assembly meetings, Mikdad said that while some countries, referring to the United States, continue to practice ‘economic terrorism,’ there was nonetheless a clear ‘retreat’ of the ‘hostile stance’ on Syria.

The Foreign Minister, appointed by Bashar al-Assad in November 2020, added that while Syria welcomes the “openness to the return of normal relations” with the UN and Western nations, he made clear that Syria “will not submit to pressures nor accept any political conditions.”

He also expressed optimism and the prospect of improved relations and cooperation with Syria and its Arab neighbors, following talks held between Syria and Egypt at the New York General Assembly.

In recent years, a number of Arab states, many of whom stood against Syria during the US and Gulf backed war, have sought rapproachment with Damascus.

With the UAE currently leading reconciliation efforts between Gulf Arab states and their allies, even Saudi Arabia reopened secret lines of communication between itself and Damascus, hoping to rectify ties.

Meanwhile, a number of developments between Jordan and Syria have advanced the increased diplomacy and economic cooperation between the two.

Jordan announced on 27 September that the Jaber–Nassib border crossing between itself and Syria will be reopened two days from the date for both freight and travelers.

On 29 September, this main border crossing was opened as planned, and direct flights to Damascus resumed.

Lebanon’s General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim told The Cradle last week that he ‘totally’ is in favor of ‘open borders with Syria.

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Raisi: US Efforts to Impose Hegemony Have ‘Failed Miserably’

September 22, 2021

Raisi: US Efforts to Impose Hegemony Have ‘Failed Miserably’

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian President Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi said the US efforts to impose hegemony on other countries have “failed miserably,” and that Washington’s hegemonic system lacks credibility.

Raisi made the remarks during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly via video conference on Tuesday night, in his first address to the main policy-making organ of the world body since taking office last month.

“This year, two scenes made history: one was on January 6 when the US congress was attacked by the people and, two, when the people of Afghanistan were dropped down from the US planes in August. From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: the US’ hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” Raisi told the UN General Assembly.

“What is seen in our region today proves that not only the hegemonist and the idea of hegemony, but also the project of imposing Westernized identity have failed miserably. The result of seeking hegemony has been blood-spilling and instability and, ultimately, defeat and escape. Today, the US does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled,” he added.

The Iranian president further noted that Washington is using sanctions as a “new way of war” against other nations, stressing that the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic during the coronavirus pandemic are “crimes against humanity.”

“Sanctions are the US’ new way of war with the world countries. Sanctions against the Iranian nation started not with my country’s nuclear program; they even predate the Islamic Revolution and go back to the year 1951 when oil nationalization went underway in Iran,” Raisi said at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Despite the fact that the Islamic Republic was keen from the outset to purchase and import COVID-19 vaccines from reliable international sources, it faced inhumane medical sanctions. Sanctions, especially on medicine at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, are crimes against humanity,” he noted.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president stressed that Tehran has been adhering to its nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] while Washington violated the 2015 landmark accord‎, stressing that the US so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran has failed.

“Today, the whole world, including the Americans themselves, have admitted that the project of countering the Iranian people, which manifested itself in the form of violating the JCPOA and was followed by the “maximum pressure” and arbitrary withdrawal from an internationally recognized agreement, has totally failed,” Raisi said.

“We want nothing more than what is rightfully ours. We demand the implementation of international rules. All parties must stay true to the nuclear deal and the UN Resolution in practice,” he added.

Raisi also said that Iran has “no trust in US promises,” and wants all anti-Tehran sanctions to be removed at once, noting that the Islamic Republic considers the nuclear talks useful only when their ultimate outcome is the lifting of all unilateral sanctions.

Lebanon to Prevail Despite US-‘Israeli’ Efforts to Sabotage Its Resistance

 July 27, 2021

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By Mohammad Youssef

Lebanon is a country which is crisis-bred. The state is plagued with a series of Isms; sectarianism, confessionalism, and nepotism. This has brought the whole political system into complete paralysis. Ever since its establishment under the French mandate Lebanon has suffered from deep structural dilemmas.

The elite or the founding fathers of the state has prescribed a recipe that rendered it vulnerable to all kinds of problems and calamities.

The country of the elite that was introduced once as Switzerland of the orient is suffering now from a myriad of very serious problems; political, economic, social, financial and monetary ones. Researchers and scholars have designated Lebanon crisis as one of the worst in the world in the last 150 years.

Lebanon imports everything and rarely exports any. The budget deficit is immense. The price of basics whether food, medication and fuel is skyrocketing. The value of the Lebanese lira to dollar is dwindling dramatically; hence most of the consumed materials come from abroad, dollars should be paid at a time when the country is running out of the hard currency. As the value of the dollar is going up, the Majority of the Lebanese families cannot afford the basics. More segments of the society are joining the poverty underline.

On the state level, most of the governmental sectors are on the verge of collapse.

The state as earlier mentioned has been established as a corporate business investment to serve a very limited elite and few families. People has no value or any worth to them, they could simply lock down their business without any consideration to the sufferings of the people.

What is worth mentioning is that the structural ailments of the Lebanese political system that has been created and shepherd by the Western countries are not the only cause for its ominous crisis; what exacerbated the situation is the continuous American siege against Lebanon which was culminated by the sanctions against Lebanon and Syria.

The US administration has a single goal; guaranteeing the Zionist entity security and eliminating any threat or obstacle to its settlement expansionist occupation plots. Because of its triumphant resistance, Lebanon nowadays represents an existential threat to US-‘Israeli’ plots against Lebanon and the region. As the US and ‘Israel’ tried every aspect possible to eliminate this threat to no avail, they are trying now to weaken it by pressuring the people on every level in an attempt to plans a wedge between the resistance and its supporters.

Once again be assured, the US-‘Israeli’ efforts to sabotage the resistance strength will not work.

Indeed, the situation is very difficult, and the hardships are many, nonetheless the resolve and determination to confront is very willful obstinate. A new stage of challenges are on the run but we will not run out of faith. No threats without opportunities. We will face and resist, and we will definitely get the best. They will fail, we will prevail, God willing.

Al-Assad’s Vow and Syria’s Comeback

15 July 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Rasha Reslan

Ahead of the Syrian President’s much-awaited inauguration speech, here is a quick review of how al-Assad stepped in and boosted his country’s stature and resources during his first term, despite a global military war and extreme economic sanctions.

Recent victory in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad
The recent victory in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad

On Saturday, July 17, Bashar al-Assad will begin his new term as Syria’s President, setting his policies for 2021-2028.

On May 27, the Syrian government’s official Twitter account posted: “The Syrians had their say. Bashar al-Assad wins the presidential elections of the Syrian Arab Republic after obtaining 95.1% of the votes at home and abroad.”

The victory achieved in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad, the President who managed not only to defeat a global conspiracy against his country but also to bring Syria back to life, against all odds and despite one of the world’s most brutal decade-old wars.

Al-Assad’s First Term: The Survival of the Fittest

During the period between 2014-2021, the conspiracy plan against Syria rapidly escalated. Hundreds of foreign fighters and armed groups sprung up, and it did not take long before the conflict turned into more than just a battle between the Syrian army and terrorist groups. Certain foreign powers took the anti-government side, supporting it with money, weaponry, and armed groups, and as the wreaked chaos worsened, the grip of western-backed extremist organizations, such as “ISIS” and “al-Qaeda”, tightened. 

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad didn’t flee his country. On the contrary, he got off to a fresh strong start. By most measures, he stood with his country, despite gloomy clouds and rumbling storms. His overall strategy booted terrorist groups out of major Syrian cities. On the personal level, al-Assad always scores high for his attributes, as most Syrians like the way he conducts himself as president.

Terrorist Groups Fall in Syria

At its height, as terrorist groups held about a third of Syria; al-Assad, the Syrian army, and Syria’s allies redefined victory in a thundering War on Terror. The so-called “US-led global coalition” carried out airstrikes and deployed “Special Forces” in Syria, providing financial and logistical support for the terrorist groups since 2014. 

US-backed terrorist groups in Syria
US-backed terrorist groups in Syria

Syria’s key supporters have been Russia and Iran, while Western powers and several Gulf Arab states have backed terrorist groups in varying degrees over the past decade.

By December 2017, terrorist groups started to suffer key losses in Aleppo, Raqqa, and other strongholds. In 2018, the focus of the campaign against the terrorists shifted to eastern Syria. In 2019, they lost their last bastion in eastern Syria, in Baghouz village, after which Syria declared victory over terrorism.

Today, the country is almost clean from armed groups except for the presence of dormant cells along the border with Iraq and in Idlib (a city in northwestern Syria).

US Sanctions:  A Trifling Opening Shot

US support for terrorist groups in Syria was a shot in the dark, and as it failed to win the military war on Syria, they initiated a new type of war represented by Caesar sanctions. 

In mid-June 2020, the US government announced the implementation of the “Caesar Act” with a flurry of sanctions. Yet a closer look at the 15 sanctions by the US Department of State and the 24 sanctions by the Department of Treasury reveals a brutal plan to destroy Syria’s economy and inflict utmost suffering on its people.

A Desperate Plan within a Failed One

Apropos the US military and economic war on Syria, there is much more yet to come. Syria and its allies have succeeded in defeating the flurry of sanctions aimed at stopping the al-Assad government from reconstructing Syria. They also buried a US plan to change the demography of Syrian and divide the country. 

Rebuilding Syria’s Future 

The main question remains: How will the future of Syria unfold? At the dawn of al-Assad’s new term, Syria continues to stand strong and united. Furthermore, the Syrians have high hopes that their President will take effective actions in the course of boosting the economy and achieving overall prosperity, despite the US sanctions.  

Besides, al-Assad exerted strained efforts to reconstruct his country, focusing on projects with the highest likelihood of significant economic returns and benefits to quality of life. In other words, al-Assad, side by side with his people, is conveying a clear message to the world which declares the end of the global war on Syria; al-Assad will remain in power, treading the path of Syria out of all the challenges and crises. Syria’s allies also plan to be on hand as al-Assad rebuilds Syria to help it rise from the ashes, by handling the security and economic threats imposed on Syria.

The Second Term: Defying the Odds

To put things into perspective, the last election witnessed al-Assad securing almost 95.1% of the votes, so this cannot but be seen as a sign of strength for Syria and al-Assad himself, as well as his electoral campaign.

Today, the elections had taken place, and Syria has come out victorious, with an insistence on maintaining its vital role, considering that al-Assad plans to finance the infrastructure that the terrorist groups have been targeting and bombing for the past 10 years.

The Syrian President will also tackle the US sanctions on Syria, aiming to accelerate economic growth, strengthen society, and encourage youth empowerment.


What is Syria?

لبنان: الكارثة المتفاقمة والحلول الغائبة!؟

العميد د. امين محمد حطيط

في العام 1967 أحجم لبنان عن دخول الحرب التي شنّتها «إسرائيل» على دول الطوق يومها بذريعة الضعف وعدم القدرة الدفاعية التي تحمي أرضه، ولما انتهت الحرب بعد أيامها الستة المعدودة ارتدّت «إسرائيل» على لبنان فألغت اتفاقية الهدنة معه من جانب واحد وشرعت في قضم أرض لبنانيّة في مزارع شبعا، القضم الذي استمرّ حتى العام 1973، حيث سيطرت «إسرائيل» على كامل المزارع ولم يحرك لبنان ساكناً خشية أن يُضمّ إلى القرار 242 ويضطر للتفاوض على الأرض ويسقط الحدود الثابتة باتفاقية «بوليه نيوكمب» 1923 والمؤكد عليها باتفاقية الهدنة 1949. ومن جهة أخرى نذكر أيضاً بأنّ لبنان الذي لم يشارك في حرب 1967 والتزم سياسة الحياد فيها من أجل حماية اقتصاده على أبواب فصل الصيف يومها وجد اقتصاده بعد الحرب ينهار ويظهر بأنه ضحية لتلك الحرب التي وضعت حداً للطفرة والنمو الاقتصادي اللبناني وتسبّبت بزعزعة أركانه أو لنقل هزة كبرى غيّرت مسارات النمو ووضعت حداً للبحبوحة. 

بدأت بذكر هذه الواقعة اليوم ليس من أجل السرد التاريخيّ طبعاً، ولكن من أجل الإشارة إلى حقيقة ثابتة في تاريخ لبنان مفادها القول إنّ تجنّب المواجهة أو الاتجاه إلى الحياد أو كما يُقال ابتداعاً وخرافة لبنانية «النأي بالنفس»، أنّ كلّ ذلك لا يضمن دائماً الحقوق ولا يؤدّي إلى حمايتها ولا يمكن من استرجاعها إنْ اغتصبت، خاصة إذا كان العدو الذي يهدّد تلك الحقوق من نسخة وطبيعة العدو «الإسرائيلي» وكان المُعتدى عليه دولة كلبنان واهنة هشة في نظامها وسلطتها وماليتها. اليوم تكاد الصورة ذاتها تستعاد، إذ إنّ لبنان الرسمي وفي مواجهة الحرب الكونية التي شنّت على سورية وعلى محور المقاومة زعم انه التزم سياسة «النأي بالنفس»! وهي أغرب بدعة يمكن أن يتسامع بها في العلاقات الدولية، خاصة اذا كانت الدولة متشابكة مع محيطها اللصيق في الجغرافية والتاريخ والديمغرافية والاقتصاد، ولو لم تبادر المقاومة لامتشاق السلاح والدفاع عن لبنان على الأرض السورية ابتداء ثم على الأرض اللبنانية هي والجيش اللبناني بعد وصول العماد ميشال عون إلى رئاسة الجمهورية، لكان الإرهابيون فعلوا في لبنان ما سبق لهم وارتكبوه من جرائم القتل والتشريد والتخريب والتدمير التي ارتكبوها في سورية والعراق. 

لقد استطاعت المقاومة بقرارها الأوّلي الذي لم يتوقف عند «سياسة النأي بالنفس» الغبية، أن تحمي لبنان من الإرهاب، لكن الحرب الكونيّة التي قادتها أميركا ومعها «إسرائيل» ضدّ سورية لم تكن عسكرية فقط، بل تعدّدت صنوفها وسقوفها وأشكالها وشملت في ما شملت الحرب الاقتصادية والإرهاب الاقتصادي، وهنا بدل أن يساهم لبنان في تخفيف آثار العدوان على سورية ويدافع عن نفسه عبرها خاصة بعد أن وضع قانون قيصر الأميركي موضع التنفيذ وهو القانون الذي ادّعت أميركا كذباً انه لا يمسّ لبنان، فقد كان العكس تماماً حيث ساهم الممسكون بالقرار الاقتصادي والمالي في لبنان في الحرب على سورية بشكل إجرامي وحرموا السوريين من أموالهم المودعة في لبنان كما حرموا المودعين اللبنانيين أيضاً من مالهم وطبّقوا «قانون قيصر» بشكل أسوأ مما كان يطلب واضعوه الأميركيون، وظنّ هؤلاء جهلاً او ارتهاناً بأنّ في ذلك كسباً للرضا الأميركي وصيانة للاقتصاد اللبناني، وأغفل هؤلاء أيضاً ما حاكته أميركا للبنان من خطة عدوان هي خطة بومبيو التي تتضمّن الانهيار الاقتصادي والمالي. 

وهكذا تأكد على أرض الواقع بأنّ الحرب الاقتصادية على سورية شملت لبنان وكشفت عوراته الاقتصادية والمالية دفعة واحدة وأظهرت على الطبيعة الكارثة الاقتصادية الحقيقية التي يعيشها لبنان بسبب نهب الأموال العامة من قبل المسؤولين وبسبب الفساد المستشري في الإدارة العامة وعلى كلّ الصعد، وبسبب سياسة الامتيازات والاحتكارات والوكالات الحصرية، وبسب السرقات المبرمجة بما أُسمي الهندسات المالية التي وضعها حاكم مصرف لبنان ما أدّى إلى إثراء المصارف وإغنائها من مال المودعين من لبنانيين وغير لبنانيين ومنهم سوريين قيل إن رصيد ودائعهم في لبنان تخطى الـ 25 مليار دولار. هكذا وبلمح البصر انكشف الاقتصاد اللبناني وظهر وهنه وخواؤه وظهرت الطبقة السياسية والاقتصادية والمالية على حقيقتها بأنها زمر من اللصوص منهم الكثير من العملاء للخارج، والفاسدون المفسدون الذين قادوا لبنان إلى الانهيار والجوع والبطالة والويلات. 

لم تكن الحرب الاقتصادية على سورية وخطة بومبيو الإجراميّة هي السبب الوحيد للانهيار الاقتصادي اللبناني، بل كانت تلك الحرب أحد الأسباب التي فاقمت الأزمة والسبب الرئيسي الذي كشف عن الحقيقة. وشكلت رداً مباشراً وعملياً على أولئك الذين فاخروا بسياسة النأي بالنفس وقاطعوا سورية وامتنعوا حتى عن الحديث معها لا بل إنّ مسؤولين كباراً يعلم القاصي والداني أنّ الرعاية السورية هي التي بنت لهم مواقعهم وأنتجت لهم أمجاداً يتغنون بها الآن، قاطعوا سورية وعملوا مع أميركا ضدها بشكل بشع. 

إنّ مأساة لبنان باتت حقيقية كارثية قائمة، والكارثة الأفظع هي عدم الاعتراف بالمسؤولية عنها والإصرار على التمسك بالأشخاص والأساليب ذاتها التي أدت إلى الكارثة، متناسين الحكمة القائلة بانّ «المقدمات ذاتها تؤدي إلى النتائج ذاتها» أو أن تطابق المقدّمات يحكم بتطابق النتائج، وبالتالي فإنّ تماثل الأشخاص والأدوات والأساليب يؤدّي إلى نتائج متماثلة. وفي حالنا يعني أنّ لبنان سيكون أمام مأساة تتفاقم وليس أمام إشكالية يتبعها حلّ. 

والغريب في الأمر أنّ من يتفحّص مسارات وآلية البحث عن حلّ لمأساة لبنان يصاب بالذهول، حيث إنه يجد أولاً أن المتسبّبين بالكارثة هم أنفسهم يستأثرون بالبحث عن حل بعد أن أوكل إليهم أمر الإخراج منها، وأنّ أدوات إنتاج الكارثة هي نفسها الأدوات التي يتمّ التمسك بها والأفظع من ذلك هي الدعوة أو الإصرار على سياسة العزلة والنأي بالنفس أو ما ابتدع بتسميته «الحياد الناشط» الذي ليس له مكان في القانون إلا في أوهام وخيال مَن يطلقه. 

أما الحلّ الذي نراه فإنه يجب أن يُرسى على قوائم ثلاث تتمثل بإصلاح سياسي واقتصادي ومالي. ففي السياسة لا بدّ من تغيّر أو إصلاح جذري يضع حداً للطبقة السياسية الفاسدة التي ترفع شعار حقوق الطائفة وتنهب أموال الطائفة والوطن والمجيء بمن يعمل للوطن والدولة والشعب ولا يكون مطواعاً للخارج. وفي الاقتصاد يجب أن يقوم الإصلاح على شقين أو فرعين فرع في الماهية وعبره نتحوّل إلى الاقتصاد الإنتاجي الذي قضت عليه سياسات ما بعد 1992، وفرع استراتيجي يقوم على الاندماج الاقتصادي التكاملي مع المحيط وبشكل خاص الدول العربية الثلاث التي توجّه اليها الرئيس ميشال عون بمبادرته طارحاً السوق الاقتصادية المشرقية، (بدأت مصر مع الأردن والعراق بهذا التعاون الفاعل وندعو إلى انضمام لبنان وسورية لهما) كما والانفتاح على الشرق بشكل عام وعلى الصين وإيران وروسيا بشكل خاص مع وضع حدّ لسياسة الاحتكارات والتبعية للغرب. وأخيراً الإصلاح النقديّ الذي يجب أن تقوم به لجنة من الخبراء يضع حداً للدولرة ويعيد إلى القطاع المصرفي الثقة ويحرر أموال المودعين أو على الأقل يضع جدولاً زمنياً لإعادتها حتى ولو طال الوقت بضع سنين، فالمهمّ ألا تضيع. 

هذه برأينا الخطوط الكبرى للحلّ، لكن للأسف لا نرى مَن يسعى اليه بشكل يدعو إلى طمأنينة ما بل نرى استشراء في النهب والسيطرة واستباحة الدولة الأمر الذي يطرح السؤال: متى يتحرّر اللبناني من زعيمه الجلاد، ومن مرجعيته الخارجية الظالمة المستبدة ويعمل باستقلالية القرار وليس بالحياد التافه، يعمل بإرادة وقرار مستقلّ من أجل نفسه ووطنه؟ وهل ستبقى الحلول غائبة حتى تلك اللحظة؟ 

Dr Bashar al Jaafari: Syria’s renewed status in the world

1 June 2021

Source

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister is interviewed by al Mayadeen TV, subtitles by Arabi Souri,

Syria Regime Change Still on Western Agenda – Ex-Ambassador Peter Ford

Source

Finian Cunningham

April 30, 2021

Syria Regime Change Still on Western Agenda – Ex-Ambassador Peter Ford -  TheAltWorld

“The Western powers are like dogs with an old bone on the subject of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. There is no meat on it but they continue to gnaw away,” says former British ambassador to Syria in an interview with Finian Cunningham.

The United States, Britain, and other NATO powers failed in their covert military efforts for regime change in Syria, thanks in large part to the principled intervention by Russia to defend its historic Arab ally. However, Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria, contends that regime change is still very much a top priority for Western powers and their criminal agenda of reshaping the Middle East according to their imperial objectives. In the following interview, Ford explains how the Western tactic has now shifted to intensifying economic warfare in order to buckle the Syrian government led by President Assad. Nevertheless, the former British envoy envisages that the presidential election on May 26 will see Assad being resoundingly re-elected by a nation defiant towards Western aggression.

peterford hashtag on Twitter

Peter Ford is a former British ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) who has publicly denounced Britain’s proxy-terror war for regime change in the Arab nation, along with other NATO accomplices. He is a seasoned diplomat having graduated in Arabic Studies from Oxford University and serving as an envoy in several Middle East countries. Ford has incurred the wrath of the British establishment for his outspoken truth-telling about their nefarious agenda in Syria. On the other hand, he has won the admiration of many people around the world for his courage and integrity. He is a recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromising Integrity in Journalism.

Interview

Question: What do you make of the ruling last week by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to strip Syria of its member rights based on allegations that the Syrian government military forces have repeatedly used chemical weapons during the 10-year war? It seems that the OPCW has become extremely politicized by the United States and its Western allies. Do you see a lot of arm-twisting of member states by Western powers to produce OPCW sanctions against Syria?

Peter Ford: The Western powers are like dogs with an old bone on the subject of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. There is no meat on it but they continue to gnaw away. Why? Because the trope that “Assad gasses his own people” has become a cornerstone of the whole Western propaganda narrative on Syria. Without it, justifying the cruel economic war on Syria, largely through sanctions, would be harder to justify. And with military efforts at regime change having failed, economic warfare is now the last hope for the Western powers of destabilizing Syria enough to topple the government. For this strategy to work the Western powers are more than ready to undermine the credibility of the OPCW by abusing their ability to manipulate it in the Syrian context.

Question: The OPCW’s executive has been exposed in distorting its own reports for the objective of incriminating the Syrian government over alleged chemical weapons attacks. Do you think the OPCW has been turned into a lever to enable Western powers to harass Syria because these powers have been blocked by Russia and China from using the United Nations Security Council as a mechanism for aggression against Syria?

Peter Ford: The United States and the United Kingdom have not hesitated to ventriloquize the OPCW executive to get their way on Syria, stifling whistleblowing even where the cases of misreporting have been flagrant. As a former United Nations official myself, I can say that international organizations are nearly all controlled and used by the U.S./UK, with the Security Council thankfully the one arena where they are unable always to get their own way. This irks them considerably, leading them to go even further in exploiting and debasing agencies like the OPCW.

Question: Three months into a new administration in the United States under President Joe Biden, is there any discernible change in Washington’s policy towards Syria? You have stated publicly before that the whole war in Syria was a regime-change operation orchestrated by the U.S., Britain, France, and others. Is regime change in Syria still on the Western powers’ agenda?

Peter Ford: Regime change is very much still on the agenda. It cannot be openly avowed, of course, but how else to describe a policy of seeking a  “transition” under conditions that would guarantee removal of the present government? Those conditions include rigged elections and “justice” against “war criminals”. The economic warfare is as severe as anything that was waged against Iraq to bring Saddam down. It is blatant deceit to pretend this policy is not aimed at President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Biden brings no change. If anything he is doubling down on the policy of his predecessor, without even the pretense of wanting out of Syria, holding on to sanctions, and deliberately hampering reconstruction.

Question: The United States still has troops illegally occupying parts of eastern Syria near the country’s oil fields, denying the Syrian state important resources for national reconstruction. You have described the American forces there as functioning like a “tripwire”. Could you expand on that concept?

Peter Ford: U.S. forces in occupied parts of Syria number around a thousand. The Syrian Arab Army could overrun these forces and their Kurdish allies in a matter of days. What stops them? The certain knowledge that any advance towards the American forces would trigger massive retaliation from the U.S. Air Force operating from its bases in the region. So the function of these U.S. forces is not to help “eradicate ISIS terror remnants” as implausibly claimed, but to serve as a tripwire and thereby deter Syrian forces from recovering territories that hold most of Syria’s oil and grain resources. Denial of these resources is key to bringing Syria to its knees via economic warfare.

Question: Could Biden step up the military intervention in Syria? Or is it more likely that the U.S. and its Western allies will pursue economic warfare through sanctions against Syria?

Peter Ford: It must be considered unlikely that the U.S. would put many more boots on the ground but many in the Pentagon are straining at the leash to bomb Syria at the slightest pretext. For the moment, the policy planners are counting on economic sanctions and are content to wait for the Syrian government to buckle.

Question: What are the strategic reasons for Western regime change in Syria?

Peter Ford: It’s a way of getting at Russia and Iran, essentially. A little thought experiment proves it. Imagine Assad suddenly said he was ready to get rid of the Russians and Iranians and complete America’s set of Arab powers in return for being left in power. Egypt’s Sadat did something similar in the late 1970s so it’s not unthinkable, and Assad was having tea with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth not so very long ago. Would the U.S. not then cast aside without a moment’s hesitation all the blather about democracy and human rights?

Question: How significant was Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian war in October 2015?

Peter Ford: It was a life-saver. Most people do not realize how close ISIS and other terrorist proxies were to grabbing control of Damascus. Naturally, the Western powers never like to acknowledge this awkward truth.

Question: France’s former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas remarked in a media interview back in 2013 how he was privately approached by British officials with a scheme for regime change in Syria two years before the war erupted in 2011. As a former British ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) can you recall noticing any such plot being considered?

Peter Ford: Planning for regime change in Syria only really began when the aftermath of the Iraq war went really sour and rather than blame themselves, the U.S./UK sought to deflect blame on to Syria. It accelerated after Britain’s Conservatives with their anti-Russian and anti-Iranian obsessions, and their support for Israel, came to power in 2010.

Question: Your principled and outspoken criticism of the British government’s involvement in the Syrian war has won you much respect around the world. Do you feel personally aggrieved by the malign conduct of Britain in Syria?

Peter Ford: I feel ashamed for my country’s actions. It really is quite shameful that we have been instrumental in causing suffering for millions of Syrians while hypocritically claiming we are doing it for their own good.

Question: Finally, Syria is holding presidential elections on May 26 in which incumbent Bashar al-Assad is running for re-election. The Western powers disparage Syria as an “undemocratic regime”. How do you view Syria’s polity? Is Assad likely to win re-election?

Peter Ford: Of course Assad will win and of course the Western powers will try to disparage his victory. But I can state with certainty that if you could offer the Conservative party in Britain a guarantee of achieving in the next general election anything anywhere near Assad’s genuine level of support, albeit some of it reluctant from a war-weary people, the Tories would bite your hand off for such an electoral gain. Much of the current Western propaganda effort against Syria is geared at trying to spoil Assad’s victory and deny it legitimacy. But inside Syria itself, the people will see the election as setting the seal on 10 years of struggle, and Assad will emerge strengthened as he faces the next phase in the Western war on Syria.

America’s Neoliberal Financialization Policy vs. China’s Industrial Socialism

America’s Neoliberal Financialization Policy vs. China’s Industrial Socialism

April 15, 2021

By Michael Hudson and posted with special permission

Nearly half a millennium ago Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince described three options for how a conquering power might treat states that it defeated in war but that “have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom: … the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you.”[1]

Machiavelli preferred the first option, citing Rome’s destruction of Carthage. That is what the United States did to Iraq and Libya after 2001. But in today’s New Cold War the mode of destruction is largely economic, via trade and financial sanctions such as the United States has imposed on China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and other designated adversaries. The idea is to deny them key inputs, above all in essential technology and information processing, raw materials, and access to bank and financial connections, such as U.S. threats to expel Russia from the SWIFT bank-clearing system.

The second option is to occupy rivals. This is done only partially by the troops in America’s 800 military bases abroad. But the usual, more efficient occupation is by U.S. corporate takeovers of their basic infrastructure, owning their most lucrative assets and remitting their revenue back to the imperial core.

President Trump said that he wanted to seize Iraq’s and Syria’s oil as reparations for the cost of destroying their society. His successor, Joe Biden, sought in 2021 to appoint Hillary Clinton’s loyalist Neera Tanden to head the government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She had urged that America should make Libya turn over its vast oil reserves as reparations for the cost of destroying its society. “We have a giant deficit. They have a lot of oil. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me.”[2]

U.S. strategists have preferred Machiavelli’s third option: To leave the defeated adversary nominally independent but to rule via client oligarchies. President Jimmy Carter’s national-security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to them as “vassals,” in the classical medieval meaning of demanding loyalty to their American patrons, with a common interest in seeing the subject economy privatized, financialized, taxed and passed on to the United States for its patronage and support, based on a mutuality of interest against local democratic assertion of nationalistic self-reliance and keeping the economic surplus at home to promote domestic prosperity instead of being sent abroad.

That policy of privatization by a client oligarchy with its own source of wealth based on the U.S. orbit is what American neoliberal diplomacy accomplished in the former Soviet economies after 1991 to secure its Cold War victory over Soviet Communism. The way in which client oligarchies were created was a grabitization that utterly disrupted the economic interconnections integrating the economies. “To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires,” Brzezinski explained, “the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”[3]

After reducing Germany and Japan to vassalage after defeating them in World War II, U.S. diplomacy quickly reduced the Britain and its imperial sterling area to vassalage by 1946, followed in due course by the rest of Western Europe and its former colonies. The next step was to isolate Russia and China, while keeping “the barbarians from coming together.” If they were to join up, warned Mr. Brzezinski, “the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power.”[4]

By 2016, Brzezinski saw Pax Americana unravelling from its failure to achieve these aims. He acknowledged that the United States “is no longer the globally imperial power.”[5] That is what has motivated its increasing antagonism toward China and Russia, along with Iran and Venezuela.

TRANSITION: the problem was not Russia, whose Communist nomenklatura let their country be ruled by a Western-oriented kleptocracy, but China. The U.S.-China confrontation is not simply a national rivalry, but a conflict of economic and social systems. The reason why today’s world is being plunged into an economic and near-military Cold War 2.0 is to be found in the prospect of socialist control of what Western economies since classical antiquity have treated as privately owned rent-yielding assets: money and banking (along with the rules governing debt and foreclosure), land and natural resources, and infrastructure monopolies.

This contrast in whether money and credit, land and natural monopolies will be privatized and duly concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth has basically become one of finance capitalism and socialism. Yet in its broadest terms this conflict existed already 2500 years ago. in the contrast between Near Eastern kingship and the Greek and Roman oligarchies. These oligarchies, ostensibly democratic in superficial political form and sanctimonious ideology, fought against the concept of kingship. The source of that opposition was that royal power – or that of domestic “tyrants” – might sponsor what Greek and Roman democratic reformers were advocating: cancellation of debts to save populations from being reduced to debt bondage and dependency (and ultimately to serfdom), and redistribution of lands to prevent its ownership from becoming polarized and concentrated in the hands of creditors and-landlords.

From today’s U.S. vantage point, that polarization is the basic dynamic of today’s U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism. China and Russia are existential threats to the global expansion of financialized rentier wealth. Today’s Cold War 2.0 aims to deter China and potentially other counties from socializing their financial systems, land and natural resources, and keeping infrastructure utilities public to prevent their being monopolized in private hands to siphon off economic rents at the expense of productive investment in economic growth.

The United States hoped that China might be as gullible as the Soviet Union and adopt neoliberal policy permitting its wealth to be privatized and turned into rent-extracting privileges, to be sold off to Americans. “What the free world expected when it welcomed China into the free trade body [the World Trade Organization] in 2001,” explained Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr, trade advisor in the Reagan administration, was that, “from the time of Deng Xiaoping’s adoption of some market methods in 1979 and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 … increased trade with and investment in China would inevitably lead to the marketization of its economy, the demise of its state-owned enterprises.”[6]

But instead of adopting market-based neoliberalism, Mr. Prestowitz complained, China’s government supported industrial investment and kept money and debt control in its own hands. This government control was “at odds with the liberal, rules-based global system” along the neoliberal lines that had been imposed on the former Soviet economies after 1991. “More fundamentally,” Prestowitz summed up:

China’s economy is incompatible with the main premises of the global economic system embodied today in the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and a long list of other free trade agreements. These pacts assume economies that are primarily market based with the role of the state circumscribed and micro-economic decisions largely left to private interests operating under a rule of law. This system never anticipated an economy like China’s in which state-owned enterprises account for one-third of production; the fusion of the civilian economy with the strategic-military economy is a government necessity; five year economic plans guide investment to targeted sectors; an eternally dominant political party names the CEOs of a third or more of major corporations and has established party cells in every significant company; the value of the currency is managed, corporate and personal data are minutely collected by the government to be used for economic and political control; and international trade is subject to being weaponized at any moment for strategic ends.

This is jaw-dropping hypocrisy – as if the U.S. civilian economy is not fused with its own military-industrial complex, and does not manage its currency or weaponize its international trade as a means of achieving strategic ends. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, a fantasy depicting American industry as being independent of government. In fact, Prestowitz urged that “Biden should invoke the Defense Production Act to direct increased U.S.-based production of critical goods such as medicines, semiconductors, and solar panels.”

While U.S. trade strategists juxtapose American “democracy” and the Free World to Chinese autocracy, the major conflict between the United States and China has been the role of government support for industry. American industry grew strong in the 19th century by government support, just as China is now providing. That was the doctrine of industrial capitalism, after all. But as the U.S. economy has become financialized, it has de-industrialized. China has shown itself to be aware of the risks in financialization, and has taken measures to attempt to contain it. That has helped it achieve what used to be the U.S. ideal of providing low-priced basic infrastructure services.

Here is the U.S. policy dilemma: Its government is supporting industrial rivalry with China, but also supports financialization and privatization of the domestic economy – the very policy that it has used to control “vassal” countries and extract their economic surplus by rent-seeking.

Why U.S. finance capitalism treats China’s socialist economy as an existential treat

Financialized industrial capital wants a strong state to serve itself, but not to serve labor, consumers, the environment or long-term social progress at the cost of eroding profits and rents.

U.S. attempts to globalize this neoliberal policy are driving China to resist Western financialization. Its success provides other countries with an object lesson of why to avoid financialization and rent-seeking that adds to the economy’s overhead and hence its cost of living and doing business.

China also is providing an object lesson in how to protect its economy and that of its allies from foreign sanctions and related destabilization. Its most basic response has been to prevent an independent domestic or foreign-backed oligarchy from emerging. That has been one first and foremost by maintaining government control of finance and credit, property and land tenure policy in government hands with a long-term plan in mind.

Looking back over the course of history, this retention is how Bronze Age Near Eastern rulers prevented an oligarchy from emerging to threaten Near Eastern palatial economies. It is a tradition that persisted down through Byzantine times, taxing large aggregations of wealth to prevent a rivalry with the palace and its protection of a broad prosperity and distribution of self-support land.

China also is protecting its economy from U.S.-backed trade and financial sanctions and economic disruption by aiming at self-sufficiency in essentials. That involves technological independence and ability to provide enough food and energy resources to support an economy that can function in isolation from the unipolar U.S. bloc. It also involves decoupling from the U.S. dollar and from banking systems linked to it, and hence from U.S. ability to impose financial sanctions. Associated with this aim is creation of a domestic computerized alternative to the SWIFT bank-clearing system.

The dollar still accounts for 80 percent of all global transactions, but less than half of today’s Sino-Russian trade, and the proportion is declining, especially as Russian firms avoid dollarized payments or accounts from being seized by U.S. sanctions.

These protective moves limit the U.S. threat to Machiavelli’s first option: destroy the world if it does not submit to U.S.-sponsored financialized rent extraction. But as Vladimir Putin has framed matters: “Who would want to live in a world without Russia?”

Kin Chi: My quick comment: The USA surely would want to destroy its rival, taking the first option. But it knows it is impossible to succeed, even in the case of Russia, and not to mention China. Thus it hopes for the rival to disintegrate from within, or for substantial interest blocs from within to be complicit with US interests. Hence we need to assess how Russia and China are reacting to this challenge, given that there are multiple contesting forces within each country. And that is also why we have been very concerned with pro-US neo-liberal political economists and policy-makers in these two countries.

I agree with you that China has put much investment into infrastructure and industry. However, we have been concerned with China’s financialization moves. Hence your statement that “China has avoided financialization” may not be the actual case, as various moves have been taken in financialization, but we can say that China seems to be aware of the risks in financialization, and has taken measures to attempt to contain it, causing discontent from US financial interests which would want to see China going further down the road.

It is interesting that yesterday, the White House expressed concern over the China-Iraq use of digital RMB to settle oil accounts as this would be beyond US monitoring of transactions.

  1. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532), Chapter 5: “Concerning the way to govern cities or principalities which lived under their own laws before they were annexed.” 
  2. Neera Tanden, “Should Libya pay us back?” memo to Faiz Shakir, Peter Juul, Benjamin Armbruster and NSIP Core, October 21, 2011. Mr. Shakir, to his credit, wrote back: “If we think we can make money off an incursion, we’ll do it? That’s a serious policy/messaging/moral problem for our foreign policy I think.” As president of the Center for American Progress, Tanden backed a 2010 proposal to cut Social Security benefits, reflecting the long-term Obama-Clinton objective of fiscal austerity at home as well as abroad. 
  3. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: 1997), p. 40. See the discussion by Pepe Escobar, “For Leviathan, It’s So Cold in Alaska,” Unz.com, March 18, 2021. 
  4. Brzezinski, ibid., p. 55. 
  5. Brzezinski, “Towards a Global Realignment,” The American Interest (April 17, 2016) For a discussion see Mike Whitney, “The Broken Checkboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire,” Counterpunch, August 25, 2016. 
  6. Clyde Prestowitz, “Blow Up the Global Trading System, Washington Monthly, March 24, 2021.. 

The Russian economy – ‘small’, ‘impotent’, ‘insignificant’: true or false?

The Russian economy – ‘small’, ‘impotent’, ‘insignificant’:  true or false?

April 02, 2021

by Arcturus Le for the Saker Blog

In the west, there is perennial bluster about the putative ‘weakness’ of the Russian economy. It is widely accepted as ‘fact’ that the Russian economy is somewhere miserably outside the ‘Top 10’ global economies by GDP, sinking ever deeper year by year towards #15, embarrassingly behind such smaller countries as South Korea, Canada, Italy and on par with countries like Spain, Australia, and Mexico. In fact, many a snarky joke is bandied about on the Atlanticist web about how ‘Russia’s economy is barely the size of Texas’, etc.

This is a total western generated fabrication. In this article, I will prove the following points: that the Russian economy is actually ranked around the top 5 (and arguably even much higher) most powerful on Earth only behind China, US, Japan, and India; that the 2014 western engineered Ruble crisis crashed the specious ‘Nominal GDP’ of Russia by half while not affecting the true GDP nor economic output of Russia—and how this was affected by the geopolitical factors of the time; and that ‘Nominal GDP’ is a spurious canard that does not apply to Russia due to the fact that Russia is a trade surplus economy, and in fact PPP GDP is the accurate way to measure economies like Russia.

First, let us prove the opening point. Around 2014, oil was pricing steadily in the ~$100-115 per barrel range, as can be seen in the graphic below. Then, in 2014 a major geopolitical crisis developed. The U.S. and the CIA staged the Ukrainian coup called ‘Euromaidan’ that overthrew the legitimate Ukrainian government in the opening months of that year. A month later, Crimea held a democratic referendum and became once again Russian. This was a massive blow to the U.S. geopolitically for which Russia had to be punished as it had now grown too strong, winning a major warm-water port in Sevastopol that could now be used to threaten the western Imperialist/Atlanticist designs in the Middle East by way of a conveniently placed fleet access to the Mediterranean.

The Atlanticists took action and with their Saudi Arabian ‘partners’ (underlings) carried out a plan to crash the price per barrel of oil in order to hurt Russia as much as possible, since its economy at the time was still a bit more dependent upon oil and not as diversified as it is today. Such large tectonic shifts take time so their designs took a year or two to fully percolate down into the markets and by 2015-2016 the price of oil crashed from the aforementioned ~$100-115 per barrel range to the ~$40-50 per barrel range, becoming roughly ~50% of its original price. This chart below clearly demonstrates.

As can be seen, at this exact same time, the Ruble to Dollar conversion rate went from a low of roughly ~37 Rubles to 1 Dollar in 2014 (chart above) soaring to the range of ~60-75 Rubles to 1 Dollar the very next year to exactly coincide with the oil price crash. Miraculously, the devaluation corresponds to the exact timeline and severity of the crash of oil—oil dropped by half from ~$100 to ~$50 and Ruble went from ~35 to ~70 against the Dollar by 2015-2016.

As can be seen by the chart below, Russian GDP according to this source was $2,060 billion in 2014, and like magic by 2016 it was reduced to $1,282 billion. This represents a roughly ~40% decrease in line with the Ruble crash.

But, did Russia change overnight in 2015-2016? Was there panic on the streets, disorder and chaos, complete depredation and disintegration of society? After all, a halving of your GDP almost overnight is of such catastrophic proportions as to be unprecedented in history. Imagine, almost overnight the U.S. GDP going from its current figures to that of its 1960 figures (when it was half of today). What kind of chaos would ensue?

Of course, no such thing occurred in Russia, in fact it was barely noticed. Why? Because, the “Nominal GDP” is a fake, currency manipulated, symbolic number that has no actual basis in reality as pertains to the Russian economy. You see, the Nominal GDP in each country is priced in U.S. Dollars. This works for countries which are Trade Deficit countries. A brief discussion of the difference between Trade Deficit and Trade Surplus must ensue in order to fully understand this point. A country which operates on a Trade Deficit (which is most country’s in the world including the U.S.) simply imports more items than it exports. It is a country that relies on importing goods from other countries to survive. The reason this is important is because, since the global financial system operates on the U.S. Dollar basis in accordance with ‘Dollar Hegemony’ i.e. the Dollar as the reserve currency of the world, this means that when your country IMPORTS items, it is pricing them usually in Dollars. So, in short, this means that the price of your country’s native currency to Dollar conversion is important.

Let’s say you are a Trade Deficit country like India, and let’s say hypothetically that the Indian Rupee converts against the Dollar at 50 Rupees to 1 Dollar. That means, if you are buying an imported item that hypothetically costs $100, if your currency is magically crashed to where the Rupee now trades at 100 Rupees to 1 Dollar, instead of that $100 item costing you (50 x 100) 5,000 Rupees, it now costs you (100 x 100) 10,000 Rupees. So, if your country / entire economy thrives on imports, then one can clearly see how a currency devaluation of 50% can destroy your economy. It means every essential item you import, items vital to the economic engine of your country, have overnight become TWICE as expensive as before. This would lead to economic devastation.

But, what if your country is a TRADE SURPLUS country, a rarer breed of highly self-sufficient economies—a list comprising only the most advanced first world nations such as Germany, Japan, China, etc. Russia is in fact amongst this distinguished list. It has one of the largest trade surpluses in the world, while the U.S. is the world’s biggest Trade Deficit, by far.

So, what happens if you are a Trade Surplus country? This means that your country Exports more than it Imports. It means, in short, that the price conversion of the Dollar to your country’s currency is irrelevant because if you are generating everything your country needs within your own borders (self-sustainability), you are naturally pricing those items you yourself create in your own currency. So, what does it matter if the Russian Ruble goes from 30 Rubles to 1 Dollar, to 1000 Rubles to 1 Dollar? If you’re Russian and you’re not importing anything that’s priced in the Dollar, and you’re buying things within your own country priced in Rubles only, then it makes literally zero difference what the Ruble trades against the Dollar. Inside the borders of your own country, a Ruble is a Ruble, its price conversion to the Dollar has no relevance.

It can be seen here that a native currency devaluation does not have much meaning to a Trade Surplus economy. When a Russian citizen goes to a store and buys items, or a Russian company orders equipment or products, they are ordering them in Rubles because Russia makes their own goods and is self-sustaining. So even if the Ruble skyrocketed to 1 million Rubles to 1 Dollar it would be meaningless if you are not buying anything priced in Dollars.

This means that when the Russian Ruble crashed against the USD in 2015-2016 following the manufactured and engineered geopolitical crisis and massive currency manipulation by the corrupt U.S. global financial system, and the Russian Nominal GDP was shown to crash the equivalent rate (because the Nominal GDP is priced in USD), it was actually meaningless and the Russian economy in fact did not take any such major hit at all. The Russian GDP was shown to devalue from ~2 trillion to 1.2 trillion almost ‘over night’ only because it is being fraudulently priced in USD. All that happened was a mathematical calculation of irrelevant Dollar conversion, but actual Russian production and economic power and output did not experience any such effect whatsoever, it was a smoke and mirrors currency manipulation that existed only in the digital bits and bytes of a computer screen.

So, if we now know that the Russian GDP calculation was incorrect, what is the true way to measure it and what is the real Russian GDP? Since we know that Nominal GDP (which is priced in USD) is a fraudulent way to measure the economic power of Trade Surplus countries like Russia, the answer lies in PPP GDP. And of course, as expected, Russian PPP GDP is so high that it was announced by the IMF itself to have overtaken Germany for the #5 spot last year.

But what is most interesting is, prior to the fake ‘on paper’ devaluation of Russian Nominal GDP following the manufactured crisis of 2014-2016, even Russian Nominal GDP was near the Top 6-8 place (depending on which source you used, IMF, Worldbank, etc.). And now we see the PPP figure matches this rightful, accurate position.

But how do we know the PPP figure is accurate? Can we prove that PPP value is more in line with Russia’s true economic standing than the Nominal GDP value? Well certainly there are a few correlational indicators that can prove this for us. There are several indirect tell-tale signs that experts can use to look past fraudulent currency manipulated GDP numbers and gauge the real economic strength and productive virility of a country.

Let’s take a look at annual oil and electricity usage by country. These are important indicators that very closely correlate with a country’s economic power for reasons that should be self-evident: the more robust one’s economy, the more that country will be utilizing oil and electricity in the daily function and growth of that economic engine.

Some may be unconvinced, until looking at the chart above and seeing how well it correlates to the typical GDP standings. The chart shows oil consumption by country and in fact, the top 10 all looks quite similar to and closely mimics the PPP GDP chart. Russia here is seen at #6 just like in the PPP economic standings (where it is either #5 or #6 depending on source), NOT in #11-15 place as the fraudulent Nominal GDP would have you believe. The skeptic might ask, well wouldn’t a large population country be misrepresented on this chart because they use a lot of oil? To answer that, take Indonesia as an example, it has a population almost double that of Russia, yet it is somewhere in the ~15th place in the oil consumption chart, and not surprisingly that also roughly reflects its place in the GDP standings as well. So, as one can see the size of your country or population count is not reflected in the oil consumption chart, in fact it correlates directly to a country’s GDP, with one or two outlier/flukes such as Saudi Arabia which appears high on the chart owing to its over-reliance on gratuitously consuming vast amounts of oil in the process of producing oil and gas in their oil centered economy. The skeptic might similarly ask, well doesn’t Russia also produce a lot of oil? Yes but in this case, as I’ve said, its position in the oil consumption perfectly matches its GDP PPP position AND there are further indicators below that lay the doubts to rest.

Now let’s look at two other indicators of a robust economy, electricity production and consumption.

As can be seen here, the figures also mimic and correlate the GDP PPP figures. The same countries that dominate the Top 10 economies are seen either producing or consuming electricity at rates that correlate to their economic power. Not coincidentally, here too we see Russia placing near the Top 5, just like in the GDP PPP and quite unlike the fraudulent ~#11-15 placement we see in Nominal GDP. Now remember, these figures are not merely a product of population size. If that was the case, then countries with far larger populations than Russia like Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Pakistan would all be way ahead of Russia on the list of energy consumption—yet they are no where on the list. Similarly, countries with SMALLER populations like Germany would not even be in the top 10. Yet Germany is an economic power house and despite having a much smaller population than Russia, appears close to it on the list in perfect accordance with its place on the GDP PPP chart. This clearly indicates that a country’s energy production/consumption is more closely tied to its economic power than mere population size.

Another indicator we can use is total Gold Reserves. These figures also mimic economic standing as only the most economically powerful countries appear in the top 10 in roughly a similar makeup as to their official GDP standings. Gold has long been a telltale indicator of a country’s might, prestige, and economic status. In the chart below, we can see once again, Russia ranks in almost the exact position of its GDP PPP standing as in all the other charts above.

Of course we can use many other indicators, for instance, global military standings. It is widely accepted Russia is at minimum the 2nd most powerful military force on Earth, and the military standings roughly correlate with the same countries in roughly the same positions as they are economically—with the familiar faces of U.S., Russia, China, India, Japan, et al, making up the top of the list. Would you really believe that a country with the acknowledged #2 military on earth is only ranked #15 economically, as per the fraudulent, currency manipulated Nominal GDP list? It beggars all logic. Of course the only rational explanation is that only a country whose economy is in the top 5 powerhouses can maintain the 2nd most powerful military in the world.

One can see that all indicators point to Russia being in the top 5 global economies and that even the fraudulent Nominal GDP figure had Russia at #7 or #8 (depending on source) prior to the artificially engineered oil crisis and currency manipulation that plummeted the Ruble in 2014-2016.

And one last important thing to note. All this discussion revolves around speaking of the Russian economy as if in a vacuum. But one can quickly forget that the Russian economy is arguably the most flagrantly assailed, beleaguered, manipulated, and sabotaged in the world by western/Atlanticist forces. The Russian economy has been under massive sanctions, sabotage, embargoes, etc, since the 2014 crisis began, and yet I have just shown that it is still roughly at the #5 spot right next to the powerhouse of Germany. So, what does this mean? Clearly, that even under intense sabotage and global economic warfare by the entire western political and financial system, even greatly weakened by western forces, the Russian economy is still roughly even with Germany, and only “behind” the U.S., China, Japan, and India (3 of which have vastly larger populations than Russia). Which makes the obvious point that the TRUE Russian economic power, adjusted for the various sanctions and sabotage, is even greater than we can imagine, most likely well ahead of the German and arguably even the Japanese economies.

Tense U.S.-China Talks End With No Breakthroughs “نيويورك تايمز”: قضايا صعبة في المحادثات الأميركية الصينية

The negotiations, held in Alaska, featured rocky exchanges between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and his Chinese counterpart. A former Green Beret was charged with attacking multiple officers during the Capitol riot.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, left, said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, left, said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts.Credit…Pool photo by Frederic J. Brown

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — American diplomats ended a fraught round of high-level talks with Chinese officials in Alaska on Friday with no major diplomatic breakthroughs, and acknowledged that a tense relationship lies ahead for Washington and Beijing.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts — including human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the status of Tibet and Taiwan, and cybersecurity — which caused tension.

“We certainly know, and knew going in, that there are a number of areas where we are fundamentally at odds,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that “it’s no surprise that when we raised those issues,” U.S. officials “got a defensive response.”

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said that American officials had expected the talks to be difficult, and that the delegation had laid out its priorities for how the Biden administration would approach diplomatic relations with Beijing.

“We were cleareyed coming in, we’re cleareyed coming out,” Mr. Sullivan said, “and we will go back to Washington to take stock of where we are.”

In setting up the two days of discussions, the Biden administration had sought to build a baseline for its approach to China, one that officials have said would be grounded in competition but leave space for cooperation or confrontation with Beijing when necessary.

But they kicked off Thursday afternoon with more than an hour of heated accusations passing between Mr. Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, a rocky exchange that played out in front of TV cameras and threw into doubt any prospect of their geopolitical rivalry softening.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.

At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.

Mr. Blinken appeared taken aback but tried to keep the discussion on an even keel. He had opened the talks by asserting a goal to “strengthen the rules-based international order.”

It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including controlling the pandemic, combating climate change, and limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.

— Lara Jakes and Pranshu Verma

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“نيويورك تايمز”: قضايا صعبة في المحادثات الأميركية الصينية

لارا جاكس

المصدر: نيويورك تايمز

19 آذار 11:15

تنتقل واشنطن إلى موقف أكثر تنافسية مع الصين، لمواجهة دبلوماسيتها حول العالم وضمان عدم حصول بكين على ميزة دائمة في التكنولوجيا الحيوية.

وزير الخارجية الأميركي أنتوني بلينكن يتلقي مسؤولين صينيين لمحاولة تحسين العلاقات الثنائية المتوترة.
بلينكن يتلقي مسؤولين صينيين لمحاولة تحسين العلاقات الثنائية المتوترة.

قالت صحيفة “نيويورك تايمز” الأميركية إن التحول الحاد للرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن في سياسة الولايات المتحدة تجاه الصين يطرح قضايا صعبة على الطاولة اليوم في أول اجتماع كبير بين كبار المسؤولين من إدارته ونظرائهم الصينيين.

وأضافت الصحيفة أن وزير الخارجية الأميركي أنطوني بلينكين ومستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي جيك سوليفان سيلتقيان اليوم مع اثنين من كبار الدبلوماسيين الصينيين، عضو مجلس الدولة وانغ يي ورئيس الشؤون الخارجية للحزب الشيوعي الصيني يانغ جيتشي، في مدينة أنكوريج في ألاسكا، حيث من المحتمل أن تتمحور محادثاتهم حول هونغ كونغ، ووضع تايوان ومزاعم قمع الصين للمسلمين الأويغور.

وأوضحت الصحيفة أن الولايات المتحدة إلى تنتقل إلى موقف أكثر تنافسية مع الصين، لمواجهة دبلوماسيتها حول العالم وضمان عدم حصول بكين على ميزة دائمة في التكنولوجيا الحيوية.

وأشارت “نيويورك تايمز” إلى أن إدارة بايدن تعمل على جمع الحلفاء، ولا سيما اليابان وكوريا الجنوبية والهند وأستراليا، لصياغة استراتيجية مشتركة في آسيا.

فمن وجهة نظر الصين، سيكون الاجتماع أول دليل على عزم بكين على الوقوف في وجه الإدارة الجديدة. وكان المسؤولون الصينيون يركزون على تعزيز قوة بلادهم، حيث يبتعد الزعيم الصيني، شي جينبينغ، بشكل متزايد عن الاعتماد على الآخرين.

وأبلغ سفير الصين لدى الولايات المتحدة كوي تيانكاي وسائل الإعلام الصينية أن بلاده “لا تتوقع حواراً واحداً لحل جميع القضايا بين الجانبين”، لكنه يأمل أن يؤدي ذلك إلى بدء حوار بناء.

وقالت وكالة شينخوا الصينية إن الصين والولايات المتحدة تعقدان حواراً استراتيجياً رفيع المستوى يومي الخميس والجمعة في مدينة أنكوراج بولاية ألاسكا الأميركية، معتبرة أنها ستكون هذه أول محادثات مباشرة بين كبار الدبلوماسيين الصينيين والأميركيين منذ تولي الرئيس جو بايدن رئاسة الولايات المتحدة.

ونقلت الوكالة عن الخبراء قولهم إن أحد أسباب عقد الاجتماع في ألاسكا هو موقعها. إذ تقع ألاسكا في منتصف الطريق بين بكين وواشنطن العاصمة، وهذا يعني حرفياً أن الجانبين يلتقيان في منتصف الطريق.

نقله إلى العربية: الميادين نت

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