Tag: Henry Kissinger (page 1 of 2)

The Secret Reason Trump Is So Cozy With Saudi Arabia

Authored by Nick Giambruno via InternationalMan.com,

As a candidate, Donald Trump used uncommonly harsh language to criticize Saudi Arabia—the world’s largest oil exporter.

He called the Saudi regime the world’s biggest funder of terrorism.

He also said the Saudi government uses “our petro dollars—our very own money—to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people, while the Saudis rely on us to protect them!”

At another point, Trump said, “Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi [Arabia].”

Trump also criticized Hillary Clinton for taking Saudi money for the Clinton Foundation. (They were its biggest “donors.”) He even challenged her to return the money.

He also famously got into a Twitter spat with a prominent member of the Saudi royal family, Alwaleed bin Talal.

As a candidate, Trump blasted the Saudis countless other times.

But, after he took office, Trump did a complete 180. He stopped criticizing the Saudis. In fact, he’s now singing their praises.

It’s bizarre… as if someone put a severed horse head in his bed.

Mere months after criticizing the Saudis, he was on Air Force One headed to Saudi Arabia to do the sword dance with his new friends.

It was his first foreign trip as president.


President Trump with King Salman

Trump’s about face was astounding. But his newly adopted deference to the Saudis is no different than Obama’s, Baby Bush’s, or any previous president’s.


President Obama with King Abdullah


President G.W. Bush with King Abdullah

Today, I’ll tell you why Trump made such an abrupt turnaround.

I’ll also explain why the Saudis get special treatment from the US Deep State.

“As Good As Gold” – From Bretton Woods to the Petrodollar

It’s been rightly said that he who holds the gold makes the rules.

After World War 2, the US had the largest gold reserves in the world, by far. Along with winning the war, this let the US reconstruct the global monetary system around the dollar.

The new system, created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, tied the currencies of virtually every country in the world to the US dollar through a fixed exchange rate. It also tied the US dollar to gold at a fixed rate of $35 an ounce.

The dollar was said to be “as good as gold.”

The Bretton Woods system made the US dollar the world’s premier reserve currency. It effectively forced other countries to store dollars for international trade, or to exchange with the US government for gold.

However, this pseudo gold standard was doomed to fail.

Not surprisingly, runaway spending on warfare and welfare caused the US government to print more dollars than it could back with gold at the promised price.

By the late 1960s, the number of dollars circulating had drastically increased relative to the amount of gold backing them. This encouraged foreign countries to exchange their dollars for gold, draining the US gold supply. It dropped from 574 million ounces at the end of World War 2 to around 261 million ounces in 1971.

To plug the drain, President Nixon “temporarily” suspended the dollar’s convertibility into gold in 1971. This ended the Bretton Woods system and severed the dollar’s last tie to gold.

The “temporary” suspension is still in effect today.

This is why the Fed can print as much paper money as it pleases.

The death of the Bretton Woods system had profound geopolitical consequences. Most critically, it eliminated the main reason foreign countries stored large amounts of US dollars and used the US dollar for international trade.

At this point, oil-producing countries began to demand payment in gold instead of rapidly depreciating dollars.

It was clear the US would have to create a new monetary system to stabilize to the dollar.

So, the US government concocted a new scheme—the petrodollar system. It gave foreign countries another compelling reason to hold and use the dollar.

The new arrangement preserved the dollar’s special status as the world’s top reserve currency.

For President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, it was a geopolitical and financial masterstroke.

From 1972 to 1974, the US government made a series of agreements with Saudi Arabia that created the petrodollar system.

The US handpicked Saudi Arabia because of the kingdom’s vast petroleum reserves and its dominant position in OPEC—and because the Saudi royal family was (and is) easily corruptible.

In essence, the petrodollar system was an agreement that the US would guarantee the House of Saud’s survival.

In exchange, Saudi Arabia would:

  1. Use its dominant position in OPEC to ensure that all oil transactions would only happen in US dollars.

  2. Recycle the many billions of US dollars from oil revenue into American weapons manufacturers and infrastructure companies—and critically, into US Treasuries. This let the US issue more debt and finance previously unimaginable budget deficits. By 1977, at least 20% of all Treasuries held abroad were in Saudi hands.

  3. Guarantee the price of oil within limits acceptable to the US and prevent another oil embargo.

Oil is the largest and most strategic commodity market in the world.

As you can see in the chart below, it dwarfs all other major commodity markets combined.

Every country needs oil. And if foreign countries need US dollars to buy oil, they have a very compelling reason to hold large dollar reserves.

Think about it… If Italy wants to buy oil from Kuwait, it has to purchase US dollars on the foreign exchange market to pay for the oil first.

This creates a huge artificial market for US dollars.

In part, this is what differentiates the US dollar from a purely local currency, like the Mexican peso.

The dollar is just a middleman. But it’s used in countless transactions amounting to trillions of dollars that have nothing to do with US products or services.

Since the oil market is so enormous, it acts as a benchmark for international trade. If foreign countries are already using dollars for oil, it’s just easier to use the dollar for other international trade.

In addition to nearly all oil sales, the US dollar is used for about 80% of all international transactions.

This gives the US unmatched geopolitical leverage.

The US can sanction or exclude virtually any country from the US dollar-based financial system at the flip of a switch. By extension, it can also cut off any country from the vast majority of international trade.

The petrodollar system is why people and businesses everywhere in the world take US dollars. Other countries have had little choice over this.

Today, the biggest US exports are dollars and government debt. The US government can create unlimited quantities of both… from nothing.

It requires no effort to create US dollars, which can then be exchanged for real things like French wine, Italian cars, electronics from Korea, or Chinese manufactured goods.

Ultimately, the petrodollar boosts the US dollar’s purchasing power. It entices foreigners to soak up many of the new currency units the Fed creates.

The system helps create a deeper, more liquid market for the dollar and US Treasuries.

It also helps the US keep interest rates artificially low. This allows the US government to finance enormous and permanent deficits. Otherwise, this would be impossible without destroying the currency through money printing and inflation.

The petrodollar allows the US to finance the world’s largest military, which is bigger than the next seven largest militaries combined.

The petrodollar has also allowed the US to spend astronomical amounts of money on welfare and other benefits for over half of its population. It gives Americans a much higher standard of living than they would have otherwise.

In short, the petrodollar is the ultimate enabler of big government.

The US government could never have become as powerful without it.

It’s hard to overstate how much the petrodollar system benefits the US. It’s the bedrock of the US financial system.

And it’s the reason the US political elite pamper the Saudis.

Bretton Woods lasted 27 years. So far, the petrodollar has lasted over 40 years.

I think we’re on the cusp of another paradigm shift in the international financial system. It will be at least as fundamental as the end of Bretton Woods in 1971.

For decades, the petrodollar system has allowed the US government and many Americans to live way beyond their means.

The US takes this unique position for granted. But it will disappear once the petrodollar system breaks down.

When that happens, I expect severe inflation.

This will likely be the tipping point…

Afterward, the US government will be desperate enough to implement capital controls, people controls, nationalization of retirement savings, and other forms of wealth confiscation.

I urge you to prepare for the economic and sociopolitical fallout while you still can. Expect bigger government, less freedom, shrinking prosperity… and possibly worse.

It probably won’t happen tomorrow. But it’s clear where this trend is headed.

One day soon, Americans may wake up to a new reality.

Once the petrodollar system kicks the bucket and the dollar loses its status as the world’s premier reserve currency, you will have few, if any, options.

The sad truth is, most people have no idea how bad things could get, let alone how to prepare…

Yet there are straightforward steps you can start taking today to protect your savings and yourself from the financial and sociopolitical effects of the collapse of the petrodollar.

We recently released a special Guide to Surviving and Thriving During an Economic Collapse. Click here to download the PDF now.

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Is Korea Just A Smokescreen?

Authored by Bryan McBride via Mises Canada,

Is Korea just a smokescreen?

In my last article (Sticking the arson charge on a couple of patsies) I questioned why North Korea’s nuclear program was attracting such attention from the United States. North Korea is a very poor and backwards country whose bellicosity reflects the regime’s need for an external enemy like the United States to galvanize domestic support. Attacking America and its allies in the region is the last thing North Korea’s leaders would want to do as such an attack would guarantee an American response that would be sure to destroy their lives, their government and the lives of millions of innocent Korean civilians.

However, this month I was made aware of another possible reason for the attention being paid to North Korea and its nuclear program.

What if the escalating tensions over Korea are just a smokescreen intended to legitimize an American military buildup in the region aimed at intimidating China?

In 2011, former U.S. President Barack Obama announced a change in U.S. foreign policy that was termed a ‘Pivot to Asia.’ The official thinking was that as China and the emerging countries of South-East Asia gained in economic importance, it made sense to devote more military and diplomatic attention to the region while reducing the attention paid to Europe and the Middle East.

Of course, observers also saw the pivot as a response to the rising economic, political and military power of a resurgent China. Just as the U.S. sought to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War with a string of encircling alliances and economic agreements, so America today seeks to keep China in check through military alliances with East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Chinese leaders acutely resent continued American dominance in a region they consider their own backyard. However, they are not reckless and do not seek to engage in a potentially catastrophic military confrontation. Instead, they have spent the past few years establishing institutions and agreements which, taken together, will displace the U.S. dollar from the centre of the global financial system. Empire is expensive. Just as the British were forced to decolonize in the 1960s once the pound lost its reserve currency status in the years following World War II, so too will the demise of the dollar force American retreat from global (and, most importantly for the Chinese, East Asian) hegemony.

At this point, it is worthwhile to recall how the U.S. dollar became (and remains) the world’s reserve currency in the first place. At the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, it was agreed that all currencies would have a fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, which itself would have a fixed value in terms of gold. From 1945 until 1971, foreign central banks were allowed to exchange their accumulated dollars for gold at a price of $35/ounce. As the U.S. dollar was literally ‘as good as gold,’ commodities were priced in dollars and foreign governments found it desirable to accumulate and hold dollars in order to purchase imports.

However, by the late 1960s the system was coming under stress. The value of the U.S. dollars in circulation abroad was far greater than the value of the 8000 tons of gold held by the U.S. Treasury in Fort Knox, Kentucky. In order to stop foreign governments stripping the U.S. of its gold reserves, in 1971 U.S. President Richard Nixon ‘temporarily suspended’ the convertibility of dollars for gold. Predictably, while a dollar bought 1/35th of an ounce of gold in 1971, by 1980 it only bought 1/850th of an ounce.

To try to arrest the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar Richard Nixon, in one of the last acts of his presidency, sent newly-appointed Treasury Secretary William Simon to Saudi Arabia in 1974. The agreement he came away with reinforced the dollar’s position as the global reserve currency by replacing gold convertibility with oil convertibility. In exchange for agreeing to price and sell oil in dollars and to lend their newly-acquired oil wealth to the U.S. by purchasing U.S. government Treasury bonds, the U.S. agreed to provide military aid and equipment to the Saudis.

To this day, oil continues to be priced and sold in dollars. As everyone therefore needs U.S. dollars (often referred to as petro-dollars) in order to purchase crucial energy imports, the dollar has remained the world’s reserve currency.

However, China has recently established two complementary markets aimed at removing this crucial pillar of dollar support. First, in April 2016 the Shanghai Gold Exchange launched a yuan-denominated gold price fix in order to become a price maker in a market historically dominated by London and New York. Uniquely, though, while in London and New York traders deal mainly in paper contracts for gold which are very rarely exercised, the Shanghai market is primarily a spot market whose participants purchase physical gold, usually in the form of one kilogram bars.

Second, within the last two months China has announced its intention to offer a crude oil futures contract denominated in yuan before the end of the year. This contract will establish a benchmark price for oil in yuan to compete with the dollar-denominated oil prices set in New York. To make the yuan-denominated contracts more attractive to oil exporters, the Chinese are emphasizing the convertibility of yuan for gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange. As the economist and lawyer Jim Rickards put it recently:

“China, Russia and Iran are coordinating a new international monetary order that does not involve U.S. dollars. It has several parts, which together spell dollar doom. The first part is that China will buy oil from Russia and Iran in exchange for yuan.

 

“The yuan is not a major reserve currency, so it’s not an especially attractive asset for Russia or Iran to hold. China solves that problem by offering to convert yuan into gold on a spot basis on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

 

“This marks the beginning of the end of the petro-dollar system that Henry Kissinger worked out with Saudi Arabia in 1974, after Nixon abandoned gold.”

Chinese yuan with the gold-convertibility of the pre-1971 U.S. dollar should prove an attractive alternative to the dollar for major oil exporters. Just this past month Saudi Arabia, the country at the centre of the petro-dollar arrangement, agreed to purchase S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia. By making this purchase, the Saudis are signaling that they no longer feel obliged to rely on America for their arms as laid out in the 1974 petro-dollar agreement. Might this historic first signal a repudiation of their commitment to price their oil in dollars as well?

If so, the end of the dollar is at hand, and with it the beginning of the end of the American empire. Weaker countries like Iraq and Libya which tried to price their oil exports in, respectively, euros and gold-backed dinars were invaded and bombed by the U.S. in order to maintain dollar supremacy. Given this history, the threat to American power posed by a yuan-denominated global oil market may also be met with force.

This being the case, it is reasonable to question whether the American air and naval units being moved to Asia are in fact being sent to protect American allies from North Korean missiles.

Looking at the bigger picture, it seems more likely that the entire Korean issue is a smokescreen designed to provide cover for a military buildup intended to intimidate or even force China to abandon its challenge to the U.S. dollar. However, China is not Iraq or Libya. It is a major nuclear power. Trying to enforce continued dollar dominance in East Asia could very well end in catastrophe for America, East Asia and the entire world.

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The Intrigue At The Heart Of The Beijing-Riyadh-Washington Triangle

Authored by Valentin Katasonov via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Saudi Aramco (the Saudi Arabian Oil Company) is the world’s largest petroleum business. It owns more than 100 oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia with reserves of at least 264 billion barrels of oil, which is estimated to be approximately one-fourth of the world’s known reserves of this raw material. The company’s production figures do not give the full picture, as data exists only for a few years. But as an example, in 2013 Saudi Aramco produced 3.4 billion barrels of crude oil. Analysts calculate that every year the Saudi company extracts about twice as much oil and gas, in terms of barrels of oil equivalent, as the largest US company ExxonMobil. Interestingly, Saudi Aramco never appears in the rankings of the world’s largest oil producers, since it does not publish financial information such as profit, sales, assets, or market capitalization. Therefore America’s ExxonMobil and Chevron, China’s Sinopec and PetroChina, the Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, Great Britain’s BP, and France’s Total top the rankings. But everyone knows perfectly well that these leaders in the global oil industry are mere dwarfs compared to Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Aramco’s management set off a real bomb in early 2016 when they announced their plans to privatize part of the company through a stock market IPO. The proposal was to sell shares in Saudi Aramco equal to about 5% of the company. But an estimate of the company’s potential market price is needed in order to understand how much this would be in absolute terms. Almost the next day after the announcement of the potential sale of part of the company (in January 2016), the global media published a stunning evaluation by the independent oil analyst Mohammad Al Sabban, a former senior adviser to the Saudi Arabian oil ministry. He estimated the company’s worth at $10,000,000,000,000 (ten trillion USD). For comparison I should add that in 2016 the largest US oil company, ExxonMobil, barely exceeded $350 billion in share capital. And yes, It’s true that later on some of the hype in the assessments died down and more rational numbers were cited, most often $2 trillion. This meant that Saudi Arabia would be able to rake in approximately $100 billion from the sale of 5% of the company. But the company’s biggest trump card isn’t even the current record levels of oil production, but rather the reserves of hydrocarbon raw materials at Saudi Aramco’s disposal. And that’s a number that none of the companies named in the rankings of the global oil industry can even begin to approach.

At present, Riyadh adjusts and verifies the data on the hydrocarbon reserves in the fields owned by Saudi Aramco. Financial reports are painstakingly drafted in the needed formats for a public offering of shares. The company is being restructured to optimize the way it is organized and managed. And finally, a crucial step was taken to lower the taxes on the company’s profits. The traditional tax rate has been 90%, but this year it was set at 50%, which roughly corresponds to the level at which the leading Western oil companies are taxed. Lowering the tax rate raises dividends and makes the company a more attractive target for investment.

But beginning in early 2017, the estimates of Saudi Aramco’s market value have unexpectedly begun to decline. Appraisals began to surface that claimed the company’s share capital was only worth $1.5 trillion, then $1 trillion. The consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimated Saudi Aramco’s worth at $400 billion overall, bringing it closer to US-based ExxonMobil. And suddenly Western consultants began talking about the need to “discount” the value of the Saudi company, since it is state-owned, and in the securities markets all government issues are by convention sold “at a discount.” They point out that although Saudi Aramco currently pays 50% of its profits in taxes, since the government owns the company anyway it could restore the 90% tax rate tomorrow with a simple stroke of the pen. There is also the fear that oil prices could be low for the next few years, and Saudi Aramco might not be able to generate big profits. But none of that can remotely explain why the valuations of the Saudi company have dropped so precipitously in the past year.

Analysts blame this on the pressure Washington is putting on Riyadh, for reasons that have as much to do with the currency market as the oil market. And the pressure coming from Washington is, in turn, a response to the pressure also being exerted on Riyadh by China, which wants to buy oil from Saudi Aramco in renminbi instead of dollars. China is currently the world’s biggest oil importer, knocking the US out of its former first-place position. China is also the Saudi oil industry’s biggest customer, and Beijing does not want to pay extra for that black gold using American currency. A number of oil exporters that sell to China have already partially or entirely transitioned to settling their accounts in renminbi. Topping that list are Nigeria and Iran. Russia has also recently begun to sell some oil to China for renminbi (although only small percentage as yet).

Saudi Arabia, however, is heavily dependent on the US and has thus far refused to settle its accounts in renminbi. And that rebuff is costing the country dearly: Beijing is gradually finding other suppliers to take Riyadh’s place. The Saudis used to be China’s biggest foreign supplier of oil, but recently Russia has squeezed them out for that number-one spot. If this continues, Saudi Aramco might lose its Chinese market altogether.

Riyadh now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s hard to imagine what Saudi Arabia could be hit with from across the Atlantic, should it sell even one barrel of oil for Chinese currency. After all, that would be a direct challenge to the petrodollar, which was born right there in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, midwifed by the negotiations between Henry Kissinger and King Faisal.

Washington has sternly warned Riyadh to refrain from any ill-considered move to replace the dollar with the renminbi in its transactions with China, lest other players in the oil market follow suit (oil might then be traded for rubles, rupees, rials, etc.) And tomorrow that epidemic of transitioning to national currencies could infect other commodity markets. Incidentally, this year Beijing will begin to trade oil futures priced in renminbi on its commodity exchanges and claims that this is only the first step.

Voices have already been heard within the US president’s entourage that suggest blocking the listing of Saudi Aramco shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Signs have emerged of an organized campaign to short-sell the Saudi oil company. In light of that development, Riyadh has announced that it will put off its share listing until a later date. But its problem isn’t going to go away – Saudi Arabia will still have to make a choice between the dollar and the renminbi.

Although Beijing is upping its pressure on Riyadh, it is also simultaneously offering to directly buy out 5% of Saudi Aramco, while allowing the Saudis to forgo the usual ritual of listing shares on Western stock markets. And China is prepared to shell out a “fair” price (about $100 billion). The Chinese government has already announced that it is forming a consortium of energy and finance companies, plus China’s sovereign wealth fund, in order to purchase a “chunk” of the Saudi company. The Chinese media reports that that consortium is ready to become a cornerstone investor in Saudi Aramco.

Beijing’s winning move in its chess game against Washington has neutralized the US threat to disrupt the sale of Saudi Aramco, while simultaneously pushing Riyadh toward a decision to transition Saudi oil sales to the renminbi.

And so the plot thickens inside the Beijing-Riyadh-Washington triangle of intrigue.

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In A Dramatic Pivot, Shia Militia Leader Tells US: “Get Ready To Leave Iraq”

The Baghdad government and its paramilitary forces increasingly see American troop presence as the actual foreign menace.

A prominent Iraqi militia leader with close ties to Iran has told the United States to go home while also accusing US forces of not actually being interested in fighting ISIS: “Your forces should get ready to get out of our country once the excuse of Daesh’s presence is over," said Sheikh Qais al-Khazali, the commander of the Shiite PMU group Asaib (Popular Mobilization Unit), through the group's TV channel on Monday. The threatening statement was issued the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi publicly rejected Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's earlier suggestion that Iraqi paramilitary units who have for years fought Islamic State terrorists are actually "Iranian" and not Iraqi nationals.  

On Sunday Tillerson controversially asserted that Iranian "militias" need to leave Iraq as the fight against Islamic State militants was coming to an end while in Riyadh where he engaged in rare high level talks with Abadi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. “Certainly Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fighting against (the Islamic State group) is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said during a press conference in Riyadh, just before boarding a plane for Baghdad. "All foreign fighters need to go home,” he added.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday. Image source: Government of Iraq/Prime Minister's office.

But Iraqi PM Abadi pushed back against the Secretary of State in a face to face meeting in Baghdad on Monday. Abadi's words to Tillerson were publicized through a statement on the prime minister's official Facebook page posted late Monday, which has been translated by Zero Hedge (emphasis ours):

Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi during his meeting with the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured him that the fighters of al-Hash'd al Shaabi [PMU militias] are Iraqi fighters who fought terrorism and protected their country, they sacrificed in order to win against Daesh [ISIS], and that Hash'd al Shaabi is an official institution under the state. The Iraqi Constitution doesn’t allow for foreign armed groups under state institutions, and further said that we should encourage these fighters because they are the hope of our country and for the region.

And a separate statement issued earlier in the day by the prime minister's media office warned, "No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters.” So it appears, based on today's rebuttals, that the Iraqi government and its paramilitary forces increasingly see American troop presence as the actual foreign menace which potentially threatens Iraqi national sovereignty.

Interestingly, Abadi's defense of the PMU forces appears to hinge on Article 9 section 1A of the Iraqi Constitution

Tillerson's statements, however, are a reflection of the Washington foreign policy establishment's increased frustration at Shiite-led Iran’s expanding sway in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq. US regional allies Saudi Arabia and Israel are arguably even more frustrated, reflected in the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric coming out of both countries, and the fact that the two former enemies are finding more and more common ground against Iran and Syria.

But the US and its allies have created the very situation and conditions they now find untenable. In Syria the West's fueling of an international proxy war for regime change pushed President Assad to increasingly rely on Iranian forces in a now more than 6-year long war against both homegrown and foreign Sunni jihadists. Furthermore, Iran's chief paramilitary ally in the region, Hezbollah, has played an even bigger role in pushing out ISIS and other al-Qaeda linked insurgents from Syria's major cities.

In Iraq, Shiite parties have dominated politics since the U.S. toppled the Sunni-dominated secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Essentially, the neocons handed Baghdad to the very pro-Shia forces in Iraq that they now rant in frustration against, as is now commonly understood even among some of the very architects of Bush's war.

The ultimate fear from the perspective of the US-Israel-Saudi axis remains the possibility of, in the words of Henry Kissinger, "a Shia and pro-Iran territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut" and the establishment of a supposed "Iranian radical empire." For neocons, the next Middle East threat ever-looms ad infinitum (there will always be another boogeyman…and another, and another, and another…) as an excuse to maintain America's "forever wars" in the region.

And of course, Iraqi PM Abadi understands all of this very well – he further knows that American officials believe in the principle of "sovereignty" until they simply don't, that is, up until the point that US allied sovereign governments refuse to remain pliant puppets of American interests. In this case, the some 80,000 to 100,000 Iraqi PMU militias perceived by the US as being under Iranian influence and serving Iranian interests are considered by American and Saudi officials as intolerable, even while they fight ISIS.

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Israeli TV Shows Footage Of ISIS Training Camp On Israel’s Border

Last November Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country “won’t allow Islamic State figures or other enemy actors, under the cover of the war in Syria, to set up next to our borders,” but it appears this has already happened, to the point that a sizable ISIS training camp has been set up just across the Golan Heights border with Israel. Though Syrian al-Qaeda has long been a mainstay in southern Syria along Israel's border, this constitutes the first widespread public acknowledgement and confirmation of a significant ISIS base of operations in the Golan region.

Israeli media this week is reporting news of the base camp after Israel's Channel 2 aired an extensive report with video and photographic evidence of what's being described as a training and recruitment center which has already attracted hundreds of new terror recruits. Channel 2 is one of Israel's most visible and established news broadcast channels and operates under "The Second Authority for Television and Radio" licensed by the Knesset and the Ministry of Communications. According to the Times of Israel

Israel’s Channel 2 said the commanders have made their way to an Islamic State-controlled enclave “close to the border” with Israel. They have set up a training camp to which they have recruited 300 local youths, said the report, which showed footage apparently of the camp and training sessions.

 

Among the commanders is one of Islamic State’s most notorious recruiters, Abu Hamam Jazrawi, the TV report said.

 

The commanders are also now running Islamic State internet propaganda campaigns from their new base, in place of the former campaign headquarters in Raqqa, the extremists’ former de facto capital in northwest Syria where the fight to oust them has entered what appear to be its final stages.

Featured in Israel's Channel 2 broadcast: Islamic State training camp (Channel 2 screenshot)

Channel 2 screenshot purporting to show the ISIS base camp just across Israel's border.

The Channel 2 exposé further notes the presence of multiple senior Islamic State commanders at the camp, which suggests the terror group could be attempting to relocate its assets to Syria's south as it appears to be crumbling with the onset of SDF, Syrian Army, and Russian forces in the eastern part of the country. 

The Times of Israel acknowledges another shocking fact, which has itself become an open secret of sorts among Israeli defense and policy officials: what it calls the long lasting "live and let live" relationship with al-Qaeda in the region. The Times of Israel explains

Both the IS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, have been set up on Israel’s borders for years.

 

Despite a relatively long-lasting “live and let live” relationship with these groups, the IDF has warned of a potential — some say inevitable — conflict with them and has been preparing to respond to cross-border attacks.

Though the IDF has "warned" of some "potential" direct action against the most notorious terrorist groups in the world which seem to be comfortably ensconced within eyesight of Israeli border posts, it has never taken significant direct action against these groups, instead routinely targeting the Syrian army, Iranian-linked militias, and Hezbollah with airstrikes. This is a general reflection of the Israeli strategy of regime change in Syria, which has resulted in a well-documented history of assistance to al-Qaeda affiliated rebel groups.

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that this relationship involved weapons transfers, salary payments to anti-Assad fighters, and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, the latter which was widely promoted in photo ops picturing Netanyahu himself greeting militants. As even former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell once directly told the Israeli public, Israel's "dangerous game" in Syria consists in getting in bed with al-Qaeda in order to fight Shia Iran. 

Channel 2 News and the The Times of Israel also featured an image from a prior video of a lone ISIS militant holding an Islamic State flag with the Israeli side of the Golan border in clear view.


The Times of Israel
featured the above image: "Threats from across the border in a video released by an Islamic State affiliate on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on September 3, 2016."

In recent years, multiple current and former Israeli defense officials have gone so far as to say that ISIS is ultimately preferable to Iran and Assad. For example, former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren in 2014 surprised the audience at Colorado's Aspen Ideas Festival when he said in comments related to ISIS that, "the lesser evil is the Sunnis over the Shias." Oren, while articulating Israeli defense policy, fully acknowledged he thought ISIS was "the lesser evil." 

Likewise, for Netanyahu and other Israeli officials the chief concern was never the black clad death cult which filmed itself beheading Americans and burning people alive, but the possibility of, in the words of Henry Kissinger, "a Shia and pro-Iran territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut" and establishment of "an Iranian radical empire."

With Israeli media now widely reporting the Islamic State's presence along Israel's border we wonder why such a clear and documented fact isn't cause for bigger outrage. Though Israel's Channel 2 bombshell report aired earlier this week, there's been resounding silence in international press. ISIS is camping out along Israel's border, yet all we hear about is the supposed "Iranian threat" to Israel's existence.

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“Is Trump To Blame For The Crisis Of American Democracy?” – Watch Today’s Munk Debate

Is Donald Trump precipitating a crisis of American democracy?

For some the answer is an emphatic “yes”. Trump’s disregard for the institutions and political norms of U.S. democracy is imperiling the Republic. The sooner his presidency collapses the sooner the healing can begin and the ship of state righted.

For others Trump is not the villain in this drama. Rather, his young presidency is the conduit, not the cause, of Americans’ deep-seated anger towards a privileged and self-dealing Washington elite. Trump’s disruption of politics as usual is what America needs to start the process of restoring democracy by the people, for the people.

Is Trump the cause or the symptom: that is the topic of today’s semi-annual Munk Debates, which start at 7pm ET in Toronto, and where arguing for the resolution will be senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and syndicated columnist with The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, Jr. He will be joined by Andrew Sullivan, New York magazine editor and blogger.

Speaking against the resolution will be former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich as well as Kimberley Strassel, senior editorial writer and member of the editorial board for the Wall Street Journal.

Rudyard Griffiths, director and moderator of the Munk Debates, says: “The future and fate of American democracy concerns everyone. This debate promises to bring into sharp contrast the critical issues driving a tumultuous moment in American politics.”

The Autumn 2017 Munk Debate will move the motion: be it resolved, American democracy is in its worst crisis in a generation and Donald J. Trump is to blame

The Munk Debates are Canada’s preeminent forum for leading thinkers to discuss the pressing issues of our time. Two debates are held each year in Toronto, one in the spring and one in the autumn. Previous Munk Debate participants include former British prime minister Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, Samantha Power, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, Dambisa Moyo, Mia Farrow, Malcolm Gladwell, Nigel Farage, Simon Schama, Louse Arbour and Glenn Greenwald.

Watch the debate live below (link).

http://WarMachines.com

Live Feed From The Munk Debates: “Is Trump To Blame For The Crisis Of American Democracy?”

Is Donald Trump precipitating a crisis of American democracy?

For some the answer is an emphatic “yes”. Trump’s disregard for the institutions and political norms of U.S. democracy is imperiling the Republic. The sooner his presidency collapses the sooner the healing can begin and the ship of state righted.

For others Trump is not the villain in this drama. Rather, his young presidency is the conduit, not the cause, of Americans’ deep-seated anger towards a privileged and self-dealing Washington elite. Trump’s disruption of politics as usual is what America needs to start the process of restoring democracy by the people, for the people.

Is Trump the cause or the symptom: that is the topic of today’s semi-annual Munk Debates, which start at 7pm ET in Toronto, and where arguing for the resolution will be senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and syndicated columnist with The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, Jr. He will be joined by Andrew Sullivan, New York magazine editor and blogger.

Speaking against the resolution will be former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich as well as Kimberley Strassel, senior editorial writer and member of the editorial board for the Wall Street Journal.

Rudyard Griffiths, director and moderator of the Munk Debates, says: “The future and fate of American democracy concerns everyone. This debate promises to bring into sharp contrast the critical issues driving a tumultuous moment in American politics.”

The Autumn 2017 Munk Debate will move the motion: be it resolved, American democracy is in its worst crisis in a generation and Donald J. Trump is to blame

The Munk Debates are Canada’s preeminent forum for leading thinkers to discuss the pressing issues of our time. Two debates are held each year in Toronto, one in the spring and one in the autumn. Previous Munk Debate participants include former British prime minister Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, Samantha Power, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, Dambisa Moyo, Mia Farrow, Malcolm Gladwell, Nigel Farage, Simon Schama, Louse Arbour and Glenn Greenwald.

Watch the debate live below (link).

http://WarMachines.com

Yes, The US Government Has Experimented With Controlling Hurricanes

Authored by Derrick Broze via TheAntiMedia.org,

The 2017 hurricane season has wrought more damage on the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast of the United States than any season in the last decade. Tropical Storm Harvey smashed into the Gulf, temporarily swallowing Houston and other low lying areas. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, leaving millions without power and water.

Along with the gusts of wind, property damage, and loss of life, this hurricane season also sparked a wide range of conspiracy theories regarding the possibility that the U.S. government or some other government could be manipulating the weather to strengthen hurricanes.

These theories range from the idea that planes were spraying before and during the storms in order to help them grow and/or direct them at specific targets to others who believe the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), or a similar device, was used to heat up the ionosphere and “charge” the storms to cause more destruction.

There are dozens of YouTube channels where individuals focus specifically on weather manipulation and modification. They claim to have the expertise to study radar images and determine whether artificial elements were added to developing hurricanes. If you are interested in that type of research, see this. However, I will not be addressing the issue of whether or not the U.S. is currently manipulating hurricanes. I do not have the technical background to accurately report in that area. Instead, I will focus on the history of weather modification as it pertains to hurricanes. If you have limited knowledge on weather modification — or, perhaps, you even think it is a hoax — I encourage you to read on. If you are familiar with the history or science of weather modification, I also encourage you to read on, as I have included details I have not seen covered elsewhere.

The theories surrounding possible hurricane manipulation have grown to the point that the “mainstream” media has been forced to respond. In early September, Space.com released an article titled “No, We Can’t Control Hurricanes from Space,” which attempted to debunk these theories. “The short answer is that we can’t control weather at any scale, and hurricanes are no exception,” Space.com wrote. Nevertheless, if we go back to 2015, we find an article from Popular Mechanics matter-of-factly stating, “We Could Reduce the Number of Hurricanes By Injecting Particles Into the Atmosphere.” The article discusses research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that concluded sulfates could be spread into the Earth’s stratosphere to “dampen” hurricanes over the next 50 years. The scientists do not claim to be able to “steer” or direct hurricanes, but they do say they have the power to slow them down by 50 percent.

A (Brief) History of Weather Modification

Despite these modest statements, the history of weather modification and the desire to manipulate hurricanes has a history stretching back at least 100 years to people often known as “rainmakers.” The rainmakers were men who studied “pluviculture,” or the act of attempting to artificially create rain, usually to fight drought. Most of these men were seen as scammers, traveling salesman pitching fantasy ideas to the gullible about creating rain. However, one of the most successful rainmakers was Charles Hatfield. Born in 1875, Hatfield migrated to Southern California and studied pluviculture, eventually creating a secret mixture of 23 chemicals he said could induce rain. Using his secret mixture, Hatfield successfully created storms several times and began to find work creating rain.

In 1915, Hatfield began working for the San Diego city council to produce enough rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield was told he would receive $10,000 once the reservoir was filled. In early January 1915, rain began pouring down over the dam, growing heavier with each day that passed. On January 20, the dam broke, causing mass flooding that led to an estimated 20 deaths. Hatfield told the press he was not to blame, stating the city should have taken precautions. The city refused to pay Hatfield unless he also accepted liability for the damage and deaths. After legal battles ensued, Hatfield was absolved of any wrongdoing when the storm was officially ruled an act of God. However, due to the ruling, Hatfield’s work was seen as a failure, and he was (mostly) relegated to forgotten pages of history.

Beginning in 1947, General Electric, the U.S. Army Corps, the U.S. Air Force, and the Office of Naval Research began attempting to modify hurricanes. The main scientist behind the research was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning chemist named Irving Langmuir. While working as a chemist with GE, Langmuir began to hypothesize about manipulating hurricanes. In October 1947, the researchers decided to seed a hurricane with ice pellets. The hurricane had been drifting to the northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, but after being seeded, the hurricane grew stronger and crashed into Savannah, Georgia.

There was a public backlash and threats of lawsuits against Langmuir and the research team. Despite Langmuir claiming responsibility for affecting the storm, researchers concluded his work did not cause the change in direction. The lawsuits were dropped, but Langmuir continued to work on weather modification. It’s not hard to imagine the U.S. military and General Electric wanting to distance themselves from the destruction by calling their own project a failure. Interestingly, Wikipedia references a 1965 article from the Sun-Sentinel titled “Betsy’s Turnaround Stirs Big Question.” (Betsy was another hurricane reported to have been modified.) The article, written more than a decade later, apparently reports that a hurricane in 1947 “went whacky” and that “[t]welve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.” Unfortunately, there is not a digital copy of the article available to verify the claims on Wikipedia.

Most reports on Project Cirrus claim the 1947 hurricane was the only attempt, but a look at records maintained by General Electric indicate there were several more tests on hurricanes. The records list Albuquerque, New Mexico; Mt. Washington, New Hampshire; Burbank, California; and several locations in New York as test sites for cloud seeding with silver iodide. Another section lists cloud seeding attempts in Honduras by Langmuir. The report stated:

“In 1948 and 1949, Langmuir visited Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica to study tropical cloud formations, and particularly to learn what was being done by Joe Silverthorne, a commercial cloud seeder, in seeding clouds for the United Fruit Company. The work was being conducted for the purpose of testing out the possibility of controlling rainfall, and particularly in the hope of stopping blow-downs that result from winds associated with thunderstorms, which occasionally destroy large stands of fruit trees.”

The GE report is well worth your time and attention. It details the contracts between the U.S. military and GE, as well as other historical details regarding GE’s attempts to modify weather.

More recent examples of attempts at weather modification involve programs known as Project Stormfury, Project Cirrus, and Operation Popeye. Project Stormfury was a U.S. government project aimed at weakening Tropical Cyclones by seeding them with silver iodide. From 1961 to 1971, researchers sprayed silver iodide into hurricanes, believing the supercooled water might disrupt the structure of the storm. Officially, the project has been ruled a failure, but it was not the only attempt to manipulate weather in this time period.

One example of seeding a hurricane that may have actually been successful was Hurricane Betsy in 1965. As the Sun-Sentinel reported in 1965:

“Hurricane Betsy was building strength; it looked like it was aiming for South Carolina, posing no threat to South Florida. But on Saturday, Sept. 4, the storm whirled to a stop, about 350 miles east of Jacksonville. When Betsy started moving again on Sunday, she had changed directions. The storm plowed through the Bahamas Monday night, then mauled South Florida a day later.”

Officially, the U.S. government says Hurricane Betsy was designated to be seeded but that apparently, that decision was changed at the last moment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalled the event on the 50th anniversary:

“Dr. Joanne Simpson, Project Director, had ordered the fleet of Navy and Weather Bureau research aircraft to deploy to Puerto Rico on August 28th.  Over the next two days, the planes monitored the storm’s slow progress toward the designated part of the ocean where they could carry out their weather modification experiments.  By August 31st, Betsy had just managed to crawl into the area as a hurricane, so a seeding experiment was scheduled for the next day.  The first aircraft had already taken off from Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, PR the morning of September 1st when word came from the National Hurricane Center that overnight Betsy had completed a loop in its track and was now headed southward and out of the allowed seeding area.  The seeding experiments were called off and the mission changed to a ‘dry run’, where the same patterns were flown but no silver iodide was released into the storm.  Unfortunately, no one informed the press which had been alerted to STORMFURY’s seeding intentions the previous day.”

The press and the public blamed the researchers for the 138 mph winds and destruction from Betsy. Congress was skeptical of further programs until the researchers were able to smooth things over. “I was totally unaware of the level of emotion and hostility that was directed against anything that had to do with cloud seeding,”  Joanne Simpson, one time head of Project Stormfury, told NASA.  Simpson would go on to work on a cloud-seeding project called FACE (the Florida Area Cumulus Experiment).

With Hurricane Betsy and the 1947 hurricane, we have two situations where cloud-seeding was reportedly happening, and we have two disastrous outcomes. In both situations, the scientists claimed no responsibility, and no one was held accountable. Again, is it that hard to imagine a government official (or a scientist under government contract) lying about the nature of the work? Especially if that work resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and deaths?

The NOAA even acknowledges that “[s]ince no one at Project STORMFURY nor in the Weather Bureau had advised the public or the press that the actual seeding of the storm had been scrubbed, many people believed it had been carried out and the link to its odd path seemed plausible.  Although attempts to clarify the facts about STORMFURY and Betsy were made after the fact, the notion of a link persists to the present.”

Weather as a Weapon of War

Operation Popeye was a now-declassified attempt by the U.S. military to modify the weather in Southeast Asia from 1967 to 1972. The U.S. military conducted cloud-seeding operations over the Ho-Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. Cloud-seeding typically involves planes flying overhead and spraying silver iodide into the air. The goal in Vietnam was to extend monsoon season and flood out the enemy. It was reported that the operations were “tightly controlled” by Henry Kissinger, who was serving as Secretary of State at the time. Operation Popeye is the first modern example (that we know of) where attempts were made to use weather as a weapon of war.

In April 1976, the New York Times wrote about the situation and the challenges weather modification created:

Can a nation that tampers with natural balances deny responsibility for what follows? This question, together with recognition that United States policy condemns warfare aimed at civilians, prompted Senator Claiborne Pell in 1973 to introduce a resolution calling for an international treaty to prohibit environmental warfare ‘or the carrying out of any research or experimentation directed thereto.’ The Senate voted 82 to 10 to approve the resolution, which lacks force of law.”

The international treaty referred to is the Environmental Modification Treaty implemented and signed by the United States and other nations to halt global weather modification in the wake of the bad publicity. The Times noted:

Unfortunately it is far weaker than the Senate resolution. For example, it fails to prohibit military research or development of environmental?modification techniques, and allows all ‘peaceful’ work on such things.”

So as long as a nation claims they are conducting peaceful weather modification, they are not violating the treaty. Further, there is no international body to enforce and punish violations of the treaty.

The Times also mentions the Department of Defense’s “Climate Dynamics” program, formerly known as Project Nile Blue. A 1976 report from Milton Leitenberg for the Federation of Scientists elaborates on the origins of Nile Blue. “Beginning in 1969, ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency in the U.S. Department of Defense, began funding a project called “Nile Blue (Climate Modification Research),” Leitenberg wrote.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was the predecessor to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a secretive agency within the  Department of Defense. DARPA is known for developing exotic and emerging technologies for the military. These reports listed above indicated that Project STORMFURY and Project Nile Blue were some of the earliest known military operations conducted in the name of manipulating the weather, including hurricanes.

Leitenberg also noted two examples of times the U.S. has been accused of using weather modification on other nations. The was first related to alleged cloud seeding over Cuba in 1969 and 1970 in an alleged effort to destroy the sugar crops. In the second case, the director of the geographical research center of the University of Mexico implied that the United States was to blame for the effects of Hurricane Fifi over Honduras in 1974. A story from The Naples Daily News on July 15, 1975, expanded upon this claim:

Dr. Jorge Vivo, director of the Geographic Research Center of the University of Mexico, said Monday the United States ‘artificially detoured’ the hurricane to Honduras to save Florida’s tourist industry. But Neil Frank, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Monday night U.S. officials did nothing to alter the hurricane’s path. Vivo told the newspaper El Sol de Mexico he held the United States responsible for 10,000 deaths and millions of dollars in damage caused by Fifi in the Central American nation. He said he believed U.S. weather authorities used silver iodide against Fifi as part of what he called ‘a systematic action’ to change its course.

More recently, we have seen accusations that the CIA is manipulating the weather.  In February 2015, while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, Professor Alan Robock discussed the possibility that the CIA is using the weather as a weapon of war. Robock has conducted research for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in the past. Robock said he was phoned by two men claiming to be from the CIA and asking whether or not it was possible for hostile governments to use geoengineering against the United States. Geoengineering is another form of weather modification that involves a range of different proposals for combatting climate change.

Despite a lack of concrete evidence to back these claims, we know the military has a history of testing weather modification and has specifically mentioned using the weather as a weapon. For example, In a 1996 document entitled “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather by 2025”  the U.S. Air Force discussed a number of proposals for using the weather as a weapon.

Whatever view you take of these projects, the fact remains that they helped spur the movement towards using computer models to attempt to predict the weather. Quite simply, the history of computer model weather prediction is intertwined with the military’s attempts to modify the weather. Weather historian James Fleming writes that the two men largely responsible for computer modeling are Vladimir Zworykin, an RCA engineer noted for his early work in television technology, and John von Neumann, a mathematician with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1945, Zworykin was promoting the idea that electronic computers could process and analyze mass amounts of meteorological data and issue accurate forecasts.

The eventual goal to be attained is the international organization of means to study weather phenomena as global phenomena and to channel the world’s weather, as far as possible, in such a way as to minimize the damage from catastrophic disturbances, and otherwise to benefit the world to the greatest extent by improved climatic conditions where ­possible,” Zworykin wrote. According to Fleming, Neumann agreed with this outlook, stating, “I agree with you completely. This would provide a basis for scientific approach[es] to influencing the weather.

Modern Hurricane Modification

In 2005, following the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina, USA Today wrote:

In fact, military officials and weather modification experts could be on the verge of joining forces to better gauge, react to, and possibly nullify future hostile forces churned out by Mother Nature.”

On November 10, 2005, Dr. Joseph Golden, former manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and veteran of Project STORMFURY, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Prediction & Prevention, warning about the need for hurricane modification.

After the horrendous devastation and loss of life from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I have been asked several times about the possibility of hurricane modification,” Golden stated. “I firmly believe that we are in a much better position, both with the science and the undergirding technology, than we were when Project STORMFURY was terminated. The need for a renewed national commitment and funding for weather modification research has become more urgent.”

Golden is also involved the Hurricane Aerosol and Microphysics Program (HAMP). In 2010, he gave a presentation discussing how the Department of Homeland Security asked the NOAA to organize a workshop on possible new scientific theory and approaches to hurricane modification in February 2008.

It seems likely that various agencies of the U.S. government began heavily investing in studying weather modification following the destructive hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2008. The idea that the U.S. government could be experimenting with controlling or steering hurricanes may sound like fantasy, but the fact of the matter is the government continues to invest in hurricane modification research. Is it possible that the U.S. government, under the direction of the CIA or the DOD, is working with private industries like General Electric to continue experimenting with weather modification technology? Should the public trust that government officials would fess up to secret experiments?

http://WarMachines.com

The US Government Has Experimented With Controlling Hurricanes

Authored by Derrick Broze via TheAntiMedia.org,

The 2017 hurricane season has wrought more damage on the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast of the United States than any season in the last decade. Tropical Storm Harvey smashed into the Gulf, temporarily swallowing Houston and other low lying areas. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, leaving millions without power and water.

Along with the gusts of wind, property damage, and loss of life, this hurricane season also sparked a wide range of conspiracy theories regarding the possibility that the U.S. government or some other government could be manipulating the weather to strengthen hurricanes.

These theories range from the idea that planes were spraying before and during the storms in order to help them grow and/or direct them at specific targets to others who believe the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), or a similar device, was used to heat up the ionosphere and “charge” the storms to cause more destruction.

There are dozens of YouTube channels where individuals focus specifically on weather manipulation and modification. They claim to have the expertise to study radar images and determine whether artificial elements were added to developing hurricanes. If you are interested in that type of research, see this. However, I will not be addressing the issue of whether or not the U.S. is currently manipulating hurricanes. I do not have the technical background to accurately report in that area. Instead, I will focus on the history of weather modification as it pertains to hurricanes. If you have limited knowledge on weather modification — or, perhaps, you even think it is a hoax — I encourage you to read on. If you are familiar with the history or science of weather modification, I also encourage you to read on, as I have included details I have not seen covered elsewhere.

The theories surrounding possible hurricane manipulation have grown to the point that the “mainstream” media has been forced to respond. In early September, Space.com released an article titled “No, We Can’t Control Hurricanes from Space,” which attempted to debunk these theories. “The short answer is that we can’t control weather at any scale, and hurricanes are no exception,” Space.com wrote. Nevertheless, if we go back to 2015, we find an article from Popular Mechanics matter-of-factly stating, “We Could Reduce the Number of Hurricanes By Injecting Particles Into the Atmosphere.” The article discusses research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that concluded sulfates could be spread into the Earth’s stratosphere to “dampen” hurricanes over the next 50 years. The scientists do not claim to be able to “steer” or direct hurricanes, but they do say they have the power to slow them down by 50 percent.

A (Brief) History of Weather Modification

Despite these modest statements, the history of weather modification and the desire to manipulate hurricanes has a history stretching back at least 100 years to people often known as “rainmakers.” The rainmakers were men who studied “pluviculture,” or the act of attempting to artificially create rain, usually to fight drought. Most of these men were seen as scammers, traveling salesman pitching fantasy ideas to the gullible about creating rain. However, one of the most successful rainmakers was Charles Hatfield. Born in 1875, Hatfield migrated to Southern California and studied pluviculture, eventually creating a secret mixture of 23 chemicals he said could induce rain. Using his secret mixture, Hatfield successfully created storms several times and began to find work creating rain.

In 1915, Hatfield began working for the San Diego city council to produce enough rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield was told he would receive $10,000 once the reservoir was filled. In early January 1915, rain began pouring down over the dam, growing heavier with each day that passed. On January 20, the dam broke, causing mass flooding that led to an estimated 20 deaths. Hatfield told the press he was not to blame, stating the city should have taken precautions. The city refused to pay Hatfield unless he also accepted liability for the damage and deaths. After legal battles ensued, Hatfield was absolved of any wrongdoing when the storm was officially ruled an act of God. However, due to the ruling, Hatfield’s work was seen as a failure, and he was (mostly) relegated to forgotten pages of history.

Beginning in 1947, General Electric, the U.S. Army Corps, the U.S. Air Force, and the Office of Naval Research began attempting to modify hurricanes. The main scientist behind the research was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning chemist named Irving Langmuir. While working as a chemist with GE, Langmuir began to hypothesize about manipulating hurricanes. In October 1947, the researchers decided to seed a hurricane with ice pellets. The hurricane had been drifting to the northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, but after being seeded, the hurricane grew stronger and crashed into Savannah, Georgia.

There was a public backlash and threats of lawsuits against Langmuir and the research team. Despite Langmuir claiming responsibility for affecting the storm, researchers concluded his work did not cause the change in direction. The lawsuits were dropped, but Langmuir continued to work on weather modification. It’s not hard to imagine the U.S. military and General Electric wanting to distance themselves from the destruction by calling their own project a failure. Interestingly, Wikipedia references a 1965 article from the Sun-Sentinel titled “Betsy’s Turnaround Stirs Big Question.” (Betsy was another hurricane reported to have been modified.) The article, written more than a decade later, apparently reports that a hurricane in 1947 “went whacky” and that “[t]welve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.” Unfortunately, there is not a digital copy of the article available to verify the claims on Wikipedia.

Most reports on Project Cirrus claim the 1947 hurricane was the only attempt, but a look at records maintained by General Electric indicate there were several more tests on hurricanes. The records list Albuquerque, New Mexico; Mt. Washington, New Hampshire; Burbank, California; and several locations in New York as test sites for cloud seeding with silver iodide. Another section lists cloud seeding attempts in Honduras by Langmuir. The report stated:

“In 1948 and 1949, Langmuir visited Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica to study tropical cloud formations, and particularly to learn what was being done by Joe Silverthorne, a commercial cloud seeder, in seeding clouds for the United Fruit Company. The work was being conducted for the purpose of testing out the possibility of controlling rainfall, and particularly in the hope of stopping blow-downs that result from winds associated with thunderstorms, which occasionally destroy large stands of fruit trees.”

The GE report is well worth your time and attention. It details the contracts between the U.S. military and GE, as well as other historical details regarding GE’s attempts to modify weather.

More recent examples of attempts at weather modification involve programs known as Project Stormfury, Project Cirrus, and Operation Popeye. Project Stormfury was a U.S. government project aimed at weakening Tropical Cyclones by seeding them with silver iodide. From 1961 to 1971, researchers sprayed silver iodide into hurricanes, believing the supercooled water might disrupt the structure of the storm. Officially, the project has been ruled a failure, but it was not the only attempt to manipulate weather in this time period.

One example of seeding a hurricane that may have actually been successful was Hurricane Betsy in 1965. As the Sun-Sentinel reported in 1965:

“Hurricane Betsy was building strength; it looked like it was aiming for South Carolina, posing no threat to South Florida. But on Saturday, Sept. 4, the storm whirled to a stop, about 350 miles east of Jacksonville. When Betsy started moving again on Sunday, she had changed directions. The storm plowed through the Bahamas Monday night, then mauled South Florida a day later.”

Officially, the U.S. government says Hurricane Betsy was designated to be seeded but that apparently, that decision was changed at the last moment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalled the event on the 50th anniversary:

“Dr. Joanne Simpson, Project Director, had ordered the fleet of Navy and Weather Bureau research aircraft to deploy to Puerto Rico on August 28th.  Over the next two days, the planes monitored the storm’s slow progress toward the designated part of the ocean where they could carry out their weather modification experiments.  By August 31st, Betsy had just managed to crawl into the area as a hurricane, so a seeding experiment was scheduled for the next day.  The first aircraft had already taken off from Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, PR the morning of September 1st when word came from the National Hurricane Center that overnight Betsy had completed a loop in its track and was now headed southward and out of the allowed seeding area.  The seeding experiments were called off and the mission changed to a ‘dry run’, where the same patterns were flown but no silver iodide was released into the storm.  Unfortunately, no one informed the press which had been alerted to STORMFURY’s seeding intentions the previous day.”

The press and the public blamed the researchers for the 138 mph winds and destruction from Betsy. Congress was skeptical of further programs until the researchers were able to smooth things over. “I was totally unaware of the level of emotion and hostility that was directed against anything that had to do with cloud seeding,”  Joanne Simpson, one time head of Project Stormfury, told NASA.  Simpson would go on to work on a cloud-seeding project called FACE (the Florida Area Cumulus Experiment).

With Hurricane Betsy and the 1947 hurricane, we have two situations where cloud-seeding was reportedly happening, and we have two disastrous outcomes. In both situations, the scientists claimed no responsibility, and no one was held accountable. Again, is it that hard to imagine a government official (or a scientist under government contract) lying about the nature of the work? Especially if that work resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and deaths?

The NOAA even acknowledges that “[s]ince no one at Project STORMFURY nor in the Weather Bureau had advised the public or the press that the actual seeding of the storm had been scrubbed, many people believed it had been carried out and the link to its odd path seemed plausible.  Although attempts to clarify the facts about STORMFURY and Betsy were made after the fact, the notion of a link persists to the present.”

Weather as a Weapon of War

Operation Popeye was a now-declassified attempt by the U.S. military to modify the weather in Southeast Asia from 1967 to 1972. The U.S. military conducted cloud-seeding operations over the Ho-Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. Cloud-seeding typically involves planes flying overhead and spraying silver iodide into the air. The goal in Vietnam was to extend monsoon season and flood out the enemy. It was reported that the operations were “tightly controlled” by Henry Kissinger, who was serving as Secretary of State at the time. Operation Popeye is the first modern example (that we know of) where attempts were made to use weather as a weapon of war.

In April 1976, the New York Times wrote about the situation and the challenges weather modification created:

Can a nation that tampers with natural balances deny responsibility for what follows? This question, together with recognition that United States policy condemns warfare aimed at civilians, prompted Senator Claiborne Pell in 1973 to introduce a resolution calling for an international treaty to prohibit environmental warfare ‘or the carrying out of any research or experimentation directed thereto.’ The Senate voted 82 to 10 to approve the resolution, which lacks force of law.”

The international treaty referred to is the Environmental Modification Treaty implemented and signed by the United States and other nations to halt global weather modification in the wake of the bad publicity. The Times noted:

Unfortunately it is far weaker than the Senate resolution. For example, it fails to prohibit military research or development of environmental?modification techniques, and allows all ‘peaceful’ work on such things.”

So as long as a nation claims they are conducting peaceful weather modification, they are not violating the treaty. Further, there is no international body to enforce and punish violations of the treaty.

The Times also mentions the Department of Defense’s “Climate Dynamics” program, formerly known as Project Nile Blue. A 1976 report from Milton Leitenberg for the Federation of Scientists elaborates on the origins of Nile Blue. “Beginning in 1969, ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency in the U.S. Department of Defense, began funding a project called “Nile Blue (Climate Modification Research),” Leitenberg wrote.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was the predecessor to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a secretive agency within the  Department of Defense. DARPA is known for developing exotic and emerging technologies for the military. These reports listed above indicated that Project STORMFURY and Project Nile Blue were some of the earliest known military operations conducted in the name of manipulating the weather, including hurricanes.

Leitenberg also noted two examples of times the U.S. has been accused of using weather modification on other nations. The was first related to alleged cloud seeding over Cuba in 1969 and 1970 in an alleged effort to destroy the sugar crops. In the second case, the director of the geographical research center of the University of Mexico implied that the United States was to blame for the effects of Hurricane Fifi over Honduras in 1974. A story from The Naples Daily News on July 15, 1975, expanded upon this claim:

Dr. Jorge Vivo, director of the Geographic Research Center of the University of Mexico, said Monday the United States ‘artificially detoured’ the hurricane to Honduras to save Florida’s tourist industry. But Neil Frank, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Monday night U.S. officials did nothing to alter the hurricane’s path. Vivo told the newspaper El Sol de Mexico he held the United States responsible for 10,000 deaths and millions of dollars in damage caused by Fifi in the Central American nation. He said he believed U.S. weather authorities used silver iodide against Fifi as part of what he called ‘a systematic action’ to change its course.

More recently, we have seen accusations that the CIA is manipulating the weather.  In February 2015, while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, Professor Alan Robock discussed the possibility that the CIA is using the weather as a weapon of war. Robock has conducted research for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in the past. Robock said he was phoned by two men claiming to be from the CIA and asking whether or not it was possible for hostile governments to use geoengineering against the United States. Geoengineering is another form of weather modification that involves a range of different proposals for combatting climate change.

Despite a lack of concrete evidence to back these claims, we know the military has a history of testing weather modification and has specifically mentioned using the weather as a weapon. For example, In a 1996 document entitled “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather by 2025”  the U.S. Air Force discussed a number of proposals for using the weather as a weapon.

Whatever view you take of these projects, the fact remains that they helped spur the movement towards using computer models to attempt to predict the weather. Quite simply, the history of computer model weather prediction is intertwined with the military’s attempts to modify the weather. Weather historian James Fleming writes that the two men largely responsible for computer modeling are Vladimir Zworykin, an RCA engineer noted for his early work in television technology, and John von Neumann, a mathematician with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1945, Zworykin was promoting the idea that electronic computers could process and analyze mass amounts of meteorological data and issue accurate forecasts.

The eventual goal to be attained is the international organization of means to study weather phenomena as global phenomena and to channel the world’s weather, as far as possible, in such a way as to minimize the damage from catastrophic disturbances, and otherwise to benefit the world to the greatest extent by improved climatic conditions where ­possible,” Zworykin wrote. According to Fleming, Neumann agreed with this outlook, stating, “I agree with you completely. This would provide a basis for scientific approach[es] to influencing the weather.

Modern Hurricane Modification

In 2005, following the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina, USA Today wrote:

In fact, military officials and weather modification experts could be on the verge of joining forces to better gauge, react to, and possibly nullify future hostile forces churned out by Mother Nature.”

On November 10, 2005, Dr. Joseph Golden, former manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and veteran of Project STORMFURY, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Prediction & Prevention, warning about the need for hurricane modification.

After the horrendous devastation and loss of life from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I have been asked several times about the possibility of hurricane modification,” Golden stated. “I firmly believe that we are in a much better position, both with the science and the undergirding technology, than we were when Project STORMFURY was terminated. The need for a renewed national commitment and funding for weather modification research has become more urgent.”

Golden is also involved the Hurricane Aerosol and Microphysics Program (HAMP). In 2010, he gave a presentation discussing how the Department of Homeland Security asked the NOAA to organize a workshop on possible new scientific theory and approaches to hurricane modification in February 2008.

It seems likely that various agencies of the U.S. government began heavily investing in studying weather modification following the destructive hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2008. The idea that the U.S. government could be experimenting with controlling or steering hurricanes may sound like fantasy, but the fact of the matter is the government continues to invest in hurricane modification research. Is it possible that the U.S. government, under the direction of the CIA or the DOD, is working with private industries like General Electric to continue experimenting with weather modification technology? Should the public trust that government officials would fess up to secret experiments?

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Pax Syriana: Neither Vanquished, Nor All-Conquering

Submitted by Kamal Alam, military analyst and Fellow for Syrian Affairs at The Institute for Statecraft, and updated exclusively for Zero Hedge

Former British spy and diplomat Alastaire Crooke, writing in Consortium News over the weekend, correctly outlines a new Middle East trajectory based on Syria having weathered the storm of a six year long proxy war while remaining largely in-tact: "Plainly, Syria’s success – notwithstanding the caution of President Bashar al-Assad in saying that signs of success are not success itself – in resisting, against the odds, all attempts to fell the state suggest that a tipping point in the geopolitics of the region has occurred." At the same time, Foreign Policy predicts in its latest Syria analysis, headlined Israel Is Going to War in Syria to Fight Iran, that Israel will continue ramping up hostile actions against Syria as "Israeli officials aren't shying from confronting Tehran's forces – since no one else will."

Such desperation has increased due to the entirely new geopolitical order which has emerged as a result the Syrian state's perseverance and which runs directly counter to Israeli plans in the region. As Crooke explains further, "But, aside from the geopolitics, the Syria outcome has created a physical connectivity and contiguity that has not existed for some years: the border between Iraq and Iran is open; the border between Syria and Iraq is opening; and the border between Lebanon and Syria, too, is open. This constitutes a critical mass both of land, resources and population of real weight." Crooke also assesses that Western officials have been "wrong on almost everything pertaining to Syria." Failed predictions, miscalculations, and an underestimation of the Syrian state's resolve has defined much of both Israel's and West's approach to Syria throughout the war.

This is perhaps because missing in nearly all commentary from professional analysts and the so-called 'experts' over the past years has been a thorough and systematic attempt to understand the nature of the Syrian Army and its relationship to the state, as well as the pre-2011 experience which forged the army over a period of decades facing insurgencies inside and outside of Syria (especially in Lebanon).

The Syrian Army has fought on now for more than six years without disintegrating as had been predicted by many commentators. Indeed it is the Army of the Syrian Arab Republic (al-Jaysh al-Arabi as-Suri) which has kept the state intact. The Syrian state institutions of which the Army is the foremost guarantor have held firm in the onslaught of all the non-state actors as well as regional neighbors. But how is it that the Syrian Arab Army has held together?

Contrary to what most observers say, the overwhelming factor in this has not been because this was an Alawite army. Had this been the case, it would not have been able to hang on for so long. The most prominent Chiefs of Staff and General Staff officers have been a combination of Sunni, Christian and Alawite. Nor was the army constructed along sectarian or ethnic lines. To take its three major contemporary personalitiesMustafa Tlass, Fahd Jassem Frejj and the late Daoud Rajihathey are respectively Sunni and Greek Orthodox. The elder Tlass is now retired, but he was the man who shaped the Syrian armed forces with Hafez al Assad in the 1970s.

History, ethnicity and structure of the Syrian Army

However to understand how the Syria Army became what it is today one has to delve into the history of the Syrian state since independence and how the military shaped the state. Since March 1949, Syria has experienced sixteen army coups – nine of which were successful in overthrowing the incumbent rulers. The army had never really gone back to barracks before the arrival of Hafez al Assad.

After independence from the French, Syria had eight years of parliamentary rule (1945-1949) and (1954-1958).  After March 1963 members of the armed forces who were sympathetic to the Arab Socialist Party acted to bring in their version of parliamentary rule, backed by a strong military presence. This Army-Baath faction that has ruled Syria now for the last four decades was not an all-out dictatorship. Far from it: it has been a combination of a balance between rural and urban Syria, mercantile and tribal Syria, and the political families that have urged the army to intervene one way or another from Syria’s inception, whether these families were leftists, Nasserites, pan-Arabists or business-focused. These divergent business interests and feudal family politics converged on the armed forces, with the aim of ensuring that a strong stable Syria had some leverage over Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

While the French had only encouraged non-Arabs and non-Muslims to join the army in mandate-Syria, with the departure of the French came a change of policy. The Homs and Hama military academies took Sunnis of all backgrounds and it was Sunnis that made up the majority of the army elite in the 1970s and 1980s, and into today. According to the late scholar and historian of modern Syria Patrick Seale, the Syrian Army under Adib Shishakli, became an "unashamedly political instrument". However, it had done away with its mostly French policies of sectarian divisions within the army. Under Hafez this policy continued and a mixture of all classes and sects continued to join the army. Hafez did however begin the process of depoliticizing the Syrian army.

Bridging the gap

The Syrian Army has consistently bridged the gap and eased the friction between the rural and urban centers of Syria and the rich and the poor. It is first necessary to take a closer look at some of the ethnicity and religious affiliations of key figures that have shaped the Syrian Army in the run up to the takeover by Hafez al Assad. Colonel Haydar al Kuzbari was a Sunni who played a key role in ending the union between Egypt and Syria. General Abdel Karim Zahareddine was a Druze Chief of Staff of the military and took over after affairs settled once Syria had firmly established itself, out from under Egypt’s grasp. Ziad al Harriri was a Sunni head of the army and defense minister in 1963. Amin al Hafez was another Sunni head of army and presided when the Baathists crushed a Sunni uprising in Hama in 1964 through aerial bombing, including mosques.

Here, it should be noted, almost twenty years before Hafez al Assad’s raid on Hama (1982), is a Sunni head of army and state crushing an Islamist uprising. Furthermore in 1952 a prior Hama rebellion was crushed by Sunni officers under a Sunni from Hama, Adib Shishakli. Mustafa Tlass also testified to the non-sectarian nature of the crushing of three Hama rebellions by the Syrian Army spread over three decades. Abdel Karim al Nahlwai, who was also an officer in the army and instrumental in its decision to draw Syria out of Egypt’s clutches, was also a Sunni.

The Baathists took on the mantle of educating the army officers throughout the 1970s. The Syrian military ruled through a praetorian-patrimonial model rather than as an outright parliamentary executive power. The army had to adapt itself from not just being a military force to becoming the political guardian of the country. Assad turned the army into a unified force and set about professionalizing it. Ironically, it was also him who oversaw the chaos of Lebanon which was completely riven along sectarian fault lines. There were as many inter-Alawi intrigues as non-Alawi. The Syrian army lost political power during the regime of President Hafiz al-Assad, as he himself was a former officer and knew how to control the armed forces. 


Syria´s president Hafez al-Asad and Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass, during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, at the Golan front. Wikimedia/The Online Museum of Syrian History. 

In his book, The Policy of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa, Manfred Halpern presented the officers' corps as representing the new salaried middle class that emerged in the Arab world as the result of the modernization process. This class also includes teachers, administrators in the civil service and government apparatus, technicians, high school and university professors, journalists, lawyers and others. This explanation helps, at least in part, in understanding the Baath Revolution.

The Baath Party has continued to provide all the forces which play a role in Syrian politics with a common ideological and organizational base: the bureaucrats of the party, government and civil service, as well as senior army officers. It has branches in the army units and security forces, which send representatives to the senior Party institutions. Senior army officers are members of such institutions as the Central Committee al Lajna al-Markaziyya) and Regional Command (al-Qiyada al-Qutriyya), alongside party bureaucrats.

To further demonstrate the non-sectarian nature of the Syrian military high command, it is worth looking at a pivotal moment which defines the Syrian military to this day in the midst of the civil war in 2014. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s there was tremendous external pressure on Syria, none more so than from Iraq, Israel and Egypt. All three threats were different: Egypt wanted to subdue Syria through the guise of the Arab Union Republic. Iraq and its Ba’th wing were supporting several different factions within Syria. Israel was and still remains in a state of war with Syria. Amidst all this there were the coups and counter coups within the military and government. Hafez al Assad and Mustafa Tlass decided that given the external threats, the army above all must have a nationalist agenda and an institution devoid of politics. It was this ideological agreement between Tlass and Assad that led to the complete purging of politics from the military and a separation of powers not seen before in Syria.

Hafez al Assad also brought senior members of the Syrian Air Force into the military high command. Naji Jamil (Sunni) served as Air Force commander from 1970 to 1978 and was promoted to General Staff committee overseeing defences on the Iraq border. Another Air Force commander was Muhammad al-Khuli who till 1993 held onto coveted logistic positions between Damascus and Lebanon. These commanders, at the peak of their careers at the time of Hafez al Assad’s death, included the Air Force Security Administration headed by Ibrahim Huwayji and non-airforce commanders Hasan Khalil, Ali Duba, Ali Mamlouk and Hikmat Shihabi. Other prominent officers above the rank of Brigadier in military and civil defence positions post-2000 were Sunnis, and include Rustum Ghazaleh, Hazem al Khadra and Deeb Zaytoun. Since 1973, the strategic tank battalions of the 70th armoured brigade stationed near al-Kiswah near Damascus have had rank and file Alawis under the command of Sunni officers.


Mustafa Tlass and Gamal Abdel Nasser in Cairo

By the time Hafez al Assad passed on the army to his son Bashar, the Syrian Army had firmly erased its sectarian beginnings, which were very much a legacy of French colonial rule. The deft play between rural and urban, tribal and religious sects was evened out through an education system played along on party lines rather than those of religion. The stage had also been set for the removal of army officers from mainstream politics. Instead the family structure of Syria would be co-opted into the Party while the army would remain stable and neutral.

Few Arab countries have armies based on professionalism. Most are based on a tribal structure, given the importance of family lineage and religion. In Syria however the last forty years have shown that the Army is not a sectarian army. Most of the internal politics within the army has been rooted in power, promotion and performance on the field. Even during the most critical time of the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a good balance of Sunni and Alawi officers. Not all the Alawis supported Salah Jadid whilst prominent Sunni officers such as Lietuenal Colonel Ahmad Suwaydani from Houran supported Jadid. The most revealing test came when Hafez al Assad lay sick and his brother tried to make a move for power. Hafez categorically left day to day affairs in the hands of an all-Sunni cast, with Mustafa Tlass, Abdallah Al Ahmar, Hikmat Shihabi, Abd al Rauf al Kasm and Zuhayr Mashariqah. And prominent Alawis at the time, such as Ali Hayder, Ibrahim Safi and Ali Douba, decided not to take sides with Rifaat al Assad, despite his offers of shared power.

Syria's counter-insurgency lessons

As we saw the Syrian Army battle its way to victory in key towns such as Qusayr and Yabroud in 2014, along with this year's major strategic victories in Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus, it is once again important to look at how and where the Syrian Army honed its fighting skills.

The Syrian Army along with its military and civilian intelligence have mastered the art of dividing its opponents (insurgents) unlike any other Army. Syria dominated Lebanon for decades not through brute force but cunning real politics and with an understanding of geography and history.  Take into account three important 2014 battles of Qusayr, Yabroud and Maloula. All three held their strategic and symbolic values. Two were the supply route towards Lebanon and the Mediterranean as well as being great vantage points, while the other was the most important Christian town for Arabs along with Bethlehem. In Maloula, the local residents joined in the fighting on the side of the Syrian Army against the rebels. This meant clearing the area of foreign insurgents.

This was a tactic straight out of the Syrian Army’s days of operating in Lebanon, where they cleared areas with the tacit approval of local people, whether they were Christian, Sunni or Shi’a. In Qusayr, despite the presence of Hezbollah, it was the Syrian Army that did the bulk of the fighting. Hezbollah were only there to protect the Shi’a villages on the Lebanese side, and then they crossed into Syria where there were Shi’a civilians. This again demonstrated how the Syrian Army units are always embedding locals into their operations. But the roots of these modern battles lay in the Syrian Army’s performance in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Lessons from Lebanon: fighting the Israelis

Israel’s main political objective for going into Lebanon was to crush the PLO. In that it succeeded, with overwhelming odds and with ease. However its second objective – to remove the Syrian military presence in the Bekaa Valley and reduce its influence in Lebanon – was its greatest and only failure since its inception in 1948.

The Israeli plan for Lebanon to combat Syria called for the seizing of Lebanese territory up to and including Beirut, which would be taken in a coordinated operation with the Phalange  forces; an advance beyond the Beirut-Damascus highway, which would cut off Beirut from the main Syrian forces;  and the expulsion of Syrian units from the Bekaa  valley. One would expect such a plan to entail deep penetrations, landings north of Beirut and the Beirut-Damascus  highway, and other tactical maneuvers of the type espoused in IDF doctrine.

The careful study of key strategic battles that then took place between the Israelis and the Syrians will help us understand the Syrian Army’s performance over the past years in the current war.

In 1982 the Syrian presence in Lebanon had diminished from three divisions in 1976 to one division and one mixed brigade which amounted to 30,000 men.  The 1st Armored Division in the Bekaa, commanded by Rifaat al Assad (the brother of Syrian President Hafez al Assad), was deployed in defensive positions in depth.  Both Syrian formations and doctrine followed the Soviet model, and defensive doctrine called for combined-arms operations, combat teams whose structure was fixed in advance, and a defence based on massive firepower.

To provide that firepower, the Syrians depended on air defense in depth from various SAM sites reinforced by anti-aircraft guns, and a ground defence characterized by a profusion of anti-tank weapons and units. The defense would depend on intensive fortifications and the exploitation of natural obstacles to a depth of 20-30 kilometers. The 85th Brigade was deployed in the Beirut area in the role of an armed presence, with the additional task of guaranteeing the security of the Beirut-Damascus highway.

In addition to the main armies of Syria and Israel, Lebanese militias would become involved in the fighting. The Israelis expected the Christian Lebanese Forces, some 10,000 strong, to fight as allies against the PLO. As war approached, the opponents consisted of some seven divisions and two independent brigades of the IDF, 60,000-78,000 strong, arrayed against 15,000 PLO fighters, one Syrian armoured division, and one Syrian brigade. The outcome of the main battle at the end of the war depended on how well the Syrians and Israelis would manage their allies in the form of irregular forces.

The main battles of 10 June, 1982 were fought in the Eastern Sector, between the IDF and the Syrian 1st Armoured Division. On the ground, Syrian resistance had been stiff. The Syrians defended a series of strong points along the winding roads. Each strong point conducted a separate, integrated defense with obstacles, mines, tanks, and commandos using Saggers and RPG's; at times, such as in the defense of the crossroads near Lake Qaraoun, the defense was supported by artillery and by Gazelle helicopters using HOT missiles.

At dawn, Syrian commandos attacked. APC's and tanks were hit and caught fire. Men were killed trying to rescue the wounded from burning vehicles. Finally, Brigadier Menachem Einan ordered a cessation of rescue attempts and the column retreated in reverse gear. Around 2300 hours,  this  force approached  Ein Zhalta, some eight kilometers from the Beirut-Damascus highway but more than twenty by road. Unknown to the Israelis, the area around Ein Zhalta was defended by a brigade-strength Syrian force consisting of a few dozen tanks and commando units. After passing through the villages, the Israelis started descending a steep slope with tanks in the lead when the Syrians opened fire with tanks from the opposite ridge and RPG’s and Saggers from the surrounding wadis.

The Israeli attacks on Syrian positions in the Bekaa brought Syrian reaction in the west. There, Syrian forces had remained in Beirut and out of the fighting, but now the 85th Brigade began to deploy tank and commando teams south and east of Beirut, around Khalde and the hills south of Beirut and along the Shemlan ridge area.

In June 1982 the Israeli Air Force had jammed and destroyed the Syrian radar and bombed the surface-to-air missiles (SAM) sites in the Bekaa Valley. However despite the overwhelming odds, the Syrian Army fought bravely. The Israeli charge from the south was checked with ferocity when the IDF came into contact with Syrian positions. The IDF reported heavy obstacles inch for inch. An IDF armored column was halted in a fierce tank battle in the village of Sultan Yacoub. This prevented the Israelis from taking the vitally strategic Beirut-Damascus highway that cut across the Bekaa Valley. The IDF were also halted towards the southern approach to Beirut at Khalde. The Syrian Army backed different groups to obstruct the Israeli advance east of Beirut. Al Saiqa fighters and other Shia-Sunni groups backed by regular units from the Syrian Army fought the IDF to a standstill in 1983. The Israelis retreated to the Litani River and from then on wanted to avoid the Syrians at all cost.

These battles have been forgotten in western military literature. But for Syrians today and their General Staff officers they formed the basis to prepare for the next war with Israel through the use of irregular forces. Hence the performance of the Syrians during the current war was a culmination of the study of 1980s battles which joined irregulars and the main Syrian Army. Syria never suffered from lack of courage or the will to fight on. Even though they knew they could not stand up to IAF in 1982 they flew near-suicide missions with great valor and skill.

The American appraisal of Syrian troops summarized that the Syrians had returned to Beirut after the withdrawal of the Israelis, but had been no more able to establish order there than were the Americans and Israelis before them. In fact, however, it may be that Syrian power in Lebanon will be the one thing which prevents any radical change to Lebanon's form of government. For despite Syrian support for Iran in its conflict with Iraq, Syria had no interest in seeing a Shiite Islamic government in Lebanon but preferred to maintain some form of  the status quo. The Americans saw Syria as the only party with whom they could deal concerning Lebanon and that situation was better served than having factional anarchy, for the Israelis as well as for the Lebanese.

The Syrian Army as a non-conventional force: the best in the region? 

The Israeli assessment of the Syrian Army's control of Lebanon was similar to that of the Americans. The Israelis came to the early conclusion that they had nothing to gain in destabilizing Syria under Assad (in the 1980s); it would bring a Sunni Islamic government to power. It would only prolong a war in which there would be no zero sum option but rather one in which both sides lost relative ground and ability to operate. After being outdone in Lebanon by Syrian forces and its proxies, the Israelis then saw the wisdom of letting Syria have hegemony to maintain the status quo of the Golan Heights. This doctrine was further entrenched after the 2006 war in Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the 33 day war in 2006, Syria sent commandos and artillery units to the border and the IDF raised its level of alertness to the maximum in ten years and doubled its deployment on Mount Hermon. Syria had also doubled its commando units in 2007 and started preparing for urban guerrilla warfare training. One of the 12 divisions of the Syrian army was made up of 10,000 elite commandos and the same unit doubled its number of rockets.

The Israeli view was that though the Syrian forces achieved surprising advances against the Israelis in the Golan in 1973 and resisted the Israeli advance in 1982, their power had subsequently been corrupted preventing them from mounting any sort of fighting force. However their helicopters would prove to have significant proficiency and their commando units have thrown back all that has been waged at them. The remarkable success gained by Hezbollah in 2006 confirmed the transition of Syrian forces from a conventional fighting force to asymmetric warfare and irregular forces, which were aimed at compensating for the conventional superiority of the IDF and its vulnerability to irregular warfare techniques.

The Israeli strategic expert Ephraim Inbar has remarked, on ‘the recent strategic acumen of the Syrian military’ saying that since, "Israel has absolute superiority in several fields in warfare, so Syria is investing in fields where it can have an edge. It has invested in recent years in anti-aircraft weapons, rockets missiles and bunkers. The war in Lebanon proved to the Syrians that they were right to do so."

The grudging respect the Israelis have had for the Syrian armed forces trumps all other armies in the region with respect to threats to Israel. The Israelis not only saw the irregular forces that Syria could unleash but also the negative consequence of removing the Syrian state and army. When Silvan Shalom, the Israeli Foreign Minister in 2004, suggested to Ariel Sharon that they destabilize Syria, Sharon replied by saying “No way” as that would mean either an extremist Sunni government in Syria, or an unstable democracy, both of which were a threat to Israel.

Upon the death of Hafez al Assad, Vice President `Abd-al Halim Khaddam, serving as temporary acting president, promulgated two decrees, announcing the appointment of Bashar al-Assad, the late president's son, as the general commander of the Syrian Army in addition to his being promoted to the rank of Fariq, the most senior rank in the army, which his father had held. Several hours later, Bashar received members of the senior officers’ corps, headed by Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Ali Aslan. They had come to offer their condolences on the death of his father, and to pledge their loyalty and complete support. Had the Syrian Armed Forces been a sectarian unit, you might have expected the Sunni Tlass to provoke trouble. However it was precisely the two main Sunnis in the regime i.e. Khaddam and Tlass, who oversaw the smooth transition to Bashar al-Assad.

Conclusion

"If a Lebanese woman gets pregnant they say the Syrians did it, if a bird falls out from the sky over Beirut it is said to have been attacked by the Syrian eagle" (saying from Mustafa Tlass' The Mirror of My Life, 1991).

Of course the eagle and the lion have come to symbolize the Levant for the last four decades in the shape of the Syrian state built by Hafez al Assad, and the one being kept alive by his son Bashar.

What has furnished the Syrian Army and the State with a motive to resist all that has been thrown at it in the last six years? For this the answer lies in the formidable network built by Hafez’s army in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, the very same network we have seen at play in Iraq post 2003 and in Lebanon post 1976. It is worth lingering over Henry Kissinger’s famous words, you can't make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can't make peace without Syria.’

As commentators continue to struggle to become experts on Syria and its regime, few have bothered to look at the performance of the Syrians in Lebanon post 1976. It was a great relief to the Americans and the Israelis that the Syrian Army sanctioned by the Arab League marched into Lebanon in 1976 on behalf of the Christian community there to fight the Palestinians who had earlier destabilized Jordan and were perceived to be doing the same in Lebanon.

It was the Syrian Army that along with Israel had a tacit agreement that anything north of the Litani River belonged to the Syrian sphere of influence and the rest to Israel. So we move on to the 80s and 90s and Syria becomes the guarantor of peace not just in Lebanon but also the greater region.

Next we see how the Syrian Army and intelligence skilfully played off one group against the other in Lebanon to bring about their mastery over the country and then replayed the same in Iraq post 2003. In Iraq, Syria’s Army and intelligence successfully outwitted the coalition forces and indeed Iran in backing both the Sunni insurgents who came to fight from the North and East of Syria. At the same time, the Syrians maintained excellent relations with the Shi’a Sadr brigades of Southern Iraq.

This was the same Syrian Army that throughout the 1970s and 1980s kept a precarious balance between the different Lebanese Christian families of Chamoun, Gemayael and Frangieh. It was the same Syrian Army that actually ideologically supported the Amal party of the Shia’as, and not Hezbollah. The greatest Christian general of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, who was the quintessential anti-Syrian of the 1990s, became the Syrians’ biggest ally post 2005. So the dexterity displayed at deflecting all allegations of assassinations and being the root cause for all problems in Lebanon and Iraq have served the Syrian Army well in the ongoing conflict in Syria. When Aoun bothered the Syrians, they simply backed other Christian warlords in Mount Lebanon and thus fragmented the Lebanese Christians, and as a result came out on top.

In analysing all this, we can begin to understand the Syrian Army’s policy of ‘neither  vanquished, nor all-conquering.’ As we saw the drift of the Syrian rebels in the current war into splinter groups of hundreds of factions, and even saw other reports of how the Syrian Army paid al Nusra for the flow of oil, these are lessons all too familiar for those who have watched the Machiavellian politics of the Syrian Army at work. The chess game played out in the Levant, first termed the ‘Syrian Belt’ by Seymour Hersh, is one whose actors primarily include the Syrian security forces. From Mount Lebanon to Damascus, there is a history of Syrian state and army engaged in real politics on the ground. Hafez bequeathed this military legacy to his son and his wily commander.

Alan George in his book on Syria under the al Assads concludes that although the hopes of reform invested in the young President Assad were probably exaggerated, "he might yet succeed in launching a program of limited political reform if the west, through support for an aggressive Israel and swaggering threats against Syria, does not perpetuate the conditions that allowed the most anti-democratic wing of the Syrian regime to prevail over the pro-democracy activists."

With the onslaught of the 2011 war in Syria, Bashar al Assad never had time to continue what he started in 2000 i.e. the gradual reform of a system that many western experts witnessed up close between 2000 and 2010. The Syrian Army has evolved into a unified non-sectarian army over the last four decades. As most observers point to the undoubted prowess of Hezbollah in the battlefield, it is worth noting as I argue here, that Syria’s army has been fighting the Israelis and other actors long before Hezbollah came into being. All the major battles in Lebanon were fought before 1985 and the coming of Hezbollah.

The Syrian Army remains a formidable force as witnessed by its greatest foe: the IDF. It has evolved as an institution to outlast sectarian faultlines and negative foreign influences. But it is almost as if, since this conflict began, outsiders have wanted to portray this as a sectarian army from the minute the first shot was fired. One of the best Syrian experts (Nikolas Van Dam, author of The Struggle for Power in Syria) has himself acknowledged that foreigners are always eager to look at the divisive issues and highlight them, rather than look at the Syrians themselves.

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Rickards Warns “Cracks In The Dollar Are Getting Larger”

Authored by James Rickards via The Daily Reckoning,

Many readers are familiar with the original petrodollar deal the U.S made with Saudi Arabia.

It was set up by Henry Kissinger and Saudi princes in 1974 to prop up the U.S. dollar. At the time, confidence in the dollar was on shaky ground because President Nixon had ended gold convertibility of dollars in 1971.

Saudi Arabia was receiving dollars for their oil shipments, but they could no longer convert the dollars to gold at a guaranteed price directly with the U.S. Treasury. The Saudis were secretly dumping dollars and buying gold on the London market. This was putting pressure on the bullion banks receiving the dollar.

Confidence in the dollar began to crack. Henry Kissinger and Treasury Secretary William Simon worked out a plan. If the Saudis would price oil in dollars, U.S. banks would hold the dollar deposits for the Saudis.

These dollars would be “recycled” to developing economy borrowers, who in turn would buy manufactured goods from the U.S. and Europe. This would help the global economy and help the U.S. maintain price stability. The Saudis would get more customers and a stable dollar, and the U.S. would force the world to accept dollars because everyone would need the dollars to buy oil.

Behind this “deal” was a not so subtle threat to invade Saudi Arabia and take the oil by force.

I personally discussed these invasion plans in the White House with Kissinger’s deputy, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, at the time. The petrodollar plan worked brilliantly and the invasion never happened.

Now, 43 years later, the wheels are coming off. The world is losing confidence in the dollar again. China just announced that any oil-exporter that accepts yuan for oil can convert the oil to gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and hedge the hard currency value of the gold on the Shanghai Futures Exchange.

The deal has several parts, which together spell dollar doom.

The first part is that China will buy oil from Russia and Iran in exchange for yuan.

The yuan is not a major reserve currency, so it’s not an especially attractive asset for Russia or Iran to hold. China solves that problem by offering to convert yuan into gold on a spot basis on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

This straight-through processing of oil-to-yuan-to-gold eliminates the role of the dollar.

Russia was the first country to agree to accept yuan. The rest of the BRICS nations (Brazil, India and South Africa) endorsed China’s plan at the BRICS summit in China earlier this month.

Now Venezuela has also now signed on to the plan. Russia is #2 and Venezuela is #7 on the list of the ten largest oil exporters in the world. Others will follow quickly. What can we take away from this?

This marks the beginning of the end of the petrodollar system that Henry Kissinger worked out with Saudi Arabia in 1974, after Nixon abandoned gold.

Of course, leading reserve currencies do die — but not necessarily overnight. The process can persist over many years.

For example, the U.S. dollar replaced the UK pound sterling as the leading reserve currency in the 20th century. That process was completed at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, but it began thirty years earlier in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I.

That’s when gold began to flow from the UK to New York to pay for badly needed war materials and agricultural exports.

The UK also took massive loans from New York bankers organized by Jack Morgan, head of the Morgan bank at the time. The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a long, slow decline in sterling as it devalued against gold in 1931, and devalued again against the dollar in 1936.

The dollar is losing its leading reserve currency status now, but there’s no single announcement or crucial event, just a long, slow process of marginalization. I mentioned that Russia and Venezuela are now pricing oil in yuan instead of dollars. But Russia has taken its “de-dollarization” plans one step further.

Russia has now banned dollar payments at its seaports. Although these seaport facilities are mostly state-owned, many payments, like those for fuel and tariffs, were still conducted in dollars. Not anymore.

This is just one of many stories from around the world showing how the dollar is being pushed out of international trade and payments to be replaced by yuan, rubles, euros or gold in this case.

I believe gold is ultimately heading to $10,000 an ounce, or higher.

Now, people often ask me, “How can you say gold prices will rise to $10,000 without knowing developments in the world economy, or even what actions will be taken by the Federal Reserve?”

It’s not made up. I don’t throw it out there to get headlines, et cetera.

It’s the implied non-deflationary price of gold. Everyone says you can’t have a gold standard, because there’s not enough gold. There’s always enough gold, you just have to get the price right.

I’m not saying that we will have a gold standard. I’m saying if you have anything like a gold standard, it will be critical to get the price right.

The analytical question is, you can have a gold standard if you get the price right; what is the non-deflationary price? What price would gold have to be in order to support global trade and commerce, and bank balance sheets, without reducing the money supply?

The answer is, $10,000 an ounce.

I use a 40% backing of the M1 money supply. Some people argue for 100% backing. Historically, it’s been as low as 20%, so 40% is my number. If you take the global M1 of the major economies, times 40%, and divide that by the amount of official gold in the world, the answer is approximately $10,000 an ounce.

There’s no mystery here. It’s not a made-up number. The math is eighth grade math, it’s not calculus.

That’s where I get the $10,000 figure. It is also worth noting that you don’t have to have a gold standard, but if you do, this will be the price.

The now impending question is, are we going to have a gold standard?

That’s a function of collapse of confidence in central bank money, which is already being seen. It’s happened three times before, in 1914, 1939 and 1971. Let us not forget that in 1977, the United States issued treasury bonds denominated in Swiss francs, because no other country wanted dollars.

The United States treasury then borrowed in Swiss francs, because people didn’t want dollars, at least at an interest rate that the treasury was willing to pay.

That’s how bad things were, and this type of crisis happens every 30 or 40 years. Again, we can look to history and see what happened in 1998. Wall Street bailed out a hedge fund to save the world. What happened in 2008? The central banks bailed out Wall Street to save the world.

What’s going to happen in 2018?

We don’t know for sure.

But eventually a tipping point will be reached where the dollar collapse suddenly accelerates as happened to sterling in 1931. Investors should acquire gold and other hard assets before that happens.

http://WarMachines.com

Pepe Escobar Unmasks Trump Doctrine: Carnage For New Axis Of Evil

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

North Korea, Iran, Venezuela are targets in "compassionate" America's war on the "wicked few." It's almost as though Washington felt its hegemony threatened

Paul Delaroche, Napoléon à Fontainebleau, 1840. With other global powers increasingly at odds with US foreign policy under Donald Trump, the nation's hegemony on the world stage may soon face its own crisis point.

This was no “deeply philosophical address”. And hardly a show of  “principled realism” – as spun by the White House. President Trump at the UN was “American carnage,” to borrow a phrase previously deployed by his nativist speechwriter Stephen Miller.

One should allow the enormity of what just happened to sink in, slowly. The president of the United States, facing the bloated bureaucracy that passes for the “international community,” threatened to “wipe off the map” the whole of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (25 million people). And may however many millions of South Koreans who perish as collateral damage be damned.

Multiple attempts have been made to connect Trump’s threats to the madman theory cooked up by “Tricky Dicky” Nixon in cahoots with Henry Kissinger, according to which the USSR must always be under the impression the then-US president was crazy enough to, literally, go nuclear. But the DPRK will not be much impressed with this madman remix.

That leaves, on the table, a way more terrifying upgrade of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Trump repeatedly invoked Truman in his speech). Frantic gaming will now be in effect in both Moscow and Beijing: Russia and China have their own stability / connectivity strategy under development to contain Pyongyang.

The Trump Doctrine has finally been enounced and a new axis of evil delineated. The winners are North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. Syria under Assad is a sort of mini-evil, and so is Cuba. Crucially, Ukraine and the South China Sea only got a fleeting mention from Trump, with no blunt accusations against Russia and China. That may reflect at least some degree of realpolitik; without “RC” – the Russia-China strategic partnership at the heart of the BRICS bloc and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – there’s no possible solution to the Korean Peninsula stand-off.

In this epic battle of the “righteous many” against the “wicked few,” with the US described as a “compassionate nation” that wants “harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife,” it’s a bit of a stretch to have Islamic State – portrayed as being not remotely as “evil” as North Korea or Iran – get only a few paragraphs.

The art of unraveling a deal

According to the Trump Doctrine, Iran is “an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” a “murderous regime” profiting from a nuclear deal that is “an embarrassment to the United States.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st century UN – unworthy of a reply.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov once again stressed full support for the nuclear deal ahead of a P5+1 ministers’ meeting scheduled for Wednesday, when Zarif was due to be seated at the same table as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Under review: compliance with the deal. Tillerson is the only one who wants a renegotiation.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has, in fact, developed an unassailable argument on the nuclear negotiations. He says the deal – which the P5+1 and the IAEA all agree is working – could be used as a model elsewhere. German chancellor Angela Merkel concurs. But, Rouhani says, if the US suddenly decides to unilaterally pull out, how could the North Koreans possibly be convinced it’s worth their while to sit down to negotiate anything with the Americans ?

What the Trump Doctrine is aiming at is, in fact, a favourite old neo-con play, reverting back to the dynamics of the Dick Cheney-driven Washington-Tehran Cold War years.

This script runs as follows: Iran must be isolated (by the West, only now that won’t fly with the Europeans); Iran is “destabilizing” the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, the ideological foundry of all strands of Salafi-jihadism, gets a free pass); and Iran, because it’s developing ballistic that could – allegedly – carry nuclear warheads, is the new North Korea.

That lays the groundwork for Trump to decertify the deal on October 15. Such a dangerous geopolitical outcome would then pit Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi against Tehran, Moscow and Beijing, with European capitals non-aligned. That’s hardly compatible with a “compassionate nation” which wants “harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife.”

Afghanistan comes to South America

The Trump Doctrine, as enounced, privileges the absolute sovereignty of the nation-state. But then there are those pesky “rogue regimes” which must be, well, regime-changed. Enter Venezuela, now on “the brink of total collapse,” and run by a “dictator”; thus, America “cannot stand by and watch.”

No standing by, indeed. On Monday, Trump had dinner in New York with the presidents of Colombia, Peru and Brazil (the last indicted by the country’s Attorney General as the leader of a criminal organization and enjoying an inverted Kim dynasty rating of 95% unpopularity). On the menu: regime change in Venezuela.

Venezuelan “dictator” Maduro happens to be supported by Moscow and, most crucially, Beijing, which buys oil and has invested widely in infrastructure in the country with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht crippled by the Car Wash investigation.

The stakes in Venezuela are extremely high. In early November, Brazilian and American forces will be deployed in a joint military exercise in the Amazon rainforest, at the Tri-Border between Peru, Brazil and Colombia. Call it a rehearsal for regime change in Venezuela. South America could well turn into the new Afghanistan, a consequence that flows from Trump’s assertion that “major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.”

For all the lofty spin about “sovereignty”, the new axis of evil is all about, once again, regime change.

Russia-China aim to defuse the nuclear stand-off, then seduce North Korea into sharing in the interpenetration of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), via a new Trans-Korea Railway and investments in DPRK ports. The name of the game is Eurasian integration.

Iran is a key node of BRI. It’s also a future full member of the SCO, it’s connected – via the North-South Transport Corridor – with India and Russia, and is a possible future supplier of natural gas to Europe. The name of the game, once again, is Eurasian integration.

Venezuela, meanwhile, holds the largest unexplored oil reserves on the planet, and is targeted by Beijing as a sort of advanced BRI node in South America.

The Trump Doctrine introduces a new set of problems for Russia-China. Putin and Xi do dream of reenacting a balance of power similar to that of the Concert of Europe, which lasted from 1815 (after Napoleon’s defeat) until the brink of World War I in 1914. That’s when Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia decided that no European nation should be able to emulate the hegemony of France under Napoleon.

In sitting as judge and executioner, Trump’s “compassionate” America certainly seems intent on echoing such hegemony.

http://WarMachines.com

Flags, Symbols, And Statues Resurgent As Globalism Declines

Authored by Wayne Madsen via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

As the forces of globalism retreat after numerous defeats in the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and other nations, there is a resurgent popularity in national, historical, and cultural symbols. These include flags, statues of forbearers, place names, language, and, in fact, anything that distinguishes one national or sub-national group from others. The negative reactions to cultural and religious threats brought about by the manifestations of globalism – mass movement of refugees, dictates from supranational organizations like the European Union and the United Nations, and the loss of financial independence – should have been expected by the globalists. Caught up in their own self-importance and hubris, the globalists are now debasing the forces of national, religious, and cultural identity as threats to the “world order.”

The most egregious examples of globalist pushback against aspirant nationhood and the symbols of national identity are Catalonia and Kurdistan.

Two plebiscites on independence, a September 25, 2017 referendum on the Kurdistan Regional Government declaring independence from Iraq and an October 1 referendum on Catalonia beginning the process of breaking away from the Kingdom of Spain, are expected to achieve “yes” votes. Neither plebiscite is binding, a fact that will result in both votes being ignored by the mother countries.

Iraq, the United States, Turkey, and Iran have warned Kurdish Iraq against holding the independence referendum. The United States is prepared to double-cross its erstwhile Kurdish allies for a fourth time. President Woodrow Wilson, who has been cited as the “first neoconservative or neocon, reneged on Kurdish independence during the post-World War I Versailles peace conference. Henry Kissinger double-crossed Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani in 1975 with the Algiers Accord between Iraq and Iran, a perfidious act that forced 100,000 of Barzani’s Kurdish forces into exile in Iran. George H. W. Bush promised the Kurds help after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 if they revolted against Saddam Hussein’s government. US military aid was not forthcoming and the Kurds were forced into a small sliver of northern Iraq, over which a US “no-fly zone” was imposed. Now, Donald Trump’s administration has warned the Kurds not to even think about independence, even though the Kurdish peshmerga forces helped the US and its allies to drive the Islamic State out of Kirkuk and the rest of northern Iraq.

In Spain, the conservative prime minister is trying to emulate the Spanish fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco in making threats against Catalonia’s independence wishes.

In response to the Catalan Parliament's vote to hold an October 1 referendum on Catalonia's independence from Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his People's Party government have promised to round up the pro-independence members of the Catalan government, as well as pro-independence legislators of the parliament and mayors, and criminally charge them with sedition.

Rajoy's stance should be no surprise since his party, the Popular Party, is the political heir of Franco's Falangist party. Franco's version of the Nazi Gestapo, the Guardia Civil, brutally suppressed Catalan and Basque identity. Particular targets for suppression, according to Falangist doctrine, were "anti-Spanish activists," "Reds," "separatists," "liberals," "Jews," "Freemasons," and "judeomarxistas."

The Falange was eventually replaced by the National Movement, which continued many of Franco's policies, including repression of the Catalan and Basque culture, autonomy, and language.

The Francoist People's Alliance, founded in 1989 by Franco's Interior Minister, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, eventually morphed into the People's Party of Rajoy. The People's Party considers itself "Christian Democratic," but it receives support from Franco's fascist Roman Catholic order, the Opus Dei.

Rajoy is using a decision by Spain's Constitutional Court, suspending the independence referendum in Catalonia, as justification for his threats against the region. Apparently, the neo-fascist government of Spain has been trawling Twitter to collect the names of Catalan mayors who have posted photographs of themselves and messages of support for the “Junts pel Si” (Together for Yes) pro-independence coalition. The mayors, along with members of parliament and the government in Barcelona, are being placed on a Guardia Civil list targeting them with arrest and incarceration if the referendum is carried out.

Rajoy has also warned officials of local municipal councils that their cooperation in holding a referendum vote will be considered an act of sedition and that they, too, face arrest and detention.

Rajoy's channeling of Franco will only solidify anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia, even among those not keen on independence. The iron boot of Rajoy and the People's Party in Catalonia will only boost support for Catalan independence from those mildly opposed to it or neutral. If Catalonia's regional and local government leaders are paraded off to prisons, the peaceful independence movement in the region could easily turn violent. There is also widespread support for Catalan independence in the separatist Basque region, where parades have been held in support of the Catalan cause. In August, 3000 pro-Catalan independence Basques marched in the Basque city of San Sebastian. If Rajoy carries through with his threat against Catalonia, the Basque region will also see it as a threat to them and join in a renewed campaign of violence against the Madrid neo-fascists. The Basque secessionist terrorist group ETA agreed to disarm in 2011 but it has not turned in all its weapons.

The Basque party EH Bildu has already submitted a bill in the regional Basque parliament that is a copy of the Catalan independence referendum bill that passed the parliament in Barcelona.

People around the world are rejecting the notion that states, harboring more than one nation, ethnic group, or tribal entity, should be recognized by globalist institutions like the EU and UN as representing all the constituent parts.

Currently, the Republic of Macedonia is negotiating with Greece, the EU, and NATO on membership under a nation-state name that suits Greece. Greece does not recognize Macedonia by that name because it believes Macedonia harbors irredentist designs on Greek Macedonia. Greece insists the country use the provisional name of FYROM, which stands for the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Macedonian nationalists scoff at such a name, likening it to being forced to use the fictional Klingon language of “Star Trek.”

As a result of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are demanding that London grant them the right to maintain their own economic and other links with the Eurocrats in Brussels. Scotland may hold a second independence referendum with or without the blessing of London. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff is sounding more and more like the Scottish Parliament in demanding a separate deal with the EU for Wales. Even in the heart of the EU bureaucracy – Belgium – Flanders and Wallonia show no signs of abandoning their march toward independence, leaving Brussels as its own independent city-state hosting the headquarters of the EU, NATO, and Godiva Chocolatier. Rather than the Belgian flag, one is more likely to find Flemish flags flying from poles in Antwerp and Walloon flags adorning buildings in Liège.

Around the world, statues of historical figures are being defaced and removed by contrarian groups who bear ethnic or political grudges. They include Confederate General Robert E. Lee throughout the United States, Captain James Cook in Australia, Father Junipero Serra in California, Christopher Columbus in New York, King Kamehameha in Hawaii, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and Marthinus Pretorius and Paul Kruger in South Africa. This all represents the trend toward dissolution of the nation-state.

Nation-state flags, monuments of past political and religious figures, and other nation-state symbols are not only being questioned but, in some cases, ignored or cast aside completely. The world is “going tribal” and there is little the governing globalists and elites can do about it. They brought this situation upon themselves with their aloofness and ignorance. The UN General Assembly will soon welcome 193-member state leaders to its plenary session in New York. The UN may do well to plan for future sessions at which 300 or more member-state leaders, from Åland to Zanzibar and Baltistan to Mthwakazi, converge on New York.

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“She” Happened…

Authored by Jeffrey St.Clair via Counterpunch.org,

So someone has ghost-written another Hillary Clinton memoir. My biggest question when I picked it up was: Did Hillary stiff the writer out of the final payment as she did Barbara Feinman, the real author of It Takes a Village?

You don’t have to read any further than the cover of the book to answer the question posed by its title: What Happened: Hillary Clinton. Glutton for punishment, I took a masochistic dive into its dark pages anyway.

It soon became apparent that Hillary shouldn’t have treated Feinman so churlishly. What Happened would have greatly benefited from her stylistic enhancements. The prose in this book is as brittle as the mind behind it. Notice the lack of a question mark in the title. This is a telling punctuational elision. It signals that this text will not be an investigation into the dynamics behind the most perplexing election in American history.   Don’t skim these pages in search of a self-lacerating confession or an apologia. What Happened reads more like a drive-by shooting rampage. The book is a score-settling scattershot rant, enfilading anyone who stood in Clinton’s way, from Bernie Sanders to James Comey. Amid Hillary’s hitlist of villains, even toothless Joe Biden gets gut-shot.

There are, naturally, two ways of interpreting the results of the 2016 elections pitting the two most unappetizing candidates in American history against each: either Trump found some way to defeat Hillary or, more probably, Hillary managed to lose to Trump.

But Hillary’s psyche can’t swallow either scenario. So, she endeavors to create a mystery where there is none. The outcome was so inexplicable, she reasons, that there must be some hidden mechanism at work: Russian hacking, press bias, left betrayal, FBI sabotage. Clinton summons a lineup of the possible suspects: Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, the New York Times, CNN, and Jim Comey. Alas, Hillary and her ghost-writer are not John LeCarré. She can’t spin a coherent and plausible cyber-spy yarn, in part because Clinton keeps getting sidetracked by a compulsion to wash her own hands of any culpability in blowing the election.

The closest Hillary comes to any admission of personal liability is when she discloses that she may have blundered when she smeared Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” Then she suddenly pulls back, recalibrates and defends her denunciation of white working class voters as an act of courage, speaking truth to the powerless, even though it may have harmed her. “I regret handing Trump a political gift with my ‘deplorables’ comment,” she writes. “[But] too many of Trump’s core supporters do hold views that I find — there’s no other word for it — deplorable.” What started as a confession ended in a boast.

Of course, Hillary Clinton has never been able to conceal her contempt for her enemies, real and imagined. It’s one reason she’s never been a successful politician. Where others are supple, she is taut. Unlike Bill, Hillary is a prolific, but graceless and transparent liar. She is also probably the nastiest political figure in America since Nixon. Yet she lacked Nixon’s Machiavellian genius for political manipulation. Hillary wears her menace on her face. She could never hide her aspiration for power; her desire to become a war criminal in the ranks of her mentor Henry Kissinger (symbolized by the laurels of a Nobel Peace Prize, naturally). Americans don’t mind politicians with a lust to spill blood, but they prefer them not to advertise it.

Thus, Clinton was miscast from the beginning as a political candidate for elected office. Her skills and temperament were more suited to the role of political enforcer in the mode of Thomas Cromwell or John Erhlichman. But her ambition wouldn’t let her settle for the role of a backstage player. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is how easy it is for some people to say horrible things about me when I’m not around,” she fumes with Nixonian fury, “but how hard it is for them to look me in the eye and say it to my face.”

Hillary has tried to reinvent herself many times and does so yet again in this meretricious coda to her failed campaign. She made herself more domesticated for the southern electorate in Arkansas. She shifted the blame to her advisors after the disaster of her health care bill. She washed off the blood-spatter from the Ken Starr investigations by portraying herself as the target of a witch hunt. She exploited an addled Daniel Patrick Moynihan to justify running as an interloper for Senator in New York. She rationalized her votes for the Iraq War by saying she was duped by Colin Powell and Dick Cheney. She manufactured a timely tear for the cameras after her loss to Obama. She assumed the mantle of unrepentant war-monger during her belligerent tenure as Secretary of State and transubstantiated into a white dove during her debates with Bernie Sanders.

She has weeded and blurred inconvenient episodes from her resumé. She has gone on talking tours. She has appeared in town halls. She has reintroduced herself, again and again. She’s changed her name, hairstyles and fashion designers. She exchanged dresses for pantsuits. She shifted from drinking pinot noir to craft beers. She’s backed wars both before she opposed them and after she condemned them. But she remains the same Hillary Rodham Clinton Americans have known since 1992. Everybody sees this except her. Americans know Hillary better than she does herself.  All of her manufactured mirages are translucent to the very the people she wants to deceive.  When Hillary looks in the mirror, she must see what might have been (should have been in her mind) and not what is. And that schism enrages her.

“Why am I seen as such a divisive figure and, say, Joe Biden and John Kerry aren’t?” she mopes. “They’ve cast votes of all kinds, including some they regret, just like me? What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking. I’m at a loss.”

This self-pitying book should prove a challenge for library cataloguers. Shall they shelve it as non-fiction or fiction? What do we make of a woman who lies so casually about matters great and petty, including the origins of her own name? For years, Hillary has insisted that her mother named her after Edmund Hillary. HRC was born in 1947. The New Zealand mountaineer and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest six years later in 1953.

Hillary rarely offers anything remotely revealing about herself, other than plastic platitudes and self-flattering fables. But what seeps through this memoir page after page is an animus that seethes beneath her very thin-skin against anyone she believes has slighted her. Brooding on her fate, she writes mordantly: “It wasn’t healthy or productive to dwell on the ways I felt I’d been shivved.” Yet that’s precisely what she does, incessantly. [Note the deployment of the prison slang “shivved,” with its faint whiff of black criminality. The cunning use of racist tropes is a familiar trick in the Clinton playbook. It implies that she has been stabbed in the back by a friend or someone she thought she owned.]

Hillary’s politics never really matured much beyond the inbred conservativism that drew her to Barry Goldwater in the mid-60s. She’s a moral prude, a hawk, and an unrepentant capitalist, who is deeply suspicious of black people. Eventually, the Democratic Party devolved toward her austere political views, abetted by her husband, Al Gore and the other neoliberal “New Democrats.”

What she had, the ace of up her sleeve, was her feminism. But it was a unique brand of feminism. Call it power feminism, which asserted individual ambition rather than a militant political agenda. She also weaponized the feminism of victimhood. At one point in What Happened, she compares herself to Cersei Lannister in “Game of Thrones.” Not Cersei the torturer, assassin and war-monger, mind you, where the parallels might have been germane. But Cersei the victim of male power, who was forced to walk naked through the streets of Kings Landing while being jeered and pelted with garbage and feces by the townsfolk in a ritual of public shaming. Hillary charges that her chance to rule was undone by a nation of misogynists, who thrilled at her torments. “I wish so badly we were a country where a candidate who said, ‘My story is the story of a life shaped by and devoted to the movement for women’s liberation’ would be cheered, not jeered. But that’s not who we are.”

As for the 53 percent of white women who voted against her, they too are portrayed as victims. We are led to believe that these women weren’t acting on their own agency in the voting booth. Rather they were captives, little more than automatons controlled by their husbands, fathers, bosses and preachers.

Throughout her career, HRC regularly scolded poor black and Hispanic families about taking “personal responsibility” for their dire circumstances. Indeed, Clinton cast welfare reform as the penance the poor must pay for not getting their shit together. But personal responsibility is a quality that Hillary never adopts for her own failures and screw-ups, including grave ones such as the invasion of Libya or sliming black teens as “super predators” in her lobbying blitz to enact her husband’s vicious Crime Bill. She can’t forgive Bernie Sanders for having the temerity to challenge her pre-ordained coronation and shining a spotlight on the more ignoble chapters of her political career.

“Bernie routinely portrayed me as a corrupt corporatist who couldn’t be trusted…Bernie was outraged about everything. He thundered on at every event about the sins of the ‘millionaires and billionaires,’” she raves.

 

“I was more focused on offering practical solutions that would address real problems and make life better for people.”

 

She then cynically blames Sanders for her losses in Ohio and Pennsylvania with apparently no assist from Putin: “What did matter, and had a lasting impact, was that Bernie’s presence in the race meant that I had less space and credibility to run the kind of progressive campaign that had helped me win Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2008.”

 

Tell Putin the news, Bernie.

Hillary Clinton has been obsessed with power her entire adult life. Now it has finally slipped from her hands, and, like some deposed monarch or disgraced CEO, she can only see a conspiracy behind her downfall. Of course, the Clintons have always been professional paranoids. Every roadbump in their political careers has been covertly placed in their path by some shadowy, malign force. In What Happened the “vast right-wing conspiracy” Hillary inveighed against in the 1990s has morphed into a vast “left-right conspiracy of men,” who, in her portentous words, “want to blow up the system and undermine it and all the rest of the stuff they talk about.” The system, of course, is a stand-in for herself. Her defeat at the hands of a ruthless and scheming patriarchy, we are encouraged to believe, is a trembling testament to American political decline. This egotistical gibberish comes from the woman who seemed eager to bring the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust over Syria and Ukraine.

What Happened is a sordid book, petulant and spiteful. It made me feel queasy and dirty while reading it, like the whole 25-year-long experience of Clintonism itself.

By the end, I got the sense that its sleazy torrent of invective and blame-mongering was more an attempt to console the frail psyche of the author rather than to repair her shattered image to any readership the book might find. In the years to come, What Happened will prove much more valuable as documentary evidence for psycho-historians than political scientists.

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America’s Weapons: “The Dollar And The Drone”

Authored by Brian Maher via DailyReckoning.com,

It was said that “the guinea and the gallows” were the true instruments of British imperial power.

The guinea represented the coined wealth of Great Britain.

The gallows represented its… constabulary zeal in policing restless natives.

This is the 21st century of course… a time of enlightenment.

Today’s instruments of imperial power are no longer the guinea and the gallows.

No. Today’s instruments of imperial power are “the dollar and the drone.”

The dollar and the drone are America’s weapons.

Like the 19th-century pound (which replaced the guinea), today’s dollar is the world’s reserve currency.

Like the 19th-century pound, the dollar finances some two-thirds of global trade.

And the gallows?

Britain hanged its foreign trouble. America explodes its own in drone attacks.

Here is civilization; here is progress.

The sun eventually sank on the British Empire… the gallows came down… and the pound lost its global reserve status.

The U.S. will have its drones. But is its other weapon, the dollar, close to losing global reserve status?

Recent developments may tell…

The global oil trade has centered on the dollar since 1974, when Saudi Arabia agreed to enthrone the dollar as currency of the oil market.

If it was oil you wanted… it was dollars you needed.

But now China — world’s top oil importer — is preparing to create an oil market that bypasses the dollar entirely.

The plan would let China buy oil from Russia and Iran with its own currency, the yuan.

But the yuan is not a major reserve currency like the dollar.

Under this plan, Russia and Iran would be able to swap yuan for an asset far more desirable than Chinese scraps of paper — gold itself.

Perhaps that explains why China’s been hoarding so much gold in recent years?

Jim Rickards says this system marks the beginning of the end for the petrodollar:

China, Russia and Iran are coordinating a new international monetary order that does not involve U.S. dollars. It has several parts, which together spell dollar doom. The first part is that China will buy oil from Russia and Iran in exchange for yuan.

 

The yuan is not a major reserve currency, so it’s not an especially attractive asset for Russia or Iran to hold. China solves that problem by offering to convert yuan into gold on a spot basis on the Shanghai Gold Exchange…

 

This marks the beginning of the end of the petrodollar system that Henry Kissinger worked out with Saudi Arabia in 1974, after Nixon abandoned gold.

But it’s not only China, Russia and Iran that are out to dethrone King Dollar.

They’re joined by the rest of the “BRICS” nations — Brazil, India, South Africa.

Together they represent 25% of global economic output.

At last week’s annual BRICS summit in China, members announced full-throated support for China’s plan.

The message, clear as gin: The dollar’s days of “exorbitant privilege” must end.

And yesterday brought news that could further accelerate China’s de-dollarization plans…

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced the U.S. would consider locking China out of the international dollar system if Beijing doesn’t cooperate with new sanctions against North Korea:

If China doesn’t follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the U.S. and international dollar system. And that’s quite meaningful.

“Meaningful” might be one word for it. “Menacing” would be another.

SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a network that facilitates trillions of dollars in international money transfers each year.

It is the oil that lubricates the machinery of the international financial system — or as Jim Rickards styles it, “the oxygen supply that keeps the global financial system alive.”

And to cut off China’s oxygen?

“That is why China buys gold,” Jim Rickards tweeted this morning from London.

Our colleague Dave Gonigam of The 5 Min. Forecast half-jestingly wonders, “Is the Trump administration trying to kill off the U.S. dollar’s status as the globe’s reserve currency?”

Of course, the dollar will not lose reserve status tomorrow, next week, next year.

But the direction of travel seems clear enough.

Jim:

In 2000, dollar assets were about 70% of global reserves. Today, the comparable figure is about 62%. If this trend continues, one could easily see the dollar fall below 50% in the not-too-distant future.

How does one go bankrupt?

Slowly at first, said Hemingway — then all at once.

That’s how the dollar will likely lose its reserve status… slowly at first… then all at once…

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