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Tag Archives: Putin

The wrong side of history

“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

 It’s been three weeks weeks since Vladimir Putin dropped his 50 megaton truth bomb on the United Nations General Assembly, exposing Washington’s mischief in the Middle East and calling for decisive action against any and all terrorists operating in Syria, in full cooperation with the elected government and under charter of international law. In this time Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the SAA have achieved what the US and its coalition partners had failed to do in 18 months of reckless bombing, wanton destruction, and untold human suffering – ISIS has been all but destroyed. Ground forces are now entering the clean up phase, and word has it Saudi helicopters have begun evacuating rebel fighters, presumably moving their assets on to Yemen.

The bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan has done little for US credibility, and after Ban Ki-Moon’s recent shock suggestion that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate and that they should probably go home, one would expect to see Obama running away with his tail between his legs. Adding to the chorus of dissent, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has called out Washington’s effort to oust Assad as both “counterproductive” and “illegal.” With no moral ground left to stand on, surely no one would expect an escalation at this point? And yet this seems to be exactly what we are seeing.

While Putin has been wiping the floor with ISIS, the US has been wreaking devastation on Syria’s civil infrastructure, conducting bombing raids on power stations and water treatment plants in scenes eerily reminiscent of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a move that’s either brazenly audacious or just plain sadistic, the US State Department has accused Russia of bombing up to six hospitals in Syria, but refuses to provide any evidence to support its claims. Meanwhile the US has airdropped 50 tons of weapons to moderate opposition head choppers fighting the ‘Assad regime’.

In what could be the ultimate provocation Obama is now putting boots on the ground in Syria, committing 3000 troops in an advisory capacity to the aforementioned ‘moderate rebels’. A more cynical person might question if these troops were not being deployed as human shields, or for even more nefarious ends, since any American casualty cause by a stray Russian missile would undoubtedly lead to the kind of direct confrontation that the Washington war hawks cheered on by Senator John McCain and cold war policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski are openly spoiling for. I guess if this fails there is always the option of shooting down a civilian passenger jet, but let’s not go there, just yet.

With millions of refugees flooding into Europe and people perishing in their thousands attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Nobel laureate and warmonger-in-chief Barry bin-Hussein O’Bomber can no longer pretend that this war has anything to do with human rights. Without so much as a fig leaf of decency to cover its fetid plans Washington continues to demand Basher al-Assad’s removal as a condition of peace. Meanwhile recent polling suggests that Dr Assad retains the support of 80% of Syrians. US motives have been laid bare. This war has no more to do with liberating the Syrian people from a brutal dictatorship than with ridding the world of the CIAs pet terrorists. Like so many countries before it, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, The Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the list goes on and on, Syria is being punished for daring to exercise an independent foreign policy, something which US hegemony does not tolerate.

If there was ever any confusion over sides in this conflict, the battle lines should be now clearly visible. Since Russia has begun flexing its military muscle the Saudi Islamists have made their call to arms, while further north in Erdoganistan, thanks to a well timed terror attack, the Muslim Brotherhood now has majority it needs to continue its military offensive on Syria and genocidal attacks against the Kurds. The Israelis have already sold the drilling rights for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, while Cypress has been signed into the EU just in time to deliver a $300bn water pipeline through Turkey to Israel. Meanwhile the North Atlantic Terror Organization positions its nuclear and biological weapons arsenals ever closer to Russia’s borders.

In his devastating takedown of US foreign policy in front of the UN General Assembly, Putin reminded his colleagues of Russia’s crucial role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, while hinting at a more subtle subtext. Just as the West created Hitler, applying pressure from above and below at a cost of millions of lives, so too the US has created ISIS to do its dirty work in the Middle East. Lest there be any doubt, Putin makes it clear, speaking of both Islamist rebels and the US backed coup which ousted the legitimate government of Ukraine: We know their names, we know who pays them, and we know how much they are paid.

In a recent interview with Kerry O’Brien, Paul Keating observed how the West through its policy toward post-soviet era Russia had created Putin, who has now turned around to bite them on the tail. Apparently that which doesn’t kill a bear makes it stronger. Trade sanctions have forced Russia to mobilise its workforce and increase domestic production while reaching out to other countries which refuse to be bullied by Wall Street and its military, forging stronger ties between the BRICS nations. At the same time we are seeing a shift in economic power as emerging industrial economies prepare to overtake their colonial masters. (China for example now holds the tender to deliver over priced nuclear energy to Britain.)

Recent posturing in the South China Sea suggests that the US is preparing for a war on two fronts, and if history is anything to go by, this will not end well. The US certainly has a gift for overplaying its hand, and in trying to squeeze Germany and Russia at the same time it may have done exactly that. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis which threatens to destabilise Europe, Angela Merkel has called for trade sanctions against Russia to be lifted immediately. While any move to embolden Russia should be welcomed by sane people everywhere as an alternative to US military and corporate domination, it may be cold comfort as we edge ever closer toward the likelihood of nuclear extinction.

 

The end of the House of Saud?

By Mike Mizzi

Recent reports have it that there is a family feud going on in the House of Saud in Arabia. The Huffington Post reports that King Salman is possibly on his death bed and a letter leaked to the press indicates an in family plan to perform a coup by other members of the family.

A house divided shall surely fall, as the old adage goes and why should one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes on earth be exempt?

As we have seen throughout the ages, an oppressive regime, whether it be a monarchy like the Russian Czars or French emperors – or even Communists – have had a bad record of maintaining their grip on power when the people eventually rise up demanding freedom and some form of equality under the law and economically. From the Roman Empire right through to the Persians, Ottomans, British and Russians, internal and foreign ructions, the desire for a better life and the ever increasing oppression needed to keep a lid on the boiling pot has eventually back-fired and created the very fertile fields in which the seeds of freedom sprout and blossom. In American newspeak this is called “blowback”.

The American Revolution showed the world what a scantily armed people can do against enormous power in the form of the British redcoat army of King George. Similarly and much earlier, the peasants rising up in France swept away the ancient regime and produced one of the longest lasting democracies on earth, one which withstood the onslaught of Nazi fascism and is now dealing with the internal attack of Islamic fundamentalism. “Je sui Charlie” the banners shouted as Muslims were left with no doubt Liberté, égalité, fraternité remain the baseboard underlying much of what the French see themselves as. However, such notions have never been a part of the Islamic world and even more so in those proclaiming themselves to be kingdoms, like Saudi Arabia but that might all be about to change. The pressures under which the House of Saud has been under recently are manifold. Falling oil revenues have been bleeding the kingdom of its foreign currency reserves to the tune of $12 billion US per month. Houthi rebels in Yemen which borders the kingdom have been getting pummeled by the Sauds in airstrikes of inhumane ferocity and they are having the opposite effects in the Muslim world as the Huthi rebels gain more and more support and seem to be enduring these attacks by the Sauds in a cat and mouse game of epic proportions. No doubt Putin’s adventure in Syria may also motivate Muslims and further radicalise them against what many would deem infidel aggression.

The fundamental shift of power in the Middle East cannot be underestimated. What we are seeing is the bubbling up of resentment and what is at the moment a small tidal wave will soon become an all engulfing tsunami that will sweep entire regimes away. No one in the region is immune, not even the smug Ayotollahs can count on their power base remaining unscathed by what can only be called a revolution in the Muslim world. Too many years of Western ideals being promulgated and countered will produce a series of wars that will make WWII seem like a picnic. Billions of Muslims are rising up against the regimes which have kept them poverty stricken and powerless for too long. Despite military attacks such as Putin’s bombing in Syria, the wave of human misery it will cause will rebound and eventually Assad will be swept from power or be forced to run away to Russia at least. Sheer numbers alone will make all outside actions futile. After all, how long can Russia sustain a war in a far off land while its oil revenues dwindle as well? This is the same dilemma the house of Saud faces and with an inexperienced prince taking the throne it is likely vast reforms will have to be made or he will precipitate a downfall which will see Osama Bin Laden’s dreams come true. Once the Muslim hordes have been inflamed it will take a lot to douse the fire and the outcome will be a smouldering mess. We only need to look at the mess in Syria to get a glimpse of the coming scenario. Sunni and Shia are in a battle for their very existences. It is therefore understandable that the US and its allies will tactically withdraw from the Middle East and allow Russia and China to fill the vacuum. However, what they will inherit will be not a stable and prosperous Middle East but a cauldron of fire into which they will sink their nations’ lives and treasures.

As Sun Tzu advised: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him” (Sun Tzu, the Art of War). The bait in the case of the Saud’s and Syria are oil and territorial hegemony. However, as the chips fall one can be assured of one thing: sadly, millions will die and much will be destroyed.

 

Prometheus’ Adventures on the New Silk Road.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. – Thomas Jefferson

It is telling that the same idea of free trade which has become an article of faith for neoconservatives was once synonymous with Anglo-Dutch imperialism, the very system of oligarchy which the War of Independence and Civil War were fought to liberate America from. How ironic that this same ideal of freedom would become the wellspring of American exceptionalism. How strange that for a century and a half America has loyally served its masters as the jackboot of imperialism in the face of the global south, committing satanic acts of genocide in the name democracy across five continents. To understand how it all went so terribly wrong we must turn back the pages of history to an earlier time.

In the late 18th century Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton imagined an independent nation state free from the tyranny of oligarchy. Alas the confederate states remained indentured to the old world system of slavery and primary production, so emancipation was a while coming. A century later, abolishing slavery was for Lincoln less about embracing the humanist ideas of continental philosophy than casting off the chains of colonialism. Building an industrial economy was the order of the day, and high tariff protections and a massive inland rail project soon saw the US transformed into the fastest growing most prosperous economy the world had ever seen.

Having established itself as a power in its own right, the US imagined itself moving westward across the Pacific, just as the Europeans had previously sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. These new colonialists envisioned a more modern system of trade with Germany, Russia, and Japan, and set out to create a network of independent republics in its own image. During this time the United States and Canada helped to build the first Eurasian trans-continental railway, with Russia for its part committing to build a bridge across the Bering Strait.

Like America, the newly created nation state of Germany was also thriving at this time. Under Otto von Bismarck it had fought back Denmark and France and united the 39 states previously under Austrian rule to form the greatest power in Central Europe. Inspired by what the Americans had achieved, Bismarck next turned his attention to creating a vast system of railways and canals across continental Europe, which was to include a railway between Berlin and Baghdad. As chancellor, Bismarck had kept a cool head and maintained peaceful relations with his neighbours, particularly Russia. Sadly for history, the inbred Kaiser Wilhelm II disagreed with his politics and had him sacked more or less immediately upon coming to power.

The British Empire, a private-public partnership between the English monarchy and the British East India Trading Company, had ruled the waves for 200 years, trading gold and silver from Africa for cotton, silk and tea from Asia and the Americas. Control of sea ports and shipping lanes also gave Britain a monopoly in the trade of guns, opium, and most importantly slave labour. New overland trade routes presented a threat to this business model, and so Prince Albert Edward (Edward VII) plotted an end to the project by drawing Germany, Russia and France into a war to end all wars. This is the crucial background to WWI, or at least an abbreviated version to suit our purposes.

Edward had plotted and schemed for 20 years to create the circumstances in which the European powers would turn on each other and Britain could emerge victorious. Fomenting ethnic tensions in south-eastern Europe was not difficult given its population of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and other ethno-religious groupings; the varied detritus of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. By the early 20th century tensions were such that any small event could have easily triggered the descent into chaos, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo fit the bill nicely. With Tsar Nicholas having abnegated his treaty with Bismarck and sworn to defend Belgium, it was soon on for young and old (tho to be fair, mostly young.)

WWI was a battle in which millions of men shed their blood over inches of land. 17 million deaths later, Europe had been laid waste, all according to plan. The cost of reparations would be borne solely by Germany, which would surrender its fleet, its rail carriages, its steel production, its livestock, and ultimately the dignity of its people. Such was the price of the British Empire maintaining its prestige then, and from the age of steam to the petroleum era little has changed.

 

With the invitation to nuclear war beckoning from an artificial island somewhere in the enchanted South China Sea, and the office of the presidency of the United States soon up for grabs, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the principles and founding documents on which the world’s now dominant superpower was originally built. Jefferson’s inalienable right to life liberty and happiness was a deliberate misquotation of John Locke’s pursuit of life, liberty and property, a credo central to the work to Adam Smith, the Scottish moral philosopher and political economist credited as the father of modern capitalism. Herein lays an important distinction.

During the 1930s and 40s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed and implemented an economic policy which rebuilt the US economy from the ground up after the damage wrought by the great depression. After a failed assassination attempt, his first act as president was to create the Emergency Banking Act and Glass Steagall Act to underwrite savings deposits. Next was to create two million new paid jobs in parks and recreation, and begin an infrastructure program on a scale previously unimagined, putting dams and power stations near farms and bringing modernized agriculture and living conditions to rural America. Like Lincoln and Franklin before him, Roosevelt understood that the liberty implicit in the founding documents was first and foremost liberty from oligarchy. From 1933 to his death in 1945 he presided over an epic stimulus program which transformed a failed experiment in colonialism into a high tariff, high taxing, productive and prosperous economy.

 “We don’t approve of independent sovereign states.”- HG Wells, Things to Come, 1936.

While the rapid industrialisation of the United States may have given it the appearance of a superpower, to what extent it can be seen as an independent actor is a matter of opinion, since its money supply and to a large extent its foreign policy have remained for the most part under the control of the Rothschilds, Warburgs, Lehmans, Goldman-Sachs’, Rockefellers and other banking elites, a relationship set in stone by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Where Roosevelt had wanted not a bar of Churchill’s planned cold war, Harry Truman proved a much more pliable president. In a recent press conference Vladimir Putin invited us to consider whether Stalin would have used the atomic bomb against Germany in 1945 with Hitler almost defeated. Years after the dual atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dwight D. Eisenhower would observe: “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Eisenhower further warned in his famous valedictory speech of the growing threat posed by the military industrial complex. Was anyone listening? In 1963 JFK planned to issue government bonds as currency, effectively shutting down the Federal Reserve. This did not end well for Kennedy, and to this day Washington and Wall Street remain loyal servants of the Empire.

The post war period saw America’s physical economy hollowed out and the process of looting commenced in earnest. Roosevelt’s industrial economy was systematically dismantled. Real capital was siphoned off through privatisation and replaced with mountains of debt. Financial markets were deregulated, leading to a series of booms and busts of ever increasing magnitude. Public freehold over projects built with taxpayer dollars was handed over to private interests only to be rented back at a profit. Everything from roads to rail to water and the electricity grid was up for grabs, up to and including crucial parts of the military.

The business of war is lucrative, and the Bush family have been players for 3 generations. George Herbert Walker’s father Prescott Bush, as a director of the Union Banking Corporation, had helped fund Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in its rise to power. During the second Bush administration Dick Cheney’s stocks in Halliburton netted him a cool $40bn out of a war which cost the US taxpayer $1.7 trillion and left Iraqi schools, hospitals, roads, railways, and electricity and water infrastructure utterly devastated. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

 

Today we are witnessing the birth pains of a new superpower. This is as inevitable as it is unstoppable. The difference between the economies of the old and new world was principally that the Anglo-Dutch system was based on looting, whereas American capitalism was based on productivity. From the moment the US outsourced is manufacturing base to China and Brazil, the game was over. With almost total control of global manufacturing and new multibillion dollar funds for infrastructure and development, the BRICS force has finally reached critical mass.

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, when asked if Russia would survive sanctions, Putin replied: “Naturally, beyond any doubts, it is even out of discussion. Sanctions even have a certain advantage. Do you know what is it? The advantage is that previously we used to buy many goods, especially in the area of high technology, with petrodollars.” “Now, with the sanctions imposed and our partners having left our market voluntarily, we have an opportunity to develop.”

Compare Senator John McCain’s sabre rattling rhetoric in his recent article for CNN: “There is an opportunity here… to impose significant costs on an adversary that wants to undercut the United States everywhere.” “We must back up our policy in ways that check Putin’s ambitions and shape his behaviour.” “We must impose greater costs on Russia’s interests.”

In yet another case of history repeating, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now appears as the crucial pivot in this changing power dynamic. In statements made during the last fortnight she has not only acknowledged Russia’s historical claim to the Crimea, but also called for increased economic cooperation with Russia including the normalization of trade relations and the immediate lifting of all sanctions. This is in part to strengthen the important economic ties between the two countries, but crucially to help stem the flow of refugees into Europe caused by ongoing crises in the Middle East.

The balance of global power has shifted not just economically but it would also seem militarily. While no single country is capable on its own of taking on the US war machine, Russian ordnance currently deployed in Syria appears to be 10 years ahead of anything yet seen on the battlefield, including smart missiles which never miss their targets. Still in development is the Shenyang J31 fifth generation multipurpose medium range fighter, powered by Russian RD-93 engines and besting Lockheed-Martin’s F35 by orders of magnitude, rumour has it thanks largely to Chinese ‘cyber-terrorism.’

In every chapter of human history we see the entwinement of decadence and decline. While the empire has been busy plotting its own downfall through globalisation, free trade and the crippling economics of austerity, the war racketeers have reaped obscene profits. While greed and short-sightedness have led to the depletion of labour markets in first world countries, China, Russia and their partners have been getting on with business. With the $242 Billion High-Speed Beijing-Moscow Rail Link approved, China now plans to build a similar link to Damascus via Tehran. Obviously this cannot go ahead until Syria is stabilized and returned to its former status as a functional independent nation state.

Lest we be deceived into believing this latest clash of civilizations has anything to do with Islamist fundamentalism or the threat of global terrorism, we’d do well to consider the events and circumstances which have led us to war in times past. The game of empire has not changed; nor for the last century and a half have the players.

We are now living in the last days of empire. Only when the old institutions of finance and trade are finally swept away can there be any hope for a social order based on human dignity, which respects first and foremost the value of human life. The Malthusian economics of scarcity belongs to the past; our greatest resource has always been the creative potential of the human mind. Only through cooperation can we ever hope to solve the problems facing humanity – if we can’t manage to live together peacefully, how can we seriously hope to address the vitally important problems we face as a species; depletion of natural resources, destruction of habitat and climate change?

Human social evolution has already developed the mechanism required for humanity in all its complex diversity to coexist peacefully, not though aggressive interference by a single, strong and exceptional centre of world domination, but through respect for the sovereignty of independent nation states under the charter of international law. Sergei Lavrov made Russia’s position crystal clear in his article ‘History Lessons and New Frontiers’ in which he states that China and Russia are “stalwart opponents of imposing one’s will over sovereign states, including by force, introducing unilateral sanctions and practicing (a) policy of double standards.”

The current unilateral system of global politics now threatens the very survival of the species. Peace and democracy will only be possible when the old system of empire is replaced by a system of equality, guided by common values and common interests. Whether the current shift in power will move us closer toward this goal remains to be seen, but it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

The end of American exceptionalism?

By Mike Mizzi

Accusations of everything from being a Muslim Brotherhood plant in the Whitehouse to arming and instigating the growth of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or to the possibility of purposely fermenting WW3, the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama has been anything but dull.
Sometime next year an election will be held in the USA to find a new resident for the Oval Office but in the meantime the US has to contend with one of the most abrupt and seemingly speedy rise in recent times; that of the claim to power of Russia.

During his UN General Assembly speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin criticised and castigated Americans for the mess they have created in the Middle East. Like a cranky patriarch chastising a wayward child, Putin spread the verbal picture of the situation in Syria and Iraq out for the world to see and then asked the Americans; “Do you realise what you have done?

It seems a bit ingenuous of Putin to make such comments considering his country’s ongoing support for the dictatorship of Basher Al Assad in Syria which has caused the deaths of 250,000 human beings, most of who were non-combatant civilians.

So what are we seeing in Syria and Iraq? Is this another cold war or a flash point to a hot war between American and Russian proxies?

Putin dropped a bombshell recently when he suggested it was the Americans who were the author of ISIS in the region. Mind you, such suspicions have been circulating on the internet for months, if not years.

Of course Putin knows that his reputation has been dealt a vast uplift since taking on ISIS in Syria and he has been invited to do the same in Iraq. Iraq! Isn’t this the US centre of operations in the Middle East post the ousting of Saddam? Not for much longer it seems, as the Russian bear slaps mercilessly at the American eagle, clipping its wings in the theatre of Syria by destroying the operations centres of its ISIS hordes. Or perhaps we have just been sucked in by Russian propaganda. Whichever way you look at it, American uni-polarity and sole superpower status has been dealt a blow from which recovery will be slow and difficult considering Obama’s seeming weakness when it comes to decisive application of US force in the Middle East. Facing dissent from both the left and the right on the issue of wars and the money they consume, which many think could be better spent on things like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other necessary infrastructure in the USA, Obama is presenting himself as a president who is frightened to use American power decisively to win a war in Syria and rid the region of Assad. Unlike Bush and his single minded pursuit of Saddam and his regime’s downfall, Obama has left the attacks on Assad mostly up to a small group of local “rebels” and an army of foreigners from the Salfaist world to do America’s dirty work.

The obvious question here is, has Putin sounded the death knell to American hegemony and exceptionalism?

Putin’s success have shown he is a master strategist. He has stopped the absorption of Azerbaijan into the NATO umbrella, brought Crimea back into the Russian Federation, created a strong alliance with China and forced the halt of ongoing expansion of the US bases in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.

Image from facebook.com

Image from facebook.com

A popular cartoon which went viral in the Muslim world has a Russian bear bedecked with the colours of the federation’s flag striding confidently while three figures, one representing ISIS, another the CIA and another the rebels cowering behind a rock.

This cartoon has attracted comments which laud the new Russian ascendancy as being the balancing power needed in the world to check US military adventurism. So far it seems, at least in Syria, Putin has moved his pawns and knights to the fore while Obama dithers as to which move he will make next.

Finding her voice in all this is EU leader Angela Merkel who, in the spirit of real politick, recently said, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be involved in peace talks to end the Syrian war. “We have to speak with many actors; this includes President Assad, but others as well” Merkel said. “Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia”.

Her leaving out Israel is telling in its obtuseness, seeing as Israel has been actively supporting both sides of this conflict in what amounts to a hedge bet.

Whichever way the Syrian war pans out one thing is certain. The geostrategic polarity of the world will never be the same. Obama has overseen one of the swiftest declines of American influence and power for decades and his disengagement with direct military action may be a policy we will see from the USA for a while now. The question then will be, how far will Russia go in assuming its new status?

 

The pigeon and the chessboard, or why Obama should probably stick to golf.

A statement allegedly made by Russian President Vladimir Putin about U.S. President Obama has gone viral on the World Wide Web. The statement was, “Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game.”

The first item in my newsfeed this morning was an article explaining why Angela Merkel would like to see trade sanctions on Russia lifted. In an even more unusual twist, information has also come to hand that France and Germany may have plans to join Putin’s coalition in Syria. Now you’d think that bombing terrorists in Syria would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and yet some reports suggest that Russia managed to take out more IS targets in the first day of its air campaign than the US has in an entire year. Understandable when you consider who has been arming and training these terrorists.

Mr Putin seemed to take brinkmanship to a whole new level in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. His scathing attack on US exceptionalism was diplomatic but uncompromising as he warned America to stop acting out of imperialistic ambitions, and his bold commitment to carbon reduction provided the perfect sting in the tail of what was by any measure a glorious middle finger salute to his hosts. Poroshenko walked out, and while Obama tried his hardest to sound defiant, he couldn’t help but appear to be on the back foot. The subsequent meeting between the two leaders is said to have been a frank discussion in which little was resolved, despite running an hour over time. Mr Putin’s masterstroke tho was the Q&A which followed. “As far as I know Obama and Hollande are not Syrian citizens,” he reminded an eager press, “and can’t decide Syria’s future.” He went on to speak of the need to work within the framework of international law in resolving geopolitical conflict, namechecking Australia and noting that all uninvited incursions into Syrian airspace are actually illegal. “Of course Russia, France and Germany work in the Normandy format,” he said, with any implied sarcasm lost in the translation.

Barely 24 hours later Russia had begun launching air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria. The air campaign is predicted to last three to four months, and at the current rate ISIS and its affiliates will be lucky to see out the year. The western media propaganda machine is now in full swing, with Washington running a hard line that Russia is playing a dangerous game, and making a “catastrophic mistake” according to Kerry, which “could lead to Syria being destroyed.” These words incidentally were spoken just hours before the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz which killed 19 civilians including 9 hospital workers and injured dozens more. An apology has since been issued by NATO, citing ‘collateral damage’. Needless to say this could not have come at a worse time for Obama.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the US military to stay out of the way in Syria, to which Kerry has responded with a firm and resounding no-siree, arguing that their support of the democratically elected Syrian government puts Russia and Iran alone against the world. The reality however may be just the opposite. With more Putin devotees signing up by the day, it may well be Washington which now finds itself isolated. It seems the US-Saudi plan of unleashing controlled chaos on the Middle East is rapidly unravelling, and ISIS and its affiliates are starting to look more and more like multi-billion dollar stranded assets.

In exposing this duplicity Putin has lifted his head above the parapet of geopolitics and proven himself a world leader to be reckoned with; a man who doesn’t mince his words and whose actions are spoken loudly. No doubt the US will still try to knock over all the pieces and shit on the board, but maybe we can all rest a little easier knowing there’s a new cop on the beat.

 

Julie Bishop’s Epiphany on the Road to Damascus

It comes as welcome news that Australia is set to abandon its opposition to Bashar al-Assad as part of a durable peace settlement in Syria.

The recent military escalation by Russia and reported sightings of Chinese war ships in the Mediterranean in the last week must come as something of an embarrassment to the war hawks in Washington, and the knives may well be out for whichever rookie secretary forgot to register the war on terror as a trademark. Still this has done little to change the tri-partisan rhetoric coming out of Canberra. “I don’t for a moment shy away from the comments that we have made in the past about the illegitimacy of the regime.” “President Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, and the death and destruction in Syria is appalling and at unprecedented levels”, Ms Bishop recently said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In hearing these remarks I can’t help be reminded of the outrageous claims and bald faced lies which led us into war in Iraq in 2003. Whatever happened to all those weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was stockpiling? Was he able to secretly shield them from UN weapons inspectors with an invisibility cloak? Perhaps the same cloak that Dr Assad is using to hide his chemical weapons arsenal? Or the one that Iran is evidently using to conceal its uranium enrichment program? Not to put too fine a point on it, but when the executive director of Human Rights Watch is leading the cheer for the removal of the legitimate government of a sovereign nation state which currently enjoys the support of 80% of its people, one might wonder if we are being told the whole truth.

Having taken part what now seems like an age ago in the rallies against the 2003 invasion of Iraq – the biggest protests Australia has seen since the Vietnam War, I’m more than a little miffed at the lack of public outrage at Australia’s compliance in 2015. Perhaps the media is doing a better job of selling its lies and deception this time around, but so far I remain unconvinced. I am tired of the blatant propaganda surrounding this illegal war. I’m tired of the persistent references to “civil war” in a country which is clearly being attacked by outside forces. I’m tired of hearing the government of Syria constantly referred to as “the Assad regime”, and carnal knowledge of dead animals aside, I’m well tired of David Cameron referring to Bashar al-Assad as a butcher.

So far as Washington’s support for terrorists is concerned, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag. I have argued this extensively in other essays, but it doesn’t take a political analyst to see that Obama, Netanyahu, Ergdogan, Salman and Abdullah before him have been working hand in glove with various terror groups to destabilize and ultimately remove the Syrian government for their own nefarious ends. Washington’s war hawks have bypassed congressional appropriations by directing their client state Saudi Arabia to deploy radical anti-Syrian (and often anti-US) militants against Assad, unleashing a wave of terror on the region. Playing both sides against the middle may have some merit in games of strategy, but willingly supporting terrorists who commit atrocities against civilians by any other name is still a war crime.

Of course there are many players in this proxy war, each with their own interests: Obviously there’s the US and its allies, who in their relentless quest for world domination just can’t seem to keep their grubby hands out of other people’s business. In their latest adventure, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in collusion with Wall Street insiders had contrived to control the entire region’s oil and gas reserves and to weaken Russia and Iran by selling cheap oil to China.

There’s Russia, whose soft underbelly comprises almost every country ending in ‘stan’ from which Islamist extremists might enter its borders. Already feeling the squeeze of tough trade sanctions since the shooting down of MH17, this manipulation of the oil market, despite weakening its economy, will likely strengthen its resolve.

There’s Israel, a newly created, US backed, militarised rogue state whose original British colonial design includes not just the annexation of both the West Bank and Gaza but of all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates including parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Sinai, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. (The plan for Greater Israel involves the Balkanization of surrounding Arab states, beginning with Iraq, which is to be divided into Shia and Sunni territories and a separate Kurdish state.)

There’s China, an emerging superpower now lumbered with a stalling economy and forced to choose between a ready supply of cheap oil and the prospect of the war in Syria spilling into Iran, Southern Russia and eventually breaching its own western borders.

There’s Germany, which seems to have embraced the prospect of close to a million new low paid workers with the same enthusiasm with which it welcomed the surge of cheap skilled labour at the close of the Soviet era (an attitude perfectly consistent with EU ambitions to enforce human misery through austerity.)

And then there are the endless hordes now beating a path to Europe in what’s been called the biggest mass movement of refugees since WWII. It’s not just the Alawites, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities once protected under Syria’s Ba’athist government who now face a grim future, but the entire Syrian population, of whom more than half are now internally displaced or have fled in fear for their lives. Pray tell what conceivable form of ‘regime change’ would ever allow these people to return to their homes?

Syria was and is the last secular nation state in the Middle East, and as has been argued by many, not least President Putin himself, it is for the people of Syria and nobody else to decide who will govern them. Russia is now working in concert with Iran, Hezbollah and other regional partners to end the horror brought to bear by Washington’s incessant meddling, and while Obama still condemns Russia’s strategy as “doomed to failure” and continues to demand Assad’s ultimate resignation, this outcome is looking increasingly less likely.

While China’s last minute arrival is obviously a game changer, it’s not like the US were never invited to the party. Putin’s attempts to forge an alliance of nations to deal with the growing threat of global terror have never specifically excluded US participation, but with the US demonstrably the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, it does make things a little awkward. As well as Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, the new coalition looks likely to include all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO); Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tajikistan. This poses an obvious question right off the bat. Is Washington really afraid that Russia’s intervention will make matters worse in Syria? Or rather that putting an end to ISIS once and for all might render the US irrelevant?

What emerges from this picture is a strong sense that Washington’s war hawks are losing, or have lost, their grip over Middle East politics. The Iranian moderates who are inclined to cooperate with the West for economic reasons are naturally allied to Russia where the Syrian ISIS threat is concerned; the Gulf monarchies seem only too happy for Russia to broker a peace between warring Shi’ite and Sunni factions, and with Russia now flexing its military muscle, Netanyahu is hardly likely to be spoiling for a fight either.

Whether or not any of this could lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East it’s too early to say, and with the likes of Carly Fiorina now set to trump Trump for the GOP candidacy, and Hilary Clinton still a likely choice for the Democrats, Washington’s campaign for global hegemony is unlikely to end any time soon. It does however seem that we may have reached a turning point. Could the battle for Syria prove a victory for peace and diplomacy in an increasingly multi-polar world? Or is this how WWIII begins?

Predator or peace maker? Will Putin talk Turkey with Greece?

“We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran” – General Wesley Clark. Retired 4-star U.S. Army general, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia

The recent election of Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party in Greece comes as inspiration to many. With minutes to midnight all eyes now are on finance minister Yianis Varoufakis and whether he’ll find a solution to Greece’s debt crisis, or face the terrifying consequence of returning to the Drachma. (Not that a sovereign currency was a bad idea in the first place.) With debt stacked up in Euros to the tune of around 300 billion, things are guaranteed to be worse either way.

300 billion Euros is pocket change to the European Central Bank, debt that could be painlessly cancelled with the stroke of a pen. Never mind the 11 billion owed by Germany from the Nazi Occupation Loan, or an estimated 70 billion in war reparations still owing – this apparently has been written down as bad debt. Nope, it seems Angela Merkel would rather see Greece pulverized under austerity than forgive its debt so that it can get on with the business of running its own economy.

I don’t get it. If you already own an asset, why run it into the ground? Greece is effectively a client state of Germany now anyway, so what can possibly be gained from sending its businesses broke and condemning its people to poverty? I mean, I get that capitalism is immoral. What frustrates me is how stupid it is. But I digress…

There has been some speculation about the possibility of a Russian bailout for Greece. Not that Greece would accept any terms or conditions like, say, selling off its ports – this is exactly the kind of thing Syriza was elected not to do. But the money needs to come from somewhere, and desperate times, as the saying goes, call for desperate measures. Will Putin now step up to the plate? I have to say I think it’s unlikely. But should he? Hell yes, for a number of reasons.

If your news diet consists solely of CNN and Fox/Murdoch, you could probably be forgiven for thinking that the US is gearing up for a takedown of Russia. Looking at Putin’s long list of crimes the war in Ukraine seems like just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure there are countless acts of barbarism which could be laid squarely at his feet, from locking up political opponents to the gaoling of Pussy Riot which made the 400 day detention of three Al Jazeera journalists look, well, pretty similar. Then again, as Peter Hitchens astutely points out, imagine if your favourite all-female punk band had desecrated a mosque.

With the US and its allies possibly days away from an intervention in Ukraine, perhaps it’s time for us to step back, look at the chessboard and study the pieces.

Russia’s borders have been under threat since, well, forever. Indeed I recall one scholar describing Russia as “an army with a country”. Territories claimed in 1917 by Germany were scrappled back in bitter conflicts over the next half century until the eventual fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the whole process started again, only this time with US and NATO forces playing the role of aggressor.

It’s easy to forget that many of these territories had been Russian for centuries. And by that I don’t mean vassal states. The people speak Russian. Their parents and grandparents were Russian. Of course Crimea has geopolitical importance as a sea port, but that is hardly the point. The so-called fall of Crimea was not an act of Russian aggression. Ukrainian citizens were allowed to vote in the referendum, including non-residents. Nor could it be fairly described as a choice between a rock and a hard place – more like things returning to their natural order; an overdue choice between the strong right arm of the Fatherland, and the cold, vice-like austerity of the West.

The same can be said for Eastern Ukraine. Here’s a three word slogan you’ve probably heard repeated a few times in the news. Russian backed separatists. We’re still yet to hear any confirmed reports of a Russian military presence. Is Putin selling arms to the separatists? Maybe. Did Henry Ford provide financial support to the Nazi Party? Either way the idea that Putin has provoked this current round of conflict is a joke. Let’s not forget that a democratically elected Ukrainian government was last year overthrown by a US backed coup-de-tat, and that directors of three of the biggest US resource companies (Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell) now have ministerial positions in the country’s new government.

I wouldn’t want to suggest, at least without a good defamation lawyer, that Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the despot’s decision to start selling Iraqi oil in Euros, or that Gaddafi’s call to African and Arab nations to support a gold backed currency to compete with the USD and Euro presented a threat so dire to US hegemony that Obama saw no choice but to have him sodomized and slain in the street. Nor would I wish to speculate on the possible motives for turning Syria into a brutal sectarian bloodbath. But if you want to start pointing the finger of blame for a century of unbroken war and countless interventions which has cost an estimated 187 million souls and raped, tortured and maimed countless more, you really need to look at the bigger picture.

Meanwhile in the newsroom the tired old western liberal propaganda spin-cycle of ‘freedom’ ‘democracy’ and ‘nation building’ has grown old and been put out to pasture. In its place we have fresh reports of people being burned alive in cages.

Among Putin’s circle of strange bedfellows is the refreshingly articulate president Bashar al-Assad of Syria, alleged barrel-bomber of his own people. This relationship has undoubtedly frustrated US attempts at ‘regime change’ in this war ravaged nation-state. I think it’s fair to say that Syria is not of any particular strategic importance to Russia. So why would Putin stick his neck out? I suppose once the dominoes begin to fall it’s not hard to guess who’s next in line. Beyond this tho, perhaps there something about the Syrian conflict that speaks to ideals of sovereignty and statehood which resonate with the Russian people?

Today’s Russia is not the USSR. It is not driven by an ideology that seeks to control the world’s resources through military might. Russia is at best a marginal power. Putin has no plans for territorial expansion, and certainly has no ambition for making war with the US. He is however that rarest of all commodities in the current geopolitical sphere; an uncompromising defender of state sovereignty; the greatest threat of all to the globalist neo-liberal paradigm. Of course if and when the US decides to go after Iran, gods help us all.

I suppose it might be a stretch to compare the US subversion of the Middle East with Germany’s program to get rich off the backs of central European economies right the way through to the Russian border. Or is it, really?

With Greece, Spain, and Portugal now at tipping point, there is a desperate need for an external source of revenue, or a debt moratorium. If the BRICS alliance were to somehow muster the resources for an unconditional Greek bailout, it could turn the world on its end, economically, politically, and socially.

Prime Minister, Why haven’t you called Putin?

Tony Abbott you are weak. When interviewed by Fran Kelly on ‘Insiders’ this morning you were asked if you had called Vladimir Putin. You said you hadn’t called the Russian President over the murder of at least 28 Australians. You gave no indication that you intended to. Why not? Are you too frightened? You say you have spoken to the Russian Trade Minister. Really? What a pathetic reply to a genuine opportunity to show the world that you view the deaths of innocent Australians sufficiently important enough to get on the phone and demand answers. You are clearly not up to the job you have been elected to do.

Putin 2

Putin: image by telegraph.co.uk

You haven’t even spoken to any of the families of the victims. You are waiting for them to ask you to call. You are pathetic. You appear so out of your league in the face of a world tragedy. You are further from a national leader than we have ever seen. Certain elements of the media are giving you credit for your unambiguous condemnation of this act of terrorism and your criticism of the Russian government. How easy is it to mouth-off from a safe distance? Leadership is being pro-active. If any of your advisers were worth their salt, they would have advised you to get on the phone. Did they? If they did, why haven’t you?

All this talk about not inviting Putin to the G20 in November is nothing more than sabre-rattling and a convenient deflection from the proper response of face to face or voice to voice contact.

You owe the relatives of the victims a proper response to our nation’s outrage.

For Christ’s sake show some leadership!

 

Greater respect needed for Ukraine

Ukraine is as entitled to its independence as any other nation but over the course of its history, writes Andreas Bimba in this guest article, it has been the greatest victim of Russian brutality (apart from the Russian people themselves).

The despotic regimes of Russia from Imperial to Bolshevik to Putin have an appalling record of brutality and subjugation of neighbouring nations and internal ethnic and independent minded groups.

The Putin regime has engaged in persecution and war against Russia’s southern, predominately Muslim minorities that has claimed over 250,000 lives during his period as leader. This behaviour is just a continuation of a very regular pattern throughout Russia’s history.

The Russian invasion of Crimea is totally unacceptable even if Russia happens to have a strong historical claim to this territory and that a slight majority of residents have Russian ethnicity. Russia has used its military superiority and the threat of invasion to intimidate Ukraine into submission analogous to a rapist using the threat of greater violence or death to have his way with his victim. A price must be applied by the rest of the world against Russia because of this.

The hostility Russians see being directed towards them by the rest of the world is a natural and reasonable response by the rest of the world to Russia’s inability to form strong democratic systems of government, its inability to have a moral and independent system of justice, its inability to respect the rights of all people, its military expansionism and the ongoing brutality and lack of respect toward its neighbours, ethnic minorities and even for its ethnic majority, the ethnic Russian people.

Mikhail Gorbachev probably understood this and chose to liberalise the Soviet Union but the present Putin regime has chosen to follow a political strategy closer to past despotic Russian leaders.

It does not need to be this way. Russia could have become a non-threatening, truly democratic country where the rule of just law applied, that respected the rights of all of its citizens and that respected other nations. Russia has a sizable economy with many competitive advantages and through commerce could have become a large, valuable and respected member of the world community of nations. Even nations that have legitimate historical grievances towards Russia would have been brought closer to Russia through economic self interest, trade and closer contact between their peoples. Perhaps the current Russian leadership genuinely do not want this and prefer the old ways that have been such a disaster for the people of Russia and Russia’s neighbours.

The Russian people need to stop blaming foreigners for their problems and for threatening and persecuting them but instead need to look at themselves more critically and ensure that they take control of their own destiny and have truly representative governments and institutions.

No nation wants to invade Russia nor could any nation or military alliance succeed in any form with such a foolish concept. NATO only acts to defend the borders of its member states and provides an essential military balance with Russia that enables much smaller nations such as the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Russia’s periphery as well as the other member states to have an independent and more secure future. NATO is a mechanism for stability and not for military conquest and it also acts in the interests of Russia by denying any reckless Russian Governments the opportunity for opportunistic but very dangerous territorial expansion.

The world is nothing like it was prior to World War II and no totalitarian states apart from North Korea exist, not in Europe or in Asia. Russia and China have however shown in recent times a willingness to expand their territorial boundaries in a calculated way and the world must negotiate a return to former borders and/or apply a price for this illegal and reckless expansion.

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