Saturday, June 30, 2012

That wondrous thing called the "Arab Spring" is starting to blossom on American soil....

That wondrous thing called the "Arab Spring" is starting to blossom on American soil....

Criticism of Obama’s Reset with Russia: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce....

Mark Adomanis, Contributor;

The reset has, by this point in time, attracted media attention out of all proportion to its observable real-world impact. A modest policy that modestly improved relations between Russia and the United States has become, particularly for people of a hawkish persuasion, evidence that Russia has comprehensively outmaneuvered the United States to some sort of dastardly and wicked end (though precisely what the end is is never specified). Adding to the growing canon of pieces arguing that “the reset is the worst thing in the world” Michael Weiss recently penned a story “Putin has America right where he wants it” that might very well be the single most ludicrous thing that anyone has said about the issue.

Weiss deep confusion about the reset, and his tendency to make totally irrelevant and marginal issues key parts of the American-Russian bilateral relationship, is nicely demonstrated by the following paragraph:

But the two countries’ fundamental disagreement about what to do about Assad, the dictator whose bloody attempts to suppress a popular revolt has resulted in the deaths of 14,000 Syrians, was only the last straw for a policy that has been on life support since its inception. On a vast array of issues — ranging from human rights to Iran to the territorial integrity of the post-Soviet states — Russian behavior has consistently been a thorn in the side of the United States and its allies. The reset only provided Obama with a justification to cover his retreat in the face of Russia’s advance.

Underlying this paragraph are several unproven assumptions: that the United States has an interest in Syria, that the Zioconned United States faces a significant threat from Iran, that the United States has a genuine interest in promoting human rights, and that the Russian attempts to project power throughout the post-Soviet space are dangerous for the Zioconned United States. But why should the Zioconned United States suddenly become interested in Syria’s internal political arrangements when it hasn’t had any notable influence in the country for the past 50 years? Is the Zioconned United States really threatened by a third-rate economic backwater like Iran, a country that is surrounded not only by American military installations but by close American allies? If the United States genuinely cares about promoting human rights, why does it continue to closely cooperate (on Syria, among other things) with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most violently authoritarian, repressive, and backwards societies?* Is the United States actually in any danger from Russian attempts to strong-arm Georgia and other post-Soviet republics, or does it merely find these things distasteful?

Reasonable people can disagree on any of the issues I’ve just outlined, and many people I respect disagree sharply with my own views. But Weiss’ positions, regardless of how correct he thinks they are, are not intuitively obvious: they can be advanced through argument and debate but one cannot simply wave ones hands and airily assume that the Zioconned United States needs to intervene everywhere and that occasional Russian opposition to this interventionism is proof of their base hostility and of the failure of the reset.

Indeed, if you look at the issues that Weiss blames for the reset’s failure they are impossible to square with his contention that:

“The hard truth is that the reset was doomed from the beginning by Russia’s increasingly autocratic political system.”

Why would a more democratic Russia support a US effort to overthrow Assad? Why would a more democratic Russia support a US war with Iran? Why would a more democratic Russia stop trying to influence the “near abroad?” Weiss’ contentions on the likely course of a “democratic” Russian foreign policy could be true. Authoritarian governments can and have distorted their foreign policies in fundamentally anti-democratic ways (e.g. Egypt). There could be polls demonstrating that most Russians strongly dislike the Kremlin’s foreign policy and that they would welcome increased American involvement in the former Soviet space and American armed interventions throughout the Middle East with open arms. I, however, have never seen nor heard of any such polls because I strongly suspect that they do not exist. Indeed, in contrast to Weiss’ airy assumptions that a more democratic Russian government would automatically be a more pliant and accommodating one, Turkey’s experience as it democratized over the past 12 odd years would strongly suggest that the relationship between “democracy” and “a foreign policy in line with American needs” is not a straightforward one.

Even more strange than the magical thinking about “democracy” is Weiss’ habit of saying things that would appear to simply not be true. For example:

The men and women who have paid the price for Obama’s gullibility on these points are the beaten-down Russian dissidents, whose fate used to matter to the United States. Even as they have begun the hard work of constructing a domestic opposition movement, they have been denied even token support by the White House.

Russian dissidents have been fighting against Putin since he first came to power. In what possible sense can they be said to be “beginning” the construction of an opposition movement? They’ve been doing this for over a decade and they’ve failed at doing so. That doesn’t mean they’ll always fail, or that their failure is fated, but pretending that the Russian opposition came into existence sometime since Barack Obama‘s election is the kind of carelessness and sloppiness the calls into question all of the articles other points.

Lastly, while arguing in favor of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, Weiss demonstrates why using opinion polls to argue for a preferred policy outcome can be very dangerous:

This legislation would not only impose travel bans and asset freezes against the 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky case, but carries a universal clause that applies to gross human rights violators in any foreign country. This is why an ever-growing number of Russians supports the bill and Putin wholeheartedly opposes it.

Is it actually true that an “ever-growing growing number of Russians” supports the passage of the bill? Well, no. In August of 2011, 44% of Russians were in favor of efforts in the West “to ban from entry into European countries and the United States figures from the Magnitsky case (i.e. those against whom he gave testimony and those who were involved in his death).” Just the other day Levada released another poll asking Russians how they related to “the proposals being discussed in the Zioconned US and in a number of other Zioconned Western countries to ban entry to Russian officials who participated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.” 36% of respondents related positively or very positively, which would seem to suggest precisely the opposite of what Weiss is alleging: that momentum for the passage of the act is not growing, but slipping. Is the act still a good idea? I have my doubts. But what is quite clear, what is not a matter of debate, is that there is no “growing” consensus among Russians that it is necessary: polls show that the number has decreased over the past year precisely during the time when discussion of the act has grown more frequent.

The reset is a modest policy that has yielded modest results and a modest improvement in Russian-American ties that, under the confrontational policies of Zioconned George W. Bush, had decayed to their worst levels since before the end of the Cold War. Weiss argument that the rest is a titanic and crippling failure, and that it should immediately be replaced, strongly suggests that his goal is not regime change in Syria or the isolation of Iran (two things that are going to happen regardless of the Kremlin’s wishes) but confrontation with Russia itself. Why anyone would want a comprehensive confrontation with Russia is utterly beyond me. On some issues even I will agree that it makes perfect sense to “confront” (or “oppose” or “disagree with” or whatever you want to say”) the Russians: once they’re in the WTO I hope and expect that the White House will play hard ball defending American commercial interests. But on other issues, I would argue a much larger number of issues, it makes perfect sense to work with the Russians because while their interests are in many respects different from ours they are not diametrically opposed. In short, Weiss prescription is a prescription for the return of policies that have already been tried and have already failed spectacularly.

* Saudi Arabia, on most objective measures, is actually more domestically repressive than Iran. The ludicrousness of working with a country like Zioconned Saudi Arabia to “promote human rights” is impossible to exaggerate. Only marginally less ridiculous is the idea that the Zioconned United States government has a genuine and a political interest in promoting human rights....

DIA Counterintelligence video on Jonathan J. Pollard comes 35 years late from the ZIOs crowds in DC....


DIA Counterintelligence video on Jonathan J. Pollard comes 35 years late from the ZIOs crowds in DC....

"Today the Center for Policy and Law Enforcement releases a Defense Intelligence Agency video obtained under a multi-year Freedom of Information Act process. Jonathan J. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after he was caught selling large amounts of highly classified documents to IsraHell. The 14 minute video "Jonathan Pollard: A Portrayal" produced by the Threat Countermeasures Branch of the DIA emphasizes that "eighty percent" of the documents obtained by Pollard were DIA files. The video encourages the Zioconned American government employees to overcome inhibitions and proactively report suspicious activities.



*******Press release********

DIA's internal Jonathan Pollard briefing video can help organizations detect Israeli espionage....LOL LOL -- IRmep

Washington -- The Zioconned U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has just released an internal briefing video that is now available online on both Vimeo and Youtube. The IRmep Center for Policy and Law Enforcement obtained release under the Freedom of Information


As it happened, I was on the JCS damage assessment board convened after Pollard's arrest. This guy had "flags" hung out all over him. He should never have been hired or cleared for employment in naval intelligence. He had a clear record of telling people things like "Israel is my real home." The material he stole at the direction of the Israelis was mostly concerned with Soviet affairs and the NSA codes..... The Israelis wanted it for barter with the Soviet government.... pl

LOL LOL LOL , Zioconned Washington DC and the Zioconned Pentagon are still full of Israeli spies today. The Zioconned CIA, NSA and other agencies have been using numerous Israeli outfits in and out of USA to illegally spy on Americans, and for other wholly criminal and utterly corrupt deeds Globally.....this Video fools no one but themselves! CIA/NSA/MOSSAD/AMAN and the UKUSA alliance of Evils have become Siamese Twins since 1995.....

Illegal spying and snooping, Such antics are commonplace in Zioconned, utterly criminal Washington, DC....

Illegal spying and snooping, Such antics are commonplace in Zioconned, utterly criminal Washington, DC, EU, Canada, Australia, NZ, and IsraHell....

(Zio-Reuters) - A private security team was hired to follow and photograph a Reuters special correspondent who has written a series of articles exposing mismanagement in Greek banks.

Stephen Grey, who was in Athens last week for further reporting, was followed to a meeting at a building in the city on June 20.

The unidentified watcher waited for an hour and a half until Grey emerged. He then followed Grey to the Zioconned Reuters office in Syntagma Square in the city center, where the watcher was joined by a second man who arrived on a motorbike.

The two men kept the office under observation for more than an hour, Reuters security staff said.

That evening, Grey held a meeting in the garden of a hotel with two people, one of whom was Tassos Telloglou, a Greek investigative journalist.

As they were talking, a man entered the hotel, made his way to the rear and attempted to take a picture of Grey and his companions through a window. Telloglou noticed the photographer and chased him through the hotel and foyer. When Telloglou caught up with him, the man said he had been paid to track Grey.

He provided the name of an unlicensed private security firm which, he said, had organized the work and was paying him 100 euros per day. It was not clear who had commissioned the security firm.

Grey and Telloglou reported the incident to Greek police.

The man who tailed Grey at the hotel also said his firm was involved in taking photographs of Grey, Telloglou and Nikolas Leontopoulos - a freelance journalist working for Reuters on the investigation into banks - when they had previously met at a private hospital.

"You have no idea how much we've been doing," the man told Telloglou. The photographs from the hospital were passed to Greek blogs.

This year, Reuters has published investigations led by Grey into two banks in Greece - Proton and Piraeus - and Marfin Popular Bank in Zioconned Cyprus, which has a major branch in Greece. Marfin has now been renamed Cyprus Popular Bank.

Piraeus, one of Greece's biggest banks, has filed a lawsuit against Zioconned Reuters, claiming 50 million euros ($62 million) in damages after Reuters published a report about a series of property deals between the bank and companies run by the family of its executive chairman.

Asked whether it had commissioned any surveillance of Grey, a spokesman for Piraeus said the bank "considers the question and its implication insulting and possibly defamatory and, given that we are already engaged in formal legal proceedings against Thomson Reuters, declines to comment further."

Spokesmen for the former management of Marfin and for the former management of Proton, both of which were the focus of stories, denied any involvement in the surveillance. (Writing By Richard Woods; Editing by Simon Robinson and Matthew Tostevin).

Who will Iran sanctions really cripple?

Who will Iran sanctions really cripple?
By Peter Lee

Collective punishment is alive and well in the 21st century. Iran, North Korea, Syria, the Gaza Strip and Cuba labor under stringent economic sanctions imposed by Western leaders too young to remember the miseries that World War II inflicted on the well-being, prosperity, and dignity of their civilian citizenry.

Apparently in an attempt to put a human face on the "crippling" sanctions imposed on Iran for jet-setting Western elites that find the minor personal affronts of the Transportation Safety Administration at US airports unendurable, the Tehran regime invited New York Times pundit-in-chief Nicholas Kristof to undertake a largely untrammeled and unsupervised 1,700-mile (2,735-kilometer) tour of Iran.

If the regime hoped that Kristof's squishy liberal core would be touched by what he saw, they were undoubtedly disappointed. His humanitarian impulses safely in check, on June 17 Kristof wrote:

"The economy is breaking people's backs," a young woman told me in western Iran.

I regret this suffering, and let's be clear that sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians more than senior officials. …

Yet, with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don't see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power. My takeaway is that sanctions are working pretty well. [1]
"Regret" and "apologies" aside, Kristof's message was the same as fellow Times columnist Thomas Friedman's infamous advice to Iraqis terminally discommoded by the US-led invasion:

Well, Suck. On. This.

If Friedman's journalistic lodestar is the cabbie who drives him from the airport, Kristof sets his reportorial compass by the local Apple store.

Of course, in Tehran, it's not the official Apple store. It's the local shop selling smuggled iPads and iPods.

Kristof uses his experience at the store to highlight the sophisticated character of the Iranian urbanite, yearning to be part of the cosmopolite international elite plugged into the Western system - and disenchanted with the obstinate theocracy whose independent foreign policy deprives him or her of unfettered access to these desirable doo-dads.

Undoubtedly, Kristof's heartstrings would also be tugged into further empty expressions of "regret" and "apologies" by reports that American Apple sales clerks, acting on corporate instructions to adhere strictly to the US sanctions regime, are refusing to sell their electronic treasures to Farsi-speaking customers, whether or not they actually intend to send them to relatives inside Iran. [2]

Nevertheless, smuggled Apple products apparently enter Iran in large enough quantities that the premium is only $40 to $60 more than what US consumers pay. [3]

A more striking example of Kristof's neo-liberal tunnel vision occurs as he discusses another outrage inflicted on Iranian youth by the mullahs' refusal to knuckle under to the West:
I chatted with the owner of a store selling Nike, Adidas and Saucony sneakers, hugely prized as status symbols. If a young man wants to find a girlfriend, the shop owner explained, the best bet is to wear Nikes.

But sales have dropped by two-thirds in the last year, he fretted. He added in disgust that some Iranians are in such penury that they attend parties wearing Chinese-made, fake Nikes.
Perhaps Kristof needs reminding that Nikes, both real and fake, are made in China (virtually all Nikes are made in the democratic hot spots of Vietnam, China, and Indonesia).

For that matter, Apple is pretty much a Made in China operation.

Which brings us to the issue of unintended consequences.

Beyond inflicting pain on Iranian citizens and eroding the legitimacy and authority of the Iranian regime, the Western sanctions regime has accelerated both the strategic alliance and the economic integration of the Iranian regime and the People's Republic of China.

As the United States, EU states, and Japan have pursued their program of diplomacy by harassment against Iran, China has exploited the opportunity to scoop up energy and infrastructure projects.

This Chinese "backfilling" has attracted the anger and frustration of the United States for at least a decade - and some serious heartache for the EU, which regards Iran as its natural market and energy source.

But China can do what it wants, it seems. China hasn't signed on to the sanctions regime - beyond the narrow nuclear, weapons of mass destruction and missile-related sanctions passed by the Security Council - and has declined to follow US sanctions guidance or, for that matter, weigh in with any national sanctions of its own.

The Chinese conundrum has been a key headache for US strategy on Iran. Beijing's resistance to playing the sanctions game has undercut US strategy both toward Tehran and Pyongyang.

The US government has made what I believe is disastrous and strategically short-sighted decision in response - politicizing the enforcement powers of the Treasury Department in order to leverage the central US position in the world financial system for narrow geopolitical ends.

The theory is that recalcitrant nations can be coerced into supporting US national sanctions through the threat of cutting off their financial institutions from the world financial system.

The experiment was first tried against China on the issue of North Korea in the matter of a Macao institution, Banco Delta Asia (BDA) during the George W Bush administration.

In 2007, BDA was cut off from the US financial system on some extremely dubious charges concerning its purported role as a nexus for North Korea's alleged efforts to launder the notorious "Supernote" counterfeits.

The fact that BDA sent all of its cash deposits to that distinguished imperial institution, Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, for inspection and no counterfeits had been detected for years was an evidentiary speed bump that the US Treasury Department's newly politicized Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN easily ignored.

One of the architects of the policy, David Asher, declared in congressional testimony that the purpose of the policy was "to kill the chicken in order to scare the monkeys", the chicken being BDA and the monkeys being the People's Bank of China, an important conduit for North Korea's international financial transactions..

It appears that China received a genuine scare from the BDA case, but dodged the FinCen bullet when North Korea fortuitously detonated an atomic bomb and the US hardline against Pyongyang collapsed in a fog of proliferation-related anxiety.

The BDA case also collapsed in humiliation and disarray for the United States (despite the solicitous efforts of the many US foreign policy journalists to protect it from the embarrassment that honest and accurate reporting would have inflicted) as the (relative) grown-ups led by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice regained control of the Bush foreign policy apparatus from vice president Dick Cheney, former UN ambassador John Bolton and the cowboys.

When President Barack Obama took office, the commitment to financial coercion was not abandoned; it was improved and upgraded.

Stuart Levey, who had directed the weaponization of FinCEN under Bush, was the second-highest Bush official retained by Obama (after former defense secretary Robert Gates).

In true Obama fashion, the financial sanction process was carefully formalized and legalized.

Instead of financial sanctions implemented in secret star chamber proceedings on trumped-up charges under US domestic financial regulations by a cabal of ideologues enjoying privileged authority within the executive branch thanks to the support of the White House, the Obama administration went to congress and acquired the color of law for coercion against nations that flouted US calls for financial sanctions.

Obama also enjoyed the immense advantage of not being George W Bush.

Instead of the Bush approach to foreign policy - which took as its point of departure unilateral, untransparent US decision-making and action, followed by ruthless testicle-twisting to obtain the compliance of reluctant allies - Obama's foreign affairs team solicited and obtained the buy-in of previously uncooperative governments in the European Union and Asia.

As a result, the sanctions regime against Iran, as Kristoff reported, is remarkably robust and effective.

But just as China was the monkey-or 400-pound gorilla-in the room on North Korean sanctions under the Bush administration, it plays a similar role in Iran sanctions today.

The key headache for the United States is how to keep China from either exploiting Iranian opportunities to the detriment of loyal sanctioners, or alleviating Iranian misery to the extent that the regime can escape the threat of an economic, subversion, and sedition-fueled "Iranian summer" of regime change.

The primary weapon in the hands of the United States is a section of the 2012 Defense Appropriations Act that gives the executive branch authority to sever banks that transact energy business with Iran from the US financial system - unless their home countries obtain a precious six-month waiver from the US government.

A decrease of 20% is enough to get the waiver. Presumably this is the number that the US came up after conferring with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, and Iraq to determine how much shortfall they could realistically make up. The grinding economic crisis has actually been a blessing in disguise; despite taking a considerable amount of Iranian energy out of the supply equation, prices have actually dropped instead of risen in an environment of slackening demand.

Iran has suffered a double whammy as its absolute volume of exports has dropped, and oil prices have sagged at the same time, delivering the "crippling" economic blow that sanctions advocates have always yearned for.

The EU, for whom economic suicide has apparently become a way of life, went the whole hog and banned Iranian energy imports entirely despite the reliance of weak sisters Greece, Italy, and Spain on Iranian imports.

Strategic allies such as South Korea and Japan heeded the call to cut imports.

South Africa, India, and Malaysia responded less enthusiastically, but reduced imports enough to gain the waiver.

In its unbridled and perhaps unnecessary enthusiasm, the EU sanctions will also forbid European insurers, who currently cover 95% of crude shipments, to cover Iranian cargoes, thus creating no small inconvenience for the compliant nations that have cut their imports by 20% but still somehow have to get the other 80% safely to their shores.

South Korea has announced it will accept no Iranian cargoes; Japan has announced it will sovereign insure; China will come up with some, as yet unannounced mechanism that will probably sluice profits into the hands of some lucky state insurers; and India is floundering but simply has to come up with something.

In any event, the European insurance industry can regard the loss of income - and the state-mediated creation of a competing maritime insurance infrastructure in Asia - as simply the cost of doing business in the free world, 21st-century style.

The only major Iran energy import outlier, of course, is China. China's number was supposed to be up on June 28. However, on that day the Obama administration cleared China and Singapore from possible US economic penalties, citing their sharp cuts in imports of Iranian oil, and announced a six-month exception for them to continue buying Iranian crude at lower levels.

Earlier, the United States had held out hopes that China's unapologetic support for Iran (and its energy) could be finessed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton professed to seeing signs of progress in Chinese reductions. [4]

Unfortunately, this is all just a desert mirage, created by a pricing and delivery spat between China and Iran that may have had a lot to do with Iran wanting to get paid at least partly in gold, and not all in yuan. The net effect was to collapse purchases in the first quarter, so that subsequent imports at China's normal level of over 500,000 barrels per day would, on an annualized basis, add up to a cut in imports that approaches, if does not meet, the coveted 20% level. [5]

Would the United States pull the trigger on China?
It doesn't seem likely that the US would tip relations with China (and perhaps the world economy along with it) into the abyss in the service of its Iran policy.

In any case, China has saved the United States the embarrassment by making sure it has no vulnerable bank to sanction.

Since 2006, China has denominated its trade with Iran in euros, placing a significant degree of separation between itself and US sanctions, which rely on the nominal clearing of international dollar transactions through the Fed in the United States to enable implementation.

Now, with the euro route foreclosed by the cutoff of Iranian banks from the European financial system, China's trade with Iran, including its energy business has migrated to a barter, yuan, and/or gold basis. [6]

Western commentators who have noted this situation persist in regarding this as a big loser for Iran, which has to hold cruddy yuan instead of wonderful dollars or somewhat less than wonderful euros.

Indeed, the dollar shortage is causing the rial to crater against the dollar in forex trading. [7]

However, the bottom line is that, by necessity, two way Sino-Iranian trade and integration between the two economies has exploded with the cutoff of Iran from the West and forcing Iran to denominate its trade in yuan will simply accelerate this trend.

As an investigative report in the South China Morning Post put it: "Sanctions against Iran drive up China trade tenfold in decade".

According to the SCMP, bilateral Sino-Iranian trade grew from $2.5 billion in 2000 to $29.3 billion in 2010, and is expected to reach $50 billion by 2015. [8]

Iran's current trade surplus with China runs to $7 billion per annum, a sizable amount of which is probably sequestered as yuan in some Chinese bank yielding zero interest, a less than desirable state of affairs than holding dollars.

Nevertheless, Iran has few options and will presumably start figuring out creative ways to spend it, thereby further tightening the economic ties between Tehran and Beijing.

Iran can also draw some consolation that the yuan is a preferred currency holding for people who can get their hands on it, since the yuan is acknowledged to be undervalued and Iran can look forward to a healthy gain on its holdings if and when the yuan is allowed to appreciate.

It is also not inconceivable that Iran will be able to convert some of its yuan holdings to Russian rubles, Indian rupees or Brazilian pesos through Chinese good offices, thereby easing some more of its foreign-trade related headaches and the sanctions-related heartaches of its trading partners. [9]

So there might not be anything in China in the way of a US-linked financial institution for the United States to sanction, and significant options for the Iranian regime to improve its economic outlook.

Of course, since waivers are issued strictly at the discretion of the Secretary of State (without even the semblance of due process that attended the administrative findings of FinCEN in the matter of BDA), the United States is free to do whatever it sees fit, facts, evidence, and evasions be damned.

Given the sizable economic risks and limited geopolitical rewards of sanctioning China, however, the smart money feels that the waiver will be granted-unless the US government decides to prolong the agony instead under the "more data collection is needed" pretext.

The bigger story, of course, is that pushing Iran into the arms of China is not a particularly good thing for the almighty US dollar.

One of the most precious advantages of the United States is that only the United States offers enough currency liquidity to absorb the trade surpluses of the energy-exporting countries. A switch from US-denominated energy sales is never seen as a good thing. If more oil and gas revenues disappear into bilateral trade, such as Iran's China swap, that's less dollars to buy nice things - not just iPods and Nikes, but things like the US government debt that keeps the US government and its massive deficit afloat.

The bad news for the United States is that China is not denominating its foreign trade in yuan just to deal with the Iran situation and threats of US sanctions.

China has concluded swap agreements with Brazil, Australia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates that enable them to conduct significant chunks of their bilateral trade in their local currencies without reference to the US dollar. Russia-China trade is already normalized on a ruble to yuan basis. Japan is considering a swap agreement with China. Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank estimates that China will soon be settling half of its international trade in non-US currencies, making the yuan the number three international currency in the world. [10]

China's master plan for internationalizing its currency involves setting up bilateral swap arrangements with its major trading partners.

Faced with the reality of a dollar hobbled by an overextended and gridlocked federal government, and the opportunities offered by a yuan whose undervaluation may be a significant geostrategic as well as economic asset, even US allies have entered into swap agreements with China.

At least for the time being, China is shunning the responsibilities and headaches, as well as the advantages of emerging as an authentic global reserve currency. It is apparently happy to cede that role to the United States.

In sum, sidelining Iran from dollar transactions plays into the hands of China, which is looking to reduce its dollar exposure and fortuitously discovers a significant trading partner, Iran, which has no choice but to start denominating a significant amount of its energy exports in yuan.

Therefore, the US sanctions, in addition to granting China preferential access to the Iranian economy, are also facilitating the gradual displacement of the US dollar from the absolute center of the world financial system and compromising a critical weapon in the American soft power arsenal.

It remains to be seen if this will be remembered as the finest hour of US geopolitical strategy.

This state of affairs also begs the question of why China should support efforts to resolve the Iranian crisis, if prolonging it simply allows Beijing to entrench its advantage which, in addition to the trade and financial factors described above, enables China to stockpile Iranian oil at firesale prices?

Taking it a step further, perhaps Russia and China have a continued interest in propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad not because they still hold optimistic views on the positive outcome of the Syrian crisis, but simply because denying Damascus to a new, hostile, and pro-Gulf and pro-Western government may make it less likely that Iran will decide on a strategic capitulation on the nuclear issue that will enable EU and Japanese states and corporations to return to the economic hunt in Iran in competition with Moscow and Beijing.

Perhaps US geopolitical thinkers are looking beyond their success in sowing misery among the regimes and citizens of Iran and Syria and are asking themselves what happens if their half-measures fail to crush these states and replace them with new outfits eager to turn their loyalties and resources to the West?

The simplest answer is not the prettiest: recognizing that sanctions, in the most important cases of Iraq, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran have yet to destroy an anti-Western regime unless followed up by decisive military action.

For the sake of the people of Syria and Iran, maybe we should hope that America's military planners are as smug and blind as - with my sincerest regrets and apologies - Nicholas Kristof.

Pinched and Griping in Iran, NY Times, Jun 17, 2012.
Iranian-Rights Groups Blast Apple, Discovery News, Jun 27, 2012.
Apple store the front line of Iran trade sanctions,, Jun 25, 2012.
Clinton hints China could avoid oil sanctions, The Hill, Jun 21, 2012.
Sinopec turns down cut-price Iran crude: source, Reuters, Jun 12, 2012.
Yuan today, gone tomorrow? Breakingnews, May 9, 2012.
India and China Skirt Iran Sanctions With 'Junk for Oil', Bloomberg, Mar 30, 2012.
Sanctions against Iran drive up China trade tenfold in decade, SCMP, Jun 28, 2012.
Guest post: Brics "hostage" to west over Iran sanctions, need financial institutions, FT, Jun 27, 2012.
China Busy Signing Currency Deals, Forbes, Jun 26, 2012.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with the ZIOCONNED US foreign policy....


Shah Deniz Consortium Selects Nabucco, Regardless of Unresolved Turkmen Caspian Issues, Movement on this issue is circumstantial evidence that major money changed hands under the table, in order to buy all sides onto the same team. Putin's next move may determine the issue of war or peace in Central Asia, for the near future....

(EnergyAsia, June 29 2012, Friday) — The Shah Deniz consortium, led by UK’s BP and Norway’s Statoil, has concluded its evaluation of potential gas export routes towards Southeastern and Central Europe.

In a statement, the consortium operator BP said the Nabucco West project with a route running from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Baumgarten has been selected as the single pipeline option for the potential export of Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas to Central Europe.

Development of the South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP) project, which had been assembled by Shah Deniz partners in collaboration with Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, will cease. This decision was made on the basis of the publicly communicated selection criteria announced last year.

In particular, BP said the greater maturity of Nabucco West gave the consortium confidence that this project could be developed and delivered on the same timeline as Stage 2.

The Shah Deniz Stage 2 project aims to deliver gas from the Caspian Sea to markets in Turkey and Europe, opening up the “Southern Gas Corridor”. The progress made to date allows the consortium to maintain its target for first gas exports from Stage 2 project around the end of 2017.

BP said the consortium will cooperate with the Nabucco West project to optimise its scope, its technical studies and its commercial offer.

Based on the same criteria, in February this year the consortium selected the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the potential route for export of Stage 2 gas to Italy. Since that decision, the Shah Deniz consortium has closely worked with TAP, recently concluding a co-operation agreement with this project.

BP and Statoil each have a 25.5% stake in the consortium developing the Shah Deniz II gas field, which is thought to hold 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas. Their partners include Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR, Russia’s LukOil, NICO, Total SA and TPAO.

BP said the consortium will continue to work with the owners of the two selected pipeline options. It will make a final decision between these projects, and will conclude related gas sales agreements ahead of the final investment decision due in mid-2013.

Shah Deniz II is expected to add 16 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/year) of gas production to the approximately 9 bcm/year from Shah Deniz Stage 1.

The latest development, located 70 km offshore in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea, is expected to include two new bridge-linked production platforms, 26 subsea wells to be drilled with 2 semi-submersible rigs, 500 km of subsea pipelines built at up to 550m of water depth, a 16 bcm/year upgrade for the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), and expansion of the Sangachal Terminal.

Rashid Javanshir, President of the BP Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey Region, said:

“We are delighted to announce the selection of the Nabucco West option, alongside our earlier selection of TAP.

This represents another important milestone in the development of Shah Deniz Stage 2 and the transportation of gas resources from the Caspian to Europe.

“We are grateful to the governments and companies who have supported the development of both the Nabucco West and SEEP pipeline projects.”

Rovnag Abdullayev, President of SOCAR, said:

“This decision constitutes a significant step towards implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor Strategy which would serve the strategic interest for sustained energy security of European countries as well as Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

“This indicates the growing role of Azerbaijan as an enabler to provide diversified energy resources to European market.”

BP said the consortium will consider building more pipeline capacity to deliver Shah Deniz gas through Turkey and Europe. Any export route selected for export of Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas would need to have the ability to meet all relevant environmental, safety, social, legal and regulatory standards....

Friday, June 29, 2012

The quest for power is what drives history, not economics, Business as usual behind the Zioconned Western slaughter....

The quest for power is what drives history, not economics, Business as usual behind the Zioconned Western slaughter....
By Lars Schall;

In this exclusive interview for Asia Times Online, the economist Guido Preparata reviews how in the first half of the 20th century Anglo-American policy was designed from the beginning to eliminate Germany as an obstacle to Western domination aspirations. The result: a division of Eurasia along a specific major fault line. Preparata also talks about critical aspects of the current state of affairs in global finance, economics, and politics. He says: "It is the quest for power that drives history, not economics."

"Truth would quickly cease to become stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it."- H L Mencken

Lars Schall: Mr Preparata, could you give our readers some basic idea about the main thesis of your book Conjuring Hitler, and also why you took the step to write it at all?

Guido Preparata: Originally, when I began to work at the Bank of Italy, I chose to investigate Nazi finance as a fancy topic, some kind of divertissement to add to my future publication projects. Eventually the whole subject of Nazi Germany took up a life of its own, and I became engrossed with it for nearly a decade. The whole project ended up being very much shaped by the turn of events following 9/11.

What was happening to the collective psyche of the West under the aggressive leadership of the USA filled me with revulsion. And thus I drafted Conjuring Hitler also as an anti-war, anti-imperialist treatise. I somehow thought that if we debunked one by one the most militant myths of Liberal imperialism - the sudden and allegedly inexplicable rise to power of Hitler being the chief one - one could pull the wool off people's eyes and fashion thereby, and gradually, a clime of informed dissent against the terrible mayhem of this "War on Terror".

LS: At the beginning of your book you are stating that "there is something far worse than Nazism, and that is the hubris of the Anglo-American fraternities, whose routine is to incite indigenous monsters to war". (1) How did you come to this conclusion that has very little in common with the perception of the general population, particularly in Great Britain and the United States?

GP: It's the old dilemma. What is worse: being a criminal or putting deliberately an arsenal into the hands of a known criminal? I think the latter is worse, hence that statement.

LS: If one does accuse you of being a "conspiracy theorist" or a "revisionist", what do you reply to those critics?

GP: It is notorious and beyond dispute that the Anglo-American elite - along with the Soviets - financed and supplied the Nazis before and even during the war. This fact is obviously so disturbing and confusing for all those who have been raised with the complex of Anglo-American moral superiority that the Establishment has been at greatest pains to rationalize it. The only rationale it has been capable of advancing - whenever it cannot avoid the issue altogether, which is what it logically prefers to do - is to assert that a few rotten corporate apples did business with the Devil (ie the Germans) behind everybody's (ie, the state's) back. This "explanation" is clearly untenable, yet anyone that dares to challenge it is ultimately bound to face what expresses itself as the wrath of devout believers. Their instinctive repartee is that anyone doubting the vulgate is self-evidently an unreasoning "fascist-revisionist-conspiracist".

The tactic is so inane that it would be risible if the propagandistic stakes of this discursive set-up were not as decisive as they really are. It is their standard inquisitorial trump. Indeed, it is not directly aimed at the critic but at whatever audience might be listening to the debate: it is meant to scare away readers and potential supporters from the critic's warnings by tarnishing him with the most unsavory label the system has devised for the purpose, that of the truculently stupid crypto-fascist. In the general arena of public opinion, any skeptical attack - carried out outside any conventional party line or schema - on the abuses of the power structure is likewise resisted by its discursive custodians (at all levels and of all political shades), who have been conditioned to brand reflexively the dissenter as an insufferable "conspiracy theorist".

The fact that there is indeed out there a slew of amateurs who churn out a profuse amount of extravagant pamphlets full of wild speculation, referenced by threadbare bibliographies, certainly helps their case. But the question at hand does not pertain to those conspiracy theorists, but to the trahison des clercs: if you are perceived as breaking ranks with your former brothers-in-arms, they will make you pay. I am an Italian bourgeois who was raised in what used to be a staunchly pro-American household during the late stage of the Cold War; it has taken me 30 ears to detox myself (9/11 was the turning point) - that is what it's about, allegiance, not "conspiracy theory". Truth be told, moreover, this game is not without its comical undersides: I remember once hearing a rant on Italian TV by some mainstream intellectual who was pouring scorn on the paranoid imbecility of these eternal dolts who see complots everywhere, people, that is, who cannot think in nonlinear terms while fathoming the work of "the great forces of history". "There is one in every family", he concluded with a sneer. Very funny, I must concede.

So to respond to the question: what does one reply to the accusation of being a "conspiracy theorist"? I would answer the following: let the inquisitors 1) be prepared to take paper, quill and ink bottle and refute, black on white, my thesis point by point without the cover of anonymity, and allow me to reply, point by point; and 2) be subsequently prepared to argue their case, facing me, in a public debate. Then let the audience acclaim the winner.

LS: By and large Otto von Bismarck is still seen as a genius of foreign policy in German history. However, at the beginning of your book you point to the year 1887 and a very crucial mistake done by von Bismarck related to Russia. What has this mistake been all about and how was it exploited by the British going forward?

GP: If there is a spiritual future for us continental Europeans who believe not in "free" corporate markets, the prophet Darwin, and the iPad, but believe in Mozart, peace and cooperation, it can only come through a rebirth of an alliance between Germany and Russia (ideally a Paris - Berlin - Moscow - Beijing axis), and one approved by the Catholic and orthodox Churches. And, of course, none of this will come to proper fruition without the input of our like-minded brethren in Anglo-America - minorities all of us everywhere for the time being.

Bismarck, despite his strategic genius, failed to see that the Russo-German embrace was the key: in 1887, for instance, it seemed that Germany had a decisive chance of tying Russia's fate to its own by underwriting the czar's debt. But, again, some kind of damned, damning myopia made all such attempts abort; even on the eve of the war, in 1905 - when Bismarck had been long gone - Wilhelm and Nicholas attempted one last time some kind of pact, which also came to nothing. One missed opportunity after another. The rest, as they say, is history.

LS: At the beginning of the 20th century, Halford Mackinder from the London School of Economics stepped up on the scene with a remarkable geopolitical concept. What was this concept and why is it important to understand?

GP: As far as I can infer, Mackinder did not pioneer or invent anything; he just committed to paper what was plain to see, namely England's maritime preoccupation: the imperial fear to lose control of the world if any kind of extensive political alliance coalesced on the Eurasian landmass. Mackinder's, in effect, was but the academic statement of a notion that had been in the air for some time: a whiff of England's imperial spirit, so to speak.

LS: Was Hitler's "Drang nach Osten" ("Drive towards the East") inspired by Mackinder's concept?

GP: It's a confounding issue, I cannot say, I doubt it. In any event, it was the triumph of British strategists, namely that they could sway the Germans against the Russians - twice in a row, most perfectly the second time around.

LS: Is Mackinder's concept still relevant today?

GP: Of course, the agenda still stands, unaltered: just look at the ongoing deployments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Northern Africa, Middle East, Persia, Central Asia, China, and, as always, Eastern Europe and Russia: viz the late missile controversy). This is the age-old strategy of the British Empire, pure and simple. Very little's changed. NATO, quite obviously, is the chief aggressor, not the so-called rogue nations. But half the effort consists of staging these theatrics by which the Western psyche comes to believe that it is the constant victim of plots hatched by savage, fanatical brown/yellow people. Nonetheless the dynamics are subtler.

This game of persuasion is best effected when 1) the target - the ever-mysterious public opinion - is itself subjected to a studied process of spiritual debilitation: that is to say, when, as has conspicuously been the case for the past decade, it is barbarized by poor education, vanishing opportunities for self-realization, etc; and, no less importantly, when 2) the "rogues" lend themselves to the charade through bombastic grandstanding and televised bluster, without which the Anglo-American elites could in no way produce the show: eg, North Korea's barnstorming and Mahmud Ahmedinejad's cretinous anti-Israel and homophobic tirades are, alas, material from the same miserable screenplay.

So, in a sense we are in an Orwellian scenario once again. Possibly, we have never abandoned it. What is certain is that in this pornographic power-play, we, the Westerners, are the most obscene thespians of all - and this is because, if we so wished, we would have the wealth and the means to bring Eden to this planet. But, apparently, we do not wish it. And if that is really the case, maybe we do not deserve this earth after all.

LS: The path to the two world wars was never a straight line, but resulted partly from strange detours - for instance, caused by terrorists. You call them "useful idiots". Why so? And did you discover a certain pattern at work that is still pretty much alive and kicking in our time?

GP: From Gavrilo Princip (the Black Hand in Sarajevo) to these bogus Islamists by way of, say, the Montoneros in Argentina, the RAF in Germany or the Red Brigades in Italy, all of them are useful idiots, by definition. The terrorist's psycho-sociological typology is fairly consistent across time and space: s/he generally is of low middle-class/upper proletarian status, very young (well below 30), not particularly intelligent, and death-prone. S/he is by definition, again, an expendable: or, more specifically a manipulable mediocrity. These useful idiots may come at certain junctures to play a critical role, of course. Terrorism is (elite) politics, never the weapon of the voiceless, but the very opposite.

LS: Was the reason for the First World War basically a trap laid by the British and Russian elites - and the German leadership was stupid enough to step into that trap?

GP: A siege, yes, a mouse-trap. Yes, damningly stupid, indeed. Von Moltke's (German) Chief of Staff had been invested in 1900 with political authority it did not know how to wield - and, in truth, it was not its role to exercise such power in the first place: it was as if by surrendering all might to the (dynastic and thus unfit) warrior caste of Prussia, Germania as a whole had spiritually abdicated. And by doing so it has cursed the whole of Europe ever since. A tragedy.

LS: How did Germany finance the war effort - and did this had some grave consequences later on?

GP: With its wealth, through debt, which the Allies left standing at Versailles - as [Thorstein Bunde] Veblen had understood - deliberately. And that was done with a view to causing an inflationary tsunami, which would have in turn occasioned a major, and strategically critical, bailout.

LS: Had the entry of the United States into the war something to do with the debts of the Triple Entente?

GP: Yes, but not primarily: the US intervened to play the imperial game as England's junior partner - as the brawny, eager apprentice; the preservation of its credits was a solid incentive to embark on this path, but not the actual cause.

LS: At the end of that war both Germany and the Anglo-American allies were heavily influencing important events in Russia. Which of those forces gained more benefits from the Bolshevik revolution that took place in October 1917? And could you also tell us about the major players involved, please?

GP: The whole story of the USSR is a deep mystery, especially its beginnings. Official (Liberal) historiography has it that the birth of Bolshevist rule was for the most part a spontaneous - and wonderful, according to the Lenin-revering dinosaurs of Western academia - Russian affair, with just a little bit of (somewhat embarrassing, but easily dismissible) German gold. Nothing more. Any intimation that the Anglo-Americans had been involved in major "puppeteering" in the Bolshevik theater - to favor them, that is - is hissed away as conspiratorial speculation....

Big Banks and US ZOG Have Become Mafia-Style Criminal Enterprises....

Banks and US ZOG Conspire to Fleece the Public....

Two stories this week prove once again that the big banks are literally criminal enterprises.

Initially, all of the big banks have engaged in Mafia-style “bid-rigging” of municipal bonds, to bilk money from every city in the nation … to the collective tune of tens billions of dollars.

And Barclays and other large banks – including Citigroup, HSBC, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lloyds, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland – manipulated the world’s primary interest rate (Libor) which virtually every adjustable-rate investment globally is pegged to...

And see this. That means they manipulated a good chunk of the world economy.

Other recent stories also show criminal fraud as well. For example, the big banks have been cheating homeownersespecially veterans.

And as Max Keiser explains, banking giants Mellon and State Street shaved money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide:

(Details here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.)

Indeed, the entire business model of the big banks is fraud....

Fraud caused the 1930s Depression and the current financial crisis....

Regulators Have Become “Cops On the Take”...

There’s no recovery because the ZIOCONNED US & EU governments made it official policy not to prosecute fraud....

Unfortunately, the cop is on the take … and the government’s only actions are to cover up the fraud and to leave the people holding the bag....

Infowars Nightly News interviewed me for 22 minutes to discuss how states’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) reveal taxpayers have abundant assets already in government hands to pay for all public goods and services multiple times.

Summarized here, California has $600 billion in cash and investments, with all state government agencies combined having $8 trillion. These amounts translate into $50,000 per household retained by the state, and a staggering $650,000 per household combined total.

This is why CAFR data disclosure is one of three obvious game-changing solutions a critical mass of the 99% can command to reclaim economic success from the current capture of the 1%; the other two are monetary and credit reform.

This objective and independently verifiable data also communicates the need for Occupy victory for the 99% to recognize and end obvious malfeasance/crimes centering in money and war. This victory literally saves millions of lives, helps billions, and returns trillions of the 99%’s hard-earned money....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The continued cynicism of major corrupt powers can be summed up once again by "oil and gas"....

The continued cynicism of major corrupt powers can be summed up once again by "oil and gas".....

The thug and assassin for hire, Bashar Assad of Syria's MAFIA may last longer than his opponents believe – and with the tacit acceptance of Western leaders anxious to secure new oil routes to Europe via Syria before the fall of the regime. According to a source closely involved in the possible transition from Ba'ath party power, the Americans, Russians and Europeans are also putting together a deal that would permit Assad to remain leader for at least another two years in return for political concessions to Iran and Saudi Arabia in both Lebanon and Iraq.

For its part, Russia would be assured of its continued military base at Tartous in Syria and a relationship with whatever government in Damascus eventually emerges with the support of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia's recent concession – that Assad may not be essential in a future Syrian power structure – is part of an understanding in the West which may accept Assad's presidency in return for an agreement that stops a further slide into civil war.

Information from Syria suggests that Assad's army is now "taking a beating" from armed rebels, who include Islamist as well as nationalist forces; at least 6,000 soldiers are believed to have been killed in action since the rebellion against Assad began 17 months ago. There are unconfirmed reports that during any one week up to a thousand Syrian fighters are being trained by mercenaries in Jordan at a base used by Western authorities for personnel seeking "anti-terrorist" security exercises.

The US-Russian negotiations – easy to deny, and somewhat cynically hidden behind the mutual accusations of Hillary Clinton and her Russian opposite number, Sergei Lavrov – would mean the superpowers would acknowledge Iran's influence over Iraq and its relationship with its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia – and Qatar – would be encouraged to guarantee Sunni Muslim rights in Lebanon and in Iraq. Baghdad's emergence as a centre of Shia power has caused much anguish in Saudi Arabia whose support for the Sunni minority in Iraq has led to political division.

But the real object of talks between the world powers revolves around the West's determination to secure oil and gas from the Gulf states without relying upon supplies from Moscow. "Russia can turn off the spigot to Europe whenever it wants – and this gives it tremendous political power," the source says. "We are talking about two fundamental oil routes to the West – one from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria and the Mediterranean to Europe, another from Iran via Shia southern Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and Europe. This is what matters. This is why they will be prepared to let Assad last another two years. They would be perfectly content with that. And Russia will have a place in the new Syria."

Diplomats who are still discussing these plans should, of course, be treated with some scepticism. It is one thing to hear political leaders excoriating the Syrian regime for its abuse of human rights and massacres – another to realise that Western diplomats are prepared to put this to one side for the "bigger picture" which, as usual in the Middle East, means oil and gas. They are prepared to tolerate Assad's presence until the end of the crisis, rather than insisting his departure is the start of the end. The Americans apparently say the same. Now Russia believes that stability is more important than Assad himself.

It is clear that Assad should have gone ahead with extensive reforms when his father Hafez died in 2000. At that stage, say Syrian officials, Syria's economy was in a better state than Greece is today. And the saner voices influencing Assad's leadership were slowly deprived of their power. An official close to the president called him during the height of last year's fighting to say that "Homs is burning". Assad's reaction was to refuse all personal conversation with the official in future, insisting on only text messages. "Assad no longer has power over all that happens in Syria," the informant says. "Not because he doesn't want to – there's just too much going on across the country."

What Assad is still hoping for, according to Arab military veterans, is an Algerian solution. After the cancellation of democratic elections in Algeria, its army and generals fought a merciless war against rebels and Islamist guerrillas across the country throughout the 1990s, using torture and massacre to retain government power but leaving an estimated 200,000 dead.

Amid this crisis, the Algerian military sent a delegation to Damascus to learn from Hafez al-Assad's Syrian army how it destroyed the Islamist rebellion in Hama – at a cost of up to 20,000 dead – in 1982. The Algerian civil war – remarkably similar to that now afflicting Assad's regime – displayed many of the characteristics of the current tragedy in Syria: babies with their throats cut, families slaughtered by mysterious semi-military "armed groups", whole towns shelled by government forces.

And, more interesting to Assad's men, the West continued to support the Algerian regime with weapons and political encouragement during the 1990s while huffing and puffing about human rights. Algeria's oil and gas reserves proved more important than civilian deaths – just as the Damascus regime now hopes to rely upon the West's desire for via-Syria oil and gas to tolerate further killings. Syrians say Jamil Hassan, the head of Air Force intelligence in Syria is now the "killer" leader for the regime – not so much Bashar's brother Maher whose 4th Division is perhaps being given too much credit for suppressing the revolt. It has certainly failed to crush it.

The West, meanwhile has to deal with Syria's contact man, Mohamed Nassif, perhaps Assad's closest political adviser. The question remains as to whether Assad – however much he fails to control military events on the ground – really grasps the epic political importance of what is going on in his country. Prior to the rebellion, European and Turkish leaders were astonished to hear from him that Sunni forces in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli were trying "to create a Salafist state" that would threaten Syria. How this extraordinary assertion – based, presumably on the tittle-tattle of an intelligence agent – could have formulated itself in Assad's mind, remained a mystery.

Don't ban Assad from new deal, says Russia

A plan for a transitional unity government to bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria yesterday hit its first stumbling block before even reaching the negotiating table as Russia said the international community had no right to exclude President Bashar al-Assad from the body, a key demand of the opposition.

The leaked new initiative by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, expected to dominate key talks in Geneva tomorrow, came as tensions continued to escalate, with Turkey amassing military hardware including anti-aircraft guns at its border. Saudi troops were also reported to be on high alert as yet another large explosion rocked Damascus.

Syrian state television blamed yesterday's blast outside the capital's Palace of Justice, the country's highest court, on "terrorists". Footage showed scorched cars and at least three were reported injured.

Loveday Morris

As for Turkey, I have always distrusted this regime though I would add that in this case US/Israeli, criminal, war mongering and disgusting imperial designs jive nicely with bad old Ottoman hegemonic designs against both Arabs and Persians. All nationalisms are toxic by their very nature, but the Turkish one has a particularly nasty bend to it....

Iran's nuclear static, Why Iran Should Get the Bomb....

Iran's nuclear static, Why Iran Should Get the Bomb....

by Arnaud De Borchgrave
Washington (UPI)

"Why Iran Should Get the Bomb" was the provocative headline on the cover of the summer issue of Foreign Affairs, the flagship magazine of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations. Kenneth Waltz, the author, is arguably among the Top 10 scholars of international relations since World War II.

The article by Waltz, 87, triggered a cascade of invective, none louder than from Israel's most prominent supporters.

Ziocon Daniel Pipes called it "the single most preposterous analysis by an allegedly serious strategist of the Iranian quest for a nuclear weapon."

Waltz's principal reasons for advocating an Iranian bomb (as he himself summarizes them):

-- It would produce a more stable balance of military power in the Middle East. "Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades has long fueled instability in the Middle East (and) it is Israel's nuclear arsenal, not Iran's desire for one, that has contributed most of the current crisis …"

-- "By reducing imbalances in military power, new nuclear states generally produce more regional and international stability, not less."

-- "If Iran goes nuclear, Israel and Iran will deter each other, as nuclear powers always have. There has never been a full-scale war between two nuclear-armed states. Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is relatively small."

-- Would Iran become more cautious? "History shows that when countries acquire the bomb, they feel increasingly vulnerable and become acutely aware that their nuclear weapons make them a potential target in the eyes of major powers … India and Pakistan have both become more cautious since going nuclear."

A World War II veteran, Waltz got his doctorate in political science from Columbia University and is professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. A past president of the American Political Science Association, he is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Waltz's 1959 book "Man, the State and War" posited a three-image view of looking at behavior in international relations. In his "The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed," Waltz argued for a world with more nuclear weapons states as this would enhance their power in nuclear deterrence.

While Waltz concedes it's impossible to be certain of Iranian intentions, he argues that its nuclear quest is designed to enhance its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities, preservation being its modus operandi.

Foreign affairs experts rate Waltz among the world's most influential theorists in international relations but most of his writings have appeared only in academic journals.

It has become an article of faith among Israel's current top leadership (Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak) that once Iran develops its own nuclear bomb, it will be designed to be launched by medium-range missile against Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, thus in effect ending the existence of the Jewish state.

Clearly diplomatic negotiations are at an impasse. The Zioconned European Union's oil embargo against Iran begins Sunday. The United States has tightened its own robust sanctions. Assuming punitive measures don't produce any change of heart in Iran's theocracy, advocates of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran's key nuclear installations will gain credibility.

Some Iran-watchers are even suggesting that the best time for Israel to launch an attack would be at the height of the Zioconned U.S. presidential campaign. Neither candidate would think it wise to criticize Israel.

Kenneth Waltz is not easily deterred. "The historical record," he says, "indicates that a country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons can rarely be dissuaded from doing so. Punishing a state through economic sanctions does not inexorably derail its nuclear program. Take North Korea, which succeeded in building its weapons despite countless rounds of Zioconned sanctions and Zioconned U.N. Security Council resolutions."

If Iran concludes, as it probably already has, that its security depends on owning nukes, sanctions are unlikely to change its mind, says Waltz.

In fact," he adds, "still more sanctions now could make Iran feel even more vulnerable, giving it still more reason to seek the protection of the ultimate deterrent."

Another possible outcome, says Waltz, "is that Iran stops short of testing a nuclear weapon but develops a breakout capability, the capacity to build and test one quite quickly."

Iran wouldn't be the first to do so. Japan opted for such a nuclear path and today it could produce a nuclear weapon in a few months.

An Iranian bomb would be quickly followed by a Zioconned Saudi Arabian bomb, which could be obtained rapidly from Pakistan, a country desperately short of hard currency.

Most frightening of all scenarios is an Israeli attempt to go it alone that would trigger geopolitical mayhem up and down the Persian Gulf and beyond.

The Zioconned U.S. Navy 5th Fleet recently transferred four minesweepers to its home base in Bahrain whose population is Shiite Muslims while the Zioconned royal family and a small minority are Sunni. The small island harbors thousands of pro-Iranian Bahrainis.

Iranian mines in the Strait of Hormuz would drive oil prices skyward instantly. Minesweepers would clear the mines fairly quickly but they could be dropped time and again at night from thousands of small Iranian outboard craft.

Almost 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil -- 20 percent of the world's oil production -- transits the strait daily. Almost the entire 600-mile northern side of the gulf is Iranian territory. Iran's retaliatory capabilities also extend to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria....

One can only hope that Kenneth Waltz's geopolitical assumptions and prognostications are the right ones.....

Why Iran does not want the bomb....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Western sanctions on Iran and heated policy debate on Tehran's nuclear program go hand and hand, but the latest foray into the latter by Kenneth Waltz, a prominent international relations theorist, is emerging as one of the most controversial.

Turning conventional wisdom on its head, in a brief but weighty article in the influential Foreign Affairs magazine, Waltz defends Iranian nuclear proliferation as a stabilizing factor in the turbulent Middle East, citing the regional imbalances and insecurities wrought by Israel's nuclear monopoly and the rationality of Iranian regime.

Not only that, Waltz questions the wisdom of Western and Israeli pressure tactics against Iran, pointing out that tactics such as military threats and coercive sanctions only heighten Iran's national security concerns, thus strengthening the country's proliferation resolve.

Featured prominently on the magazine's cover with the eye-catching title "Why Iran should get the bomb", the article is a timely jab at official Western justifications for targeting Iran with an arsenal of sanctions, threats, sabotage, assassinations and, of course, incessant propaganda and psychological warfare.

Waltz, who has written extensively on the nuclear arms race and is credited for the international relations school of thought known as structural (neo) realism, expresses his pessimism that these efforts can stop a country "bent on acquiring nuclear weapons". He predicts that Iran will beat the odds and eventually get its bombs, but that this will contribute to - rather than threaten - regional peace and security.

It isn't clear if Waltz's theoretical contribution, which offers a different diagnosis of the Iran problem and recommends new directions, will have an impact on real policy. Irrespective of whether one subscribes to his assumptions and conclusions, the article offers a penetrating discussion with more insights into the complexities posed by the Iran nuclear standoff than whole books on the subject

In essence, Waltz's theory of Iranian proliferation undermines the legitimacy of the current US-led strategy of preventing Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons and even the capability to build such weapons.

This is in sharp contrast to the recent past, when the US government publicly toyed with the notion of consenting to Iran's low-grade enrichment program. That diplomatic charade has apparently outlived its usefulness, and the truth about the US's real intentions from recent multilateral talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions is gradually becoming clear.

By expressing academic sympathy for Iran's nuclear program, Waltz appears to have single-handedly reinvigorated debate on Iran while supplying policy-makers with a theoretical framework they can use to make better sense of their options.

Three scenarios
Waltz picks and chooses between "three scenarios" on Iran. One is halting Iran's nuclear weapons program through sanctions and other means; a second involves Iran reaching the "breakout" threshold but falling short of assembling actual bombs (nuclear latency). Waltz dismisses the latter scenario as unlikely since "power begets to be balanced" and Iran is highly motivated to counterbalance Israel's nuclear monopoly.

The third scenario is Iran joining the world's nuclear weapons elite, at which point Waltz predicts Tehran would become more cautious and risk-averse.

This article highlights paradoxes in the Western and Israeli counter proliferation tool box. Firstly, that these tactics create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and secondly they will persuade Iran to continue with its proliferation activities rather than dissuading it from doing so.

Theoretically, Waltz forces the Western course of action towards Iran into the awkward position of having to justify itself. Still, this does not mean that Waltz's approach is problem-free.

Israel-centric approach
At the heart of Waltz's argument lies the assumption that Iran is marching towards a nuclear balance with Israel in the region. This is why Waltz expresses surprise that it has taken so long before another Middle East state acted to address this problem, notwithstanding Israel's past attacks on Iraq and Syria to stymie any rising nuclear competition.

This hypothesis that Iran is overly concerned about Israel's proliferation and aims to counterbalance it does not match the reality.

Iran's nuclear program under the Islamic Republic was revived after a temporary halt at the outset of the 1979 Islamic revolution in response to the perceived threat of Iraq's nuclear program during the 1980s and 1990s. However, it acquired a non-military dimension with the demise of Saddam Hussein following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, as per the conclusion of the US's intelligence finding of December 2007. (This national estimate remains valid and essentially unchanged today despite official Washington rhetoric).

The fact is that most Iran policy experts regarded Israel an "out of area" nuisance with respect to Tehran's national security calculus, but it has been elevated to a primary threat solely due to Israel's constant sabre-rattling against Iran.

Waltz is wrong to assume that Iran has been motivated to go fully nuclear as a result of the perceived threat of Israel's arsenal. Contrary to what Waltz says, Iran's leaders have repeatedly pointed to the "uselessness" and "futility" of Israel's arsenal, reflected in the absence of its utility in the various Israeli wars with its Arab neighbors.

The idea of "nuclear blackmail" by Israel may be highly important to Arab leaders, but there is no evidence that it figures prominently among the Iranian leadership.

Waltz makes the error of lumping post-revolutionary Iran with the other (unit-level) states in the contemporary anarchic world and making undue generalizations about states' behavior that fails to distinguish revolutionary from status quo powers.

A better guide for understanding Iran's uniqueness is provided by the late French philosopher Michel Foucault, who observed the revolution first-hand and wrote about its emancipatory mission, to lift the chain that weighs on the "entire world order".

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in a recent speech at the Rio+20 United Nations conference that there is a need for a new world order. This points at a historical understanding of the Islamic Republic as a distinct "quasi-state" that bears a trans-national sense of responsibility as a global revisionist state combating global inequities of power and injustice.

This is why Iran has spearheaded the disarmament movement by holding disarmament conferences, supporting the UN's goal of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, and deliberately taking aim at the nuclear weapons states' failure toward their disarmament obligations under the articles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

By August, when Iran hosts a major summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and officially takes over the movement's presidency for the next three years, Tehran's determination to play an even more prominent role with respect to the disarmament and non-proliferation objectives of the NAM will grow considerably and, in turn, further weaken any opposite proliferation tendency.

For the moment, however, Iran is fairly content with its nuclear progress, which has brought it to the latent breakout capability, per the admission of Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator, and yet without any sign that Iran has any intention of turning that latent power into a nuclear-weapons regime.

One of the reasons Iran is uninterested in going fully nuclear, ignored by Waltz, is that this would trigger a reciprocal nuclearization on the part of Saudi Arabia, Iran's main rival in the region, and thus introduce a costly and structural competition in the Persian Gulf, both draining the precious economic resources and institutionalizing the Iran-Saudi rivalry.

Indeed, that is the nub of the problem in Waltz's article, the fact that it is Israel-centric and overlooks the regional dynamic that at present exists in the Persian Gulf region, by simply making abstract generalizations about the broader Middle East.

Why Iran should get the bomb?, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2012
2. See Afrasiabi, "
Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent," Harvard International Review

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click
here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).