Saturday, November 15, 2014

Today's links

1---Letting the cat out of the bag; With midterms over, Obama prepares to topple Assad, wsws

According to CNN, the White House has convened a series of meetings of national security principals on the crisis in Syria and has concluded that, “ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.”

In part, according to the report, the administration is responding to mounting pressure from its regional allies, particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States—backers of the Islamist militias in Syria, whose main interest is the overthrow of Assad.
“Among the options being discussed are a no-fly zone on the border with Turkey and accelerating and expanding the Pentagon program to vet, train and arm the moderate opposition,” according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi military remains largely in disarray, despite recent sackings of dozens of generals and other senior officers by the new government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. A classified assessment of the state of the Iraqi military conducted by the Pentagon in July concluded that barely half the existing units were even fit to be trained by US “advisers.” It warned, moreover, that many units were infiltrated by both Sunni militants and Shia militiamen, raising a distinct threat that US personnel training them could come under the kind of “insider” attacks that became commonplace in Afghanistan.

2--What happened in Detroit; financial dictatorship slashed health care for retirees, wsws

The official approval of the Detroit bankruptcy plan has evoked anger and disgust among city workers. The landmark ruling by federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes on November 7 opens the way for massive attacks on retiree pensions in violation of the state constitution and the wholesale privatization of city assets. Health care benefits have already been virtually eliminated for retirees.

The ruling is the outcome of a process in which democratic procedures were suspended and the city placed under a de facto financial dictatorship. Overseeing the process has been Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, installed under terms of an anti-democratic law overturned by Michigan voters in a 2012 referendum.
The imposition of cuts previously considered impossible was facilitated by the collaboration of the unions, particularly the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which blocked the mobilization of the working class against the assault on workers and retirees. The unions backed the bankruptcy plan in exchange for control of a half-billion dollar retiree health care trust fund.

3--American jihad, US saber rattling at G20 meeting in Brisbane, wsws

Quite apart from the lies and distortions involved, the language employed, or perhaps more accurately deployed, by the two leaders was highly provocative. It was not the measured, nuanced language of diplomacy, but that of militarism, aggression and war. That is not to say that such words are never used at summits—behind closed doors. But in this case, it was out in the open, before the G20 leaders had even begun to formally meet.....

At the APEC summit this week in Beijing, Obama provocatively hosted a meeting of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) members that pointedly did not include the host nation. Obama is also waging what US economic analyst Fred Bergsten described to the Australian Financial Review as “Washington’s jihad” to undermine China’s plans for a regional infrastructure bank.
For the past five years, Obama has been engaged in a confrontational “pivot to Asia” aimed against China that was formally announced on the floor of the Australian parliament in November 2011. The American president will deliver a keynote speech in Brisbane today on American leadership in the Asia Pacific that will set the stage for a further escalation of tensions in the region.

4---Putin's speech at the Valdai Club - full transcript , Saker

5--Russian media release images showing ‘jet shooting MH17’, press tv

6--Not alone: New radar data indicates other jets on MH17 course before crash, RT

7---US fomenting war in Syria to deny Iran of strategic ally: Analyst , press tv

8--US continues efforts to stop Southstream

With Bulgaria suspending the South Stream energy project, allegedly because of U.S. pressure, will Russia find other ways to tackle this new challenge'How+Bulgaria%E2%80%99s+New+Prime+Minister+Buries+South+Stream'

9--Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia , guardian

The fourfold increase in oil prices triggered by the embargo on exports organised by Saudi Arabia in response to the Yom Kippur war in 1973 showed how crude could be used as a diplomatic and economic weapon. History is repeating itself.
Think about how the Obama administration sees the state of the world. It wants Tehran to come to heel over its nuclear programme. It wants Vladimir Putin to back off in eastern Ukraine. But after recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House has no desire to put American boots on the ground. Instead, with the help of its Saudi ally, Washington is trying to drive down the oil price by flooding an already weak market with crude. As the Russians and the Iranians are heavily dependent on oil exports, the assumption is that they will become easier to deal with.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, allegedly struck a deal with King Abdullah in September under which the Saudis would sell crude at below the prevailing market price. That would help explain why the price has been falling at a time when, given the turmoil in Iraq and Syria caused by Islamic State, it would normally have been rising.

The Saudis did something similar in the mid-1980s. Then, the geopolitical motivation for a move that sent the oil price to below $10 a barrel was to destabilise Saddam Hussein’s regime. This time, according to Middle East specialists, the Saudis want to put pressure on Iran and to force Moscow to weaken its support for the Assad regime in Syria.
Turning on the oil spigots comes at a cost. The Saudis, like all other producers, have become accustomed to oil above $100 a barrel. The Arab spring in Libya and Egypt raised fears that the political unrest would spread. Oil revenues financed higher public spending, so Saudi Arabia needs the price to be above $90 a barrel to balance the books.

But a bit of pain is acceptable. The Saudis are gambling that they can live with a lower oil price for longer than the Russians and the Iranians can, and that therefore the operation will be relatively short-lived.
There is no question that this new manifestation of cold war muscle is hurting Russia. Oil and gas account for 70% of Russia’s exports and the budget doesn’t add up unless the oil price is above $100 a barrel. Moscow has foreign exchange reserves, but these are not unlimited. The rouble fell by 10% last week. That adds to the debt servicing costs of Russian firms, and the central bank is under pressure to push up interest rates, which should help stabilise the currency, but only at the expense of a deeper recession.

10--Engdahls Crystal Ball; Completion of South Stream would weld a major geopolitical bond between the countries of the EU, Central Europe and Russia, something that would represent for Washington a geopolitical nightmare, global research

Gazprom is also advancing a second major gas pipeline project, South Stream, to bring gas from Russia’s south coast under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, eventually ending up in Italy. On July 7, the Bulgarian government agreed after long negotiations to participate in the South Stream Gazprom project.

South Stream gas pipeline will transport Russian gas to western Europe, bypassing Ukraine, where Washington in recent years has expended considerable effort to push the country into an anti-Russian pro-NATO position. As a remnant from the Soviet era when the economies of the two countries operated as an integrated entity, most Russian gas pipelines transited Ukraine to the west, leaving Moscow highly vulnerable when a US-backed “Orange Revolution” in January 2005 brought Washington’s candidate, Viktor Yushchenko to power on a pro-NATO anti-Moscow platform. Recent elections there have eased tensions between Moscow and Kiev considerably as the new President,Viktor Yanukovych, has moved Ukraine to a more neutral stance between Moscow and NATO, keeping ties to both. The offshore part of the South Stream gas pipeline, jointly operated by Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s ENI, will run from Russia’s mainland under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast. Under the new agreement with Bulgaria, pre-existing gas pipelines through Bulgaria will be used for the transit.

Washington has put major pressure on EU countries as well as Turkey to build an alternative to Russia’s South Stream gas line, called Nabucco, that would eliminate Russia. To date Nabucco has little backing in the EU and insufficient sources of gas to fill the pipeline.
Completion of South Stream would weld a major geopolitical bond between the countries of the EU, Central Europe and Russia, something that would represent for Washington a geopolitical nightmare. US policy since World War II has been to dominate western Europe first by fanning the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and after 1990, by extending NATO eastwards to the borders of Russia. An increasingly independent western Europe turning east rather than across the Atlantic, could spell a major defeat for continued US “sole Superpower” domination.

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