American “occupation troops” stationed in Syria are “looting” the country’s resources, Beijing has claimed
“Whether the US gives or takes, it plunges other countries into turmoil and disaster, and the US gets to reap the benefits for its hegemony and other interests,” he added. “This is the result of the US’s so-called “rules-based order.”
China has blasted the United States for its “banditry” in Syria, claiming that Washington’s years-long military occupation and the “plundering” of Syrian resources have placed the country on the brink of a “humanitarian disaster.”
Addressing reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked to comment on recent reports in Syrian media that US forces had transported a large quantity of “looted oil” from Syria to Iraq earlier this month.
“We are struck by the blatancy and egregiousness of the US’s plundering of Syria… Such banditry is aggravating the energy crisis and humanitarian disaster in Syria,” he said, citing Syrian government statistics purporting that “over 80% of Syria’s daily oil output was smuggled out of the country by US occupation troops” in the first half of 2022.
The level of US greed in stealing resources from Syria is as striking as its “generosity” in giving out military aid often in the amount of billions or even tens of billions dollars.
“Whether the US gives or takes, it plunges other countries into turmoil and disaster, and the US gets to reap the benefits for its hegemony and other interests,” he added. “This is the result of the US’s so-called “rules-based order.””
On January 14, Damascus’ state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that “a convoy consisting of 53 tanks loaded with stolen Syrian oil” were brought from the country’s Hasakah province to US “bases in Iraqi territory,” noting the operation was carried out alongside local Kurdish militants which have long received American backing. The outlet also stated that 60 additional trucks smuggled stolen oil and wheat into Iraq earlier this month.
“The Syrian people’s right to life is being ruthlessly trampled on by the US. With little oil and food to go by, the Syrian people are struggling even harder to get through the bitter winter,” Wang added, demanding that “the US must answer for its oil theft.”
US forces were first sent to Syria in 2014, beginning with a contingent of special operators followed by more conventional ground troops the next year, most embedded with Kurdish fighters in the country’s oil-rich northeast. Though then-President Barack Obama maintained the deployment was focused only on combating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, Washington had long intervened in Syria’s war against jihadist groups, sending and overseeing countless arms shipments to rebels seeking to overthrow the government in Damascus beginning as early as 2013.
Though American involvement in the conflict slowed under the next administration, in 2019 President Donald Trump said some US troops would remain in Syria “for the oil,” openly suggesting Washington would simply “keep” the energy resources.
Subsequent reporting in 2020 would later reveal that the Trump administration had approved a deal between a US energy firm and Kurdish authorities controlling northeast Syria to “develop and export the region’s crude oil” – a contract immediately condemned as “illegal” by Damascus. However, while that particular deal would later fall through after President Joe Biden took office, Syrian authorities have continued to accuse Washington of plundering its resources and some 900 US troops remain in the country illegally.
The sanctions the West has slapped on Russia over the Ukraine conflict are taking a heavy toll on the European economy, while the US is the only actor profiting from the restrictions, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov claimed on Saturday.
Speaking to Asharq News daily, the minister believes that Western sanctions had helped Washington achieve what its goal, saying “their supplies of oil and gas to the European market have increased.”
Energy shipments from the US, however, have proved costly for Europeans, resulting in skyrocketing inflation and decreased competitive power for European businesses, Siluanov said.
According to the minister, both Western sanctions and the blasts that ruptured the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in late September “were orchestrated to provide Europe with more expensive liquefied [natural] gas from America.”
Moscow has called the sabotage a terrorist attack, claiming that the US stood to benefit the most from the explosions. While Washington has denied any involvement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the incident as a “tremendous opportunity” for Europe to wean itself off of Russian energy.
Siluanov went on to admit that sanctions have affected the Russian economy. “But they inflicted on the West no less and perhaps even more pain,” he added, pointing to how sanctions rhetoric has now become routine.
The minister noted that the EU price cap on Russian oil “will certainly lead to price and market distortions,” reiterating Moscow’s position that it would not provide crude through contracts under Western-mandated restrictions.
Russian oil companies are rerouting their oil shipments from the West in other directions, the minister said. “We will be looking for new markets, looking for new logistics. It is possible that this would be more expensive,” he stated.
Earlier this month, the EU, G7 countries and Australia introduced a price limit on Russian seaborne oil, set at $60 per barrel. The measure also prohibits Western companies from providing insurance and other services to shipments of Russian crude, unless the cargo is purchased at or below the indicated price.
Following the move, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov warned that the restrictions would wreak havoc on global oil markets, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was not planning to sell oil to nations supporting the price cap.
The meeting this week between two Eurasian security bosses is a further step toward dusting away the west’s oversized Asian footprint…
Two guys are hanging out in a cozy room in Tehran with a tantalizing new map of the world in the background.
Nothing to see here? On the contrary. These two Eurasian security giants are no less than the – unusually relaxed – Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
And why are they so relaxed? Because the future prospects revolving around the main theme of their conversation – the Russia-Iran strategic partnership – could not be more exciting.
This was a very serious business affair: an official visit, at the invitation of Shamkhani.
Patrushev was in Tehran on the exact same day that Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu – following a recommendation from General Sergey Surovikin, the overall commander of the Special Military Operation – ordered a Russian retreat from Kherson.
Patrushev knew it for days – so he had no problem stepping on a plane to take care of business in Tehran. After all, the Kherson drama is part of the Patrushev negotiations with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Ukraine, which have been going on for weeks, with Saudi Arabia as an eventual go-between.
Besides Ukraine, the two discussed “information security, as well as measures to counter interference in the internal affairs of both countries by western special services,” according to a report by Russia’s TASS news agency.
Both countries, as we know, are particular targets of western information warfare and sabotage, with Iran currently the focus of one of these no-holds-barred, foreign-backed, destabilization campaigns.
Patrushev was officially received by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who went straight to the point: “The cooperation of independent countries is the strongest response to the sanctions and destabilization policies of the US and its allies.”
Patrushev, for his part, assured Raisi that for the Russian Federation, strategic relations with Iran are essential for Russian national security.
So that goes way beyond Geranium-2 kamikaze drones – the Russian cousins of the Shahed-136 – wreaking havoc on the Ukrainian battlefield. This, by the way, elicited a direct mention later on by Shamkhani: “Iran welcomes a peaceful settlement in Ukraine and is in favor of peace based on dialogue between Moscow and Kiev.”
Patrushev and Shamkhani of course discussed security issues and the proverbial “cooperation in the international arena.” But what may be more significant is that the Russian delegation included officials from several key economic agencies.
There were no leaks – but that suggests serious economic connectivity remains at the heart of the strategic partnership between the two top-sanctioned nations in Eurasia.
Key in the discussions was the Iranian focus on the fast expansion of bilateral trade in national currencies – ruble and rial. That happens to be at the center of the drive by both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS towards multipolarity. Iran is now a full SCO member – the only West Asian nation to be part of the Asian strategic behemoth – and will apply to become part of BRICS+.
Have swap, will travel
The Patrushev-Shamkhani get-together happened ahead of the signing, next month, of a whopping $40 billion energy deal with Gazprom, as previously announced by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari.
The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has already clinched an initial $6.5 billion deal. All that revolves around the development of two gas deposits and six oilfields; swaps in natural gas and oil products; LNG projects; and building more gas pipelines.
Last month, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak announced a swap of 5 million tons of oil and 10 billion cubic meters of gas, to be finished by the end of 2022. And he confirmed that “the amount of Russian investment in Iran’s oil fields will increase.”
Barter of course is ideal for Moscow and Tehran to jointly bypass interminably problematic sanctions and payment settlement issues – linked to the western financial system. On top of it, Russia and Iran are able to invest in direct trade links via the Caspian Sea.
At the recent Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, Raisi forcefully proposed that a successful “new Asia” must necessarily develop an endogenous model for independent states.
As an SCO member, and playing a very important role, alongside Russia and India, in the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), Raisi is positioning Iran in a key vector of multilateralism.
Since Tehran entered the SCO, cooperation with both Russia and China, predictably, is on overdrive. Patrushev’s visit is part of that process. Tehran is leaving behind decades of Iranophobia and every possible declination of American “maximum pressure” – from sanctions to attempts at color revolution – to dynamically connect across Eurasia.
BRI, SCO, INSTC
Iran is a key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partner for China’s grand infrastructure project to connect Eurasia via road, sea, and train. In parallel, the multimodal Russian-led INSTC is essential to promote trade between the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia – at the same time solidifying Russia’s presence in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region.
Iran and India have committed to offer part of Chabahar port in Iran to Central Asian nations, complete with access to exclusive economic zones.
At the recent SCO summit in Samarkand, both Russia and China made it quite clear – especially for the collective west – that Iran is no longer going to be treated as a pariah state.
So it is no wonder Iran is entering a new business era with all members of the SCO under the sign of an emerging financial order being designed mostly by Russia, China and India. As far as strategic partnerships go, the ties between Russia and India (President Narendra Modi called it an unbreakable friendship) is as strong as those between Russia and China. And when it comes to Russia, that’s what Iran is aiming at.
The Patrushev-Shamkhani strategic meeting will hurl western hysteria to unseen levels – as it completely smashes Iranophobia and Russophobia in one fell swoop. Iran as a close ally is an unparalleled strategic asset for Russia in the drive towards multipolarity.
Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are already negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in parallel to those swaps involving Russian oil. The west’s reliance on the SWIFT banking messaging system hardly makes any difference to Russia and Iran. The Global South is watching it closely, especially in Iran’s neighborhood where oil is commonly traded in US dollars.
It is starting to become clear to anyone in the west with an IQ above room temperature that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal), in the end, does not matter anymore. Iran’s future is directly connected to the success of three of the BRICS: Russia, China and India. Iran itself may soon become a BRICS+ member.
There’s more: Iran is even becoming a role model for the Persian Gulf: witness the lengthy queue of regional states aspiring toward gaining SCO membership. The Trumpian “Abraham Accords?” What’s that? BRICS/SCO/BRI is the only way to go in West Asia today.
“We absolutely do agree that everyone in Canada needs to pay their fair share,” Freeland said. “That’s how we afford to have the strong compassionate society and social safety net that is so much a part of Canada and being Canadian.”
“The windfall tax on financial institutions was based on a very specific set of events,” she said. “During COVID-19 lockdowns, the federal government undertook extraordinary emergency spending. We basically put a line, a net, underneath the Canadian economy.”
“It was the right thing to do,” she also said. “And it also really, really helped our financial institutions.”
Freeland instead mentioned the two per cent tax on share buybacks by large corporations, a new measure included in the economic statement, which she said is “the right measure to ensure fairness, but also crucially to create the right incentives for Canada’s biggest companies, very much including our oil and gas companies.”
When it comes to oil partnerships, China has been told that Saudi Arabia is its “most reliable partner and supplier of crude oil.” The U.S., meanwhile, is “just another one of its partners,” to quote senior FX trader and salesman Simon Watkins.
A core agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia that has persisted since 1945 is being upended as communist China rises to the top of the Saudi regime’s oil empire.
When it comes to oil partnerships, China has been told that Saudi Arabia is its “most reliable partner and supplier of crude oil.” The U.S., meanwhile, is “just another one of its partners,” to quote senior FX trader and salesman Simon Watkins.
For primarily security considerations, the U.S. will remain a meaningful partner of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) kingdom. But for economic purposes, China is now top dog, it would seem. (Related: Remember when the FBI “mistakenly” revealed that Saudi Arabia was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks?)
Russia will remain a key partner of Saudi Arabia on energy matters, but the U.S. has been relegated a few steps down on the list. Here is what Aramco chief executive officer Amin Nasser said at the recent annual China Development Forum in Beijing:
“Ensuring the continuing security of China’s energy needs remains our highest priority – not just for the next five years but for the next 50 and beyond.”
Notice that nowhere in that sentence is the U.S. even mentioned. This marks a major shift in the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which has soured tremendously under the leadership of Joe Biden.
It was reported recently that MbS refused to even take a telephone call from Biden, who was attempting to ask for help in bringing down sky-high energy prices. Biden also wanted to discuss the recent collective cuts in OPEC oil production, though that did not happen either.
The world has lost respect for the U.S. under Biden
The way that MbS cut off the 1945 core agreement between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. demonstrates that the latter has lost even more preeminence and respect at the hands of the Biden regime, which has set the country on a crash course to total failure.
Biden likes to talk a big game, having recently promised “some consequences” for Saudi Arabia’s actions, but it is doubtful that the Pedophile-in-Chief actually has a legitimate plan in place that will not demote our country even further into economic oblivion.
“I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind,” Biden went on to ramble. “But there will be – there will be consequences.”
Just prior to Biden’s speech, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby suggested that the U.S. “review the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia and take a look to see if that relationship is where it needs to be and that it is serving our national security interests … in light of the recent decision by OPEC and Saudi Arabia’s leadership [of it].”
Despite all this, Saudi Arabia is forging ahead in its partnership with China, having indicated plans to continue “close communication and strengthen[ed] cooperation to address emerging risks and challenges,” according to a joint communique from Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Beijing’s National Energy Administrator, Zhang Jianhua.
Between January and August of this year, according to Chinese Customs data, 1.76 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil were shipped to China. This marks an increase in market share to 17.7 percent from 16.9 percent last year.
Saudi Arabia is also said to be working on joint integrated refining and petrochemical complexes with China, as well as on plans to expand the use of nuclear energy.
There is also word that Saudi Arabia is manufacturing its own ballistic missiles with the help of China, which only adds to U.S. fears that several key states in the Middle East are expanding their nuclear capabilities.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Colombian president highlighted the necessity of ending the war on drugs and saving the environment
“You are only interested in my country to spray poisons on our jungles, to take our men to jail and put our women in exclusion. You are not interested in the education of the child, but in killing the jungle and extracting coal and oil from its entrails. The sponge that absorbs the poison [the rainforest] is useless, they prefer to throw more poisons into the atmosphere.”
They invaded in the name of oil and gas. They discovered in the 21st century the worst of their addictions: addiction to money and oil. Wars have served as an excuse not to act against the climate crisis. Wars have shown them how dependent they are on what will kill the human species.
On the first day of the United Nations General Assembly, Colombian President Gustavo Petro made his first address to the body. The speech sharply deviated from those of his conservative predecessors. Petro did not shy away from calling out global North countries for their role in the destruction of the environment and in the perpetuation of the War on Drugs, as a symptom of their capitalist greed. He accused
“You are only interested in my country to spray poisons on our jungles, to take our men to jail and put our women in exclusion. You are not interested in the education of the child, but in killing the jungle and extracting coal and oil from its entrails. The sponge that absorbs the poison [the rainforest] is useless, they prefer to throw more poisons into the atmosphere.”
This is Petro’s first trip to the United States since he was inaugurated in August. He was received on Sunday night September 18 by hundreds of supporters in Queens, NY who manifested their support for his administration’s commitment to working for peace and ensuring the wellbeing of the Colombian people.
Below is a full transcription of his speech on September 20, 2022 to the United Nations General Assembly.
I come from one of the three most beautiful countries on Earth.
There is an explosion of life there. Thousands of multicolored species in the seas, in the skies, in the lands…I come from the land of yellow butterflies and magic. There in the mountains and valleys of all greens, not only do the abundant waters flow down but also the torrents of blood. I come from a land of bloody beauty.
My country is not only beautiful, but it is also violent.
How can beauty be conjugated with death, how can the biodiversity of life erupt with the dances of death and horror? Who is guilty of breaking the enchantment with terror? Who or what is responsible for drowning life in the routine decisions of wealth and interest? Who is leading us to destruction as a nation and as a people?
My country is beautiful because it has the Amazon jungle, the ChocóWar jungle, the waters, the Andes mountain ranges, and the oceans. There, in those forests, planetary oxygen is emanated and atmospheric CO2 is absorbed. One of these CO2 absorbing plants, among millions of species, is one of the most persecuted on earth. At any cost, its destruction is sought: it is an Amazonian plant, the coca plant, sacred plant of the Incas. [It is in] a paradoxical crossroads.
The jungle that tries to save us, is at the same time, destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they spray poisons, glyphosate in mass that runs through the waters, they arrest its growers and imprison them. For destroying or possessing the coca leaf, one million Latin Americans are killed and two million Afro-Americans are imprisoned in North America. Destroy the plant that kills, they shout from the North, but the plant is but one more of the millions that perish when they unleash the fire on the jungle. Destroying the jungle, the Amazon, has become the slogan followed by States and businessmen. The cry of scientists baptizing the rainforest as one of the great climatic pillars is unimportant.
For the world’s power relations, the jungle and its inhabitants are to blame for the plague that plagues them. The power relations are plagued by the addiction to money, to perpetuate themselves, to oil, to cocaine and to the hardest drugs to be able to anesthetize themselves more. Nothing is more hypocritical than the discourse to save the rainforest. The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you make war and play with it. The rainforest, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life.
The great sponge that absorbs planetary CO2 evaporates. The savior forest is seen in my country as the enemy to be defeated, as the weed to be extinguished.
Coca and the peasants who grow it, because they have nothing else to grow, are demonized. You are only interested in my country to spray poisons on our jungles, to take our men to jail and put our women in exclusion. You are not interested in the education of the child, but in killing its jungle and extracting coal and oil from its entrails. The sponge that absorbs the poison is useless, they prefer to throw more poisons into the atmosphere.
We serve them only to fill the emptiness and loneliness of their own society that leads them to live in the midst of drug bubbles. We hide from them the problems that they refuse to reform. It is better to declare war on the jungle, on its plants, on its people. While they let the forests burn, while hypocrites chase the plants with poisons to hide the disasters of their own society, they ask us for more and more coal, more and more oil, to calm the other addiction: that of consumption, of power, of money.
What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal, or oil? The dictates of power have ordered that cocaine is the poison and must be pursued, even if it only causes minimal deaths by overdose, and even more by the mixtures necessitated by clandestinity, but coal and oil must be protected, even if their use could extinguish all of humanity.
These are the things of world power, things of injustice, and things of irrationality, because world power has become irrational. They see in the exuberance of the jungle, in its vitality, the lustful, the sinful; the guilty origin of the sadness of their societies, imbued with the unlimited compulsion to have and to consume. How to hide the loneliness of the heart, its dryness in the midst of societies without affection, competitive to the point of imprisoning the soul in solitude, if not by blaming the plant, the man who cultivates it, the libertarian secrets of the jungle.
According to the irrational power of the world, it is not the fault of the market that cuts back on existence, it is the fault of the jungle and those who inhabit it. The bank accounts have become unlimited, the money saved by the most powerful on the earth will not even be able to be spent in the time of the centuries. The sadness of existence produced by this artificial call to competition is filled with noise and drugs. The addiction to money and to having has another face: the addiction to drugs in people who lose the competition, in the losers of the artificial race in which they have transformed humanity.
The disease of loneliness will not be cured with glyphosate [sprayed] on the forests. It is not the rainforest that is to blame.
The culprit is their society educated in endless consumption, in the stupid confusion between consumption and happiness that allows the pockets of power to fill with money. The culprit of drug addiction is not the jungle, it is the irrationality of your world power. Try to give some reason to your power. Turn on the lights of the century again. The war on drugs has lasted 40 years, if we do not correct the course and it continues for another 40 years, the United States will see 2,800,000 young people die of overdose from fentanyl, which is not produced in Latin America. It will see millions of Afro-Americans imprisoned in its private jails.
The Afro-prisoner will become a business of prison companies, a million more Latin Americans will die murdered, our waters and our green fields will be filled with blood, and the dream of democracy will die in my America as well as in Anglo-Saxon America. Democracy will die where it was born, in the great western European Athens. By hiding the truth, they will see the jungle and democracies die. The war on drugs has failed.
The fight against the climate crisis has failed. There has been an increase in deadly consumption, from soft drugs to harder ones, genocide has taken place in my continent, and in my country, millions of people have been condemned to prison, and to hide their own social guilt they have blamed the rainforest and its plants. They have filled speeches and policies with nonsense. I demand from here, from my wounded Latin America, to put an end to the irrational war on drugs. To reduce drug consumption we do not need wars, for this, we need all of us to build a better society: a more caring society, more affectionate, where the intensity of life saves us from addictions and new slavery. Do you want less drugs? Think of less profit and more love. Think about a rational exercise of power.
Do not touch with your poisons the beauty of my homeland, help us without hypocrisy to save the Amazon Rainforest to save the life of humanity on the planet. You gathered the scientists, and they spoke with reason. With mathematics and climatological models, they said that the end of the human species was near, that its time is no longer of millennia, not even of centuries. Science set the alarm bells ringing and we stopped listening to it.
The war served as an excuse for not taking the necessary measures. When action was most needed, when speeches were no longer useful, when it was indispensable to deposit money in funds to save humanity, when it was necessary to move away from coal and oil as soon as possible, they invented war after war after war. They invaded Ukraine, but also Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
They invaded in the name of oil and gas. They discovered in the 21st century the worst of their addictions: addiction to money and oil. Wars have served as an excuse not to act against the climate crisis. Wars have shown them how dependent they are on what will kill the human species.
If you observe that the peoples are filling up with hunger and thirst and migrating by the millions towards the north, towards where the water is; then you enclose them, build walls, deploy machine guns, shoot at them. You expel them as if they were not human beings, you reproduce five times the mentality of those who politically created the gas chambers and the concentration camps, you reproduce on a planetary scale 1933.
The great triumph of the attack on reason. Do you not see that the solution to the great exodus unleashed on your countries is to return to water filling the rivers and the fields full of nutrients? The climate disaster fills us with viruses that swarm over us, but you do business with medicines and turn vaccines into commodities. You propose that the market will save us from what the market itself has created. The Frankenstein of humanity lies in letting the market and greed act without planning, surrendering the brain and reason. Kneeling human rationality to greed.
What is the use of war if what we need is to save the human species? What is the use of NATO and empires, if what is coming is the end of intelligence? The climate disaster will kill hundreds of millions of people and listen well, it is not produced by the planet, it is produced by capital.
The cause of the climate disaster is capital. The logic of coming together only to consume more and more, produce more and more, and for some to earn more and more produces the climate disaster. They applied the logic of extended accumulation to the energy engines of coal and oil and unleashed the hurricane: the ever deeper and deadlier chemical change of the atmosphere. Now in a parallel world, the expanded accumulation of capital is an expanded accumulation of death.
From the lands of jungle and beauty. There where they decided to make an Amazon rainforest plant an enemy, extradite and imprison its growers, I invite you to stop the war and to stop the climate disaster. Here, in this Amazon Rainforest, there is a failure of humanity.
Behind the bonfires that burn it, behind its poisoning, there is an integral, civilizational failure of humanity. Behind the addiction to cocaine and drugs, behind the addiction to oil and coal, there is the real addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, profit, and money. This is the enormous deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity.
I propose to you as president of one of the most beautiful countries on earth, and one of the most bloodied and violated, to end the war on drugs and allow our people to live in peace. I call on all of Latin America for this purpose. I summon the voice of Latin America to unite to defeat the irrational that martyrs our bodies. I call upon you to save the Amazon Rainforest integrally with the resources that can be allocated worldwide to life.
If you do not have the capacity to finance the fund for the revitalization of the forests, if it weighs more to allocate money to weapons than to life, then reduce the foreign debt to free our own budgetary spaces and with them, carry out the task of saving humanity and life on the planet. We can do it if you don’t want to. Just exchange debt for life, for nature. I propose, and I call upon Latin America to do so, to dialogue in order to end the war. Do not pressure us to align ourselves in the fields of war.
It is time for PEACE.
Let the Slavic peoples talk to each other, let the peoples of the world talk to each other. War is only a trap that brings the end of time closer in the great orgy of irrationality.
From Latin America, we call on Ukraine and Russia to make peace. Only in peace can we save life in this land of ours. There is no total peace without social, economic, and environmental justice. We are also at war with the planet. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations. Without social justice, there is no social peace.
Featured image: Gustavo Petro addressed the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2022. Photo: UN
A view shows gas wells at the Bovanenkovo gas field owned by Gazprom on the Arctic Yamal peninsula, Russia May 21, 2019. (By Reuters)
Russia has denounced European attempts to cap Russian energy prices, saying such measures are doomed to fail and prices will rise far beyond the attempted artificial ceiling.
Moscow’s top lawmaker and the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, wrote on his Telegram channel on Friday that the global market is not limited to seven countries.
“What G7 state officials call a price ‘ceiling’ will become a price floor,” he said. “The marginal price announced by the West will become the lower bar.”
Volodin said that the countries involved in the program had failed to find an alternative for Russian energy and had concluded that they would no longer be able to purchase fuel from Russia “on the cheap.”
The top lawmaker’s remarks came in the wake of a plan by Group of Seven (G7) countries to impose a price cap on Russian oil exports last week, a move that could restrict Russia’s ability to secure tankers and insurance from countries beyond the G7.
Meanwhile, the EU ministers who had gathered on Friday to discuss imposing a price cap on Russian fuel were split on the issue.
Western governments, especially the European countries, have been experiencing a worsening energy crisis after sanctioning Russia for its military operation in Ukraine.
“We are in an energy war with Russia,” Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela said, adding that “we have to send a clear signal that we would do whatever it takes to support our households, our economies.”
Soaring costs of gas and electricity have been the main challenge for the European leaders, prompting them to try every possible way to limit the resulting energy price shock.
An EU proposal to cap Russian gas prices has so far failed to win support from a majority of countries, with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening to completely cut off energy supplies and warning the West it would be “frozen” like a wolf’s tail in a famous Russian fairy tale.
Central and eastern European states, which are more reliant on Russian fuel than others, fear losing all their supplies.
“If price restrictions were to be imposed exclusively on Russian gas, that would evidently lead to an immediate cut-off in Russian gas supplies. It does not take a Nobel Prize to recognize that,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck suggested that the EU should prepare legislation to decouple the gas price from the price consumers pay for power from other energy carriers.
Accordingly, the European Commission is set to propose a measure this week to claw back revenues from non-gas power generators (such as wind, nuclear and coal generators) and spend the cash on cutting consumer bills.
The commission is set to take the step in a bid to skim off excess profits made by non-gas producers that have lower running costs but have still been able to sell their power at soaring prices.
“The measures the Commission has recommended in taking some of those excess profits and recycling them back into the households makes sense,” Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said.
The EU is bracing for a recession in the wake of skyrocketing gas prices and soaring inflation, as the coming winter is likely to be “one of the worst in history,” according to the EU’s economics commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni.
The European Union has pledged to end its dependence on Russian energy sources, a decision that seems to be backfiring ahead of the cold winter.
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Why doesn’t the U.S. respect the decision made by the Iraqi Parliament and move out of Iraqi territory? – The short answer is, because the US doesn’t respect anybody’s – any country’s – decision or sovereignty, as long as it doesn’t meet their objectives.
Now, the US is steadfast and will not leave the region. Already President Assad has requested that the US leave Syrian territory. They didn’t. The stakes are too immense for the US. It has all to do with their move towards world hegemony by territory and by finance – meaning by the US dollar.
The conflict with Iran is not over. By any means.
We are just experiencing a respite for regrouping – and subsequently continuing and escalating the conflict. US bases in Iraq and military presence, at present more than 5,000 troops, are the most convenient means of force against Iran.
Other than controlling the rich and highly strategic territory of the Middle-East as an important step towards world hegemony, the US continuous presence in the region also has to do with profits for the war industry and with the price and control of hydrocarbons, especially gas.
We have seen, soon after the cowardly murder of General Qassem Suleimani, the share values of the war industry jumped up, of course in anticipation of a hot war – and huge weapons sales. The war industry profits insanely from killing. Wars and conflicts are increasingly what drives the western economies. Already in the US the war industry and related industries and services make up for about half of the country’s GDP. The US economy without war is unthinkable. Therefore, the Middle-East is a perfect eternal battle ground – a sine qua non for the west. War is addictive. The western economy is already addicted to it. But most people haven’t realized that – yet. Revolving and renewed conflicts and wars is a must. Imagine, if the US were to leave the Middle-East, PEACE might break out. This is not admissible. Soon, your job my depend on war – if you live in the west.
Then there is the Iranian gas. Daily 20% to 25% of all the energy consumed to drive the world’s economy – including wars – transits through the Golf of Hormuz which is controlled by Iran. Immediately after the heinous murder on General Suleimani, the oil and gas prices spiked by about 4%, later declining again. This, in anticipation of a major conflict which could have Iran reduce her gas production, or block the passage of Hormuz. In either case a collapse of the world economy could not be excluded.
As a parenthesis – it is so absolutely necessary that the world frees itself from this nefarious source of energy – hydrocarbons – and converts to other, cheaper, cleaner and FREER sources of power to drive our industries and activities. Like solar energy of which Mother Earth receives every day more than 10,000 time what it needs for all her industrial and creative activities on every Continent.
The US, with a flailing multi-trillion fracking industry which just failed the European market, due Russian gas via Nord Stream2, and just inaugurated Turkstream, would like to control the price of hydrocarbon, so as to revive the highly indebted fracking industry. What better way than to control Iran, and her enormous reserves of gas, shared with Qatar?
Then there is the close alliance between Iran and China – China being Iran’s largest customer of gas. China is perceived by Washington as a deadly competitor, and barring her from the energy that makes China’s economy thrive, is one of those devilish objectives of the United States. They are unable to compete on an even playing field. Cheating, lying and manipulating has become part of their, and the western life style. It is deeply ingrained in western history and culture.
Of, course there are other ways of supplying China with the hydrocarbons she needs. Russia with the world’s largest gas reserves, could easily increase her supplies.
In brief, the US is unlikely to leave the Middle-East, although some generals – and even some high-ranking Pentagon brass – believe this would be the smartest thing to do – they see the light, and the light is not war, but PEACE.
How to Get the US out of Iraq
What could Iraq do to get the US out of Iraq and eventually out of the Region? After all, the Iraqi Parliament has taken a majority decision to regain Iraq’s sovereignty and autonomy, without foreign troops. Most countries with troops stationed in Iraq respect that decision. Denmark, Australia, Poland and Germany are preparing to move their troops out of Iraq. Only the UK with her 800 military men and women decided for now to stay alongside the US.
Iraq may want to strengthened her alliance with Russia and China, hereby increasing the pressure on the US to honor Iraq’s sovereign request for the US to leave. How much that would take to materialize, if at all, is a difficult question to answer. Maybe ‘never’. Except, if the US-dollar hegemony over western economies can be broken. And at the moment, a strong down-turn of the dollar’s role in the world economy is showing, as the western world is increasingly seeking ways to de-dollarize her economy and to associate with the East, led by China and Russia, where de-dollarization is advancing rapidly.
When that happens, chances are that the US of A’s dictates over the nations of the world will be mute, will not be listened to anymore, and that Washington will have to rethink its future – and very likely a US presence in the Middle-East will be history.
Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.
Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Mossadeq’s great sin: he “broke the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests”. US and Britain are still smarting.
Nobody saw that coming. Trump ordering Qassim Soleimani’s execution, I mean.
Nobody thought even he was quite so stupid.
It follows his last year’s caper when the “cocked and loaded” drama-queen ordered military strikes against Iran’s radar and missile batteries in retaliation for their shooting down of a US spy drone. He changed his mind with only minutes to spare on account of a reminder that such lunacy might actually cost human lives.
Plus the fact that the drone was eight miles from the coast, well inside the 12 nautical miles considered to be Iran’s territorial waters under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and it clearly represented a military threat and provocation. So he had no lawful claim of self-defense that would justify a military attack. The United Nations Charter allows only the use of military force in self-defense after an armed attack or with Security Council approval. So his proposed action would have been illegal as well as unwise, but none of that seemed to enter into his calculations then, or now.
Before that, we had Trump’s executive order in August 2018 re-imposing a wide range of sanctions against Iran after pulling the US out of the seven-party nuclear deal for no good reason, a spiteful move that annoyed the European Union and caused all sorts of problems for other nations. And he was going to impose extra sanctions aimed mainly at Iran’s oil industry and foreign financial institutions.
“If the ayatollahs want to get out from under the squeeze,” warned US National Security Adviser John Bolton, “they should come and sit down. The pressure will not relent while the negotiations go on.” To which Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, responded: “If you stab someone with a knife and then you say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy described the sanctions as “unjust and harmful… The reimposition of sanctions against Iran after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been unanimously adopted by the Security Council with the support of the US itself, lays bare the illegitimacy of this action.”
The other parties to the nuclear deal – Russia, China, Germany, France, the UK, and the EU – vowed to stick with it and continue trading with Iran, with some EU foreign ministers saying Iran was abiding by the agreement and delivering on its goal when Trump withdrew and they deeply regretted the new sanctions. Trump, in turn, called Iran “a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence and chaos”. The irony of such a remark was, of course, completely lost on him.
I read on 9 January that the EU “will spare no efforts” to keep the nuclear deal with Iran alive, though I doubt if Boris Johnson, passionate Zionist that he is, will be among them.
When it comes to aggression and dishonesty the US has form, and lots of it. Who can forget during the Iran-Iraq war the cruiser USS Vincennes, well inside Iran’s territorial waters, blowing Iran Air Flight 655 to smithereens and killing all 290 passengers and crew onboard? The excuse, which didn’t bear examination afterward, was that they mistook the Airbus A300 for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat manoeuvring to attack.
George H. W. Bush commented on a separate occasion: “I will never apologise for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.” Trump seems to have caught the same disease. And, from the outside, the White House itself seems home to the sort of “murderous dictatorship” he describes.
The need to continually demonise Iran
When I say the West’s hatred of Iran, I mean primarily the US-UK-Israel axis. Ben Wallace, UK Defence Secretary filling in for Boris Johnson who had absented himself, has told Parliament: “In recent times Iran has felt its intentions are best served through… the use of subversion as a foreign policy tool. It has also shown a total disregard for human rights.” This is amusing coming from the British government and especially a Conservative one which adores Israel, the world’s foremost disregarder of human rights and international law.
Britain and America would like everyone to believe that hostilities with Iran began with the 1979 Islamic revolution. But you have to go back to the early 1950s for the root cause in America’s case, while Iranians have had to endure a whole century of British exploitation and bad behaviour. And the axis wants to keep this important slice of history from becoming part of public discourse. Here’s why.
In 1901 William Knox D’Arcy obtained from the Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar a 60-year oil concession to three-quarters of the country. The Persian government would receive 16 percent of the oil company’s annual profits, a rotten deal as the Persians would soon realise.
D’Arcy, with financial support from Glasgow-based Burmah Oil, formed a company and sent an exploration team. Drilling failed to find oil in commercial quantities and by 1908 D’Arcy was almost bankrupt and on the point of giving up when they finally struck it big. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was up and running and in 1911 completed a pipeline from the oilfield to its new refinery at Abadan.
Just before the outbreak of World War I Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, wished to convert the British fleet from coal. To secure a reliable oil source the British government took a major shareholding in Anglo-Persian.
In the 1920s and 1930s the company profited hugely from paying the Persians a miserly 16 percent and refusing to renegotiate terms. An angry Persia eventually canceled the D’Arcy agreement and the matter ended up at the Court of International Justice in The Hague. A new agreement in 1933 provided Anglo-Persian with a fresh 60-year concession but on a smaller area. The terms were an improvement but still didn’t amount to a square deal for the Persians.
In 1935 Persia became known internationally by its other name, Iran, and Anglo-Persian changed to Anglo-Iranian Oil. By 1950 Abadan was the biggest oil refinery in the world and the British government, with its 51 percent holding, had effectively colonised part of southern Iran.
Iran’s tiny share of the profits had long soured relations and so did the company’s treatment of its oil workers. Six thousand went on strike in 1946 and the dispute was violently put down with 200 dead or injured. In 1951 while Aramco was sharing profits with the Saudis on a 50/50 basis, Anglo-Iranian declared £40 million profit after tax and handed Iran only £7 million.
Iran by now wanted economic and political independence and an end to poverty. Calls for nationalisation could not be ignored. In March 1951 the Majlis and Senate voted to nationalise Anglo-Iranian, which had controlled Iran’s oil industry since 1913 under terms frankly unfavourable to the host country. Social reformer Dr Mohammad Mossadeq was named prime minister by a 79 to 12 majority and promptly carried out his government’s wishes, canceling Anglo-Iranian’s oil concession and expropriating its assets.
His explanation was perfectly reasonable…
Our long years of negotiations with foreign countries… have yielded no results this far. With the oil revenues we could meet our entire budget and combat poverty, disease and backwardness among our people. Another important consideration is that by the elimination of the power of the British company, we would also eliminate corruption and intrigue, by means of which the internal affairs of our country have been influenced. Once this tutelage has ceased, Iran will have achieved its economic and political independence.
M. Fateh, Panjah Sal-e Naft-e Iran, p. 525
For this he would be removed in a coup by MI5 and the CIA, imprisoned for three years then put under house arrest until his death.
Britain was determined to bring about regime change, so it orchestrated a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil, froze Iran’s sterling assets and threatened legal action against anyone purchasing oil produced in the formerly British-controlled refineries. The Iranian economy was soon in ruins. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
America was reluctant at first to join Britain’s destructive game but Churchill (prime minister at this time) let it be known that Mossadeq was turning communist and pushing Iran into Russia’s arms at a time when Cold War anxiety was high. That was enough to bring America’s new president, Dwight Eisenhower, onboard and plotting with Britain to bring Mossadeq down.
Chief of the CIA’s Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt Jr, played the lead in a nasty game of provocation, mayhem and deception. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi signed two decrees, one dismissing Mossadeq and the other nominating the CIA’s choice, General Fazlollah Zahedi, as prime minister. These decrees were written as dictated by the CIA.
In August 1953, when it was judged safe for him to do so, the Shah returned to take over. Mossadeq was arrested, tried, and convicted of treason by the Shah’s military court. He remarked:
My greatest sin is that I nationalised Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire… I am well aware that my fate must serve as an example in the future throughout the Middle East in breaking the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests.
His supporters were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured or executed. Zahedi’s new government reached an agreement with foreign oil companies to form a consortium to restore the flow of Iranian oil, awarding the US and Great Britain the lion’s share – 40 percent going to Anglo-Iranian. The consortium agreed to split profits on a 50-50 basis with Iran but refused to open its books to Iranian auditors or allow Iranians to sit on the board.
The US massively funded the Shah’s government, including his army and his hated secret police force, SAVAK. Anglo-Iranian changed its name to British Petroleum in 1954. Mossadeq died on 5 March 1967.
The CIA-engineered coup that toppled Mossadeq, reinstated the Shah and let the American oil companies in, was the final straw for the Iranians. The British-American conspiracy backfired spectacularly 25 years later with the Islamic revolution of 1978/9, the humiliating 444-day hostage crisis in the American embassy and a tragically botched rescue mission.
Smoldering resentment for at least 70 years
And all this happened before the Iran-Iraq war when the West, especially the US, helped Iraq develop its armed forces and chemical weapons arsenal which were used against Iran. The US, and eventually Britain, leaned strongly towards Saddam in that conflict and the alliance enabled Saddam to more easily acquire or develop forbidden chemical and biological weapons. At least 100,000 Iranians fell victim to them.
This is how John King, writing in 2003, summed it up:
The United States used methods both legal and illegal to help build Saddam’s army into the most powerful army in the Mideast outside of Israel. The US supplied chemical and biological agents and technology to Iraq when it knew Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranians. The US supplied the materials and technology for these weapons of mass destruction to Iraq at a time when it was know that Saddam was using this technology to kill his Kurdish citizens. The United States supplied intelligence and battle planning information to Iraq when those battle plans included the use of cyanide, mustard gas and nerve agents. The United States blocked UN censure of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. The United States did not act alone in this effort. The Soviet Union was the largest weapons supplier, but England, France and Germany were also involved in the shipment of arms and technology.
And while Iranian casualties were at their highest as a result of US chemical and biological war crimes, what was Trump doing? He was busy acquiring the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Trump Castle, his Taj-Mahal casino, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan – oh, and he was refitting his super-yacht Trump Princess. What does he know, understand or care about Iran and the Iranian people today?
On the British side our prime minister, Boris Johnson, was at Oxford carousing with fellow Etonians at the Bullingdon Club. What does he know or care?
The present Iranian regime, like many others, may not be entirely to the West’s liking but neither was Mossadeq’s fledgling democracy nearly 70 years ago. If Britain and America had played fair and allowed the Iranians to determine their own future instead of using economic terrorism to bring the country to its knees, Iran might have been “the only democracy in the Middle East” today.
This is how a military empire occupies the globe.”
“As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”
“Let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad. This is also the time to turn away from excessive preoccupation overseas to the rebuilding of our own nation. America must be restored to a proper role in the world. But we can do that only through the recovery of confidence in ourselves…. together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning. From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America. From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.”—George S. McGovern, former Senator and presidential candidate
I agree wholeheartedly with George S. McGovern, a former Senator and presidential candidate who opposed the Vietnam War, about one thing: I’m sick of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.
It’s time to bring our troops home.
Bring them home from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia.
Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world.
Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton: they all have done their part to ensure that the military industrial complex can continue to get rich at taxpayer expense.
Take President Trump, for instance.
Despite numerous campaign promises to stop America’s “endless wars,” once elected, Trump has done a complete about-face, deploying greater numbers of troops to the Middle East, ramping up the war rhetoric, and padding the pockets of defense contractors. Indeed, Trump is even refusing to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in the face of a request from the Iraqi government for us to leave.
Yet while the rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are policing the globe, these wars abroad (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and now Iran) aren’t making America—or the rest of the world—any safer, are certainly not making America great again, and are undeniably digging the U.S. deeper into debt.
Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.
Talk about fiscally irresponsible: the U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford.
As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”
Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked.
A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:
$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.
That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government.
Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior.
Americans have thus far allowed themselves to be spoon-fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda that keeps them content to wave flags with patriotic fervor and less inclined to look too closely at the mounting body counts, the ruined lives, the ravaged countries, the blowback arising from ill-advised targeted-drone killings and bombing campaigns in foreign lands, or the transformation of our own homeland into a warzone.
That needs to change.
The U.S. government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the U.S. military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000 human beings. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds.
The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a U.S. military drone strike will, I fear, spur yet more blowback against the American people.
The war hawks’ militarization of America—bringing home the spoils of war (the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.) and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield—is also blowback.
James Madison was right: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” As Madison explained, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”
We are seeing this play out before our eyes.
The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls.
Clearly, our national priorities are in desperate need of an overhauling.
At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts:
The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.
This is the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us more than 50 years ago not to let endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, was alarmed by the rise of the profit-driven war machine that emerged following the war—one that, in order to perpetuate itself, would have to keep waging war.
(MEE Op-Ed) — Across the Middle East, people are protesting. They are tired and angry. They want to see something change.
“All of them means all of them,” protesters chant in Lebanon, calling for the removal of the political and economic elite. Central Beirut, an area that had been taken over by luxury stores, has been reclaimed by the people.
In Algeria, the power brokers known as “le pouvoir” are being resisted, even after the removal of longtime autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Sudan’s revolution, which began in the northern city of Atbara, a cradle of labour activism, also continues, as the end of Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule was not enough. Protesters want to see the dismantling of a violent and ruthless elite, now spearheaded by the militia leader and accused war criminal Hemeti.
Brink of Collapse
In Iraq, as oil production hits record levels, citizens are out on the streets risking their lives, with more than 100 killed and 6,000 wounded as the army cracked down on demonstrations in early October.
The money from the oil goes nowhere near them, of course: according to the UN, seven million Iraqis live below the poverty line, and one-fifth of Iraqi youth are unemployed, in a country whose majority is under the age of 24. Protesters in Iraq are described as being mostly young and unemployed, calling for jobs, electricity and water.
Elsewhere, young people who have grown up in the shadow of the financial crisis of 2007-8 have also come to the fore, often with the same demands: better public services, employment, housing, and some semblance of dignity and democracy.
The similarities between these protests are striking, despite national variations. The conditions driving protests in the Middle East are the same not just throughout the region, but across the world, where people are rising up against decades of neoliberalism, from Chile to Haiti to France.
Their demands are universal – employment, housing, democracy, freedom from poverty – and are driven by a political and economic system that has brought this world to the brink of political and environmental collapse.
This is important because of how the Middle East is so often viewed in the western media. It is a place apart, a benighted territory riven by sectarian conflict, barely comprehensible to outsiders without the help of well-paid analysts sitting in offices in Washington and London.
A game of divide-and-conquer can be played, in which the universal interests of the global majority can be twisted by the powerful few into a bewildering set of local grievances, relayed by analysts as if they were talking about a group of primates deep in the jungle or a school of fish in the outer reaches of the ocean.
This kind of reasoning has often been deployed in the name of getting the peoples of the Middle East to accept the neoliberal consensus of the past four decades.
“You don’t understand,” they are told. “The market will set you free, these IMF-backed austerity measures are for your own good, the arrival of this large company paying subsistence wages is actually a great honour to your community. What do you mean, you don’t love the West? You love football, don’t you? You want to leave the ruined place you come from to arrive in the glittering towers of Europe and the US, surely?”
Migrants seeking a better life are often propelled to do so by neoliberalism, by the collaboration of international and local elites, which keeps them far from anything that could be called a good life.
The seductive facade of today’s capitalism – the flashing images of wealth, sex and fulfillment that fill the media – adds to this, providing the carrot, where the destruction of local economies is the stick. Yet, when migrants leave for Europe or North America, they encounter barbed-wire fences, hostile politicians and a climate of racism and exclusion.
This facade might finally be crumbling.
In Chile, a slogan has begun to define the protests: “Neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die in Chile.” Just as in Iraq, neoliberalism came to Chileans at the barrel of a gun, arriving with the CIA-backed coup that removed Salvador Allende from power in 1973. “The miracle of Chile” was the term used by Milton Friedman, the godfather of neoliberalism, to describe what dictator Augusto Pinochet did to his country’s economy.
Stark Choices Ahead
The Middle East, particularly Iraq, knows this kind of story all too well. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq came with the expressed blessing of a raft of multinational companies. Iraq and its oil were there to be taken, and its people would be collateral. People are always collateral.
These global protests have the same root causes. Thus far, sectarianism is being resisted, as the people hold to their common set of grievances. In the West, in Britain and the US, crucial elections are on the horizon.
The choices people face are stark as politics becomes more polarised. “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads; either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism,” Polish Marxist Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1916. The phrase “socialism or barbarism” has come back into use as a way to describe the choice we face, not just as citizens of one particular nation but as people across a world facing political and environmental collapse.
A great deal of time, money and effort will be spent fighting this, but as resistance grows across the Middle East, we should know that this is not just the region’s fight – it is the world’s fight.
President Trump reiterated to the press today that the United States is maintaining its military presence in Syria not to patrol the nation’s border with Turkey, but to control its oil fields.
“We’ve kept the oil,” Trump said. “We’ve stayed back and kept the oil. Other people can patrol the border of Syria, frankly, and Turkey, let them — they’ve been fighting for a thousand years, let them do the border, we don’t want to do that. We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil. I like oil. We’re keeping the oil.”
This open “kick their ass and take their gas” policy is nothing new for America’s reality TV president; he’s been saying it for years. It was recently addressed head-on by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who said during an interview that it’s nice to have a US president who is honest about America’s true motives in the Middle East for once.
“As for Trump, you might ask me a question and I give you an answer that might sound strange,” Assad said. “I say that he is the best American President, not because his policies are good, but because he is the most transparent president. All American presidents perpetrate all kinds of political atrocities and all crimes and yet still win the Nobel Prize and project themselves as defenders of human rights and noble and unique American values, or Western values in general. The reality is that they are a group of criminals who represent the interests of American lobbies, i.e. the large oil and arms companies, and others. Trump talks transparently, saying that what we want is oil. This is the reality of American policy, at least since WWII. We want to get rid of such and such a person or we want to offer a service in return for money. This is the reality of American policy. What more do we need than a transparent opponent?”
Some establishment media chose to deliberately misinterpret Assad’s scathing criticism of US foreign policy as praise for Donald Trump, with The Hilltweeting out “Syrian President Assad praises Trump: He is ‘the best’ because he’s ‘most transparent president’”, and TheJerusalem Postrunning the headline “SYRIAN LEADER BASHAR ASSAD: DONALD TRUMP IS THE ‘BEST U.S. PRESIDENT’ — The Syrian leader, who allegedly committed war crimes against his own people to suppress public demands and win a bloody civil war, seemed to approve of Trump’s honesty.”
Many US foreign policy critics have been rightly attacking this administration’s open resource grab; if Russia had forcefully invaded a sovereign nation and seized its oil fields without permission the American political/media class would be shrieking hysterically and working to manufacture support for World War Three within minutes. Yet that is what American exceptionalism leads the empire to do without a second thought.
Assad’s comments mirror what I wrote more than a week ago (so please note that I’m not an Assadist — he’s a Caitlinist), but it’s important to point out that Trump’s oil narrative is just the latest in a long list of excuses that the US government and its apologists have been making to justify the illegal occupation of Syria.
We were told that the US must intervene in Syria because the Syrian government was massacring its people. We were told that the US must intervene in Syria in order to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East. We were told that the US must intervene in Syria because Assad used chemical weapons. We were told that the US must occupy Syria to fight ISIS. We were told that the US must continue to occupy Syria to counter Iranian influence. We were told the US must continue to occupy Syria to protect the Kurds. Now the US must continue to occupy Syria because of oil.
These wildly different reasons the public has been given for America’s need to forcibly insert a military presence into Syria all have only one thing in common, and that’s America forcibly inserting a military presence into Syria. This is because they are not reasons, but excuses. The US forcibly inserted a military presence into Syria with the full intention of keeping it there, and then started diddling a bunch of completely different narratives in order to justify the thing it already wanted to do long before any of those excuses arose.
For eight years we’ve been spoonfed an assortment of radically different narratives explaining why the US needs to control Syria militarily, and it turns out that the US and its allies have been plotting to control Syria since long before then. This is because Syria occupies an extremely geostrategically valuable location that is in no way limited to its oil fields. In 2004 Assad launched his “Five Seas Vision”, a plan to use Syria’s supreme location to place itself at the center of a regional energy and transportation system and become an economic superpower. The nation was then plunged into chaos seven years later, but whoever manages to secure control over this location will be able to achieve the same lucrative energy and transportation control for themselves. The dispute over pipeline routes that many have highlighted is just one small example of this. There’s also the illegally occupied Golan Heights which the extremely shady Genie Energy corporation has a vested interest in, and which provides a third of Israel’s water supply, and which the US has decided to officially regard as Israeli property.
So it’s a geostrategically crucial region, and it happens to have no interest at all in allowing itself to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized power alliance, allying itself instead with the unabsorbed nations of Russia and Iran. This has made it the epicenter of a giant global imperialist struggle the implications of which stretch far beyond its borders to the rest of the world.
This is the real reason why half a million Syrians have died in an imperialist proxy war, and why many more Syrians continue to suffer under US-led sanctions and the deprivation of their nation’s valuable natural resources. Not because of humanitarianism, not because of democracy, not because of chemical weapons, not because of ISIS, not because of Iran, not because of Kurds, and not even really just because of oil, but because there’s a globe-spanning oligarchic empire to which Syria has refused to submit. Everything else is empty narrative.
Whenever you see anyone arguing for keeping troops in Syria that aren’t there with the permission of the Syrian government, this is all they’re really supporting: a campaign to annex a strategically valuable location into the US-centralized empire. This is true regardless of whatever reason they are offering for that support. And notice how all the different reasons we’ve been inundated with all appeal to different political sectors: the oil and Iran narratives appeal to rank-and-file Republicans, the humanitarian arguments appeal to liberals, and the Kurds narrative appeals to many leftists and anarchists like Noam Chomsky. But the end result is always the same: keeping military force in a location that the empire has long sought to absorb.
By providing many different narratives as to why the military presence must continue, the propagandists get us all arguing over which narratives are the correct ones rather than whether or not there should be an illegal military occupation of a sovereign nation at all. This is just one of many examples of how the incredibly shrinking Overton window of acceptable debate is used to keep us arguing not over whether the empire should be doing evil things, but how and why it should do them.
Don’t fall for it. It is not legitimate for the US empire to occupy Syria for any reason. At all. “Because oil” is not a legitimate reason. “Because Kurds” is not a legitimate reason. “Because ISIS” is not a legitimate reason. “Because Iran” is not a legitimate reason. “Because Russia” is not a legitimate reason. “Because freedom and democracy” is not a legitimate reason. “Because chemical weapons” is not a legitimate reason. And those who are driving this illegal occupation know it, which is why they keep shifting to whatever’s the most convenient narrative in any given moment.
The devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities by drones and missiles not only transforms the balance of military power in the Middle East, but marks a change in the nature of warfare globally.
On the morning of 14 September, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles – all cheap and unsophisticated compared to modern military aircraft – disabled half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production and raised the world price of oil by 20 per cent.
This happened despite the Saudis spending $67.6bn (£54bn) on their defence budget last year, much of it on vastly expensive aircraft and air defence systems, which notably failed to stop the attack. The US defence budget stands at $750bn (£600.2bn), and its intelligence budget at $85bn (£68bn), but the US forces in the Gulf did not know what was happening until it was all over.
Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected. Such explanations sound pathetic when set against the proud boasts of the arms manufacturers and military commanders about the effectiveness of their weapons systems.
Debate is ongoing about whether it was the Iranians or the Houthis who carried out the attack, the likely answer being a combination of the two, but perhaps with Iranorchestrating the operation and supplying the equipment. But over-focus on responsibility diverts attention from a much more important development: a middle ranking power like Iran, under sanctions and with limited resources and expertise, acting alone or through allies, has inflicted crippling damage on theoretically much better-armed Saudi Arabia which is supposedly defended by the US, the world’s greatest military super-power.
If the US and Saudi Arabia are particularly hesitant to retaliate against Iran it is because they know now, contrary to what they might have believed a year ago, that a counter-attack will not be a cost-free exercise. What happened before can happen again: not for nothing has Iran been called a “drone superpower”. Oil production facilities and the desalination plants providing much of the fresh water in Saudi Arabia are conveniently concentrated targets for drones and small missiles.
In other words, the military playing field will be a lot more level in future in a conflict between a country with a sophisticated air force and air defence system and one without. The trump card for the US, Nato powers and Israel has long been their overwhelming superiority in airpower over any likely enemy. Suddenly this calculus has been undermined because almost anybody can be a player on the cheap when it comes to airpower.
Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, succinctly sums up the importance of this change, writing that “the strikes on Saudi Arabia provide a clear strategic warning that the US era of air supremacy in the Gulf, and the near US monopoly on precision strike capability, is rapidly fading.” He explains that a new generation of drones, cruise missiles, and precision strike ballistic missiles are entering the Iranian inventories and have begun to spread to the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Similar turning points in military history have occurred when the deployment of an easily produced weapon suddenly checkmates the use of a more complicated one.
A good example of this was the attack on 11 November 1940, on five Italian battleships, moored at their base at Taranto by 20 slow moving but sturdy British Swordfish biplanes, armed with torpedoes and launched from an aircraft carrier. At the end of the day, three of the battleships had been sunk or badly damaged while only two of the British planes were missing. The enormity of the victory achieved at such minimal cost ended the era when battleships ruled the sea and replaced them with one in which aircraft carriers with torpedo/bomber were supreme. It was a lesson noted by the Japanese navy which attacked Pearl Harbour in similar fashion a year after Taranto.
The Saudis showed off the wreckage of the drones and missiles to assembled diplomats and journalists this week in a bid to convince them that the Iranians were behind the air raid. But the most significant feature of the broken drone and missile parts was that, in full working order, the weapons that had just rocked the world economy would not have cost a lot. By way of contrast, the US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, the main air defence of Saudi Arabia that were so useless last Saturday, cost $3m (£2.4bn) apiece.
Cost and simplicity are important because they mean that Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and almost any country can produce drones and missiles in numbers large enough to overwhelm any defences they are likely to meet.
Compare the cost of the drone which would be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to the $122m (£97.6m) price of a single F-35 fighter, so expensive that it can only be purchased in limited numbers. As they take on board the meaning of what happened at Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, governments around the world will be demanding that their air force chiefs explain why they need to spend so much money when cheap but effective alternatives are available. Going by past precedent, the air chiefs and arms manufacturers will fight to their last breath for grossly inflated budgets to purchase weapons of dubious utility in a real war.
The attack on Saudi Arabia reinforces a trend in warfare in which inexpensive easily acquired weapons come out on top. Consider the track record of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), usually made out of easily available fertiliser, detonated by a command wire, and planted in or beside a road. These were used with devastating effect by the IRA in South Armagh, forcing the British Army off the roads and into helicopters.
IEDs were used in great numbers and with great effect against US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Immense resources were deployed by the US military into finding a counter to this deadly device, which included spending no less than $40bn (£32bn) on 27,000 heavily armoured vehicles called MRAPs. A subsequent army study revealed that that the number of US servicemen killed and wounded in an attack on an MRAP was exactly the same as in the vehicles which they had replaced.
It is unthinkable that American, British and Saudi military chiefs will accept that they command expensive, technically advanced forces that are obsolete in practice. This means they are stuck with arms that suck up resources but are, in practical terms, out of date. The Japanese, soon after they had demonstrated at Pearl Harbour the vulnerability of battleships, commissioned the world’s largest battleship, the Yamato, which fired its guns only once and was sunk in 1945 by US torpedo aircraft and bombers operating from aircraft carriers.
The war drums beating in Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv when it comes to Iran have not been this loud since the lead-up to the war in Iraq in 2003.
“An act of war,” Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, proclaimed upon arriving in Saudi Arabia on a ‘working visit,’ a visit that will be largely if not solely taken up with discussions over what form the response to the missile strike against key Saudi oil installations on September 14 should take.
Pompeo’s bombastic pronouncement followed the trend set by his boss in the immediate aftermath of the attack. In one of his by now customary sabre-rattling tweets that do much to bring the English language into disrepute, Trump announced:
“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
Tehran has been implicated but denies any involvement or responsibility for the attack, while the Houthi rebels, engaged against the Saudis and their allies in a protracted conflict in Yemen, have claimed responsibility. Said Houthis, it should be pointed out, have carried out drone and missile strikes against strategic targets in the kingdom before, so it is conceivable that their claim to have been responsible for this attack carries with it the ring of truth.
Regardless of who was or wasn’t behind this missile and drone strike, against what is the largest oil processing facility in the world, it was an outstanding success militarily and, arguably, strategically.
It has exposed the weakness of the Saudis’ military defences, despite Riyadh spending huge amounts on weaponry, military equipment, and expertise from its US and UK allies in particular over the years, along with the vulnerability of the kingdom’s economic infrastructure.
More significantly, with the consequences of the attack reverberating beyond the region to produce a temporary spike in the price of crude on global markets, the attack shines an incredibly harsh light on the reckless policy the Trump administration has been pursuing when it comes to Iran.
With the economic noose that’s been placed by Washington around Iran’s neck and the dagger at its throat in the form of substantial US, British, and Israeli military assets deployed within striking distance of its territory, and with the Saudis adopting such an aggressive posture against the Islamic Republic, of course it does.
Yes, the Iranians have no doubt been supplying the Houthis with weaponry and no doubt also the expertise in how to use them in their conflict against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. What of it? Have the Saudis not supplied opposition groups in Syria with weapons? Have the British and Americans not been supplying the Saudis with weaponry and military expertise in support of its four-year-long and counting war in Yemen? And have those weapons not been responsible for killing thousands of civilians in that benighted and forsaken land?
There is only so much hypocrisy the world can be expected to take when it comes to the extent to which Washington and its allies assert the right to operate on the basis of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’
Though Trump had recently begun to show signs of a return to some kind of sanity when it came to Iran, talking up the possibility of talking to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he remains a prisoner of a neocon establishment in Washington and his own dysfunctional approach to foreign policy.
As with North Korea, as with Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and China (the list goes on), the notion that sanctions and tariffs can precede meaningful dialogue with a view to the normalisation of relations is not only absurd, it reduces statecraft to an exercise in backstreet thuggery.
Economic sanctions are a blunt instrument and a weapon of war in themselves. Indeed when it comes to Iran, to assert that they are ‘hurting’, as Trump so blithely put it not too long ago vis-à-vis the impact of US sanctions, this is to violate the bounds of understatement.
Since Trump drove a coach and horses through the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) in 2015, and for no other reason than his personal antipathy towards Obama, Iran’s oil exports have fallen by half. In the process, its currency has slumped and the price of basic foods have spiked, producing extreme hardship among a vast swathe of the population.
With the aforementioned military pressure Iran has come under added to the economic crisis which the country’s been plunged into, only the most rotten-minded could conceivably lay responsibility for the present uptick in regional tensions at Tehran’s door.
Something’s got to give. Just as you can only apply so much pressure to a man’s throat before he kicks you in the shins, you can only asphyxiate a country of 80 million people so much before it strikes back. This is why I say that whether or not the Iranians were behind this attack, given all the circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were.
So, yes, the drumbeats of war are beating as loud as they ever have when it comes to a region that has become sadly all too used to the beat of those drums. However in this instance the Saudis and the Americans, and possibly Mr Netanyahu, know that escalation would be self-defeating in the extreme.
Iran is a hugely different proposition in 2019 than Iraq was in 2003. It possesses the ability and the will to do serious damage to anyone who would dare make the mistake of confusing the size of the dog in the fight with the size of the fight in the dog.
Whatever the outcome to this crisis, on its current course, there will be no winners, only losers.
“President Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.”
The Yemeni Shiite group’s spectacular attack on Abqaiq raises the distinct possibility of a push to drive the House of Saud from power
A Yemeni Shiite man holds his weapon and a flag with an Arabic inscription reading ‘Disgrace is far from us,’ as he takes part in a religious procession held by Houthi rebels to mark the first day of Ashura. Photo: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa
We are the Houthis and we’re coming to town. With the spectacular attack on Abqaiq, Yemen’s Houthis have overturned the geopolitical chessboard in Southwest Asia – going as far as introducing a whole new dimension: the distinct possibility of investing in a push to drive the House of Saud out of power.
Blowback is a bitch. Houthis – Zaidi Shiites from northern Yemen – and Wahhabis have been at each other’s throats for ages. This book is absolutely essential to understand the mind-boggling complexity of Houthi tribes; as a bonus, it places the turmoil in southern Arabian lands way beyond a mere Iran-Saudi proxy war.
Still, it’s always important to consider that Arab Shiites in the Eastern province – working in Saudi oil installations – have got to be natural allies of the Houthis fighting against Riyadh.
Houthi striking capability – from drone swarms to ballistic missile attacks – has been improving remarkably for the past year or so. It’s not by accident that the UAE saw which way the geopolitical and geoeconomic winds were blowing: Abu Dhabi withdrew from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s vicious war against Yemen and now is engaged in what it describes as a “peace-first” strategy.
Even before Abqaiq, the Houthis had already engineered quite a few attacks against Saudi oil installations as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports. In early July, Yemen’s Operations Command Center staged an exhibition in full regalia in Sana’a featuring their whole range of ballistic and winged missiles and drones.
The Saudi Ministry of Defense displays drones and parts from missiles used in the refinery attack.
The situation has now reached a point where there’s plenty of chatter across the Persian Gulf about a spectacular scenario: the Houthis investing in a mad dash across the Arabian desert to capture Mecca and Medina in conjunction with a mass Shiite uprising in the Eastern oil belt. That’s not far-fetched anymore. Stranger things have happened in the Middle East. After all, the Saudis can’t even win a bar brawl – that’s why they rely on mercenaries.
Orientalism strikes again
The US intel refrain that the Houthis are incapable of such a sophisticated attack betrays the worst strands of orientalism and white man’s burden/superiority complex.
The only missile parts shown by the Saudis so far come from a Yemeni Quds 1 cruise missile. According to Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Sana’a-based Yemeni Armed Forces, “the Quds system proved its great ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems.”
This satellite overview handout image from the US government shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq.
Houthi armed forces duly claimed responsibility for Abqaiq: “This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia, and came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.”
Notice the key concept: “cooperation” from inside Saudi Arabia – which could include the whole spectrum from Yemenis to that Eastern province Shiites.
Even more relevant is the fact that massive American hardware deployed in Saudi Arabia inside out and outside in – satellites, AWACS, Patriot missiles, drones, battleships, jet fighters – didn’t see a thing, or certainly not in time. The sighting of three “loitering” drones by a Kuwaiti bird hunter arguably heading towards Saudi Arabia is being invoked as “evidence”. Cue to the embarrassing picture of a drone swarm – wherever it came from – flying undisturbed for hours over Saudi territory.
UN officials openly admit that now everything that matters is within the 1,500 km range of the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone: oil fields in Saudi Arabia, a still-under-construction nuclear power plant in the Emirates and Dubai’s mega-airport.
My conversations with sources in Tehran over the past two years have ascertained that the Houthis’ new drones and missiles are essentially copies of Iranian designs assembled in Yemen itself with crucial help from Hezbollah engineers.
US intel insists that 17 drones and cruise missiles were launched in combination from southern Iran. In theory, Patriot radar would have picked that up and knocked the drones/missiles from the sky. So far, absolutely no record of this trajectory has been revealed. Military experts generally agree that the radar on the Patriot missile is good, but its success rate is “disputed” – to say the least. What’s important, once again, is that the Houthis do have advanced offensive missiles. And their pinpoint accuracy at Abqaiq was uncanny.
This satellite overview handout image shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy of Planet Labs Inc
For now, it appears that the winner of the US/UK-supported House of One Saudi war on the civilian Yemeni population, which started in March 2015 and generated a humanitarian crisis the UN regards as having been of biblical proportions, is certainly not the crown prince, widely known as MBS.
Listen to the general
Crude oil stabilization towers – several of them – at Abqaiq were specifically targeted, along with natural gas storage tanks. Persian Gulf energy sources have been telling me repairs and/or rebuilding could last months. Even Riyadh admitted as much.
Blindly blaming Iran, with no evidence, does not cut it. Tehran can count on swarms of top strategic thinkers. They do not need or want to blow up Southwest Asia, which is something they could do, by the way: Revolutionary Guards generals have already said many times on the record that they are ready for war.
Professor Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, who has very close relations with the Foreign Ministry, is adamant: “It didn’t come from Iran. If it did, it would be very embarrassing for the Americans, showing they are unable to detect a large number of Iranian drones and missiles. That doesn’t make sense.”
Marandi additionally stresses, “Saudi air defenses are not equipped to defend the country from Yemen but from Iran. The Yemenis have been striking against the Saudis, they are getting better and better, developing drone and missile technology for four and a half years, and this was a very soft target.”
A soft – and unprotected – target: the US PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems in place are all oriented towards the east, in the direction of Iran. Neither Washington nor Riyadh knows for sure where the drone swarm/missiles really came from.
Readers should pay close attention to this groundbreaking interview with General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force. The interview, in Farsi (with English subtitles), was conducted by US-sanctioned Iranian intellectual Nader Talebzadeh and includes questions forwarded by my US analyst friends Phil Giraldi and Michael Maloof and myself.
Explaining Iranian self-sufficiency in its defense capabilities, Hajizadeh sounds like a very rational actor. The bottom line:
“Our view is that neither American politicians nor our officials want a war. If an incident like the one with the drone [the RQ-4N shot down by Iran in June] happens or a misunderstanding happens, and that develops into a larger war, that’s a different matter. Therefore we are always ready for a big war.”
In response to one of my questions, on what message the Revolutionary Guards want to convey, especially to the US, Hajizadeh does not mince his words: “In addition to the US bases in various regions like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Emirates and Qatar, we have targeted all naval vessels up to a distance of 2,000 kilometers and we are constantly monitoring them. They think that if they go to a distance of 400 km, they are out of our firing range. Wherever they are, it only takes one spark, we hit their vessels, their airbases, their troops.”
Get your S-400s or else
On the energy front, Tehran has been playing a very precise game under pressure – selling loads of oil by turning off the transponders of their tankers as they leave Iran and transferring the oil at sea, tanker to tanker, at night, and relabeling their cargo as originating at other producers for a price. I have been checking this for weeks with my trusted Persian Gulf traders – and they all confirm it. Iran could go on doing it forever.
Of course, the Trump administration knows it. But the fact is they are looking the other way. To state it as concisely as possible: they are caught in a trap by the absolute folly of ditching the JCPOA, and they are looking for a face-saving way out. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the administration in so many words: the US should return to the agreement it reneged on before it’s too late.
And now for the really hair-raising part.
The strike at Abqaiq shows that the entire Middle East production of over 18 million barrels of oil a day – including Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – can be easily knocked out. There is zero adequate defense against these drones and missiles.
Well, there’s always Russia.
Here’s what happened at the press conference after the Ankara summit this week on Syria, uniting Presidents Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan.
Question: Will Russia provide Saudi Arabia with any help or support in restoring its infrastructure?
President Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.
President Hassan Rouhani: So do they need to buy the S-300 or the S-400?
President Vladimir Putin: It is up to them to decide [laughs].
In The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld actually predicted that the whole industrial-military-security complex would come crumbling down when it was exposed that most of its weapons are useless against fourth-generation asymmetrical opponents. There’s no question the whole Global South is watching – and will have gotten the message.
Hybrid war, reloaded
Now we are entering a whole new dimension in asymmetric hybrid war.
In the – horrendous – event that Washington would decide to attack Iran, egged on by the usual neocon suspects, the Pentagon could never hope to hit and disable all the Iranian and/or Yemeni drones. The US could expect, for sure, all-out war. And then no ships would sail through the Strait of Hormuz. We all know the consequences of that.
Which brings us to The Big Surprise. The real reason there would be no ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz is that there would be no oil in the Gulf left to pump. The oil fields, having been bombed, would be burning.
So we’re back to the realistic bottom line, which has been stressed by not only Moscow and Beijing but also Paris and Berlin: US President Donald Trump gambled big time, and he lost. Now he must find a face-saving way out. If the War Party allows it.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone