Saturday, December 15, 2018

The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, 
it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?
Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”
The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.
A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.
The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.
At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.
The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”
Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”
One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:
“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”
In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”
You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.
Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.
However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:
“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”
Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.
Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.
While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.
Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.
Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.
The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”
The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.
If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.
Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.
Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.
Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Dämonendämmerung: Krieg gegen China und Russland - NATO-Pläne werden konkreter

Dämonendämmerung: Krieg gegen China und Russland - NATO-Pläne werden konkreter
Eine Panzerbesatzung der U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams während der Übung Combined Resolve XI an der Seite eine Reihe von gepanzerten Fahrzeugen der ukrainischen Armee, Hohenfels, Deutschland, 10. Dezember 2018.
USA und NATO wollen Deutschland in einen sinnlosen Krieg gegen Russland und China einbinden, den sie verlieren werden. Und die deutsche politische Elite steht Gewehr bei Fuß, allen voran die Gespenster aus dem transatlantischen Schattenreich.
von Jürgen Cain Külbel
Moderne Kriegstreiber lassen sich ihre paranoiden Thesen vorzüglich entlohnen. Eintausend Euro Eintritt musste man löhnen, um vom 27. bis 28. November 2018 die 17. Berliner Sicherheitskonferenz (BSC), das kriegslüsterne Gefasel durchgeknallter Koryphäen aus Deutschland, den USA, der NATO live erleben zu dürfen; und – als ob das nicht reicht –die militante Sauerei fand auch noch im friedliebenden Berliner Osten statt - im Hotel Vienna House Andel’s in Berlin-Lichtenberg, Landsberger Allee 106.
Einer dieser US-amerikanischen Sterndeuter, Generalleutnant Ben Hodges, seines Zeichens Ex-Oberbefehlshaber der NATO-Landstreitkräfte in Europa, durfte dort krakeelen: „Ein Krieg der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika gegen China in etwa 10 Jahren ist unvermeidbar.“ Hodges, der momentan für das Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) die Kriegstrommel rührt, tischte der 1000-Euro-Ticket-Meute – allesamt militärische Planer und Entscheider im Sicherheitsbereich aus NATO/EU-Staaten – so einiges aus dem US-Kriegs-Gemischtwaren-Laden auf: Die Politik sei gefragt, „wenn es um Investitionen in die militärische Mobilität geht. In der Luft, an Land und zur See gleichermaßen“ solle „Geld in die Hand genommen werden, damit Transporte schneller und sicherer erfolgen könnten.“ In Europa, wohlgemerkt. Da momentan die militärischen Kapazitäten nicht vorhanden seien, diesen Krieg erfolgreich zu führen – so der Amerikaner – drängen USA und NATO sehr auf Rüstung.
Denn weder die Kapazitäten der Marine noch die der Luftstreitkräfte seien ausreichend, „um einen Krieg gegen China gewinnen zu können“. Auch sei der deutsche Bundestag viel zu langsam bei seinen Entscheidungsfindungen und bremse das militärische Vorhaben eher aus, als zu dessen Erfolg beizutragen. Das, so Hodges, muss geändert werden. Zudem begrüßte er eine Initiative aus den Niederlanden, im Bereich Logistik auf Deutschland einzuwirken, denn besonders im Bereich Planung und Bau von Häfen müssen auch hierzulande Militärplaner der NATO zu Rate gezogen werden. Das wurde in der Vergangenheit versäumt. Hodges bemängelte, die Deutsche Bahn könne momentan nur maximal eine militärische Brigade zeitgleich verschieben, für mehr sei sie nicht ausgelegt; Deutschland müsse das dringend verbessern. Einen Ansporn für Berlin sieht er in der Ansiedlung des neuen NATO-Logistik-Hauptquartiers zur schnellen Verlegung von Truppen nach Osteuropa in Ulm.
Ich kann mir kein Land vorstellen, dass diese Verantwortung besser übernehmen könnte als Deutschland, auch unter dem Blickpunkt geographische Lage und Fähigkeiten. Aus amerikanischer Sicht ist Deutschland unsere Basis. Die meisten unserer Soldaten, die in Europa stationiert sind, leben in Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg und Bayern. Es ist unser Heim“, so Hodges.
Zudem liege Ulm strategisch gut, vor allem auch unter dem Blickwinkel, dass Russland wohl eher auf Seiten Chinas denn auf der Seite des Westens in einem solchen Krieg stehen werde. „Aber ganz so sicher ist das wohl noch nicht“, hofft Hodges vergeblich. 
Der US-General bemängelte zudem, das Schwarze Meer bilde gegenwärtig eine offene Flanke der NATO; es gäbe dort keine vernünftigen Fähigkeiten, sich ausreichend zu verteidigen. „Man bräuchte heute sechs Tage, um mit Kampfverbänden in Bulgarien zu sein; das kann nicht sein.“ Die Häfen seien zudem nicht für die Löschung von Munition und Explosivstoffen ausgelegt; sie seien überdies zu voll – drei Tage werden momentan benötigt, um Gerät für eine Brigade zu löschen, sie einsatzfähig zu machen. Auch das sei zu lang. Ein weiteres Manko für den General: etwa zehn Prozent der europäischen Häfen sind schon „in chinesischer Hand“. 
Die deutsche Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen reagierte artig. Deutschland werde mehr Verantwortung übernehmen auf dem Weg zur europäischen Verteidigungsunion, bei gleichzeitigem Erfüllen der Verpflichtungen gegenüber der NATO. Deutschland, so die Ministerin, habe seit 2014 seinen Verteidigungshaushalt von 35 auf 47 Milliarden Euro gesteigert. Notwendig seien jedoch eigene handlungsfähige militärische Kapazitäten, „damit es nicht wieder wie in den Kriegen auf dem Balkan passiere, wo US-Kräfte den europäischen zu Hilfe eilen mussten“. Die Schlüsselkapazität von Deutschland, so von der Leyen, sollte tatsächlich die Logistik sein; der Ausbau der deutschen Infrastruktur werde daher den militärischen Zwecken untergeordnet. Und die diesbezüglichen EU-Kapazitäten sollen komplementär zu den NATO-Kapazitäten wirken. Deutschland will vor allem die Luftraumüberwachung im Baltikum, „die sehr erfolgreich ist“, weiter ausbauen.  
Dr. Thomas Kauffmann, Vice President International Business & Services von General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), haute in dieselbe Kerbe: Die deutsche Infrastruktur sei sehr marode und alt. Da Deutschland das neue Rückgrat einer Vereinigten Streitkraft werden soll, müssten enorme Investitionen getätigt werden. Autobahnen, Nationalstraßen, Schienenverbindungen, die neu gebaut wurden, seien derzeit überhaupt nicht oder kaum militärisch nutzbar. Die Wege-Systeme Richtung Osten sind gegenwärtig nicht dafür ausgelegt, große Verbände von der Küste aus zu transportieren. Transport-Korridore müssen definiert und ausgebaut werden, auch mit militärischen Mehrzweckplattformen. Momentan beträgt die NATO-Kapazität zum Brückenbau einen Kilometer. „Von Köln bis Tallin“, so Kauffmann, „sind aber sechs Kilometer Flüsse zu überwinden. Allein daran würde eine feldmäßige Verlegung schon scheitern“. Das wird sich ändern, so Kauffmann. 
Die „17. Berliner Sicherheitskonferenz“, die offenkundig Kriegsvorbereitungen gegen China, Russland inklusive, zum Thema hatte, bezeichnet sich in völlig verzerrter Selbstwahrnehmung als einen „Kongress zur Europäischen Sicherheit und Verteidigung“, der „die gemeinsame Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik Europas in den Vordergrund stellt. Sie ist die größte europäische Veranstaltung zu diesem Themenfokus“. Wichtige militärische Planer und Entscheider im Sicherheitsbereich aus den NATO- und EU-Staaten, Vertreter von Rüstungsunternehmen, der Bundeswehr sowie diverse europäische „Politiker“, vor allem Außen- und Verteidigungsminister, Verzeihung: Angriffs- und Kriegsminister, trafen nun Ende November 2018 im Vienna House Andel's Berlin, das im Berliner Stadtteil Lichtenberg an der Grenze zu Prenzlauer Berg und Friedrichshain liegt, zusammen. Dort, wo 1945 das 26. Garde-Schützenkorps der Sowjetarmee in der letzten Schlacht um Berlin kämpfte, traf man sich, um „über den aktuellen Stand der Planungen zu beraten“. Im Gegensatz zur Sicherheitskonferenz in München, auf der politische Führer parlieren, diskutierten hier nun eifrig „ausführende Organe und Stellen“ über die „auf politischen Ebenen bereits getroffenen Entscheidungen“. 
Und eine ganz zentrale dieser „getroffenen Entscheidungen“ kann dann wohl nur heißen: Kriegsvorbereitung! Denn Sponsoren dieses Dämonen-Kongresses waren unter anderem die Raytheon Company, ein US-amerikanischer Rüstungs- und Elektronikkonzern, MBDA S.A.S., ein europäisches Rüstungsunternehmen mit Standorten in Frankreich, Großbritannien, Italien, Deutschland und Spanien, das sich hauptsächlich auf die Entwicklung und Herstellung von Lenkflugkörpern spezialisiert, die deutschen Rüstungsunternehmen Schmidt und Bender, ThyssenKrupp und andere. Strukturen aus militärisch-industriellen Komplexen der westlichen Wertegemeinschaft also, die Frieden als Fluch auffassen und mit der Philosophie süchtig gehen: „Rüstung und Krieg bringen Dividende!“ 
Auf dem Areal der jüngsten Kriegstagungsstätte, dort, wo Ende November 2018 westdeutsche und westeuropäische Exoten vom Krieg gegen China und Richtung Osten fabulierten, siedelten zu DDR-Zeiten ganz andere Exoten; dort war einst noch der staatliche Groß- und Einzel-, Außen- und Binnenhandel der DDR, „Zoologica“, zu Hause. Sechzig qualifizierte Tierpfleger kümmerten sich um 300.000 Zierfische, Vögel, Goldhamster, Farbmäuse, Feuerfische aus der Südsee, Rassehunde, Rasseschafe, Ziegen. Wahrhaft friedliebende Ziervögel und Exoten traten von dort ihre Weltreise an; auch ganz friedlich Richtung Osten, Richtung Sowjetunion. 
Überhaupt: Die Bevölkerung der DDR war humanistisch erzogen, hatte mit NATO und Kriegsgelüsten rein gar nichts am Hut; für sie galt: „Von deutschem Boden solle nie wieder Krieg ausgehen“. Zugegeben, nicht alle DDR-Bürger hatten das als Herzenssache verinnerlicht – die „gereifte“ Frau Dr. Angela Merkel wollte schon 2003 unbedingt in den Irak einmarschieren; das wurde ihr verwehrt. Dafür durfte sie in Afghanistan und anderswo ran. Und auch der DDR-Pfaffe Joachim Gauck mutierte zum BRD-Feldkurat, als er 2014 endlich mehr Anerkennung, Opferbereitschaft und Offenheit für Auslandseinsätze der Bundeswehr einforderte. 
Was tun? Die Ministerpräsidenten der fünf „Neuen Bundesländer“, Michael Müller (Berlin), Dietmar Woidke (Brandenburg), Manuela Schwesig (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Bodo Ramelow (Thüringen), Michael Kretschmer (Sachsen), Reiner Haseloff (Sachsen-Anhalt) werden den Teufel tun, um die humanistischen und friedlichen Ideale der Ostdeutschen hoch zu halten, sie vor den westdeutschen, westeuropäischen und US-amerikanischen Kriegstreibern zu schützen. Sie werden auch dann nichts unternehmen, wenn nach dem voraussehbaren Austritt der Vereinigten Staaten aus dem INF-Vertrag (Ost-) Deutschland zum militärischen Brückenkopf gemacht wird. Und sie werden immer noch still halten, wenn „die Amerikaner weiterhin in eine sehr ernste Versuchung kommen werden, ihre globalen Aufgaben auf Kosten Europas zu lösen, zum Beispiel einen massiven Atomschlag mit Mittel- und Kurzstreckenraketen von seinem Territorium aus durchzuführen“, wie es der russische Militärexperte Wladislaw Schurygin Anfang Dezember 2018 ausdrückte. Jedes osteuropäische Land, in dem US-amerikanische Stützpunkte eingerichtet werden, kann „zur potenziellen Atomwüste“ werden. Daher würden „Politiker, die das amerikanische Militär beharrlich einladen, ihre Bevölkerung potenziell dem atomaren Regen aussetzen“. Daher seien „die Zivilisten dieser Länder keine Geiseln mehr, sondern Geiseln, die man bereits zu erschießen begonnen hat“. 
Deutschland ist nicht bereit, aus diesem Irrsinn auszusteigen. Allein 2018 beteiligte es sich mit dreimal mehr Soldaten an Militärmanövern zur „Abschreckung“ Russlands als im Jahr zuvor. Die Kosten belaufen sich auf 90 Millionen Euro. Seit 2014 hat Washington seine militärische Position an der russischen Westgrenze massiv verstärkt; in Rumänien und Polen stehen Raketenabwehr-Systeme, in Polen, in Bulgarien, Rumänien, Ungarn und im Baltikum bleiben Truppen, Haubitzen, Panzer im umlaufenden Schichtverfahren permanent stationiert. Und die Forderung von Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen nach einer militärischen ‚Schengen-Zone‘ bedeutet das komplette Aufgeben jeglicher militärischer Souveränität Deutschlands. Denn das würde es den USA erlauben, ihr Militär ohne jegliche Zustimmung – geschweige denn etwa des Bundestages oder dessen Wählerinnen und Wähler – auf deutsches Hoheitsgebiet und das anderer NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten zu verlegen.“ 
Für Dienstleistungen rund um die Erprobung von Kriegsszenarien gibt es eine starke Nachfrage.
Das Allerletzte, was wir im Osten Deutschlands benötigen, ist US-amerikanisches Militär, stationiert oder auf der Durchfahrt. ebenso eine transatlantische Blutsbrüderschaft in der Politik. Nach der Annexion der DDR durch die BRD ohne vorherige Volksabstimmung wurde den DDR-Bürgern die Mitgliedschaft in der NATO klammheimlich untergejubelt. Das muss korrigiert werden: Wir brauchen dringend eine couragierte Zivilgesellschaft, die sich regt, die eine souveräne „Konföderation Ostdeutschland“ oder eine souveräne „Republik Ostdeutschland“ erzwingt, einen Gesellschaftsvertrag, der sich als Defensivbündnis versteht. Auch das ostdeutsche Volk will den Frieden! Und Frieden in Europa ist nur mit und nicht gegen Russland möglich. 
Die Bevölkerung in Ostdeutschland, besser: in der DDR, hatte ihre Lehren aus dem letzten Weltkrieg gezogen, musste für den Krieg Hitlerdeutschlands bluten und die Trümmer forträumen. Während Westdeutschland der Marshall-Plan mit List und Tücke in den Hintern gestopft wurde, leistete bis 1953 die DDR bereits 99,1 Milliarden DM (Wert 1953) Reparationszahlungen die an die UdSSR; die BRD lediglich 2,1 Milliarden DM: Damit trug die DDR 97 bis 98 Prozent der Reparationslast Gesamtdeutschlands; pro Person also das 130-fache eines Bundesbürgers. Nach der „Wende“ erst die Enteignung und dann die neuerliche Demontage der ostdeutschen Wirtschaft durch westdeutsche Besatzer. 
Und nun nutzten NATO und US Army ostdeutsche Straßen, Brücken, Autobahnen. Und wieder soll es Richtung Osten gehen, Richtung Russland. Immer noch nicht Grund genug für die „Neuen Bundesländer“, der NATO die kalte Schulter zu zeigen? Vernunftbegabte würden Neutralität nach dem Vorbild der Schweiz oder Österreichs verkünden, keine Militärtransporte durch Ostdeutschland Richtung Polen mehr zulassen, vielleicht einen Freundschafts- und Beistandspakt mit Russland abschließen sowie eine Wirtschaftsinitiative Richtung „Neue Seidenstraße“ starten. Meinetwegen auch Stationierung von militärischem Material; aber wohl besser zur Selbstverteidigung, zum Schutz der Ostdeutschen vor NATO und US Army.
RT Deutsch bemüht sich um ein breites Meinungsspektrum. Gastbeiträge und Meinungsartikel müssen nicht die Sichtweise der Redaktion widerspiegeln.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Despite Macron’s TV Mea Culpa, France Set for Showdown FINIAN CUNNINGHAM

Despite Macron’s TV Mea Culpa, France Set for Showdown 12.12.2018 | WORLD / EUROPE

Despite a televised appearance of humility and sympathy, French President Emmanuel Macron seems to have failed to quell the mood of national anger over wide-ranging economic grievances.
The capital Paris and other major French cities are thus set to see the fifth consecutive weekend of protests – or “Act Five” as the demonstrators are saying.
Nearly 24 hours after Macron’s TV address, a gunman killed three people and injured dozens others in the eastern city of Strasbourg, prompting French authorities to declare a state of emergency. The heightened tensions across France with maximum security forces deployed come as protest marches are planned for this weekend against Macron’s government.
After weeks of maintaining his silence on growing civil discord, Macron finally addressed the nation in a 14-minute pre-recorded speech on Monday night. He sounded contrite and even humble, accepting that he had “offended” citizens with his aloof words and attitude.
The president also announced specific concessions: an increase in the minimum wage by €100 a month, the cancelling of taxes on low-income pensioners, and the exemption of overtime pay from taxation.
But the consensus expressed by protesters among the so-called Yellow Vest movement was one of contempt. They said Macron’s televised concessions were “crumbs” and “too little too late”. The upshot is that demonstrations will again be held in the French capital this weekend, as well as other major cities. The weekly gridlock is bringing the French economy to a crisis point.
The latest deadly shooting incident in Strasbourg on Tuesday night may throw the weekend protests into disarray from the subsequent security tensions and fear of further violence. A question many protesters are asking is: who gains from the timing of the Strasbourg killings?
What no doubt is further unnerving Macron’s government is that the public protests appear to be growing across social sectors. Public sector workers and students are planning to join in the cause. What is emerging is a generalized public revolt – reminiscent of the epic 1968 revolution which toppled the incumbent government of President Charles de Gaulle, at least temporarily.
The protests first broke in early November over the French government’s planned hikes in transport fuel taxes. French drivers, who have to carry high-visibility yellow vests in their vehicles as a legal safety measure, were the first to take to the streets. But what began as a specific fuel tax issue has expanded and tapped into a broad popular revolt against Macron’s neoliberal capitalist policies.
The trouble for Macron is that he just can’t help sounding elitist – and insincere. During his TV “mea culpa”, he may have offered concessions on wages and taxes, but the president spent a large part of his national address berating protesters for using violence. He said that while the public anger was “deep and in many ways legitimate” there was “no excuse for violence”. Well, the way many French citizens and other observers see it, it is the French state that is using excessive violence to repress the right to public protest.
Last weekend saw up to 90,000 French riot police and troops deployed across the country to contain demonstrations. Hundreds of protesters were arrested and put in custody “preemptively”. There were also scenes of gratuitous brutality by police when peaceful protesters were fired on with teargas and water cannons.
When Macron lectures “there is no excuse for violence” his words sound trite and hypocritical given the levels of uncalled-for violence that the French state has licensed itself to use.
Moreover, increasing numbers of French citizens consider economic policies that deprive workers and their families of decent livelihoods to be a form of state-imposed violence. Policy choices that force people into poverty and degradation are a system of violence.
In his TV mea-culpa-lecture, Macron defiantly said that he would not reinstate the tax on France’s very wealthy. His earlier decision to scrap that tax earned him the nickname of “president of the wealthy”. It was this pandering to the rich in combination with imposing fuel taxes hitting the majority of workers hardest that sparked the present revolt.
The proposed fuel levies – which Macron has since abandoned as a concession to the protesters – were rationalized as a necessity to raise fiscal funds to pay for “ecological changes” in French society. Macron has deftly presented himself internationally as a champion for combating climate change. Some political observers in the US on the so-called “liberal left” have welcomed Macron as a “counter-Trump” figure. He certainly talks with “eco-friendly” rhetoric, saying that he wants to “make the planet great again” (a dig at Trump), and that we need to take urgent action to avert climate change, because “there is no planet B”.
However, Macron’s apparent progressive ecological rhetoric belies a politician who is deeply conservative of the economic status quo. A status quo which has seen the impoverishment of more and more workers over decades while the very wealthy amass ever-more wealth. This is the social condition of all capitalist countries, not just France, but the French are doing something about it.
What Macron showed with his now-defunct fuel tax proposals was a patrician contempt for the majority of society. He intended to put the financial burden of ecological changes on the backs of ordinary workers, while at the same time giving the already wealthy a big fat windfall.
The former Rothschild’s investment banker is certainly no progressive – in spite of his pretentious rhetoric. If he really wanted to “make the planet great again” then Macron should be taxing the wealthy and corporations, not poor workers who have to drive hundreds of kilometers every day because they can’t afford to buy or rent houses in city areas. If Macron really did have progressive ideas, then his government could fund all workers to work a four-day week, on full pay, so that one day of non-commuting would save pollution.
There are countless progressive policies that could be innovated that would improve the lives of ordinary people while also moving society towards more ecologically sustainable existence. Macron is a plutocrat who wants to shaft ordinary people even more for the benefit of his rich-class cronies – all under the guise of “eco-friendliness”.
French protesters are right to see through Macron’s televisual “crumbs” of compensation. The injustice, dehumanization and criminal militarism of capitalism has gone too far to be mitigated by a minimum wage increase or some other sticking-plaster measure.
That’s why the French capital and other cities are set for even more upheaval in the weeks ahead. Significantly, too, the public in other European countries are being inspired by the French to likewise get out on the streets to demand their natural justice.
Ominously, Macron’s apparently soothing words were laced with dark threats of more state violence if protesters do not accept his “offers”. At one point in his TV address, the president, who recently praised the disgraced Vichy leader and Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain, said of the protests: “When violence is unleashed, freedom ends.”
The deadly shooting in Strasbourg on Tuesday night, 24 hours after Macron’s speech, has raised suspicions of a deliberate provocation being staged by French security services in order to militarize society generally and impede planned protests in the capital this weekend. The gunman was reportedly known to French authorities as a national security risk. His home in Strasbourg was raided hours before his alleged gun attack, but the suspect evaded capture. Following the shooting in which three people were killed France has increased its national emergency alert to its highest level which means authorities can deploy more troops on streets, declare lockdowns in urban areas and arrest people without warrant.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. 

On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.
Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.
To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.
This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.
On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.
The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.
With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:
“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”
The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.
Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.
The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.
The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.
Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.
The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.
As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.
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