Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

 

Will the rise of China mean the fall of America? In a word, yes. Although decline might be more accurate.

Why do I think this? Because China is about to launch the PetroYuan and when it does the demand for dollars and for dollar denominated debt will shrink. When it does, I question whether the world will be so sanguine about the level of debt that America carries. If that happens then the value of the dollar is in question.

At the moment no matter what level of debt America carries, other countries need dollars. Dollars to pay for oil, since oil is traded in dollars. Dollars for their financial system so their banks can settle contracts for goods and services traded in dollars.

But over the last few years China has been systematically putting in place everything it needs to launch the Yuan as not only a rival to the dollar in trading and settling oil contracts but as a rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. At the moment the only rival to the dollar is the Euro. I think it fair to say the relationship between the two currencies and their issuing powers, has been… ‘delicate’. The news that Sadam Hussein was going to start trading his oil in Euros came just a few months before America and its lap dog GB, decided Sadam was a threat to world peace and went to war with him. Something similar happened to Colonel Qaddafi.

Under Qaddafi Libya’s currency was backed by the country’s large holdings of gold and silver. This had allowed Qaddafi to finance, for example, the entire construction of the Great Man Made River without going to Western banks for a single loan. Libya was debt free and owned its own resources and infrastructure. Obviously a very unsatisfactory state of affairs for any third world country to get ideas so far above their station. Worse, he had a very public plan which he had laid before the Pan African Congress, to create a pan African currency backed by gold and silver to be launched by 2023. It was not too long before Hilary Clinton arrived in a freshly bombed Libya and crowed to CBS, “We came, we saw, he died.” Charming woman. I was only surprised she didn’t say “Mission accomplished.”

Libya and Iraq were small enough, that their pretensions to threaten the hegemony of the dollar and have the jumped up arrogance to think they could trade their own resources in their own currency or a currency of their choice, could be dealt with by shock, awe and death. I think China might not be so easily dealt with.

China’s plans for the replacement of the dollar and the positioning of their own currency are very like Libya’s. China too has had the idea to back its new settlement and perhaps one day its reserve currency, with gold. And China is not alone. Russia has been a part of the BRIC group with an interest in the plan. Russia, like China has been a very large buyer of gold.

 

As reported just a few weeks ago by the Irish Independent,

…the Bank of Russia has more than doubled the pace of gold purchases, bringing the share of bullion in its international reserves to the highest of Mr Putin’s 17 years in power, according to World Gold Council data.

In the second quarter alone, it accounted for 38pc of all gold purchased by central banks.

The article goes on to explain how purchasing gold has meant that Russia has not had to buy foreign currencies. For foreign currencies think Dollars.

The gold rush is allowing the Bank of Russia to continue growing its reserves while abstaining from purchases of foreign currency for more than two years.

China and Russia have very large holdings of gold between them. China actually produces 12% of the world’s gold and keeps much if not most of what it produces. The new Petro Yuan will be backed by Gold, Something the IMF decades ago, said no paper currency should have. A clear break with the Bretton Woods Dollar-world agreement.

Who will use this new currency? Over the past few years a network of bilateral agreements has been created around China and Russia. Back in 2012, in an article called A new Reserve currency to challenge the dollar – What’s really going on in The Straits of Hormuz, I pointed out that not only had China and Russia agreed to bypass the dollar and trade direct in their own currencies but that,

the India Times reported that India was talking to Iran about moving out of dollar settlements so as to be able to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. India said it was discussing settling in Gold. Remember, India has just signed a settlement agreement with China to use the Yuan.

Remember also, Russia recently eclipsed Saudi as the number one supplier of China’s oil. And if I remember correctly Angola was number two. Promoting perhaps the recent state visit this year of Saudi’s King Salman to see Mr Putin. As The Guardian put it,

 

Saudi king’s visit to Russia heralds shift in global power structure

King Salman agrees new areas of cooperation with Vladimir Putin on first official trip by Saudi monarch to Moscow

In addition Japan and China have agreed to trade in Yuan, by-passing the dollar, as has Iran. They are now trading their oil in Yuan or euros, but not the dollar. Ever wondered why Iran is ‘the axis of evil? It’s because they don’t use the dollar.

Then came the news in 2015 that Qatar had opened the first and so far only financial centre in the Middle East, for trading and clearing oil, gas and anything else, in Yuan. China’s ICBC is the central banking concern in the hub, allowing any Middle Eastern country to trade oil and gas and settle in Yuan. In the previous few years China’s trade with Qatar had tripled. And now, guess what? Qatar has been declared by the US to be a sponsor of terrorism and US allies in the gulf , led by Saudi, have begun to blockade Qatar’s trade. Hmm. Any pattern emerging?

The problem for the US is how much debt is too much for any country or business? Clearly it is not any magic figure or particular debt to GDP ratio. America and China carry huge debts and no one has balked…yet. How much debt you can carry is a function of debt to the estimated future productive capacity of the country in question. That creates the demand for its currency and the demand for the currency creates a market and demand for debt denominated in that currency.

At the moment the US can carry a huge debt load because everyone needs dollars to trade oil. And China can carry a huge debt because everyone needs yuan to buy the goods whose production was off-shored to China by our globalist leadership.

But what happens to demand for Dollars and dollar debt when, not if, oil starts to be traded less and less in dollars? I suggest the world’s appetite will diminish quite quickly. As it does so, the world will start to see US debt in a different light. While the opposite will happen to China. And this is what interests me and makes me think China has a plan.

At the moment China also has a very large debt load. I have argued that the Central Chinese authorities have not got the control they would like to have over the growth of that debt. Of course I have no inside information. But the on again/ off again attempts of the Chinese central authorities to deflate its housing-debt bubble and its quite out-of-control shadow banking lending suggests, to me at least, that the central authorities have not and can not control the level of debt being accumulated by provincial governments, their off-book, arm’s length financial vehicles, regional banks, property developers and the vast, largely unregulated trade in wealth management vehicles.

Chinese debt already overflowed once back in the 90’s. Four companies were created to take the debt off the banks’ books and trade it away. Decades later these companies still exist and still have the bad debts from the 90’s hanging around. You will see headlines telling you how those companies have been doing well, making money. Suggesting their trade in bad chinese debt has been going well. The reality, if you dig a little deeper, is that those companies lobbied for and were given permission to engage in ‘proper’ banking activities. Which meant they began to make their own loans – to property developers. As the property bubble continued to inflate over the last decade and a half they have ridden it and that, not trading the old bad-debt, is why they have made a profit. But now those ‘bad’ banks, have themselves started to find some of their own loans going bad. In any hard-landing or financial paroxysm the ‘bad-banks’ will need to be rescued by a new bad banks. Bad banks for bad banks is not really a solution.

I think the Chinese authorities can see this. It doesn’t take a genius after all. What can they do? Well if you already have a huge debt problem and know many of them are going to go bad and will do so overnight in the event of another global banking crisis, and know you are not able to reign it all in, then a very tempting alternative would be to get the world to agree that you can carry more debt – a lot more. And what could help convince the world? Well if your currency could become far more sought after, that would be peachy.

And so I think the long standing Chinese goal of making the yuan

an important international currency which China, and Hong Kong in particular, have been working towards for years, has now taken on a far greater import and urgency. I think the Chinese central government’s best way of avoiding a politically disastrous domestic debt implosion is to get the Yuan to be used as a settlement currency for oil and not long after that to become a de facto rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Recently I argued at length with a military analyst who disagreed that China would risk such a break with America. Too dangerous he felt. China, he pointed out has such huge holdings of American debt. He argued that the Chinese would prefer to work alongside the dollar. I feel that even if the Chinese would prefer to ‘work alongside’ the dollar, this will prove very difficult if not impossible. Once a flow of countries and trade moves away from the dollar there will be a momentum the Chinese will not be in control of. Cooperation between dollar and Yuan as clearing and reserve currency, especially for oil, will be like trying to dock two super-tankers in a high sea. In theory possible. In practice – not going to work.

As for Chinese holdings of US debt – I think the advantages of avoiding a domestic debt implosion and projecting the Yuan to world centre stage, will outweigh the losses. I also think, If I were the Chinese, I would imagine a scenario where the dollar does begin to look vulnerable. Its value begins to be questioned, nations holding dollars and dollar debt will feel America’s profligate indebtedness is a global danger. They will blame America. How wonderful then, for China to arrive and say to a worried world, on the edge of a huge crisis, “Fear not, we have thought ahead and can offer you the use of a new currency – one backed by GOLD not paper debts. We are here to save you. To offer a ride on a sound ship as an alternative to the rotten and leaking ship you have been riding on.” China will be able to position their rise not as an aggressive act, not as trying to destabilise the world, but as trying to save it, from the collapse of an internally divided, corrupt, aggressive and indebted America.

America’s decline will be both financial and political. Financial due to the recalibration of what the world thinks of America’s debt load, and therefore their confidence in and need for the dollar. Political, because America

has got used to being able to enforce its foreign policy through sanctions and embargoes. But once oil and other goods and the nations trading in them, no longer need the dollar for their trade, and do not have to use US clearing or custodial banks, then this power evaporates.

Try to imagine the shift in power when Wall Street’s banks are no longer guaranteed top position as the world’s custodial banks and Manhattan’s Southern District Court (Wall Street’s court) is no longer in a position to dictate to whole nations via decisions upon Wall Street Custodial banks, what debts those nations and their custodial banks must pay and to whom. The whole edifice of Bilateral Investment Treaties and the trade agreements they sit inside, depends for enforcement upon the US banks being the custodial banks and the Southern District court’s rulings being able to tell those banks what they must do. Take that power away, which will happen if the dollar is no longer pre-emininent, and America will no longer be able to enforce its foreign policy or world view via economic sanction.

I think the main US banks will be positioning themselves to try to bridge this decline by having a major presence in Hong Kong. They are all already there but will be working to be part of the new Yuan-world of trade and clearing.

Of course this is speculation. But it seems to me the underlying evidence of the previous decade makes it worth thinking about.

If I am in any way correct then I think other things follow.

I think the House of Saud knows it’s future is in question. I have written a lot about how I see Qatar rising to rival Saudi. Qatar not Saudi has the Yuan clearing house. Saudi is late to the party. Can Saudi risk being seen to move away from its

traditional ally, America? If it does, too quickly, and signs yuan trade deals it risks falling as soon as Americal turns its back. If it doesn’t move quickly enough it risks being completely eclipsed by Qatar, having to go to Qatar cap in hand to trade its oil with Russia and China.

I see the political changes within the House of Saud as signs of the internal struggles to decide which way to go. I personally think the House of Saud will fall.

I also think the position of Israel under its present leadership is also very fragile. Israel needs Saudi. While they may seem to be on opposite sides, in many ways they are on the same side. If the House of Saud falls or changes allegiances from America to Russia/China then Israel will become even more isolated than it is. And of course if America is eclipsed and does enter a period of decline, then Israel will go with it.

If any of the above is near the mark, will it mean the end of America? Of course not. American’s will still work and sleep and raise their children like everyone else. But the pre-eminence of the dollar and American finance will decline as the stock of dollar denominated bonds and debt agreements expires, and with it the power and wealth of many of America’s elite. How that decline will sit alongside America’s still overwhelming military power I don’t know.

Of course what I have suggested above is merely speculation but personally I think another debt crisis will happen, because never ending QE and Central Bank debt buying cannot go one for ever, and what China does in the next few months could very well destabilise the whole unstable system. Many people will suffer and lives will be blighted. But I wonder if, when we all look back from a decade or a generation after, if we won’t think it lucky the crisis did finally come and the system we have been slaving under since 2007 as well as those who have forced it upon us for their own enrichment, were called to account.

It is difficult to accept that such historic changes could occur. But history has not ended despite what some have claimed.

Rumours of History’s end have been, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated. History is very much alive and happening to us, now. We are, as the Chinese saying goes, living in interesting times.

 

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A scribbled note by Albert Einstein which described his theory on the key to happy living was sold at auction in Jerusalem for $1.56m.

According to The Telegraph, the winning bid for the note far exceeded the pre-auction estimate of between $5,000 and $8,000, according to the website of Winner’s auction house.

“It was an all-time record for an auction of a document in Israel,” Winner’s spokesman Meni Chadad told AFP…Bidding in person, online and by phone, started at $2,000. A flurry of offers pushed the price rapidly up for about 20 minutes until the final two potential buyers bid against each other by phone. Applause broke out in the room when the sale was announced.

The newspaper reports that Einstein was on a lecture tour of Japan in 1922 and had recently been awarded the Nobel prize. Einstein didn’t have cash to pay a tip to a bellboy in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, so he gave him two notes, predicting they would be worth more than a tip. He is reported have said.

“Maybe if you’re lucky those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip.”

The Telegraph continues, Einstein dedicated his life to science, but suggested in the notes that fulfilling a long-term ambition doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness.

The note said.

“A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.”

The anonymous buyer was from Europe.

The notes were sold by an anonymous Hamburg resident who commented “I am really happy that there are people out there who are still interested in science and history and timeless deliveries in a world which is developing so fast.”

On the second note was written “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. It sold for $240,000.

 

 

Confirming, and sending the clearest sign of his previously discussed pivot toward Russia and away from NATO and the West, on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had signed a deal to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system, and paid the first installment. The deal cements Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, despite differences over the war in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey in late 2015 and the assassination of a Russian ambassador earlier this year, and comes as Turkey’s ties with the United States and European Union have become strained to the point of breaking.

Although the missile purchase from Russia was made public several months ago, Erdogan’s announcement was the first confirmation that Turkey had transferred money to pay for the S-400 missile system.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia,” Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday. “A deposit has also been paid as far as I know.”

As the NYT writes, “the purchase of the missile system flies in the face of cooperation within the NATO alliance, which Turkey has belonged to since the early 1950s. NATO does not ban purchases of military hardware from manufacturers outside the American-led alliance, but it does discourage members from buying equipment not compatible with that used by other members.”

According to reports in the Russian media, Turkey is to get four batteries of S-400 launchers complete with targeting radar and control posts. Some aspects of the deal are reportedly to be finalized, but Russian officials said the contract furthers Russia’s geostrategic interests.

* * *

Predictably, the Pentagon promptly reiterated its concerns over the deal, which it said undermines inter-operability of weapons systems among NATO allies. “We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO inter-operable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

A NATO official in Brussels where the alliance is headquartered, said that no NATO member currently operates the Russian missile system and that the alliance had not been informed about the details of the purchase by Turkey. “What matters for NATO is that the equipment allies acquire is able to operate together,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as required by alliance procedures. “Interoperability of allied armed forces is essential to NATO for the conduct of our operations.”

However, on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the critics of Turkey’s deal with Russia, saying Ankara had no intention of waiting for the protection of its NATO allies.

“They have gone crazy because we made a deal for S-400s,” Erdogan said Wednesday in a speech to the ruling AKP mayors in Ankara, as cited by Hurriyet.

“What do you expect? Should we wait for you? We take care of ourselves in every security point. We are taking precautions and we will continue to do so,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan criticized the reluctance of US and Israel to authorize supply of combat drones to Turkey as another example of how Turkish security was sidelined by its allies.

“When they did give [drones], their repair and maintenance put us in a difficult position. Now [Turkey] has come to a point where it can produce its own unmanned, armed air vehicles. And now they are uncomfortable with that,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan also dismissed issues of interoperability, brand loyalties or the geopolitical optics of such a sale. “Nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles

or independent decisions about its defense industry,” the daily newspaper Hurriyet reported him as saying.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves,” he said. “We are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country.”

As the NYT adds, Erdogan’s announcement — made to Turkish journalists aboard his presidential jet as he returned from Kazakhstan — appeared timed as a response to two judicial cases announced last week in the United States. One is against his presidential bodyguards, who are charged with assaulting protesters when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington this year. The other is against a group of Turks, including a former minister, accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran. Erdogan has angrily criticized both cases.

* * *

The S-400 SAM is designed to detect, track and then destroy aircraft, drones or missiles. It’s Russia’s most advanced integrated air defense system, and can hit targets as far as 250 miles away. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India, both nations who are masters at reverse engineering. Most concerning for NATO, however is that the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.

Turkey has been weighing options for acquiring long-range SAMs for years. In 2013, Ankara surprised other NATO members by announcing that it was going to purchase the FD-2000 system from China, sparking criticism from Washington. Defense observers speculated that Turkey played the China card to put pressure on its allies and get better terms for buying a NATO-compatible SAM system, such as the US-made Patriot PAC-3. The Chinese deal stalled and was eventually scrapped, with Turkey reportedly unhappy over Beijing’s reluctance to hand over the technology behind the advanced system. Last year Ankara announced that it was in talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the S-400.

Turkey has other reasons for the missile purchase. It needs to cultivate good relations with Russia, and it also needs to build its own military defense, said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Turkey wants the deal,” she said, “and Russia is only too happy to drive a wedge into the NATO alliance.”

While NATO’s collective defense should have been sufficient for Turkey – NATO deployed Patriot missiles there during a rise of tensions with Syria in the past – Erdogan lost trust in the West since last year’s failed “coup attempt”, which he slammed repeatedly as a Western plot to oust him, and appears determined to secure his own defense.

Furthermore, the transfer of technology from Russia is attractive to Turkey: Erdogan has spoken also of his frustration at having requests to the United States for drones turned down, and of his satisfaction that Turkey developed its own.

Notably, Erdogan’s announcement of the deal with Russia came after Germany said that it was suspending all major arms exports to Turkey because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the increasingly strained ties. “We have put on hold all big requests that Turkey sent to us, and these are really not a few,” the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said during a panel discussion in Berlin on Monday, according to Reuters.

While the purchase of Russian missiles will take cooperation between the two nations to a new level, but is not the first time that Turkey has bought military equipment from Russia. It turned to Moscow in the early 1990s to buy military helicopters and armored personnel carriers. Last year, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to revive a suspended natural-gas pipeline project.

Meanwhile, as the US military-industrial complex has flourished in recent months following a spike in deals with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other nations courtesy of rising geopolitical tensions, Russia has remained largely squeezed out of the arms market in Western and Eastern Europe, even in countries that once bought nearly all their weapons from the Soviet Union, has looked for years to NATO’S eastern flank as a promising market and the alliance’s weakest link. It has also sold weapons to Greece, another NATO member and to Cyprus, which is not a member of NATO but houses British military bases and effectively serves as an outpost of the alliance.

Meanwhile, as Turkey’s suspicions toward the West have grown, relations with Russia warmed, driven by the personal relationship between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has expressed personal admiration for Putin, to the consternation of many European and American leaders, if not President Trump. Erdogan has also shown a preference for the Russian model, with its sense of restoring a lost empire, returning Turkey to a more independent place in the world and rejecting Western democracy.

At the same time, the fact that Turkey belongs to NATO has only increased Mr. Putin’s desire to forge strong relations with Mr. Erdogan despite their differences over the conflict in Syria.

Mr. Putin and myself are determined on this issue,” Erdogan told journalists about the missile deal.

According to the Israeli military, one of its pilots was killed following a strike mission over the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, a squadron of Israeli Air Force jets was deployed in response to a rocket attack launched from Gaza.

“Today’s attack, the second since the beginning of August in the city of Sderot, is the direct result of Hamas’ terror agenda in the Gaza Strip that encourages deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, according to Defense News.

While no civilians were killed in the attack, the Israeli military did lose one of its own in what it called a “Class A mishap.”
Returning from its strike mission over Gaza, one of the F-16I fighter jets was en route to Ramon Air Base southwest of Beersheba. The pilot and navigator operated normally when, around 5 pm, “for some reason, they felt the need to eject.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, the jet caught fire shortly before the pilots ejected.
“We have no specifics yet to offer,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, according to Defense One.
“It happened while they were landing. An inquiry is ongoing to review the circumstances.”
While the navigator suffered only minor injuries, the pilot, identified as Major Ohad Cohen, was killed.
While an investigation is ongoing, officials so far believe the incident to be the result of human error. The air force has no plans to ground its F-16I fleet.
A similar incident occurred in 2013, when an F-16I crashed into the Mediterranean during a training flight. The pilot and navigator ejected in time and both parachuted to sea, where they were rescued.
Another F-16I fighter crashed in southern Israel during a training exercise in 2010. Both the pilot and navigator were killed.

The war in Syria is significant in two ways. First, the outcome can reshape the Arab Middle East. Second, and perhaps more important, Syria is not simply about Syrians. The US, Russian, Iranian, Turkish, and French forces are engaged there along with the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaida, and secular Arabs. The Saudis and the rest of the Arab monarchies also exert political and economic influence on Syria.

I have written in the past about how the growing crises in Eurasia are increasingly interacting. Syria is the place where that interaction is the greatest and most violent.

Prior to World War II, there was a civil war in Spain. Nazi Germany and fascist Italy sent troops. The Soviet Union did as well. In addition, leftists from around the world flocked there to fight. The French and British refused to get involved, trying not to be drawn in. The Spanish Civil War was said to be a rehearsal for World War II. The major players of the European war were there—though some weren’t. New weapons were tried out. The civil war ended in April 1939, five months before Germany invaded Poland, which began World War II.

Syria is drawing in major global and regional powers. When, for example, the US and Russia are engaged in a country – with very different goals and supporting hostile factions – it is certainly not something to dismiss out of hand. On the contrary, Syria matters a great deal. If nothing else, it has become a test of the strength of powers with interests far beyond Syria.

The Origins of the Syrian Conflict

There is a class of conflicts whose importance to us diminishes over time. These conflicts involve intense slaughter and suffering and generate endless conferences, meetings, and wringing of hands by global statesman. But these wars seem never-ending. Their origins are lost in the mists of time, the situations on the battlefield are hard to grasp, and they appear to have little consequence to the rest of the world. The relief workers do a heroic job and try to shame us into caring and giving, but in the end, each conflict seems to be just another war in a faraway place having little to do with our own lives.

But Syria is far more than that.

The current regime was founded by Hafez al-Assad, an air force general, in a military coup. He was an Alawite, part of the Shiite sect of Islam. He was also a secularist. Gamal Abdel Nasser, an Egyptian military officer, had staged a coup in Egypt in 1952 and wanted to create a state based on three principles: secularism, socialism, and Pan-Arabism. His vision was the creation not of a caliphate, but of a secular, socialist, unified Arab world, based on military rule. Many regimes were patterned on this, including Assad’s regime in Syria.

But ideology aside, Assad represented the Alawite faction, and what he created was a state built around his faction. Other factions were excluded, oppressed, and not infrequently, killed. However, Alawites are only around 12% of the Syrian population, which was why he relied heavily on the minorities (Christians, mainstream Shiites, Ismailis, Kurds, and Druze) that together constitute 40% of the population. More important, he also relied on many Sunnis. Even today, the regime is alive because a lot of Sunnis have not rebelled against the state. Nevertheless, Assad kept Syria from fragmenting by suppressing any challenge to him. After he died, his son, Bashar al-Assad, kept running the family business.

The Arab Spring in 2011 generated a challenge to his regime. The problem was that the opposition was deeply split. They spent as much time fighting each other as they spent fighting Assad. Democracy had little to do with it. The Alawite-Sunni split had a great deal to do with it. But the Assad regime had a lot of support.

One of the misunderstandings of US foreign policy has been that tyrants rule only through the threat of violence. That is true, but in order to have a credible threat of violence, you have to have people who are prepared to carry that violence out. And they need to be loyal to you, or they may turn the violence against you. Tyrants do not live alone in isolated palaces. If they did, they wouldn’t live very long.

The Alawites had done extremely well under the Assads. They dominated the military, trade, smuggling, and internal business. They were hated by many Sunnis, especially the more religiously inclined. The Alawites knew that if Assad fell, their position would collapse, and they would become the target. They, therefore, had to resist the uprising, and since they controlled the military, they believed they would not be defeated. Assad was not going to be overthrown by a wildly fragmented and poorly armed and trained opposition.

Enter the Americans

The Assads had been a problem for the United States in many ways. They sent weapons and supplies into Iraq during the US occupation from 2003 to 2011. They helped destabilize Lebanon. They fought multiple wars with Israel. And above all, they were closely aligned with the Iranians, fellow Shiites. Hezbollah in Lebanon, also an ally of Iran and Syria, represented a terrorist threat for the US (even in 2011 when the Sunnis were the main enemy). When the Syrian war began, the US saw a chance to crack Assad, dramatically reduce Iranian influence in the region, and break Hezbollah.

The problem was that the US didn’t want to get directly involved in the war, at least not excessively. Since most Sunni groups were jihadist, the US had to find groups that were anti-jihadist, anti-Iranian, and anti-Assad… and that were motivated to fight. The US was looking for secularists not aligned with Assad. It was, to say the least, difficult to find such a group. It was also hard to be certain that they would stay that kind of group, and that they wouldn’t sell the weapons they were given. Still, the US felt it had enough to gain to keep trying.

At this point, IS emerged, seizing control of parts of Iraq and Syria. This put the US in a fix. If it brought Assad down, IS might extend its power. If it attacked IS, it would give Assad breathing room and alienate some of the opposition (some of which wanted an all-out attack on Assad while others didn’t want IS hindered). The US found itself “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” as the song about the Vietnam War went, and it had yet to create an effective opposition to Assad anyway.

More Global Powers Get Involved

Then, the Russians became involved militarily. Russian intelligence had been close to the Assads since they took over in Syria. Russia did not want him to fall. But it had far greater problems than Assad. First, it suffered a strategic setback in a crucial buffer state, Ukraine, when a pro-Russian government was replaced by a pro-Western one. Attempts to foment an uprising in the east failed, and all Russia could claim was control over Crimea, where by treaty it had already based major force.

Second, the collapse of oil prices had a massive impact on the economy that was going to pyramid. At the very least, President Vladimir Putin needed to demonstrate that, barring Ukraine, Russia was a major power.

The military importance of his decision to deploy a relatively small number of aircraft and special forces in Syria was massively inflated by the Russians, who wanted to appear stronger than they were, and by the Americans, who wanted to make Russia out as an aggressor. Both approaches helped cement Russia’s role. Then, having deployed aircraft and troops, Russia confronted the same problem as the Americans. The Russians could not reshape the Syrian landscape, especially with US resistance.

The US, Russia, and Iran were all active in Syria and unable to end the conflict. That left the Turks. The Turks hated the Assad regime, and when the Russians first intervened, the Turks shot down a Russian plane, causing a serious confrontation. Then, there was an attempted coup in Turkey, and the Turks turned against the Americans (who they partly blamed for the failed coup) and got closer to the Russians. Realizing that the Russians were inflexible on Assad, the Turks shifted back toward the Americans and were prepared to fight IS, but only if the US understood that the Turks had a simultaneous war underway with the Kurds.

Syria did not simply draw players in. It sent huge numbers of migrants to Europe as well. This triggered a huge crisis in the European Union, dividing countries that wanted to block migration from those that would encourage it. This compounded already existing tensions in Europe over the economy. It is reasonable to say that Syrian migrants shaped the Brexit vote, encouraged the rise of radical nationalist groups throughout Europe, and redefined the underlying issues.

The Paris terrorist attacks had another effect. The French sent an aircraft carrier to carry out airstrikes in Syria in cooperation with the United States. The Syrian migrants and the inability of European forces to block them, or to take effective unilateral action against IS after the attacks on Paris and other cities, generated not only greater military involvement in Syria, but long-term planning to manage the fallout from the conflict.

Syria as a Testing Ground

Syria is a battleground in which the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are increasingly involved. Watching barely on the sidelines are the Israelis and the Saudis, while Lebanon is constantly uncertain. Iraq is heavily influenced by what is happening in Syria, while the Kurds, facing IS in Iraq, are now facing Turkish forces in Turkey and Syria. And the Europeans are coping with a wave of terrorism and contemplating rearmament. All of this is driven by Syria, a country that seems gridlocked in a permanent and insoluble war. But it is a country that has brought together friends, enemies, and contenders for power in a small place. It reminds me of nothing as much as Spain in the 1930s.

For the first time since the 1940s, all of Eurasia is unstable. Syria is not the pivot of this instability, but it is the showcase. Most major powers are there or nearby, except the Chinese.

My eyes glaze over when I hear about Syria, yet they shouldn’t. I have to force myself to see the increasing importance of this test war.

Syrian air defense troops shot down an Israeli warplane and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the southwestern province of Quneitra, the Syrian army command said in a statement Tuesday.
“Our air defenses opened fire and shot down the [Israeli] combat aircraft and UAV west of the Sasa settlement,” the command said.

Israeli aircraft carried out an attack at 1 a.m. local time on the positions of the Syrian army in Quneitra, General Samir Suleiman, head of the Syrian Arab Army information department, told Sputnik.

“Syrian air defense forces responded and shot down a F-16 fighter jet in the southwest of Quneitra, and an Israeli drone over the Damascus’ suburb of Sa’sa,” he said.
The general added that the Israeli air forces have attacked Syrian army positions in support of armed terrorist groups who suffered big losses during their last battle with government troops.
“The enemies give logistical and moral support to the terrorist groups, they opened Israeli hospitals and medical centers for the injured terrorists after the Syrian army carried out operations against militants in Quneitra,” Suleiman told Sputnik. “Terrorists constantly receive military support from the Israeli armed forces via artillery fire and air attacks on Syrian army positions.”
Earlier in the day the Syrian Armed Forces said in remarks published by state media that an Israeli warplane and an unmanned aerial vehicle were downed in the southwest Quneitra province in response to cross-border strikes. Israeli media reported that it was the fourth such strike in two weeks.
Israeli aviation, however, did not incur losses during an overnight operation in Syria despite being attacked by surface-to-air missiles, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) official said on Tuesday.
“Tonight two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after our aircraft attacked Syrian artillery positions. At none of the stages of the incident was the safety of the Israeli Air Force’s aircraft threatened,” Maj. Arye Shalicar told RIA Novosti.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked Syrian artillery positions in the Golan Heights in the early hours of Tuesday after the latest episode cross-border shelling that began over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
Israel occupied a part of the Golan Heights during the 1967 war and has been administering it alongside other territories in the West Bank for almost half a century.

The hacker known as “Guccifer 2.0” recently uploaded new material to his website which he claims to have received courtesy of Nancy Pelosi’s PC.  The new release includes several internal memos from DCCC staff as well as talking points on various topics.

Among the most interesting of the new disclosures is a memo from Troy Perry with talking points on how candidates and campaign staff should address various topics related to the Black Lives Matter movement.  The memo notes that “presidential candidates have struggled to respond to tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement”  and refers to the group as a “radical movement to end “anti-black racism.”  Perry also warns not to use “trigger” phrases like “all lives matter” or “black on black crime.”  The memo goes on to offer the following “Background” and “Tactics” for “best practices” when dealing with Black Lives Matters members:

 “This document should not be emailed or handed to anyone outside of the building.  Please only give campaign staff these best practices in meetings or over the phone.”

Be a Partner & Lead From Behind.  BLM needs partners to achieve their agenda and they want to be a part of the conversation.”

“However, BLM activists don’t want their movement co-opted by the Democrat Party.  They are leary of politicians who hijack their message to win campaigns.

Do not say ‘all lives matter’ nor mention ‘black on black crime’.  Such phrases are “viewed as red herring attacks,” and such a response “will garner additional media scrutiny and only anger BLM activists.” noting that “This is the worst response.

According to RT News, Perry no longer works for the DCCC and is now a member of the Hillary campaign.

BLM

BLM

Another controversial memo was written by DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward to DCCC Chair Steve Israel of New York ahead of a Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD Political Action Committee weekly breakfast in October 2013.  Within the memo, Ward notes several sore points that the CHC has with the congressional committee including the ““lack of Hispanic staff at the DCCC, particularly at senior levels.”  Per RT News:
 The biggest problem is the “lack of Hispanic staff at the DCCC, particularly at senior levels,” she wrote, noting several ways in which the committee is addressing their concern, including asking Israel to acknowledge the work of the DCCC’s CHC liason, “who has played a critical role in our Hispanic outreach efforts this cycle.” Ward also asked him to mention open positions with the committee.

 

“CHC members are divided on their support of DCCC’s Candidate Mayor Pete Aguilar (CA-31).  It is in your talking points to acknowledge their divided support for Baca/Aguilar,” she wrote. “The CHC Members might ask you about Luz Robles, UT-02 Latina candidate. DCCC’s political team has been in contact with CHC BOLD PAC staff regarding this race, although it is not a competitive district.”

 

Latinos

Latinos