Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Today's Links

  after almost two years of the Mueller investigation, the number of Americans thus far indicted for criminally conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election is zero. We spend remarkably little time asking why this is--glenn greenwald, twitter

A new article from Foreign Affairs cites independent (academic and definitely not pro-government) research showing that the government is now providing food to 90 percent of Venezuelans

 Seems pretty obvious that the reason Trump appointed Elliott Abrahms to deliver Venezuela "humanitarian aid" was to make extra sure the aid would be rejected. Abrahms is a provocation in strategy of tension. The whole point is regime-change, not aid. marc ames, twitter

It's wrong to confine opposing Trump on Venezuela just to hypothetical military intervention: a devastating economic war is being waged. That's uncomfortable for Dems because Obama paved the way (), but that makes it all the more of an obligation to oppose.  aaron mate

...North Korea has the bomb. This is how deterrence works. If Saddam Hussein or Muammar al-Qaddafi had finished their bombs, they’d both likely still be around." , FP


In a declaration in April 2018, Kim proclaimed a “new strategic line” for the ruling Workers’ Party, heralding an age of “socialist economic construction.





1--Consequences of “Leaving Interest Rates Very Low for a Long Time


A litany of problems, from too much debt to deflating housing bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto.

 “We have seen the natural results of leaving interest rates very low for a long time. For one thing, this has been hard for people, such as retirees, who rely on interest from their savings for their income.

“Further, people have taken on a lot of debt, mostly in the form of mortgages and home equity lines of credit.

2--US amasses special ops in Puerto Rico, army in Colombia to oust Maduro – Russian Security Council

By deploying troops and special ops forces to Puerto Rico and Colombia, Washington is getting ready to intervene in Venezuela and topple its leader, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council said.
The US is “preparing for a military invasion” in Venezuela, Nikolai Patrushev told Russian media on Tuesday.

The relocation of American special forces’ units to Puerto Rico, the deployment of the US Army units to Colombia and other facts evidently show that Pentagon is enhancing its military in the region in order to use it in ousting… President [Nicolas] Maduro.
“The people of Venezuela understand this clearly,” Patrushev said, adding that this notion increases popular support for Maduro and drives the government to reject the aid offered by “an aggressor state.”

3--Iran’s Supreme Leader warns US against creating buffer zone in Syria

Meeting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Tehran on Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei specifically warned Washington again creating a buffer zone in Syria, the Iranian news agency Press TV reports.
“The issue of the buffer zone, which Americans seek to establish in Syria, is among those dangerous plots that must be categorically rejected and stood against”, Khamenei stressed.

In January, US President Donald Trump claimed on his Twitter page that creation of a 30-kilometre buffer zone in northern Syria could protect the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from an alleged attack by Turkey.
The SDF leadership is spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, an arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The party has been blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organisation

4--Why There Will Be No Full US Troop Withdrawal From Syria

By February 23, the story had developed further with the Pentagon officially declaring that the remaining US troops will be a part of the multinational force consisting of “primarily” NATO member states. While Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson, provided no manpower estimations for this force, media reports relying on US defense officials suggested that the US allies will keep from 800 to 1,500 troops.

Therefore, from 1,000 to 1,700 troops, 200-400 of whom will be US personnel, will remain deployed in the war-torn country alongside with an unknown number of private military contractors. Comparing to the current 2,000-3,000 US troops operating in Syria, this is a notable decrease. However, this is far from any kind of the rapid and full troops withdrawal announced by the US president in December 2018.

5--US Preparing For Military Invasion In Venezuela: Russian Security Council Secretary


The United States is preparing for a military invasion in Venezuela to remove legally elected incumbent President Maduro from power, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on February 26.
“By showing sarcasm and arrogance towards the Venezuelan people, the United States is preparing a military invasion on an independent state. The transfer of American special forces to Puerto Rico, the landing of US forces in Colombia and other facts clearly indicate that the Pentagon is reinforcing the grouping of troops in the region in order to overthrow the lawfully elected incumbent president (Nicolas) Maduro,” Patrushev stressed, according to Sputnik.
Patrushev pointed out that the deployment of US forces in Puerto Rico and Colombia as well as other facts indicate that the US military is preparing a force to participate in the agression against Venezuela.
The security official explained that Venezuela is not accepting US humanitarian aid because it understands that Washington is preparing to overthrow the democratically elected government.

6--Washington's strategic overreach in Venezuela

Venezuela's vast oil supplies certainly make a tempting target. But previous US efforts at regime change, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven woefully incompetent in securing control of their victims' strategic resources, much less organizing them for profit. ...

the recklessness and indeed plain stupidity of charging into Venezuela and risking opening up an endless war in a tropical jungle environment for the first time in half a century since Vietnam ought to be obvious to the National Security Adviser of the United States.

US forces remain overstretched and exhausted, caught up in major unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and sucked into highly dangerous commitments in Georgia and Ukraine and the Baltic States any of which could escalate through recklessness or sheer incompetence into global war....

Getting involved in Venezuela does much more to weaken US power in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and the Middle East than anything the governments of Russia, China and Iran combined could come up with, even if they wanted to. It is a classic case of strategic overstretch and dissipation of effort.

Bolton and his friends have become victims of their own rhetoric, drunk on their own mad delusions. They really believe that the United States has become an eternal hyper-power, virtually omnipotent and inexhaustible - able to project limitless power in every direction simultaneously.

 7--Ditching Russia gas would be suicide 


 Russia’s state-run energy major Gazprom said its share of sales of natural gas in the European Union has increased to 36.7 percent last year, rising over two percent against 34.2 percent in 2017.

“In 2018, according to preliminary data, the share of gas supplies to the EU countries and Turkey has reached an all-time high and totaled 36.7 percent,” the director general of Gazprom Export Elena Burmistrova said at Gazprom’s Investor Day event, taking place in Singapore.

8--Sanders throws his support behind US propaganda campaign over Venezuela

By Genevieve Leigh
26 February 2019 
 Figures such as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez play an important role. While occasionally spouting left and socialist phraseology, both have signed onto the right-wing policies and campaigns of the Democrats
Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took to Twitter on Saturday to voice his support for the staged “humanitarian aid” provocation in Venezuela.
“The people of Venezuela are enduring a serious humanitarian crisis,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday. “The Maduro government must put the needs of its people first, allow humanitarian aid into the country, and refrain from violence against protesters.”...

There is no reference to the fact that the “humanitarian crisis” to which Sanders refers has been severely compounded by US policies, including crippling economic sanctions, combined with the pro-capitalist policies of the Maduro regime.

As for “allowing humanitarian aid,” it is worth noting that the Red Cross opposed the US “aid” operation due to its transparently political purpose.

Sanders is quickly falling into line behind the Democratic Party, which backs the Trump administration operation in Venezuela. Sanders was criticized late last week after comments in an interview with Univision, in which he would not say that he recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of the country. Asked whether he considered Maduro to be a dictator, Sanders refused to say yes or no....

More recently, he has backed the US-orchestrated civil war in Syria, denouncing “Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter in Syria,” while criticizing the UN for being “too slow or unwilling to act.”..

The uncritical acceptance of the propaganda campaign by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez is not surprising. It flows from the character of Democratic Party politics and their own role in providing the right-wing Democratic Party with a pseudo-left veneer.

9--Pence threatens war in Venezuela at Colombia summit: “There is no turning back”

The Washington Post wrote that Pence “embraced a sobbing elderly man,” an immigrant waiting to enter Venezuela. The Post reporters, tears welling in their eyes, wrote that Pence “told the man in English, ‘We are with you.’”
The Post report made no mention of the thousands of immigrants currently sleeping on the streets in Mexican cities along the US-Mexico border after the US barred them from entering the country to apply for asylum.
President Trump has long privately expressed his interest in waging war on Venezuela. In his recently published book, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe reports that Trump once brought up Venezuela in his presence, saying, “That’s the country we should be going to war with. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.”..

The Trump administration has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, now scheduled for Tuesday. The US will likely use the opportunity to denounce Russia and China, which are likely to exercise their veto power as permanent members to block a pseudo-legal international fig leaf to US imperialism’s machinations in South America. 

10--Rising level of corporate debt a risk to global economy – OECD 


Companies around world need to repay or refinance as much as $4tn over next three years

Sounding the alarm over the scale of the debt mountain built up over the past decade since the last financial crisis, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that global company borrowing has ballooned to reach $13tn by the end of last year – more than double the level before the 2008 crash.

Corporate borrowing levels have rapidly accelerated over the past decade amid rock-bottom interest rates from major central banks, after they cut borrowing costs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis in order to avert the last recession turning into another great depression.
Central banks have, however, begun to raise interest rates once more, raising the risk that some companies could run into difficulty keeping up with repayments...

Compared with annual average borrowing in the corporate bond markets worth $864bn during the years leading up the crisis, the OECD said that between 2008 and 2018 the global average skyrocketed to $1.7tn per year.

11--US lacks strategy on Syria: Turkish FM

On Feb. 13, Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Washington will establish a multinational observer force to replace U.S. military in northeastern Syria.
A Turkish official, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on talking to the media, said Turkey is still a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIL.

The official stressed the U.S. intention to give Turkey a symbolic place in the coalition observer force to prevent the country from having a powerful military presence in northeastern Syria.
Turkey, however, plans to push YPG militants at least 30-40 kilometers (18-24 miles) south of its border and to take military measures to block them....

“This task force only focuses on the withdrawal. The roadmap on Manbij and other issues are being held within the scope of the joint working group,” Çavuşoğlu said.

In line with the Manbij roadmap, joint investigations by Turkey and the U.S. are ongoing for the restructuring of civil and military councils in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG militants from the city to stabilize the region, which is located in the northern part of Syria’s Aleppo province.
Turkey wants the quick realization of information sharing over the names and opposes the ones linked with the YPG taking posts in administrative units.

Turkish authorities urge the new administration to be set up in accordance with the demographic structure in what it says is an Arabic-majority region.
In order to implement the plan, the U.S. needs to push around 1,000 armed YPG members out of the city, the officials said.
During negotiations in Ankara and Washington, the Turkish delegation warned that if the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria occurred before reaching a mutual agreement in line with Turkey’s security concerns, Ankara would reserve its right to self-defense.

12--Coup plotter Gülen accuses Turkish gov’t of turning its back on Islam’s democratic principles

Gülen, who is accused by Turkish prosecutors of establishing an armed organization to suspend Turkey's secular constitution and democratic government, was described by the French newspaper as a "Turkish opponent" despite solid evidence of him directing the July 15, 2016, coup attempt that killed 251 people and injured 2,200 others.

Almost all Turkish political parties and circles except for his own followers accuse Gülen and FETÖ of staging the coup attempt, in addition to leading a decadeslong campaign to turn Turkey into a theocratic regime governed by Gülen's own interpretation of Sunni Islam, which had a very narrow following among the public even when the shadowy group was at its strongest.

Many pundits in Turkey and abroad also accuse Gülen, who is frequently referred to as an authority in Islam in the U.S. and Western Europe, and his international network of schools and businesses of collaborating with the U.S. since the early 1980s to implement a religious theory known as "moderate Islam." The theory, which was among the methods used to contain the USSR at the time, was part of the formation of a "Green Belt" that included close relations with the Saudi hardliners and Afghan mujahideen. Following the end of the Cold War, Gülen's network rapidly expanded in Turkey's surrounding regions of Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East....

The judiciary and the police were FETÖ's primary focus, and once Gülen's followers gained control, they unleashed their wrath on their adversaries though sham trials based on fake evidence, illegal wiretappings and abuse of judicial and police powers. Hundreds of active or retired public and military officials, journalists, academics and politicians from various political groups were implicated in Ergenekon and Balyoz trials of scheming to overthrow the government in a military intervention...

FETÖ also disrupted the rule of law after launching two series of mass raids, dubbed as corruption operations, against the government and figures linked to their families in 2013. The operations on Dec. 17 and 25 were conducted through illegal wiretapping and evidence gathering while ignoring the state hierarchy. The operations, now widely described as the initial coup attempts by FETÖ, not only breached legal and ethical limits, but also damaged the actual fight on corruption through politicizing the judiciary and the police.



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