Monday, June 23, 2014

Today's Links

Today's quote:  "Nothing testifies so clearly to the dysfunctional state of American democracy than the fact that Cheney is still paraded before the public as a distinguished authority on foreign policy. He exemplifies the absence of any real legal or political accountability for the crimes committed by the ruling oligarchy. Even in the midst of a major foreign policy disaster, there has been no call for even the formality of congressional hearings into the history of the US intervention in Iraq and the so-called “war on terror.”" Bill Van Auken, WSWS

1---NY Times pushes idea that Iraq is already divided, NYT

At the same time, efforts to persuade the government to be more inclusive to Sunnis and provide a counterweight to the intimidation and coercive approach of the militants are making little headway. The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has turned to tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen and volunteers that Sunnis see as a threat, and so far has not reached out in any meaningful way to Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Taken together, the picture that emerges is of an Iraq where the lines on the map mean little. The north and west have become a haven for Sunni extremists who have largely succeeded in erasing the border between their territory in Syria and Iraq. On Saturday, the militants took Qaim, a checkpoint on the border with Syria, giving them the ability to move large quantities of weapons and men into Iraq.

With a newly expanded Kurdistan in the north, Baghdad and the south remain under government control.
“Now we are just in the position of protecting what we have left of our territory,” said an Iraqi Army commander in Diyala, where ISIS fighters and other Sunni groups are fighting. “Our army soldiers are really down,” said the commander, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with reporters....

Western officials describe ISIS as a far tougher enemy than the one the American military faced when it was battling Al Qaeda in Iraq from 2004 through 2009. Assessments of the militants’ capabilities vary, but there is a consensus that despite their small numbers they are well equipped, trained and financed. They also appear dedicated to their cause of vanquishing the forces of the modern world and returning the territory they take to an earlier form of Isla....

With an estimated 10,000 fighters, about 5,000-6,000 of them ISIS and about 4,000 allied Iraqi Sunni groups, ISIS has been able to seize stores of military equipment and plan small offensive missions that, when coupled with a propaganda campaign, have proved highly effective. When the militants overran Mosul they captured the second-largest ammunition storage site in Iraq, which one expert described as a “Walmart of ammunition.”
The militants also captured 52 artillery pieces, including Howitzers, which were abandoned by Iraqi troops as they fled south. It is unclear if ISIS can figure out how to use them, but if it did so that would add to its already substantial firepower.

So far the fighters seem impervious to combat losses, quickly replenishing their ranks with fighters from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Chechnya and Europe, who appear to be drawn by the successes in Iraq. They have also found recruits by freeing prisoners in brazen prison breaks, like one last July, in which 800 prisoners were helped to escape from Abu Ghraib. During the recent assault on Mosul, ISIS released some 2,500 inmates from Badoosh prison. A number of them were Sunni insurgent operatives and some almost certainly rejoined the fight, although it is impossible to know how many did so.

2---IMF Frets About Giant Sucking Sound of Hot Money, Wants to Take Over Global Monetary Policy , Testosterone Pit

The IMF was lulled into its comfort zone by worldwide central-bank money-printing to bail out and enrich bondholders, bank investors, counterparties, and other investors via the masterful creation of magnificent asset bubbles. Now it’s waking up to the reality that the Fed, which instigated all this, is thinking out loud about pulling back. And that sent IMF heads fretting about “spillovers” to the rest of the world.

3--Low-end Calif housing sales collapse, zero hedge

What stands out is that while California is by far the most vibrant market when it comes to the most expensive segment (at +6%, the highest in the nation), it is shambles when it also comes to the two lowest price buckets, both of which blow out any myth of a recovery for the "non-1%" out of the water, with a collapse of 40% in sales in the $0-100K range, and a 20% plunge in the prime $100-$250K market (the Median existing home price across the US in May was $213,400).

4---ISIS and the Gulf Cooperation Council, cp

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are quite content to see militants from ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and others operate far from their borders, although they are keenly aware the Frankensteins they created will turn on them in an instant if given the opportunity. Hence, these jihadist groups are kept at an arm’s length, busy settling scores and waging their financiers’ sectarian battles elsewhere in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. But early developments already point to the unintended consequences the ISIS-GCC alliance will inevitably bring, to the chagrin of both King Abdullah and the Emir of Qatar. Indeed, as Hasan Nasrallah recently stated, the magic may yet turn against the magicians.

Although the hope is for the Maliki government to fall and amicable ties with Iran severed, recognition of the danger posed by groups like ISIS will only hasten a rapprochement between the United States and Iran as they share a common enemy. The notion of joint military action by U.S. and Iranian forces is fanciful, yet the media’s mere mention of the possibility certainly sent shockwaves through Doha and Riyadh (and Tel Aviv). In addition, the United Kingdom already announced its embassy in Tehran is set to reopen with limited staff.

5--ISIS Iraq Offensive: Can the Empire Reassert Control of the Jihadists?, Black Agenda Report

The jihadists cannot be controlled by their imperial enablers – as the U.S. ambassador to Libya learned, in his last moments – not reliably, in the short term, and not at all in the long term. The contradictions of the relationship are now acute, the unraveling has begun, and the U.S. has no substitute for the services the jihadists provided to Empire.

So, yes, the ISIS-led offensive in Iraq is a horrific crisis for the peoples of the region, another descent into Hell. But it is also a crisis for U.S. imperialism, whose options diminish by the day

6--Out-of-control Central Banks are Buying Up the Planet, Ellen Brown

In China and elsewhere, central banks are turning from monetary policy to asset grabs

7--Fallujah: US Marines – Further Allegations of War Crimes Surface, Felicity Arbuthnot

8--Wall Street and Washington want you to believe the stock market isn't rigged. Guess what? It still is, Guardian

Let's get one thing straight: Investor confidence is not the problem. The screwed-up stock market is the problem. It's time to break down the polite fiction that investing in the stock market is something that sane, rational, sensible people do. It is a high-risk contact sport for your money.....

Michael Lewis woke up Average Joe investors, but the fat cats are still trying to lull you into financial submission with their intellectual dishonesty...

Most Americans don't think much about the stock market, and that's just fine with Wall Street. Because once you wake up to how screwed up the stock market really is, the financial industry knows you're likely to get very nervous and take your money out.
Many are catching on: between 2007 and 2014, investors pulled $345bn from the stock market. E-Trades are down and worries are up, with 73% of Americans still not inclined to buy stocks, five years after the financial crisis.

No wonder "investor confidence" – the mass delusion that the stock market is trustworthy – has been in short supply this year. Nothing has done more to decimate it than Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys, which focuses on the predatory behavior of high-frequency trading. Nobody – including Congress – cared much about the "high-tech predator stalking the equity markets" before Flash Boys hit the bestseller list, reaching beyond the walled garden of the financial industry into American dining rooms and Washington hearing chambers. It didn't leave all spring.

9---Details Leak On How Secret Global Treaty Will Force Countries To Further Deregulate Financial Sector

In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force. 

Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals -- mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt -- into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.

The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.

10--'It fell on deaf ears': CIA and MI6 knew about ISIS assault in advance, failed to react, RT 

11--Leaked tape has Polish FM comparing ties with US to giving oral sex, RT

According to Wprost, Sikorski is skeptical about the reliance of Poland, one of the staunchest allies of Washington in Eastern Europe, on American protection.
“The Polish-American alliance is not worth anything. It’s even damaging, because it creates a false sense of security in Poland,” Sikorski allegedly said.

“Complete bullshit,” the tape purportedly records Sikorski as saying. “We will get a conflict with both Russians and Germans, and we’re going to think that everything is great, because we gave the Americans a blowjob. Suckers. Total suckers.”

12---Rand Paul: US created ‘jihadist wonderland’ in Syria, Libya and Iraq, RT

13--Appalling! wsws

“I came here today to reaffirm the strength of the important partnership, the historic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and also to consult on the critical situations that we face in the region—obviously, particularly Iraq, Syria and Libya,” Kerry said....

Al-Sisi led the US-backed coup against Mursi last July, following an explosion of mass protests against the Islamist president, whom Washington had previously supported. Since the coup, al-Sisi has overseen massacres and large-scale repression...

In a show of support for the blood-soaked military regime in Egypt, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo on Sunday. He met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Egyptian President and de facto dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Kerry announced that the US had released $575 million in military aid that had been frozen since the military coup that overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last July.

As an immediate measure, the US will supply the Egyptian army with ten Apache attack helicopters. “The apaches will come and they will come very, very soon,” Kerry said at a joint press conference with Shoukry.

Washington’s demonstrative show of support for the regime came only one day after an Egyptian court upheld death sentences against 183 supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), including its supreme guide, Mohamed Badie. The ruling by the Minya Criminal Court is the largest confirmed mass death sentence in recent history. It was handed down by Judge Said Youssef, who had sentenced to death over 2,000 people in mass trials in April

14--US moves inciting sectarian warfare throughout the Middle East, wsws

both Kerry and President Obama have left no doubt that Washington is conspiring to oust Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an Iranian-supported Shiite fundamentalist politician who took office in 2006 with Washington’s backing. The American political and media establishment is blaming Maliki for the religious and ethnic conflicts that US imperialism consciously fomented in Iraq to secure its grip over the country. Over one million Iraqis lost their lives due to the US military repression and sectarian bloodshed that consolidated the position of the Shiite-dominated government that Maliki heads...

Iranian president Hassan Rohani denounced, without naming them, the ruling elites of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states for financing Sunni extremism in Syria, Iraq and throughout the region. “Those who spend their money and oil dollars to help terrorists today,” he stated, “know that tomorrow is your turn… Stop it. Stop the bloodshed.”...

15---Democracy and the debacle in Iraq, wsws

Nothing testifies so clearly to the dysfunctional state of American democracy than the fact that Cheney is still paraded before the public as a distinguished authority on foreign policy. He exemplifies the absence of any real legal or political accountability for the crimes committed by the ruling oligarchy. Even in the midst of a major foreign policy disaster, there has been no call for even the formality of congressional hearings into the history of the US intervention in Iraq and the so-called “war on terror.”....

Nothing of that remains today. Foreign policy is carried out exclusively behind the backs of the people. It is decided by a criminal cabal that operates with full knowledge that there will be—at least from within the political establishment—no consequences for its actions. These are the features of a political system thoroughly corrupted by unrestrained militarism and extreme social inequality......

First, while the US may have been caught off guard by the rapidity with which the Iraqi state has disintegrated over the past several weeks, it is by no means unfamiliar with ISIS. The Islamic fundamentalist group has received funding from the US and its autocratic Gulf allies as part of the imperialist-backed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Once again, the United States is reaping what it has sowed.

Moreover, ISIS’s advance in Iraq is certainly seen by sections of the American (and Israeli) ruling class as a positive development to the extent that it undermines the influence Iran exerts over the government of Iraq and its current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
Despite Kerry’s protestations, it is understood throughout the world that the United States is principally responsible for the catastrophe that threatens to plunge the entire region into generalized civil war

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