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Why Trump now wants talks with Iran

Why Trump now wants talks with Iran

If Tehran blocks the Strait of Hormuz it could send the price of oil soaring and cause a global recession

Iranian soldiers take part in National Persian Gulf Day in the Strait of Hormuz on April 30, 2019. There is concern about a blockade of the Strait and the disastrous impact that could have on the price of oil and world financial markets. Photo: AFP / Atta Kenare

Unlike Deep Purple’s legendary ‘Smoke on the Water’ – “We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline”, the 67th Bilderberg group meetings produced no fire and no smoke at the luxurious Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Hotel.

The 130 elite guests had a jolly good – and theoretically quiet – time at the self-billed “informal discussion forum concerning major issues”. As usual, at least two-thirds were European decision-makers, with the rest coming from North America.

The fact that a few major players in this Atlanticist Valhalla are closely associated with or directly interfering with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel – the central bank of central banks – is of course just a minor detail.

The major issue discussed this year was “A Stable Strategic Order”, a lofty endeavor that can be interpreted either as the making of a New World Order or just a benign effort by selfless elites to guide mankind to enlightenment.

Other items of discussion were way more pragmatic – from “The Future of Capitalism”, to “Russia”, “China”, “Weaponizing Social Media”, “Brexit”, “What’s Next for Europe”, “Ethics of Artificial Intelligence” and last but not least, “Climate Change”.

Disciples of Antisthenes would argue that these items constitute precisely the nuts and bolts of the New World Order.

The chairman of Bilderberg’s steering committee, since 2012, is Henri de Castries, former CEO of AXA and the director of the Institut Montaigne, a top French think tank.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Clash of civilizations’ or crisis of civilization?

‘Clash of civilizations’ or crisis of civilization?

Talk about a graphic display of soft power: Beijing this week hosted the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations

Organized under the direct supervision of President Xi Jinping it took place amid an “Asian Culture Carnival.”  Sure, there were dubious, kitschy and syrupy overtones, but what really mattered was what Xi himself had to say to China and all of Asia. 

In his keynote speech, the Chinese leader essentially stressed that one civilization forcing itself upon another is “foolish” and “disastrous.” In Xi’s concept of a dialogue of civilizations, he referred to the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as programs that “have expanded the channels for communication exchanges.”

Xi’s composure and rationality present a stark, contrasting message to US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign.

West vs East and South

Compare and contrast Xi’s comments with what happened at a security forum in Washington just over two weeks earlier. Then, a bureaucrat by the name of Kiron Skinner, the State Department’s policy planning director, characterized US-China rivalry as a “clash of civilizations,” and “a fight with a really different civilization and ideology the US hasn’t had before.”

And it got worse. This civilization was “not Caucasian” – a not so subtle 21st century resurrection of the “Yellow Peril.” (Let us recall: The “not Caucasian” Japan of World War II was the original “Yellow Peril.”) 

Divide and rule, spiced with racism, accounts for the toxic mix that has been embedded in the hegemonic US  narrative for decades now. The mix harks back to Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, published in 1996. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

A container ship unloads cargo at the port terminal in Long Beach, California on May 10, as talks to resolve the US-China trade battle ended Friday with no deal, but no breakdown. Photo: Mark Ralston / AFP

US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

The Trump administration’s response to China’s emergence has been to throw all sorts of spanners in the works, but tariffs won’t bring back manufacturing jobs

Let’s start with the “long” 16th Century – which, as with the 21st, also saw a turbulent process of marketization. At that time, the Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation were trying to rebound across Asia – but within a context where the rivalry between the Iberian superpowers of the age, Spain and Portugal, still lingered. 

The Reformation first attached itself to the Dutch trade thalassocracy – a seaborne empire, under which commerce was paramount – over strict propaganda of religious dogma. Britain’s maritime realm was still biding its time. The emergence of Protestantism proceeded in parallel to the emergence of neo-Confucianism in East Asia.

Fast forward to our turbulent times. Marketization – renamed as globalization – seems to be in crisis. But not in the Middle Kingdom, which is now investing in globalization 2.0 amid increasing rivalry with the other superpower, the US. 

The American thalassocracy is being superseded by the Revenge of the Heartland, in the form of the Russia-China strategic partnership – for whom Eurasian trade integration, as expressed by the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is paramount over the Make America Great Again (MAGA) dogma. 

Meanwhile, the re-emergence of Right populism in the West mirrors the re-emergence of pragmatic neo-Confucianism across Asia.

BRI – the prime vehicle for Eurasia integration – would have never come to light without China’s four decades of breakneck economic development.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Squeezed Between Imperial Psychos and European Cowards

Iran Squeezed Between Imperial Psychos and European Cowards

Berlin, Paris and London assumed Tehran could not afford to leave the JCPOA even if it was not receiving any of the promised economic rewards.  Now the EU3 are facing the hour of truth, writes Pepe Escobar.

The Trump administration unilaterally cheated on the 2015 multinational, UN-endorsed JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. It has imposed an illegal, worldwide financial and energy blockade on all forms of trade with Iran — from oil and gas to exports of iron, steel, aluminum and copper. For all practical purposes, and in any geopolitical scenario, this is a declaration of war. 

Successive U.S. governments have ripped international law to shreds; ditching the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is only the latest instance. It doesn’t matter that Tehran has fulfilled all its commitments to the deal — according to UN inspectors. Once the leadership in Tehran concluded that the U.S. sanctions tsunami is fiercer than ever, it decided to begin partially withdrawing from the deal. 

President Hassan Rouhani was adamant: Iran has not left the JCPOA — yet. Tehran’s measures are legal under the framework of articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA — and European officials were informed in advance. But it’s clear the EU3 (Germany, France, Britain), who have always insisted on their vocal support for the JCPOA, must work seriously to alleviate the U.S.-provoked economic disaster to Iran if Tehran has any incentive to continue to abide by the agreement. 

Protests in front of former U.S. embassy in Tehran after U.S. decision to withdraw from JCPOA, May 8, 2018. (Hossein Mersadi via Wikimedia Commons)

Russia and China — the pillars of Eurasia integration, to which Iran adheres — support Tehran’s position. This was discussed extensively in Moscow by Sergey Lavrov and Iran’s Javad Zarif, perhaps the world’s top two foreign ministers. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PEPE ESCOBAR: War on Iran & Calling America’s Bluff

PEPE ESCOBAR: War on Iran & Calling America’s Bluff

Vast swathes of the West seem not to realize that if the Strait of Hormuz is shut down a global depression will follow, writes Pepe Escobar.

. . . . .

The Trump administration once again has graphically demonstrated that in the young, turbulent 21st century, “international law” and “national sovereignty” already belong to the Realm of the Walking Dead.

As if a deluge of sanctions against a great deal of the planet was not enough, the latest “offer you can’t refuse” conveyed by a gangster posing as diplomat, Consul Minimus Mike Pompeo, now essentially orders the whole planet to submit to the one and only arbiter of world trade: Washington.

First the Trump administration unilaterally smashed a multinational, UN-endorsed agreement, the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. Now the waivers that magnanimously allowed eight nations to import oil from Iran without incurring imperial wrath in the form of sanctions will expire on May 2 and won’t be renewed.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal upheld his highest obligation: to protect the safety and security of the American people. Why Iran sanctions are necessary: http://45.wh.gov/SUUPiW

The eight nations are a mix of Eurasian powers: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

Apart from the trademark toxic cocktail of hubris, illegality, arrogance/ignorance and geopolitical/geoeconomic infantilism inbuilt in this foreign policy decision, the notion that Washington can decide who’s allowed to be an energy provider to emerging superpower China does not even qualify as laughable. Much more alarming is the fact that imposing a total embargo of Iranian oil exports is no less than an act of war.

Ultimate Neocon Wet Dream 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks

The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks

The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks

The Made by FBI indictment of Julian Assange does look like a dead man walking. No evidence. No documents. No surefire testimony. Just a crossfire of conditionals.

But never underestimate the legalese contortionism of US government (USG) functionaries. As much as Assange may not be characterized as a journalist and publisher, the thrust of the affidavit is to accuse him of conspiring to commit espionage.

In fact the charge is not even that Assange hacked a USG computer and obtained classified information; it’s that he may have discussed it with Chelsea Manning and may have had the intention to go for a hack. Orwellian-style thought crime charges don’t get any better than that. Now the only thing missing is an AI software to detect them.

Assange legal adviser Geoffrey Robertson – who also happens to represent another stellar political prisoner, Brazil’s Lula – cut straight to the chase (at 19:22 minutes); “The justice he is facing is justice, or injustice, in America… I would hope the British judges would have enough belief in freedom of information to throw out the extradition request.”

That’s far from a done deal. Thus the inevitable consequence; Assange’s legal team is getting ready to prove, no holds barred, in a British court, that this USG indictment for conspiracy to commit computer hacking is just an hors d’oeuvre for subsequent espionage charges, in case Assange is extradited to US soil.

All about Vault 7

John Pilger, among few others, has already stressed how a plan to destroy WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was laid out as far back as 2008 – at the tail end of the Cheney regime – concocted by the Pentagon’s shady Cyber Counter-Intelligence Assessments Branch.

It was all about criminalizing WikiLeaks and personally smearing Assange, using “shock troops…enlisted in the media — those who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above? 

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war. 

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel. 

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader. 

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.” 

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan. 

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming. 

Show Me The Big Picture


A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above? 

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war. 

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel. 

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader. 

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.” 

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan. 

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

RUSSIA-POLITICS

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state of the nation address in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo: AFP / Alexander Nemenov

Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

Russian President warns West that deploying missile launchers in Europe could ignite ‘tit for tat’ response

President Putin’s state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow this week was an extraordinary affair. While heavily focused on domestic social and economic development, Putin noted, predictably, the US decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and clearly outlined the red lines in regard to possible consequences of the move.

It would be naïve to believe that there would not be a serious counterpunch to the possibility of the US deploying launchers “suitable for using Tomahawk missiles” in Poland and Romania, only a 12-minute flight away from Russian territory. 

Putin cut to the chase: “This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced – I want to emphasize this – forced to take tit-for-tat steps.”

Later that night, many hours after his address, Putin detailed what was construed in the US, once again, as a threat.

“Is there some hard ideological confrontation now similar to what was [going on] during the Cold War? There is none. We surely have mutual complaints, conflicting approaches to some issues, but that is no reason to escalate things to a stand-off on the level of the Caribbean crisis of the early 1960s”.

This was a direct reference to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when President Kennedy confronted USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev over missiles deployed off the US mainland. 

The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has discreetly assured that conference calls with the Pentagon are proceeding as scheduled, every week, and that this bilateral dialogue is “working”.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

The trade war launched by the Trump administration against China may not have been solved by a 2½-hour dinner between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires on Saturday. But it may have opened a path towards a drastic realignment.

Way beyond the histrionics surrounding the “family pic” – and whose nods and winks signaled surefire geopolitical capital – the G20 walked and talked like a last gasp to “save” the current turbo-capitalist world (dis)order.

The sherpas at the G20 lost sleep for two consecutive nights trying to come up with a final declaration capable of appeasing Trump. As virtually every nation at the G20 supports multilateralism on trade, nobody wanted to upset even more the real Big Boss in Buenos Aires: Xi Jinping.

The climax in any case was the U.S.-China bilateral – which carried the potential, if things went downhill, to derail the global economy.

The White House spin was on immediate negotiations – lasting 90 days – over forced transfers of U.S. technology to China; intellectual property protection; an array of non-tariff barriers; and alleged Chinese cyber “intrusions”. If there’s no deal, Washington will raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.

Xi and Trump at G20. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Now compare that with the key take away from Beijing, with Wang Yi, the vastly experienced Chinese Foreign Minister, describing the dinner conversation as “friendly and candid.” There were also no specifics on how substantial the allegedly “immediate” Chinese buying of American agricultural, energy and industrial products will be.

Wang, defiant, outspoken, and an expert on Japan, was promoted to state councillor last year, which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has much more clout over other key Chinese institutions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Drama in the Kerch Strait: teasing the Russian bear

Drama in the Kerch Strait: teasing the Russian bear

The West is complaining about Russian ‘aggression’ but the incident looks more like a cheap ploy by a desperate Ukrainian president and US conservatives keen to undermine Trump’s next pow-wow with Putin

Ukrainian nationalists hold flares during a rally outside parliament on Monday to demand that Kiev break its agreement with Russia on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and impose martial law in the country. The previous day Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships by force in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea. Photo: AFP/ STR / NurPhoto

Ukrainian nationalists hold flares during a rally outside parliament on Monday to demand that Kiev break its agreement with Russia on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and impose martial law in the country. The previous day Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships by force in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea. Photo: AFP/ STR / NurPhoto

Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

The US move to shelve the Intermediate-range Nuclear-Forces treaty could accelerate the demise of the whole post-WWII Western alliance, and herald a bad remix of the 1930s

A large Russian missile is seen in a rehearsal for a military parade in Red Square, Moscow, on May, 5 2008. Photo: iStock

A large Russian missile is seen in a rehearsal for a military parade in Red Square, Moscow, on May, 5 2008. Photo: iStock

What sanctions on Russia and China really mean

What sanctions on Russia and China really mean

The Pentagon may not be advocating total war against both Russia and China – as it has been interpreted in some quarters

The Trump administration has taken a hard line against China and Russia. Photo: IStock

The Trump administration has taken a hard line against China and Russia. Photo: IStock

Welcome to the G-20 from Hell

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, chats with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He during 'trade dispute' talks in Beijing earlier this year. Some sort of agreement could be reached at the G20 summit. Photo: AFP / Andy Wong

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, chats with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He during ‘trade dispute’ talks in Beijing earlier this year. Some sort of agreement could be reached at the G20 summit. Photo: AFP / Andy Wong

Welcome to the G-20 from Hell

World leaders wrestle with a maelstrom of complex, burning issues as they prepare for November 30 summit

The G-20 in Buenos Aires on November 30 could set the world on fire – perhaps literally. Let’s start with the US-China trade war. Washington won’t even start discussing trade with China at the G-20 unless Beijing comes up with a quite detailed list of potential concessions.

The word from Chinese negotiators is not at all bleak. Some sort of agreement could be reached on about a third of US demands. Debate on another third could ensue. But the last third is absolutely off-limits – due to Chinese national security imperatives, such as refusing to allow the opening of the domestic cloud computing market to foreign competition.

Beijing has appointed Vice-Premier Liu He and Vice-President Wang Qishan to supervise all negotiations with Washington. They face an uphill task: to pierce through President Donald Trump’s limited attention span.

On top of it, Beijing demands a “point person” with the authority to negotiate on behalf of Trump – considering the mixed-message traffic jam out of Washington.

Now compare this with the message coming from the research institute fabulously named Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era under the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC): the US has started the “trade friction” essentially “to hinder China’s industrial upgrading.”

That’s the consensus at the top.

And the clash is bound to get worse. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of “meddling in American democracy,” “debt diplomacy,” “currency manipulation,” and “IP theft.” The Foreign Ministry in Beijing dismissed it all as “ridiculous.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU finally stands up to US ‘bullying’ over Iran sanctions

From left, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian,  Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Britain's former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after a meeting in Brussels, on May 15, 2018.  Photo: AFP

From left, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Britain’s former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after a meeting in Brussels, on May 15, 2018. Photo: AFP

EU finally stands up to US ‘bullying’ over Iran sanctions

Brussels sets up a ‘special purpose vehicle’ to bypass the US dollar and allow financial transactions with Tehran to continue

History may one day rule this was the fateful geopolitical moment when the European Union clinched its PhD on foreign policy.

Last week, EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, announced at the UN a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) to deal with the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iran after the US unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA,  also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The SPV, which according to Mogherini “is aimed at keeping trade with Tehran flowing while the US sanctions are in place,” could be in effect before the second stage of US sanctions begin in early November.

This single initiative means Brussels is attempting to position itself as a serious geopolitical player, openly defying the US and essentially nullifying the Iran demonization campaign launched by the White House, CIA and State Department.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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