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Lebanon FM: Hariri crisis ‘part of attempt to create chaos’

Press TV – November 17, 2017

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says the crisis over the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is part of an “attempt to create chaos in the region.”

Speaking in Moscow on Friday, Bassil said Lebanon has the “full powers” to respond to the crisis, but hoped this would not be necessary.

“We will respond and we have the full powers to do that, but we hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said that Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Nov. 4, is being detained in Saudi Arabia against his will – despite the premier’s reassurances he would return home soon.

On Friday, a senior Hariri aide was quoted as saying that Hariri will see France’s president on Saturday in Paris and the meeting will help resolve the Lebanese crisis and boost stability.

Bassil has been touring European capitals to lobby for Hariri’s return. On Thursday, he warned that Lebanon should not be treated as a plaything by any country.

“Lebanon is not a toy in others’ hands,” the Lebanese foreign minister said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin.

Gabriel said he shared concerns about the threat of instability and bloodshed in Lebanon and, without mentioning Saudi Arabia directly, warned against the “adventurism” behind the Lebanon crisis and the “human tragedy in Yemen.”

“We expect that Prime Minister Hariri can come back to Beirut,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since 2015 to restore its Riyadh-allied government, killing many thousands in the process.

Bassil, for his part, said, the “Hariri issue is actually a matter of Lebanon’s sovereignty,” and called on Arab countries to “not interfere with Lebanon’s internal matters.”

The Lebanese foreign minister also said further turmoil in his country, which is already hosting thousands of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring Syria, would create a new influx of asylum seekers to Europe.

Bassil also visited Turkey on Thursday and is to travel to Russia on Friday, where he is about to meet with Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov.

At a joint presser with Bassil, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged Hariri’s “immediate” return.

“We support Lebanon’s unity, integrity and stability, and we oppose any development that would risk Lebanon’s stability,” he said.

“Lebanon does not need any other problems. On the contrary, we need to contribute to the solution of the existing problems.”

Bassil also held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | 3 Comments

Lebanon FM Reveals Attempt to Intimidate Country Into Canceling Russian Gas Deal

Sputnik – 17.11.2017

Lebanese Foreign Minister Geral Bassil has held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

“We are about to sign our first contract on gas field exploration on the shelf with the participation of Russian companies. We are now seeing an attempt to make Lebanon leave this positive path,” Geral Bassil said.

“A campaign to scare Lebanon, to create obstacles in its path with the use of terrorist forces under different pretexts is underway,” the minister said, adding that “the campaign against Lebanon is being carried out by the same forces that support terrorists in Syria.”

At the same time, according to Bassil, Lebanon wanted to preserve good relations with Saudi Arabia despite the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

“We never took any diplomatic steps that would escalate the situation,” Bassil said.

The top diplomat said that “some parties” to the conflict were trying to displace the head of the country from his office, adding that he expected Hariri to return to the country following his visit to France.

“We hope that Russia will continue building up its influence in the Middle East in order to form a balance of powers in the region,” Bassil added.

According to the minister, Beirut will respond to any attempt of interference in its internal affairs, stressing that the country’s sovereignty cannot be “bought and sold.”

For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “we are interested in Lebanon being safe and with the effective participation of all branches of power. And the most important thing, we support the resolution of all urgent issues by the Lebanese themselves without any external interference.”

The Lebanese Crisis

Previously, Moscow has voiced concern over the shock resignation of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and urged all external forces that could influence the situation in Lebanon to show restraint and constructive approaches.

The situation in Lebanon escalated two weeks ago when then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a video address made from Saudi Arabia. The former minister expressed fears that he could be assassinated, like his father, in Lebanon, as well as accusing Tehran and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement of alleged attempts to destabilize the situation in the country and the Middle East, a claim strongly denied by the Islamic Republic as groundless.

While Lebanese President Michel Aoun has been accusing Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri and his family, Riyadh has strongly denied the claims as “groundless.” Hariri himself has repeatedly reiterated his intention to return to Lebanon in the next few days after his planned trip to France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron, saying that he is “perfectly fine.”

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Financial Tyranny: ‘We the People’ Are the New Permanent Underclass in America

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | November 14, 2017

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” ― Frédéric Bastiat, French economist

Americans can no longer afford to get sick and there’s a reason why.

That’s because a growing number of Americans are struggling to stretch their dollars far enough to pay their bills, get out of debt and ensure that if and when an illness arises, it doesn’t bankrupt them.

This is a reality that no amount of partisan political bickering can deny.

Many Americans can no longer afford health insurance, drug costs or hospital bills. They can’t afford to pay rising healthcare premiums, out-of-pocket deductibles and prescription drug bills.

They can’t afford to live, and now they can’t afford to get sick or die, either.

To be clear, my definition of “affordable healthcare” is different from the government’s. To the government, you can “afford” to pay for healthcare if your income falls above the poverty line. That takes no account of rising taxes, the cost of living, the cost to clothe and feed a household, the cost of transportation and communication and education, or any of the other line items that add up to a life worth living.

As Helaine Olen points out in The Atlantic:

Just because a person is insured, it doesn’t mean he or she can actually afford their doctor, hospital, pharmaceutical, and other medical bills. The point of insurance is to protect patients’ finances from the costs of everything from hospitalizations to prescription drugs, but out-of-pocket spending for people even with employer-provided health insurance has increased by more than 50 percent since 2010.”

For too many Americans, achieving any kind of quality of life has become a choice between putting food on the table and paying one’s bills or health care coverage.

It’s a gamble any way you look at it, and the medical community is not helping.

Healthcare costs are rising, driven by a medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industry that are getting rich off the sick and dying.

Indeed, Americans currently pay $3.4 trillion a year for medical care. We spent more than $10,000 per person on health care in 2016. Those attempting to shop for health insurance coverage right now are understandably experiencing sticker shock with premiums set to rise 34% in 2018. It’s estimated that costs may rise as high as $15,000 by 2023.

As Bloomberg reports, “Rising health-care costs are eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab… The cost of buying health coverage at work has increased faster than wages and inflation for years, pressuring household budgets.”

Appallingly, Americans spend more than any developed country on healthcare and have less to show for it. We don’t live as long, we have higher infant mortality rates, we have fewer hospital and physician visits, and the quality of our healthcare is generally worse. We also pay astronomical amounts for prescription drugs, compared to other countries.

Whether or not you’re insured through an employer, the healthcare marketplace, a government-subsidized program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or have no health coverage whatsoever, it’s still “we the consumers” who have to pay to subsidize the bill whenever anyone gets sick in this country. And that bill is a whopper.

While Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) may have made health insurance more accessible to greater numbers of individuals, it has failed to make healthcare any more affordable.

Why?

As journalist Laurie Meisler concludes, “One big reason U.S. health care costs are so high: pharmaceutical spending. The U.S. spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country.”

One investigative journalist spent seven months analyzing hundreds of bills from hospitals, doctors, drug companies, and medical equipment manufacturers. His findings confirmed what we’ve known all along: health care in America is just another way of making corporations rich at consumer expense.

An examination of an itemized hospital bill (only available upon request) revealed an amazing amount of price gouging. Tylenol, which you can buy for less than $10 for a bottle, was charged to the patient at a rate of $15 per pill, for a total of $345 for a hospital stay. $8 for a plastic bag to hold the patient’s personal items and another $8 for a box of Kleenex. $23 for a single alcohol swab. $53 per pair for non-sterile gloves (adding up to $5,141 for the entire hospital stay). $10 for plastic cup in which to take one’s medicine. $93 for the use of an overhead light during a surgical procedure. $39 each time you want to hold your newborn baby. And $800 for a sterile water IV bag that costs about a dollar to make.

This is clearly not a problem that can be remedied by partisan politics.

The so-called Affordable Care Act pushed through by the Obama administration is proving to be anything but affordable for anyone over the poverty line. And the Trump administration’s “fixes” promise to be no better. Indeed, for too many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle just to get by, the tax penalty for not having health insurance will actually be cheaper than trying to find affordable coverage that actually pays for care.

This is how the middle classes, who fuel the nation’s economy and fund the government’s programs, get screwed repeatedly.

When almost 60% of Americans are so financially strapped that they don’t have even $500 in savings and nothing whatsoever put away for retirement, and yet they are being forced to pay for government programs that do little to enhance their lives, we’re not living the American dream.

We’re living a financial nightmare.

We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

We have no real say, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

George Harrison, who died 16 years ago this month, summed up this outrageous state of affairs in his song Taxman:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

In other words, in the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than indentured servants and sources of revenue.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

Irwin A. Schiff was one of the nation’s most vocal tax protesters. He spent a good portion of his life arguing that the income tax was unconstitutional. He paid the price for his resistance, too: Schiff served three separate prison terms (more than 10 years in all) over his refusal to pay taxes. He died at the age of 87 serving a 14-year prison term. As constitutional activist Robert L. Schulz noted in Schiff’s obituary, “In a society where there is so much fear of government, and in particular of the I.R.S., [Schiff] was probably the most influential educator regarding the illegal and unconstitutional operation and enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code. It’s very hard to speak to power, but he did, and he paid a very heavy price.”

It’s still hard to speak to power, and those who do are still paying a very heavy price.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

The national debt is $20 trillion and growing. The amount this country owes is now greater than its gross national product (all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens). We’re paying more than $270 billion just in interest on that debt annually. And the top two foreign countries who “own” our debt are China and Japan.

To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports, “For 15 years now, the United States has been putting these wars on a credit card… U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.

Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its money grabs.

While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the police state is spending our hard-earned tax dollars to further entrench its powers and entrap its citizens.

For instance, American taxpayers have been forced to shell out $5.6 trillion since 9/11 for the military industrial complex’s costly, endless so-called “war on terrorism.” That translates to roughly $23,000 per taxpayer to wage wars abroad, occupy foreign countries, provide financial aid to foreign allies, and fill the pockets of defense contractors and grease the hands of corrupt foreign dignitaries.

Mind you, that staggering $6 trillion is only a portion of what the Pentagon spends on America’s military empire.

That price tag keeps growing, too.

The 16-year war in Afghanistan, which now stands as the longest and one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history, is about to get even longer and more costly, thanks to President Trump’s promise to send more troops over.

In this way, the military industrial complex will get even richer, and the American taxpayer will be forced to shell out even more funds for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

This is still no way of life.

Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.

We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.

Are you getting the picture yet?

The government isn’t taking our money to make our lives better. Just take a look at the nation’s failing infrastructure, and you’ll see how little is being spent on programs that advance the common good.

We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.

This is nothing less than financial tyranny.

“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.

It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.

There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.

We’ve become so invested in identity politics that label us based on our political leanings that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be want to pit us against one another. They want us to adopt an “us versus them” mindset that keeps us powerless and divided. Trust me, the only “us versus them” that matters anymore is “we the people” against the police state.

We’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”

The message is this: there is power in our numbers.

That remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might). As Patrick Henry declared in the last speech before his death, “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions … or … exhaust [our strength] in civil commotions and intestine wars.”

This holds true whether you’re talking about health care, war spending, or the American police state.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | | 1 Comment

Trump holds the line on foreign policy

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 13, 2017

For the first time since US President Donald Trump took office, a reality check is possible on the foreign policy platform he espoused during the 2016 campaign. Most of the key elements of that platform faced the litmus test one way or another during his 11-day Asian tour, which concludes today. How does the scorecard look?

On a scale of 10, one can say it stands at 8-9. Trump’s performance through the tour of the 5 Asian states – Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines – shows that there has been a remarkable consistency in terms of the foreign policies he pledged to deliver if elected as president.

The first key element in the Asia-Pacific context has been Trump’s total rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the Obama administration had negotiated. The Asian tour put to test whether he’d hold the line to scrap the TTP. The pressure was immense, led by Japan and Australia, that the TTP should be revived in some form.

But Trump stuck to his ‘Nyet’. In his speech at the APEC summit in Da Nang on Friday, he reiterated that his administration would only seek bilateral trade agreements with the Asian countries. In fact, he let loose a volley on the WTO as well. That leaves Japan to lead a coalition of 11 countries originally a part of TPP – Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, New Zealand and Brunei – to make their own deal.

It is unlikely that the effort to revive the TPP will go very far after Trump made it clear that the US has no interest in it. In any case, the latest development – Canada’s decision last week to pull out as well – virtually means that the efforts to revive the TPP in some form are unraveling.

Now, the TPP was supposed to have provided the vital underpinning for the Obama administration’s containment strategy against China (known as ‘pivot to Asia’.) This brings us to another Trump platform. During the 2016 campaign, it was apparent that Trump had no interest in pursuing a containment strategy against China.

Of course, candidate Trump was highly critical of China. But that was for other reasons – over the issue of trade deficit, currency manipulation, breach of intellectual property rights, market access, taking away US jobs and so on. The criticism continues. But then, Trump intends to sort out the issues directly with the Chinese leadership.

The point is, a containment strategy against China is unviable and unsustainable sans the TPP, but Trump couldn’t care less. The Asian tour has further confirmed his panache for transactional diplomacy, which he thinks is the optimal approach from the perspective of ‘America First’.

Trump is not a grand strategist; nor is he professorial like Barack Obama. He has no time or patience for geopolitics woven onto the tapestry of a comprehensive Asia-Pacific strategy. The Asian tour brings this out very clearly.

Nonetheless, it has been a most productive tour for ‘America First’. In Japan and South Korea he pushed arms exports. He got South Korea to increase its share of the financial cost of maintaining the big US military bases. He has lifted the cap on South Korea’s missile development program. These are in line with his approach to the importance of cost sharing and burden sharing by the US’ allies.

The “state visit-plus” to China was of course the high noon of the Asian tour. Trump wrapped up deals worth $235 billion, which ought to translate as tens of thousands of new jobs in the US economy.

Was he perturbed that China is overshadowing the US as the region’s principal driver of growth in Southeast Asia? Trump’s APEC speech showed no signs of it. He never once berated China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Ironically, he complimented the Chinese leadership for serving the national interests effectively! He didn’t show signs of competing with China for the ASEAN’s friendship, either.

Candidate Trump had shown an aversion toward US interventions in foreign countries except when American interests are directly involved. Indeed, North Korea was the only ‘talking point’ in his agenda.

Incredibly enough, Trump didn’t even mention the territorial disputes in the South China Sea in his remarks at the US-ASEAN summit in Manila earlier today. Instead, Trump’s focus was on economics. He said in the speech:

  • We have the highest stock market we’ve ever had. We have the lowest unemployment in 17 years. The value of stocks has risen $5.5 trillion. And companies are moving into the United States. A lot of companies are moving. They’re moving back. They want to be there. The enthusiasm levels are the highest ever recorded on the charts. So we’re very happy about that, and we think that bodes very well for your region because of the relationship that we have. (Transcript)

The most controversial part of Trump’s tour came on Thursday when he was expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin but didn’t – apparently due to scheduling difficulties. (Putin later told the Russian media that functionaries will be ‘disciplined’ for the botch-up.) But what stood out was the Trump-Putin joint statement on Syria that was eventually issued on Friday, reflecting Trump’s intention to take Putin’s help in ending the war.

Trump is unwavering that it is in the US’ interests to engage with Putin. This is despite the civil war going on back home where critics are braying for his blood for being ‘soft’ on Russia. We get a glimpse of the classic Trump in his dogged persistence all through that the US and Russia ought to have a productive relationship and Russia’s help is necessary for solving regional and global issues. He rubbed it in in while speaking to the White House press party aboard Air Force One.

Indeed, Trump’s remarks have raised a furious storm in the US with Senator John McCain leading the pack of wolves. Read the transcript of Trump’s remarks on Russia here.

November 13, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘America First!’ AWOL from Beijing, War with North Korea Looms

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.11.2017

There’s no indication that President Donald Trump’s summit with China’s Xi Jinping achieved any breakthrough on North Korea. But why didn’t it? After all, Trump said that China could “fix” the North Korea problem “easily and quickly” and it was just a matter of Xi’s making up his mind to do so.

No less divorced from reality was Trump’s half-hearted pitch on the US trade imbalance with China. The problem, he said, was not the Chinese – whom he complimented on their cleverness in exploiting our stupidity – but on the flaccid policies of prior American administrations. Quite true! But what will he do differently? Not much it seems, except maybe give a big tax cut with no strings attached to fat corporations that are thrilled to keep moving their operations overseas. Global market über alles! And here we all thought Hillary Clinton lost the election . . .

All in all, Trump’s China visit was characterized by putting his “America First!” campaign principles on ice in favor of the globalist agenda of his economic advisers and subordination of trade to the geopolitical concerns of the military Junta that runs his administration for him. Sure, there might some tinkering here and there, like the recent hit against Chinese aluminum foil dumping. But plutocrats worried about a “trade war” with China can sleep easy.

On North Korea – the overwhelming US preoccupation at the Trump-Xi summit – Trump came up empty. For months observers have fretted over Trump’s oscillating rhetoric from fire and destruction one day to let’s-make-a-deal the next. He’s his own good cop, bad cop act.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with bluster and unpredictability. The art of the deal, you know. Despite the claims of Trump’s detractors, the President’s supposed irresponsibility and impulsiveness aren’t the problem. Trump’s personal style hasn’t yet resulted in war, and if war comes, that wouldn’t be the reason for it. Rather the real danger comes from the ostensible experts who set the parameters within which Trump operates, to whom he’s unwisely outsourced his foreign and security policies. The following articles of faith are baked into the cake:

  • First, It’s nice that there has evidently been a back channel for direct US talks with North Korea, but from Washington’s perspective there is nowhere for negotiations to go past demands for denuclearization. Any kind of concession to Pyongyang is out of the question, as it would mean “rewarding aggression” and “showing weakness.” There are no evident contours for a deal when only one side is expected to make concessions.
  • Second, because Washington has defined North Korea’s nukes as ipso facto a vital threat to the US, the minimum acceptable US goal is Pyongyang’s dumping its weapons.. (Regime change would be better, since it would also mean denuclearization.) The fact that Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nukes under any circumstances means there can be no deal.
  • Third, in Washington’s collective mind the crisis is 100 percent the fault of North Korea, zero percent the result of our presence in Korea, of our threats against Pyongyang, or of our actions elsewhere. How can you blame us – we tried diplomacy for 20 years and all it did was lead to a bomb! Any suggestion that Kim Jong-un is responding to threats from George W. Bush’s 2002 Axis of Evil speech or to the disposal of Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein (who, unlike Kim, were foolish enough not to have WMDs) would be “blaming America!” Taking responsibility for past mistakes is not our forte. The prospect that the US mainland might in a few months be targetable by a nuclear-tipped North Korean ICBM has nothing at all to do with anything the US has said or done.
  • Fourth, we know China can solve this at will – easily and quickly, as the President said. As former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton says: “That’s why you say to China: ‘we’re gonna see reunification here. Do you want to do it the hard way or the easy way?” This means China can do the job for us, or we’ll do it. The notion that Beijing will not take an action fundamentally inconsistent to China’s national security because of American flattery or threats is almost inconceivable. But if they fail to do as we demand, what comes next will be their fault, not ours.
  • Fifth, the military option is still very much on the table. The Junta are not strategic thinkers but they are very, very certain of their technique. If worse comes to worst, and they are “forced to act” (from their point of view) they are supremely (and dangerously) confident that good execution can minimize the damage. Preparations for a preemptive strike continue apace. In Seoul Trump touted the prowess of the three US carrier groups off the peninsula. Maybe it’s all just a bluff to get the Chinese to act (as we know they can; see the preceding paragraph). But if worse comes to worst, and it turns out horribly for a lot of people: We had no choice in light of China’s inaction. Does this mean the planners are sitting around scheming to sacrifice Seoul so as not to look weak? No, but they are prepared to risk that outcome because they are boxed in by all the other elements of their approach. Worse, they are sure they call pull it off. After all, look at how well our other recent wars have gone!
  • Sixth, Trump has made it clear that his instincts are on hold and he’ll be guided by “the professionals.” (Compare Afghanistan, where his “new” same-old non-strategy was dictated by the Junta against what he admits were his own inclinations.) On Korea, the “experts” mainly refers to the Junta but also Nikki Haley (!!!!) and probably John Bolton. (There’s also a possibility that David Petraeus, the genius advocate of arming al-Qaeda in Syria, has a thumb in the pie as well.) Plus, keep in mind that Trump isn’t a neoconservative but he is an Andrew Jackson, or perhaps Teddy Roosevelt, nationalist. “Do not underestimate us,” Trump warned Kim. “And do not try us.” When the “experts” tell him that North Korea is “trying” us, what else can he do but act? After all, in April the “experts” told him that al-Assad gassed children in Syria – and boom! – he launched cruise missiles to the applause of both the Swamp critters and much of his populist base that has no idea where Syria is.
  • Seventh – and here’s the fun part – if it does all turn into a huge disaster involving hundreds of thousands of deaths, who will take the fall? Not McMaster or Haley. No, it will all be blamed on Trump and the “America First!” path he failed to follow. The establishment on both sides of the aisle, including many who prodded him toward a more aggressive policy, will rush to denounce him: See, we told you he’s nuts! The professionals gave him good advice but he messed everything up! In that case, they wouldn’t have to wait for impeachment, the 25th Amendment would be invoked. Talk about a “win-win” for the Deep State warmongers: getting rid of Kim and Trump!

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Pakistan, Iran step up military ties

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 8, 2017

The two-day visit by Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Tehran (November 6-7) must be noted as a significant event. Bajwa was received by President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Defence Minister General Amir Hatami, apart from top military commanders.

This might have been the first time that a visiting Pakistani army chief met the commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Of course, the IRGC can be described as the Praetorian Guards of the Islamic regime and it functions under the supervision of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but its special forces wing known as the Quds Force (under its charismatic commander General Qasem Soleimani) undertakes sensitive missions abroad. Quds Force reports directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Without doubt, General Bajwa’s meeting with the commander of the IRGC General Mohammad Ali Jafari in Tehran on Tuesday becomes an event of exceptional importance. The Trump administration recently ‘sanctioned’ the IRGC.

At the meeting with Bajwa, Jafari offered to share the IRGC’s ‘experiences’ with the Pakistani military. To quote Jafari, “Having 40 years of the experience of resistance against enemies’ threats, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to transfer its defense and popular resistance experiences to Pakistan.” He warned that the ‘regional (Muslim) nations and states are facing the US and the Zionist regime’s enmity and certain attempts have also been made to foment insecurity in Pakistan, which should be confronted by reliance on popular forces along with Armed and security forces.’ (FARS )

Indeed, enhanced security and military cooperation between Iran and Pakistan was repeatedly stressed by both sides. Notably, IRNA cited President Rouhani as saying that Iran is ‘determined’ to expand military cooperation in various areas such as training, joint exercises, military industry as well as exchange of experiences’. Rouhani added that terrorism, sectarian and ethnical differences are two main problems in the Muslim countries and ‘some global powers’ have a role in fueling them. He said that big powers are against unity and brotherhood between Muslim countries.

Bajwa assured his Iranian interlocutors that Pakistan will not allow any third country to interfere in its relations with Iran. An ISPR press release in Islamabad on Bajwa’s meetings said, “Leaders of both sides agreed to stay engaged for enhanced bilateral cooperation while jointly working to assist in bringing positive developments in other issues concerning the region.”

All in all, both Iran and Pakistan sense the need to draw closer to try to harmonise their regional policies even as they are circling the wagons to counter growing US pressure. The mounting tensions between Iran on one hand and the nascent US-Saudi-UAE-Israeli axis on the other hand make it imperative for Tehran to preserve peace and tranquility on its eastern border with Pakistan. For Pakistan too, Iran’s positive neutrality vis-à-vis its rivalries with India is useful and necessary. (Tehran Times )

Both Iran and Pakistan are stakeholders in the developing situation in Afghanistan. They share disquiet over the prospect of an open-ended US military presence in Afghanistan and harbor suspicions regarding American intentions. Yet, it remains to be seen if in a clean break from the past, Tehran and Islamabad can indeed work together on the Afghan problem – although the recent trend of targeted anti-Shi’ite attacks by new insurgent groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan (possibly with US/Saudi/Israeli backing) must be worrying Iran and Pakistan alike.

Bajwa’s discussions in Tehran dwelt on cooperation in intelligence sharing. Clearly, regional alignments work to Pakistan’s advantage, especially on two templates: India’s close ties with the US and Israel (which Tehran surely watches closely); and, the rising hostility between Iran and the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. On the contrary, Pakistan faces a challenging trapeze act, what with a Saudi-UAE axis preparing for a no-holds-barred showdown with Iran regionally.

To be sure, the growing Iran-Pakistan proximity will be welcomed by China and Russia. Iran is keen to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. Similarly, the $30 billion energy agreements signed between Russia and Iran a week ago (during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran) have been interpreted as a move by Moscow to build up strategic assets in the Persian Gulf. The Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as mentioning Gazprom’s plan to build pipeline(s) to supply gas to India and/or Pakistan from the Persian Gulf.

At the meeting in Tehran with Bajwa on Monday, Zarif underlined Iran’s readiness to supply gas to Pakistan. Interestingly, on Sunday, Gazprom signed an initial agreement with Iranian state-run investment fund IDRO to cooperate in unspecified oil, gas and energy projects in the region.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Purge ‘Paves Way for Aggressive Policy Towards Iran’

Sputnik – November 7, 2107

The purge of former Saudi intelligence chiefs and government ministers boosts the danger of war with Iran and permanently higher oil prices, former US Army officer Todd Pierce told Sputnik.

The political purge would give Crown Prince Mohammed far more power to act in a reckless manner and plunge the country into a war with Iran without the traditional checks and balances of the Saudi political system to constrain him, Pierce explained.

“Anyone who pays attention can see that the new coalition of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with their lesser GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] allies, minus Qatar, are vigorously promoting and trying to incite a war with Iran,” Pierce said on Monday. “The purge is part of that, and the combination of heightened war risk can’t help but create conditions where oil prices will rise.”

Pierce said the US policy under both Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama had been to support Saudi Arabia against Iran.

“This US-led aggressiveness is the cause of the higher prices and the expected outcome of this is war with Iran, something that will also boost prices,” Pierce said.

Uncertainty over the political future of Saudi Arabia coupled with well-founded fears about a looming Saudi-Iran war would both drive global oil prices far higher and keep them there, Pierce predicted.

On Saturday, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a decree establishing a new anti-corruption committee in the country chaired by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The committee will investigate corruption cases and is empowered to arrest suspects as well as restrict their movements and freeze their accounts.

Over the weekend, a number of former and incumbent Saudi officials were detained by authorities as part of an anti-corruption purge launched by Riyadh, including 11 princes, four incumbent ministers, and dozens of former senior level officials, local media reported.

Oil prices soared to their highest levels in more than two years after news of the Saudi purge.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Few More Who Think The Poor Ought To Have Access To Cheap Energy

By Francis Menton | Manhattan Contrarian | October 31, 2017

If you were asked to name the most immoral thing going on in the world today, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate than the campaign to keep the world’s poor in poverty. This campaign usually goes under the banner of “saving the planet” or “sustainability” or something similar. There are times when it feels very lonely out here in the small group pointing out the deep immorality of this campaign. For example, one such time was last April, when some hundreds of thousands of spoiled, wealthy Americans conducted what they called the “March for Science,” demanding that cheap and reliable energy be restricted and that the price of energy be increased to a level to make sure that the poor could never afford it. The entire progressive press and media cheered these people on.

In the camp of people calling out the “sustainability” campaigners for their immorality, I particularly favor the ones who don’t mince their words. These campaigners need to be harshly condemned. So today I’ll give a shout out to a couple of voices that aren’t afraid to say the obvious on this subject.

First, Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK participated in a debate at Cambridge University on October 26, where the question before the house was “This House would rather cool the planet than warm the economy.” Cambridge, like all elite universities these days, has become a center for advocacy of de-carbonization, of de-industrialization, and of making sure that poor countries cannot get energy that is cheap and reliable and that works. Benny’s full presentation can be found at the link. Here are a few excerpts:

[T]he fact that stopping economic development is even being advocated by some of the world’s most privileged students in Cambridge reveals how far removed this green bubble is from the harsh reality of billions of people who are desperately trying to escape poverty. Let’s not beat about the bush: If today’s motion would ever be implemented by some radical green government, it would lead to the death of millions of poor people in the developing world, astronomical mass unemployment and economic collapse. That’s because poor nations without economic growth have no future and are unable to raise living standards for impoverished populations. . . .

Climate and green energy policies have lead to is the biggest wealth transfer in the history of modern Europe — from the poor to the rich. . . . The proponents of today’s motion argue that economic growth should be sacrificed or at least curtailed in order to cut global CO2 emissions. Denying the world’s poor the very basis on which Britain and much of Europe became wealthy — largely due to cheap coal, oil and gas — amounts to an inhumane and atrocious attempt by green activists to sacrifice the needs of the world’s poor on the altar of climate alarmism.

“Inhumane” and “atrocious.”  I could have come up with even more such words, but that’s a pretty good start. Good job, Benny!

And here is another one, this time from reader Mikko Paunio, who sent me a link to his recent (October 30) article discussing why restricting fossil fuels and requiring expensive and intermittent renewables threatens public health in poor countries. The title is “Sustainability Threatens Public Health In The Developing World.”

Paunio points out that good public health requires large amounts of clean water, which in turn requires reliable and affordable power.

We take sanitary practices for granted in wealthier countries but hygienic practices require water in quantity and uninterrupted power to supply that water and related sewage systems.

And it’s not just clean drinking water that is at issue. Good hygiene and sanitation require water not only for drinking, but also for things like laundry, dishes, toilets and sewers.

Painstaking research has shown that the provision of clean drinking water brings down children’s diarrhoea risk by [only] around 20-25 per cent in a developing country setting (31,32). This is partly because purified water is a harsh environment for those enteric pathogenic microbes that would otherwise enter the system. However more importantly, it is because so many water washable diseases remain transmissible under unhygienic conditions. . . . [H]ygienic practices include personal hygiene, household hygiene i.e. linen and other laundry, kitchen hygiene (utensils and food), cleanliness of suitable surface materials especially in bathrooms. These require water in substantial quantities for ensuring hygiene by de-contamination and human-waste disposal, in addition to providing solely drinking water.  

And then there’s the question of air pollution, particularly the indoor variety. In countries without cheap and reliable electricity, the people of necessity turn to indoor fires of wood or animal dung for heating and cooking. The result:

Decentralized heating and cooking in homes in the urban areas of the developing world account for most ambient air pollution and perhaps 80-90 % of the WHO estimate of up to 6.5 million annual deaths linked to such air pollution.

So where are our national and international bureaucracies on addressing these critical issues?

Instead of addressing those [water and air pollution] issues in the most practical way possible, the US in 2013 declined multilateral (World Bank) aid to build centralized power plants in the poorest countries – because to be affordable they had to use coal. Instead, the US government sided with WHO and Dr. Margaret Chan and insisted on climate change mitigation for poor countries while giving China unlimited emissions until 2030.

Where did we go wrong? When guiding the “Our Common Future” report, Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland chose to deny crucial infrastructural urban development, such as the provision of fresh water supplies and the installation of sewerage systems, unless it could be done “sustainably”. But the countries that need such infrastructure are often unable to raise capital on their own and need multilateral assistance from rich countries. By mandating they could only have loans if they agreed to build things that would be too expensive, we doomed those countries to failure.

I guess I can understand how the bureaucracies can get involved in these efforts that lead to mass impoverishment and millions of deaths. After all, bureaucracies have an internal dynamic that makes them only interested in increasing their own power and prerogatives; the poor are just collateral damage. But how is it that the faculties and students of all elite universities, and the entire progressive media, have become part of this immoral endeavor? It’s impossible to understand.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | Leave a comment

Elon Musk’s Financial Woes Begin to Mount

Sputnik – November 5, 2017

The business empire of Elon Musk, built with the help of government subsidies, is suffering considerable financial losses as certain ventures of his appear to be unable to meet the previously declared expectations.

Elon Musk has long been hailed by as a genius entrepreneur and a pioneer of technological advancement.

However, the financial problems that befell many of his enterprises appear to cast doubt upon Musk’s business acumen.

Earlier Tesla Motors reported a record $671 million quarterly loss while the company proved unable to meet its production goal (5,000 cars per week) for the Tesla Model 3, according to The Verge.

Also, the new tax cut proposed by Republicans threatens to deal a serious blow to Tesla Motors as it would strip the company of its $7,500 per vehicle federal tax credit.

And it appears that Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity were built with the help of almost $5 billion worth of government subsidies, making it look like “Musk and his companies’ investors enjoy most of the financial upside of the government support, while taxpayers shoulder the cost,” as the Los Angeles Times put it.

Interestingly enough, Tesla sales in Hong Kong and Denmark stalled after both areas did away with tax breaks for electric cars.

And it appears that, so far at least, Musk’s Hyperloop project has failed to produce a single model capable of reaching the speed of 400 km/h, let alone the promised 1,200 km/h.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada a settler state helping pull imperial strings, not a colony

By Yves Engler · November 4, 2017

Colony or settler state?

Recently foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland dismissed concerns that Canada was seeking “regime change” in Venezuela by saying “Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase: we’ve been the colony.”

As I detailed in an initial response, Ottawa has passively or actively supported numerous U.S.-backed military coups against progressive elected governments. But, the conclusion to Freeland’s statement above is equally absurd, even if it is a common refrain among liberals and leftists.

Despite its popularity, the idea that Canada was or is a “colony” obscures Canada’s place near the top of a hierarchical world economy and polity. In probably its most famous iteration, prominent historian Harold Innis remarked that Canada had gone “from colony to nation to colony.”

Between 1867 and 1931, Canadian foreign policy was officially determined by London. But, describing this as a “colonial” relationship ignores the Canadian elite’s access to British capital, universities, armaments, etc., as well as Canada’s role in extending British power westward and, to a lesser extent, in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

While technically accurate, employing the term “colony” to describe both Canada and Kenya makes little sense. British, French and other settlers in Canada were not dispossessed of their land, but rather dispossessed First Nations. Additionally, they faced no repression comparable to that experienced by the Maasai or Kikuyu. Calling Canada a “colony” is akin to describing the European settlers in Kenya as “colonized”. While tensions existed between the whites in Kenya and the Colonial Office in London, the settlers also had privileged access to British arms, technology and capital.

At first, Canada was an arm of the British Empire, conquering the northern part of the Western hemisphere by dispossessing First Nations. After 1867, Ottawa regularly argued it “was looking after British imperial interests in North America and that the country’s material growth reinforced the British Empire,” writes Norman Penlington in Canada and Imperialism: 1896-1899. “The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was especially justified as a British military route to the East.”

A number of Canadian military institutions were established in large part to expand the British Empire’s military capacity. Opened in Kingston, Ontario, in 1876, the Royal Military College (RMC) was largely designed to train soldiers to fight on behalf of British colonialism. Usually trained at the RMC, Canadians helped conquer Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Four hundred Canadians traveled halfway across the world to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan in 1885 while a decade and a half later thousands more fought to advance British imperial interests in the southern part of the continent.

While Freeland wasn’t clear about whether she was referring to British or U.S. influence over Canada, the second part of the “colony to nation to colony” parable is also misleading. Has Canada been colonized by Washington in a similar way to Haiti? Among innumerable examples of its domination, on December 17, 1914, U.S. Marines marched to the country’s treasury and took the nation’s entire gold reserve — valued at U.S. $12 million — and between 1915 and 1934 Washington formally occupied Haiti (they retained control of the country’s finances until 1947.)

Facilitated by racial, linguistic and cultural affinity, Canada has long had privileged access to the U.S. business and political elite. Longtime speaker of the House of Representatives and Democratic Party nominee for President in 1912, Champ Clark, highlighted Canada’s prized place within U.S. ruling circles. “They are people of our blood,” Champ expounded. “They speak our language. Their institutions are much like ours. They are trained in the difficult art of self-government.”

During the 1898-1902 occupation of Cuba the Royal Bank was the preferred banker of U.S. officials. (National U.S. banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches until 1914.) Canadian capitalists worked with their U.S. counterparts in Central America as well. In the early 1900s, Canadian Pacific Railway President Sir William Van Horne helped the Boston-based United Fruit Company, infamous for its later role in overthrowing elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz, build the railway required to export bananas from the country. In the political realm there were also extensive ties. For instance, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, worked for the Rockefeller family while the mother of long-time U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was from a wealthy Canadian family.

Today, the ties are closer than ever. In a post U.S. election exposé titled “A look inside Palm Beach, where wealthy Canadians are one degree of separation from Donald Trump,” The Globe and Mail detailed a slew of prominent Canadians (Brian Mulroney, Charles Bronfman, George Cohon, Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, Paul Desmarais’s family, etc.) with winter homes near the U.S. president’s exclusive property. A number of these individuals, the Globe reported, could get “Trump’s ear” if he turned on Canada.

While there is a power imbalance between the two countries and differing interests at times, the Canadian elite sees the world and profits from it in a similar way to their U.S. counterparts.

Rather than looking at Canadian foreign policy through the lens of a “colony,” a more apt framework to understand this country’s place in the world is the Canadian elite has had a privileged position with the two great powers of the past two centuries. Or, Canada progressed from an appendage of the Imperial Centre to appendage of the Imperial Centre.

The term “settler state” is a better description than “colony” of what Canada was and is. It acknowledges the primary colonizer (us) and does not obscure the power relations in the imperial order — our ruling elite is closely tied into the world ruling elite.

Canada’s opposition to Venezuela’s elected government reflects this status.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s snub to US has meaning for India

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 2, 2017

Only Tehran could have punctured US President Donald Trump’s massive ego with just a delicate deflection by the wrist. It all began in the weekend with an innocuous media disclosure in Iran that Trump had sought a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani during the latter’s visit to New York in September to address the UN General Assembly, but the latter spurned the overture summarily. On Sunday Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahran Qassemi commented crisply, “A request indeed was made by the US side, but it wasn’t accepted by President Rouhani.”

Of course, Washington went into a tizzy with White House struggling to deny the Iranian report at first, but belatedly realizing, perhaps, that a lie might boomerang, allowed the State Department spokesperson to tamely confirm it on Tuesday. Trump’s request was apparently transmitted to the Iranian side when the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javed Zarif were closeted together on the sidelines of a meeting of the foreign ministers of the P5+1 and Iran to review the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal in September.

The episode speaks volumes about Trump, the man and the statesman – and his times in the White House and the US foreign policies in such extraordinary times. Countries such as India or China must draw appropriate conclusions. Indian analysts, in particular, are still crowing about Tillerson’s recent rhetoric at the CSIS conjuring up from thin air a quadripartite alliance between the US, Japan, India and Australia to contain China, while Trump on the other hand is preparing for a momentous state visit to China looking for some foreign-policy trophy as outcome in his barren presidency.

The point is, Trump could so blithely befool the wily Saudi King Salman and the pompous Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in one go, sending them into wild ecstasy that he is about to go after the jugular veins of the Iranian leaders, while in reality also desiring to cultivate them on the quiet or at least keep open a line of communication to them – and, perhaps, even do some business with Tehran for ‘America First’.

The bad part is that the US is also intruding into India’s Iran policies. Did India have to cut back oil imports from Iran and replace it with US shale oil? For the US (or Israel), it is important that India-Iran relations remain sub-optimal for as long as their own relationships with Iran remain problematic. India’s interests, on the other hand, lie in forging a strategic partnership with Iran that can be highly productive and beneficial for advancing its development strategy as well as for strengthening regional security. To borrow the American expression, Iran is India’s ‘natural partner’.

Nothing brings this home as when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proposed to the visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Tehran on Wednesday that a transportation corridor could be built connecting the Iranian port of Chabahar with St-Petersburg. India cannot miss the point that Russia and Iran could be meaningful partners in fostering regional connectivity. Simply put, geography dictates geopolitics and geo-economy.

The bottom line is that the Iranian snub to Trump also highlights its strategic defiance of the US’ attempts to (re)impose hegemony in what the Americans call the ‘Greater Middle East’ – stretching from the Levant to the Central Asian steppes. Delhi should pay serious attention to the remark by Khamenei to Putin yesterday when he said that the “good cooperation” between Iran and Russia in Syria has proved “meaningful” and bore “important results”, and above all, “this cooperation showed that Tehran and Moscow can realize common goals in difficult situations.” (Tehran Times )

Khamenei didn’t specifically refer to Afghanistan, but the thought couldn’t have been far from his mind. The US’ plans to consolidate an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan is actually aimed at encircling Iran and Russia and containing them. It is useful to recall in this context that the then Iranian and Russian foreign ministers – Ali Akbar Velayati and Evgeniy Primakov – had worked closely together to bring the Tajik civil war to an end in 1997. Equally, Iran and Russia were on the same page in supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan during 1997-2001.

No doubt, the preference of Tehran and Moscow once again will be to carry Delhi along with them in the struggle for strengthening regional security and stability through regional initiatives – as Khamenei’s remark on connecting Chabahar with St. Petersburg implies.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

$250mn each day for 16yrs: The staggering cost of ‘War on Terror’

RT | November 1, 2017

The ‘War on Terror’ has cost US taxpayers at least $1.46 trillion since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense’s cost of war report has revealed.

The 74-page DoD dossier was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News. It breaks down the cost of the US’s various conflicts and reveals the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq account for the greatest chunk of change.

Operation Enduring Freedom (the name given to the ‘War on Terror’ between 2001 and 2014), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War) and Operation New Dawn (past operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011) made up the biggest expense. They cost a combined $1.315 trillion.

Current military operations cost $147.6 billion. This includes $102.9 billion for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the name given to the ‘War on Terror’ by Barack Obama at the end of 2014, and Operation Inherent Resolve, the US’s operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria which started in 2014, and has cost $17.1 billion.

Operation Noble Eagle, the US’s domestic air defense operation has cost $27.6 billion.

The report only includes direct war-related expenses, such as equipment, operating bases, training, paying troops as well as the costs related to feeding, housing and transporting them.

COSTS OF WAR NOT INCLUDED

The numbers don’t include veterans’ expenses, or the amount racked up by intelligence agencies in their war on terror. The numbers also don’t take into account the cost involved in rebuilding and post-conflict programs.

The Veterans Benefits Administration’s latest annual report found 1,060,408 veterans are receiving benefits, at an average of $15,907 each per year.

Veterans of the War on Terror’s benefits’ are costing $16.8 billion a year, and 1 million are receiving benefits at the moment.

According to a 2011 Harvard Kennedy School study, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans’ benefits were estimated to cost between $600 billion and $1.3 billion over 40 years.

The report found that $31.3 billion had been spent in the 10 years since 2001 on medical care and disability for almost 500,000 vets. It also found that Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were applying for benefits at far greater rates than previous wars.

The report found the “cost of caring for war veterans rises for several decades and peaks in 30-40 years or more after a conflict.”

The CIA’s classified operations, along with the NSA’s efforts to combat terrorism aren’t included in the total.

The report includes the total amount of funding given through war related-requests between 2001 and 2017, which is $1.7 billion and includes war spending, non-war spending on fuel and the cost of running the Noble Eagle base. It also includes an $83 billion in funds marked as “classified.”

US Intelligence agencies receive upwards of $66 billion budget to play with annually, a significant fraction of which goes to foreign operations.

The intelligence budget request for 2018 was $57.7 billion for the National Intelligence Program, which includes all programs, projects and activities of the intelligence community, and $20.7 billion for the Military Intelligence Program, which includes military intelligence operations. The NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency fall under both programs.

Despite the staggering amount spent on defense, President Trump has promised to “rebuild” the military which he says is “depleted.” He proposed a $603 billion budget for defense spending in March.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have voted to pass $696 billion and $696.6 billion defense budgets, respectively.

November 1, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | | 1 Comment