Tag: Vladimir Putin (page 1 of 7)

Turkey, Iraq Threaten “Military Intervention” As Iraqi Kurds Hold Independence Referendum

One day after a “Nightmare Victory” for Angela Merkel in the German elections, which has unleashed a nationalist “earthquake” in the Bundestag, on Monday in another closely watched election, polls opened in Iraq’s Kurdish-run provinces and disputed territories as Iraqi Kurds cast ballots in support for independence from Baghdad in a historic but non-binding and furiously challenged vote.

Millions are expected to vote on Monday across the three provinces that make up the Kurdish autonomous region, as well as residents in disputed territories — areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The vote is being carried out despite mounting regional opposition to the move, including virtually every neighboring nation, except the odd stance by Israel whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stunned the region when he commented specifically of the referendum on Sept 13 saying, “Israel supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.” 

In an attempt to appease the vocal opposition, the prime minister of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region said the referendum doesn’t mean “redrawing borders” and will not result in immediate independence. Nechirvan Barzani says that even if the result of the vote is a “yes,” the region will resolve its disputes with Baghdad peacefully. He spoke at a press conference on Monday morning in Irabil, the Kurdish regional capital. Voting is taking place across the region and in disputed territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Last week, the United States joined the broader chorus, warning that the vote will likely destabilize the region amid the fight with the Islamic State group. As reported yesterday, Baghdad also came out strongly against the referendum, demanding on Sunday that all airports and borders crossings in the Kurdish region be handed back to federal government control.

On Monday, the diplomatic and economic noose around Iraqi Kurdistan tightened further when Turkey said it doesn’t recognize the Iraqi Kurdish region’s referendum on support for independence from Baghdad and insists its results will be “null and void.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a statement as polls opened in Iraq’s Kurdish-run provinces and disputed territories on Monday, with Ankara calling on the international community, and especially regional countries, not to recognize the vote either. It also urged Iraq Kurdish leaders to abandon “utopic goals,” accusing them of endangering peace and stability for Iraq and the whole region. The ministry reiterated that Turkey would take all measures to thwart threats to its national security. On Saturday, Turkey’s parliament met in an extraordinary session to extend a mandate allowing Turkey’s military to send troops over its southern border if developments in Iraq and Syria are perceived as national security threats.

As noted earlier, the price of Brent (and WTI) jumped this morning after Turkish President Erdogan warned that Turkey could cut off the pipeline that carries oil from northern Iraq to the outside world, further intensifying the pressure on the Kurdish autonomous region over its independence referendum. Erdogan spoke shortly after Prime Minister Binali Yildirum said Ankara could take punitive measures involving borders and air space against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the referendum and would not recognize the outcome. Yildirim also said on Monday that officers and experts from Iraq’s army would join military exercises that Turkey launched along the border in an apparent warning to the Iraqi Kurds.

Iraq, of course, was just as livid, with Baghdad residents strongly criticizing the Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum, saying it would raise sectarian tensions and create an “Israel in Iraq”… which may explain why Bibi is for it. An Arabic newspaper headline on Monday said “Kurdistan into the unknown,” a reference to the name Kurds use for their region. According to AP, journalist Raad Mohammad said the vote represents a “division of Iraq,” and added that it was “unacceptable for the Iraqi people as well as many other countries.”

Another Baghdad resident, Ali al-Rubayah, described the referendum as a “black day in the history of the Kurds,” adding that “today, the Kurds are trying to make an Israeli state in the north of Iraq.” Lawyer Tariq al-Zubaydi said the referendum was inappropriate amid the “ongoing threat of terrorism and Islamic State” and that a “unified country is better for all.”

As AP adds, an Iraqi lawmaker said the country’s parliament has approved several tough measures in response to the vote.  Shiite lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili says the measures will force Baghdad to act to “protect Iraq’s unity and to deploy troops in all areas” where they were before the 2014 blitz by the Islamic State group. Al-Zamili says measures approved on Monday also call for closing all border crossings with the Kurdish region and banning oil trade. He says the parliament considers the Kurdish referendum unconstitutional and calls for taking legal measures against all Kurdish officials and employees who took part in the vote. Bloomberg has a full breakdown of the measures adopted by Iraq today:

  • Iraq parliament voted to close border crossings with Kurdistan, return oil fields in north of Kirkuk, other disputed areas to the control and supervision of the federal govt, the legislature said on its website.
  • Also voted to prevent companies from carrying out exploration work in joint and disputed areas subject to lawsuits
  • Oil exports should only be done via federal govt
  • Army chief must take all legal, constitutional measures to protect Iraq’s unity
  • Deploy troops in areas that had been under Iraq’s control before 2014 and in Kirkuk

A “troica” against the referendum was formed when Iran joined Iraq and Turkey in describing the Iraqi Kurdish referendum as “untimely and wrong” and reiterated its support for Iraq’s territorial integrity. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters on Monday that the vote could “lead to developments and happenings that could affect all people of the region and especially Kurdish people.” Ghasemi reiterated that Iran supports the “territorial integrity and democratic process” in Iraq.

As reported yesterday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council closed off the country’s airspace to the Iraqi Kurdish area at the request of the central government in Baghdad. More from AP:

Since Sunday, Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has been having a military exercise in its northwestern Kurdish region bordering Iraq in a sign of Tehran’s concerns over the Iraqi Kurdish vote.  Iran and Iraq have been close allies since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Both are opposed to Kurdish independence.

 

In June, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, that Iraq “should remain integrated” and that advocates of Kurdish independence are “opponents of the independence and identity” of Iraq.

Even Syria jumped on the bandwagon, when its foreign minister said the country doesn’t recognize the Iraqi Kurdish referendum saying Damascus rejects any measure that could break up neighboring Iraq. The Syrian state news agency SANA says Walid al-Moallem spoke on Sunday in New York. Syria’s has a large Kurdish minority that last week had its own vote as part of a move toward a federal system within Syria.

As AP explains, “Syria, like Turkey and Iran, opposes the vote in Iraq, fearing that Kurdish communities within Syria might eventually do the same.” Al-Moallem described the Iraqi Kurdish vote as a “step that we do not recognize” and stressed that the government in Damascus only recognizes a “sole, united Iraq. He says: “We reject any measure the leads to dividing Iraq.”

Finally, closing the loop on today’s independence referendum, Turkish President Erdogan said he had spoken to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin over the phone about the Kurdish vote and while he did not elaborate whether Russia, too, is against the vote, said that that Putin would visit Ankara on Thursday to discuss developments in the region, including the Kurdish referendum.

So with virtually everyone, not only its neighbors but also the US and potentially Russia, breathing down the neck of millions of Iraqi Kurds with warnings that the vote will not stand, and only Israel on the side of secession, we look forward to how Barzani will respond to the vote which is expected to pass overwhelmingly in favor of independence, and whether this will serve as the next military geopolitical strike point in the middle east.

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Elon Musk Isn’t Alone: Vladimir Putin Asks “How Long Before The Robots Eat Us”

Elon Musk isn’t the only one whose afraid that advances in artificial intelligence will leads to something akin to the creation of Skynet.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed reservations about artificial intelligence, even asking the head of Russia's largest tech firm 'how long do we have before the robots eat us'?

The Russian president was speaking to Arkady Volozh, chief of internet firm Yandex, during a tour of the company's Moscow headquarters, the Daily Mail reports. Volozh was discussing the “potential” of AI when he discovered that Putin has a dramatically different interpretation of what that might be.

According to state-funded Russian broadcaster RT, the question baffled Volozh.  

“I hope never”, he replied after taking a pause to gather his thoughts. “It’s not the first machine to be better than humans at something. An excavator digs better than we do with a shovel. But we don’t get eaten by excavators. A car moves faster than we do…”

 

But Putin seemed unconvinced. “They don’t think,” he remarked.

 

Volozh acknowledged that it was true and scrambled back to his speech on AI’s merits.

Putin hasn’t always harbored such a pessimistic view of AI. When asked earlier this month by a group of kids about who would rule the world in the future, Putin said it would be whatever country manages to perfect artificial intelligence.

As RT points out, tech firms like Google and Facebook are developing new AI technology as an increasing number of online services rely on algorithms, including search engines, automated translation between languages, image enhancement and targeted advertising, an area that recently got Facebook into hot water when its self-reporting ad algos created a targeting category using the keywords "jew hater."

Musk has repeatedly warned that AI could cause World War III. Unless the technology is properly regulated, he said, it represents a much bigger threat to the security of the US than North Korea.

Of course, Musk has been criticized for his paranoid views by such tech luminaries as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said he was “optimistic” about AI’s potential.

Whatever happens with AI, hopefully it doesn’t come to this.

 

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The Petrodollar Is Under Attack: Here’s What You Need To Know

Authored by Darius Shatahmasebi via TheAntiMedia.org,

Once upon a time, the U.S. dollar was backed by the gold standard in a framework that established what was known as the Bretton-Woods agreement, made in 1944. The dollar was fixed to gold at a price of $35 an ounce, though the dollar could earn interest, marking one notable difference from gold.

The system ended up being short-lived, as President Richard Nixon announced that the U.S. would be abandoning the gold standard in 1971. Instead, the U.S. had other plans for the future of global markets.

As the Huffington Post has explained, the Nixon Administration reached a deal with Saudi Arabia:

“The essence of the deal was that the U.S. would agree to military sales and defense of Saudi Arabia in return for all oil trade being denominated in U.S. dollars.”

This system became known as the Petrodollar Recycling system because countries like Saudi Arabia would have to invest excess profits back into the U.S. It didn’t take long for every single member of OPEC to start trading oil in U.S. dollars.

A little-known economic theory, rejected by the mainstream, stipulates that Washington’s stranglehold over financial markets can be at least partially explained by the fact that all oil exports are conducted in transactions involving the U.S. dollar. This relationship between oil and currency arguably gives the dollar its value, as this paradigm requires all exporting and importing countries to maintain a certain stock of U.S. dollars, adding to the dollar’s value. As Foreign Policy – a magazine that rejects the theory – explains:

“It does matter slightly that the trade typically takes place in dollars. This means that those wishing to buy oil must acquire dollars to buy the oil, which increases the demand for dollars in world financial markets.”

The term “those wishing to buy oil” encompasses almost every single country that does not have an oil supply of its own – hardly a trivial number. An endless demand for dollars means an endless supply, and the United States can print as much paper as it wants to account for its imperial ambitions. No other country in the world can do this.

In 2000, Iraq announced it would no longer use U.S. dollars to sell oil on the global market. It adopted the euro, instead, which was no easy decision to make. However, by February 2003, the Guardian reported that Iraq had netted a “handsome profit” after making this policy change.

Anyone who rejects this petrodollar theory should be able to answer the following question: if currency is not an important factor in America’s imperialist adventures, why was the U.S. so intent on invading a country (based on cold, hard lies), only to make it a priority to switch the sale of oil back to dollars? If they cared so much about Iraq and its people, as we were supposed to have believed, why not allow Iraq to continue netting a “handsome profit”?

In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi was punished for a similar proposal that would have created a unified African currency backed by gold, which would have been used to buy and sell African oil. Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails confirmed this was the main reason Gaddafi was overthrown, though commentators continue to ignore and reject the theory. Despite these denials, Clinton’s leaked emails made it clear that Gaddafi’s plan for the future of African oil exports was a priority for the U.S. and its NATO cohorts, more so than Gaddafi’s alleged human rights abuses. This is the same Hillary Clinton who openly laughed when Gaddafi was sodomized and murdered, displaying no regrets that she single-handedly plunged a very rich and prosperous nation into a complete state of chaos.

At the start of this month, Venezuela announced it would soon “free” itself from the dollar. Barely a week or so later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Venezuela had stopped accepting dollars for oil payments in response to U.S. sanctions. Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil reserves. Donald Trump’s threats of unilateral military intervention — combined with the CIA’s admission that it will interfere in the oil-rich country — may make a lot more sense in this context.

Iran has also been using alternative currencies  — like the Chinese yuan — for some time now. It also shares a lucrative gas field with Qatar, which could be days away from ditching the dollar, as well. Qatar has reportedly already been conducting billions of dollars’ worth of transactions in the yuan. Just recently, Qatar and Iran restored full diplomatic relations in a complete snub to the U.S. and its allies. It is no surprise, then, that both countries have been vilified on the international stage, particularly under the Trump administration.

In the latest dig to the U.S. dollar and global financial hegemony, the Times of Israel reported that a Chinese state-owned investment firm has provided a $10 billion credit line to Iranian banks, which will specifically use yuan and euros to bypass U.S.-led sanctions.

Consider that in August 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if the U.S. walked away from the nuclear deal with Iran and forced its allies to comply with U.S.-led sanctions, it would be a “recipe, very quickly…for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world.”

Iran, bound to Syria by a mutual-defense pact, was reportedly working to establish a natural gas pipeline that would run through Iraq and Syria with the aim of exporting gas to European markets, cutting off Washington and its allies completely. This was, of course, in 2009 — before the Syrian war began. Such a pipeline deal, now with Russia’s continued air support and military presence, could entail the emergence of a whole new market that could easily be linked to the euro, or any other currency for that matter, instead of the dollar.

According to Russian state-owned outlet RT, the Kremlin’s website announced Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has also instructed the government to approve legislation to ditch the U.S. dollar at all Russian seaports by next year.

Further, the Asia Times explains that Putin dropped an enormous “bombshell” at the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen early September, stating:

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.” [emphasis added]

According to the Asia Times author, the statement was code-speak for how BRICS countries will look to bypass the U.S. dollar as well as the petrodollar.

China is also on board with this proposal. Soon, China will launch a crude oil futures contract priced in Chinese yuan that will be completely convertible into gold. As reported by the Nikkei Asian Review, analysts have called this move a “game-changer” for the oil industry.

Both Russia and China have been buying up huge quantities of gold for some time now. Russia’s present gold reserves would back 27 percent of the narrow ruble money supply – far in excess of any other major country. The United States’ Federal Reserve admitted years ago that they haven’t held any gold for a very long time.

China is also implementing a monumental project, known as the Silk Road project, which is a major push to create a permanent trade route connecting China, Africa, and Europe. One must wonder much control over these transactions will the U.S. have.

These are just a few of the latest developments that have affected the dollar.

Can those continue to reject this petrodollar-related theory answer the following questions with confidence: Is it a coincidence that all of the countries listed above as moving away from the dollar are long-time adversaries of the United States, including the ones that were invaded? Is it a coincidence that Saudi Arabia gets a free pass to commit a host of criminal actions as it complies with the global financial order? Are Saudi Arabia’s concerns with Qatar really rooted in the latter’s alleged funding of terror groups even though Saudi Arabia leads the world in funding the world’s most vile terror groups?

Clearly, there is something far more sinister at play here, and whether or not it is tied solely to a deranged, psychopathic currency warfare will remain to be seen. The evidence continues to show, however, that the U.S. dollar is slowly being eroded piece by piece and ounce by ounce — and that as these adversarial countries make these developments in unison, there appears to be little the U.S. can do without risking an all-out world war.

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Caught On Video: Maxine Waters Uses Funeral Speech To Push Trump Impeachment

What was supposed to be a remembrance ceremony for this man, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, yesterday turned mildly bizarre, which is a recurring theme as it were, when California congresswoman Maxine Waters took the stage.

Gregory

 

Rather than focus on the lifetime accomplishments of Gregory or fond personal memories, you know all the stuff you would usually include in a eulogy, Waters decided a funeral ceremony was the perfect place to once again call Donald Trump a racist and demand his immediate impeachment.

“I’m cleaning out the White House.  We’re going to sanitize the White House. We’re not going to take what is happening in this country.”

 

“Haven’t you taken enough?”

 

“And then comes along this person [Trump]…This person who does not respect you. This dishonorable human being who cheats everybody! This dishonorable human being who will lie at the drop of a hat. This dishonorable human being who has the alt-right, and the KKK and everybody else inside his Cabinet! This dishonorable human being who can criticize everybody but (Vladimir) Putin and Russia.”

 

“Not only are we going to clean out the White House. We’re going to take back the house that slaves built!”

 

“And I know my colleagues get very upset. Some get afraid when I say ‘impeachment’…when I get through with Donald Trump, he’s going to wish he had been impeached!”

 

“I’m gonna say ‘Impeach 45 everyday,’ ‘Impeach 45 everyday,’ ‘Impeach 45 everyday.’”

 

Of course, if almost anyone other than Waters used the word “sanitize” in a racially-charged monologue describing what she would like to do to someone of another race, it would undoubtedly be front-page news for every political paper in the country…that said, somehow we suspect CNN will ‘miss’ this one.

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Russian Collusion? New Emails Reveal Hillary Clinton Invited Putin To “Pay For Play” Event

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

In newly released emails which the mainstream media is willfully ignoring, Hillary Clinton invited Russian president Vladimir Putin to a Clinton Foundation event. The Russian collusion between Hillary Clinton is becoming very apparent.

Hillary Clinton likes to talk a tough game about Russian President Vladimir Putin. And she likes to put him on the list of those at fault for her loss in the election last November to Donald Trump. But that didn’t stop her from inviting him and other top Russian officials to a Clinton Foundation gala right after she became Secretary of State.

Clinton Foundation director of foreign policy Amitabh Desai sent dozens of invitations to world leaders including then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, emails recently obtained by Judicial Watch revealed.

While Democrats blast any Republican who has the nerve to even look Russia’s direction, Hillary and her minions in the Clinton Foundation were begging the Russians to come to an event put on by the “pay for play” organization.

Hillary offered political favors in exchange for money filtered through the Clinton Foundation.

On March 13, 2009, Desai emailed the list of invitations to Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, who then forwarded the email to top Clinton aide, Jake Sullivan. This happened at approximately the same time that the newly appointed Clinton tried to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia. Yet, Donald Trump has been blasted for trying to do the same thing. The propaganda in the media is becoming clear as they continue to brush this story under the rug too.

Hillary Clinton repeatedly attacked Putin during her 2016 presidential campaign and often tried to link president Donald Trump to the Russian leader. Clinton and her staff, with help from Barack Obama and the media also allegedly concocted the “Russian hacking” narrative within 24-hours of her election defeat, as documented in the Clinton campaign tell-all book, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign:

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up.

 

For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

Clinton’s public display of contempt for Putin does not match her track record of how she interacted with the Russian leader in the past as controversy swirled following a uranium deal she approved while at the State Department. The deal was quickly followed by a massive donation to her foundation, proving the “pay for play” policy she herself used to become wealthy.

“One year after inviting Putin to the Clinton Foundation event, she approved the sale of 20% of America’s uranium capacity to Russia,” Conservative Review noted.

 

“Shortly thereafter, donors connected to the company that was sold to Russia contributed $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

These newly released emails simply prove what most already knew – Hillary Clinton’s collusion with Russia is far deeper than Donald Trump’s.

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Putin Orders End To US Dollar Trade At Russian Seaports

Whether in response to rising scorching tensions with the US, or simply to provide support for the ruble, on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to approve legislation making the ruble the main currency of exchange at all Russian seaports by next year, RT reported citing the Kremlin website.

The head of Russian antitrust watchdog FAS Igor Artemyev, many services in Russian seaports are still priced in US dollars, even though such ports are state-owned. So, in order to “protect the interests” of dockworkers and their complyees with foreign currency obligations, the government was instructed to set a transition period before switching to ruble settlements.


The commercial sea port of Novorossiysk

The proposal to switch port tariffs to rubles was first proposed by Putin a year and a half ago, but it was mothballed only to pick up speed again in recent days.

Originally, the idea was rejected by large transport companies, which said they prefer to keep revenues in dollars and other foreign currencies due to sharp fluctuations on the volatile ruble. However, the Russian anti-trust watchdog said the decision would force foreigners to buy Russian currency, which would stabilize rates and be good for the ruble.

In 2016, Artemyev’s agency filed several lawsuits against the largest Russian port group NMTP.

According to FAS, the group of companies set tariffs for transshipment in dollars and raised tariffs from January 2015 “without objective grounds.”

 

The watchdog ruled that NMTP abused its dominant position in the market and imposed a 9.74 billion rubles fine, or about $165 million at the current exchange rate. The decision was overturned by a court in Moscow in July this year.

While Russia’s stated motive for the unexpected redenomination of trade at some of its largest trading hubs has to do with domestic economic policies, there is speculation that the timing of this decision has been influenced by the recent diplomatic fallout between the US and Russia, the result of which would be an heightened demand for the ruble, especially since it is rather complicated to find alternative sources for Russia’s largest export by a wide margin: crude.

And while it is still early to discuss whether Moscow has launched the “Petrorouble”, Putin’s rejection of the Petrodollar in yet another aspect of economic life will raise quite a few eyebrows around the globe.

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Watch Live: President Trump Set To Label Iran, North Korea “Global Threats” During First UN Address

President Donald Trump will deliver his first address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday at 10 am. His remarks will be streamed on the UN's live feed, available below…

Since late yesterday, senior members of the Trump administration, a group that may include the president himself, have been furiously leaking details of the president's first address to the United Nations to various media outlets. The upshot, according to the WSJ, is that the president's speech – perhaps his most highly anticipated since his first address to a joint session of Congress back in February – will focus largely on railing against the US's many geopolitical enemies while attempting to reconcile Trump's "America First" populism with the US's role as a global leader. In particular, he's expected to try and rally international support for suppressing North Korea's nuclear program, while labeling both Iran and the isolated North as "global threats." Moving further down the list of US enemies, Trump is expected to castigate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for his anti-demoncratic crackdowns as his country continues to sink into economic chaos, driven by low oil prices and years of mismanagement.

According to WSJ, Trump will also touch on the need for reforming the UN, which he criticized in remarks made Monday during a working group for being too bloated and overly bureaucratic, while advocating a foreign policy that's "driven by outcomes."

"Mr. Trump will call for more burden sharing and cooperation among countries on issues including the fight on terrorism, North Korea’s nuclear and military threat, and Iran’s adherence to a multinational nuclear deal.

He will also mention reforms at the U.N. and the role countries play in enabling North Korea’s regime, though it wasn’t clear whether Mr. Trump will blame specific nations for keeping Pyongyang’s economy afloat despite global sanctions. He is expected also to address the crisis in Venezuela.

The address will combine the nationalistic theme of his campaign with an appeal to the nationalism of other countries as a new basis for international cooperation, the senior official said.

“It will be a foreign policy that is driven by outcomes, not by ideologies,” the official said. “What the president is doing is explaining how the principle of America First is not only consistent with the goal of international cooperation, but a rational basis for every country to engage in cooperation.”

The official said Mr. Trump dedicated considerable time fine-tuning his speech with his advisers because he believes Tuesday’s address is “an incredible moment and an enormous opportunity to demonstrate US leadership and USvalues.” However, while Trump is expected to find broad support for some issues, like condemining North Korea and combating terrorism, he may face pushback on others, like his demand that the Paris Accord be renegotiated, as well as his opposition to Iran, which signed a deal two years ago with the five members of the UN Security Council plus the European Union.

On those issues, French President Emmanuel Macron, who is also slated to speak Tuesday, could serve as a foil to his US counterpart and newfound friend.

“The [Iran nuclear] agreement is solid and we will make sure the agreement is strictly implemented,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters Monday morning in New York, adding that so far there had been no indications of a breach by Iran.

Trump is also expected to repeat his criticisms that the US is shouldering too much of the financial and military burden of protecting the international community – a theme that was the focus of remarks he made at a NATO meeting earlier this year that elicited horrified responses from some NATO leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, who will not be in attendance at the UN because of the federal elections being held in Germany. Trump is expected to ask oher countries to join in the defining battles of the early 21st century, echoing themes of his campaign rallies and previous foreign-policy speeches.

Of course, as the Hill notes, world leaders will likely hang on every word of Trump's speech as they try to suss out which Trump they are dealing with: The conciliatory Trump epitomized by his address to Congress in February, or the fiery populist who speaks off the cuff and sometimes offers opinions or statements with little to no filter. Much of the political world, both right and left, "will be on tenterhooks" during his speech, the Hill reported. Trump started his week-long trip to the UN on a cautious note Monday, couching his desire for reform of the organization in diplomatic terms during a speech he gave to a forum of dignitaries that included the organization's new secretary-general, António Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal. Most observers expect Trump will continue in a similar vein — but they know that nothing is guaranteed.

Even some long-time Democratic strategists were saying the speech "could be a win" for Trump if he sticks to the teleprompter.

“I actually think if it is Teleprompter Trump, it could be good for him,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “But going off-script is always the danger.”

Most observers expect Trump will continue in a cautious vein – but as Trump's adversaries have repeatedly learned, when dealing with Trump, nothing is guaranteed. To be sure, a more measured approach would help defeat Trump's reputation for "conducting foreign policy in inflammatory terms, generating tension with US allies," as the Hill describes it. During his one-on-one meetings Monday with Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump offered a more conventional approach – most of the time.

As the Hill recounts, Trump promised to give plans for peace between Israel and the Palestinians “an absolute go” during remarks with Netanyahu, while telling Macron that the unpopular French president pulled off “one of the great election victories of all time” and was doing “a terrific job.”

Yet Tuesday will bring a more difficult test, as Trump tries to rally an international community that is deeply skeptical of him to put greater pressure on North Korea. Notably, the leaders of Russia and China —both permanent members of the UN Security Council — are not attending the summit. Trump has had what could be described as a "love-hate" relationship with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office.

For his part, Trump admits that some of the topics he will cover may be "tricky," but that he is looking forward to the challenge.
 

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In “Warning To Pyongyang”, B-1B Bombers, F-35s Hold Mock Bombing Drills

A day after US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley admitted that with the latest round of sanctions the Security Council has just about reached the limits of China’s and Russia’s tolerance – and that the US will now need to explore other diplomatic, and possibly military, options, US forces joined with their South Korea counterparts for another "show of strength" meant for North Korea.

Both Haley and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on the Sunday talk shows to stress – using language that’s ringing increasingly hollow – that the administration wouldn’t hesitate to authorize a military response to the North should diplomacy fail.

And to demonstrate that, four US F-35 stealth fighters and two B-1B bombers conducted another round of "mock bombing exercises" over the Korean peninsula on Monday, according to Reuters. The US aircraft, which were joined by four South Korea F-15K fighter jets, returned to their bases in Japan and Guam after the exercise, but the latest demonstration of western capabilities likely assures that Kim Jong Un, who views such exercises in the same way the international community views his missile launches, will seek to retaliate with his own show of force.

North Korea, for its part, has said the faster sanctions are imposed, the more quickly it will move to complete the development of its nuclear program, with KCNA stating that U.S. moves to impose sanctions and pressure on the country "will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force."

The drills were a response to North Korea’s decision to again launch an intermediate range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday – the second time the isolated North has conducted such a provocative test. Of course, that test was meant to be a response to the latest round of UN sanctions, which were a response to its previous firing of missiles over Japan, which were a response to…you get the picture.

Meanwhile, China and Russia conducted joint military exercises of their own near the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok. The drills are the latest sign that the two powers, which have sought to serve as mediators between the US and North – though neither belligerent has so far taken the two countries’ offer to arrange diplomatic talks – are taking joint precautions should the conflict boil over into war, according to Reuters, which cited a report from China’s Xinhua news agency. Although it is unclear if the message is meant for fat Uncle Kim or not so fat Uncle Slam.

Those drills were conducted between Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok, and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan. Those drills were part of joint China-Russian naval exercises, the first part of which was staged in the Baltic in July. Of course, Xinhua did not directly link the drills to current tension over North Korea.

As Russia Today points out, Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly proposed a ‘double-freeze’ peace plan where the North Korea suspends its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military exercises. However, Washington has rejected the plan, saying that it has every right to conduct drills with South Korea.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the escalating tensions between the US and North Korea were on the brink of a nuclear war that could lead to a “global, planetary catastrophe” and huge loss of life.

The North Korean regime believes that its nuclear program is essential to its survival, as Russia and China have repeatedly pointed out. Kim Jong Un won’t relinquish control over his missiles under virtually any circumstances.

Meanwhile, the US’s military options remain incredibly limited. As former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon once pointed out, despite assurances from the administration that “all options remain on the table," in reality, there are few available that wouldn’t result in millions of deaths in Seoul from conventional weapons.

Kim knows that a strike against the US would be tantamount to suicide. So, the violent rhetoric and demonstrations appear set to continue for the foreseeable future – that is, unless the North with its next nuclear test accidentally triggers the eruption of “supervolcano” at Mt. Paektu. Such an eruption could potentially threaten all life on Earth.
 

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One-Tenth Of Global GDP Is Now Held In Offshore Tax Havens

Accurately measuring the scope of global wealth inequality is a notoriously difficult undertaking – a fact that was brought to light last year when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the Panama Papers, exposing clients of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. As the papers revealed, Mossack Fonseca, which is only the world’s fourth-largest provider of offshore financial services, boasted a client roster stacked with some of the world’s wealthiest and most politically connected individuals. The former prime minister of Iceland (who was forced from office because of the revelations), associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the father of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

In a first-of-its kind study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a team of economists has broken down rates of offshore wealth holdings as a percentage of GDP to identify countries with the largest, and smallest, percentages of wealth held offshore. The study’s conclusion suggests a reality that many readers probably suspected: the true scope of wealth inequality is far larger than the official statistics would suggest.

The study found that as much as one-tenth of the world’s GDP is held in tax havens, though that percentage can vary widely from country to country.

Here's Bloomberg:

“One-tenth of the world’s GDP is held in offshore tax havens, but that share jumps to as much of 15 percent for Europe and as much as 60 percent for Gulf and some Latin American countries, new research shows.

 

When it comes to total offshore wealth as a share of GDP, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina lead the pack, while Germany, the U.K. and France all have above-average holdings. The U.S. is slightly below average.”

Unsurprisingly, the countries with the largest offshore wealth holdings as a percentage of GDP are oil rich, with much of that wealth flowing through state-run companies. But some G-10 economies – notably in Europe – also have a larger than average percentage of wealth tied up offshore.

“When it comes to total offshore wealth as a share of GDP, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina lead the pack, while Germany, the U.K. and France all have above-average holdings. The U.S. is slightly below average.”

According to the study, the US has a below-average percentage of wealth offshore. There are a handful of reasons for this. First, the study’s authors have found that countries where the rich hold a large chunk of their wealth offshore share three common characteristics: Proximity to Switzerland, the presence of national resources,  and political and economic instability. That could be why the U.S. is slightly below the average, according to economist Gabriel Zucman, one of the study's authors.

Because of the widespread tax avoidance associated with the practice, the sheer volume of wealth stashed away in offshore tax havens distorts social scientists efforts to measure the breadth of economic inequality in modern society. So much of that research, as it turns out, is based on tax data. Given that the distortion would be to obscure the true value of wealth in the hands of the 0.01% wealthiest, one can assume that wealth inequality has, in reality, returned to levels last seen during the gilded age.

“Offshore wealth boosts inequality when it’s factored into tax data, because it belongs mostly to the richest households.  In the U.K., Spain, and France, about 30 percent to 40 percent of the wealth of the richest 0.01 percent of households is held abroad. Russia’s richest hold as much as 60 percent of their wealth overseas. “The way that we measure inequality in economics, and the social sciences, is that we rely a lot on tax data,” Zucman said. “There’s the obvious problem that there is tax avoidance: if you only look at tax data there is risk that you’re going to underestimate the true concentration of wealth.”

As pressure on Switzerland, long the world’s most recognized tax haven, has intensified in recent years, Hong Kong has risen in popularity as a destination for overseas wealth, propelled in part by the super-rich in China.

The Panama Papers leaks prompted international outcry and lead to a flurry of tax-evasion investigations in the UK and elsewhere. Earlier this year, the firm’s founders were arrested in Panama City for alleged connections with Brazil’s sprawling Lava Jato corruption scandal.

But aside from a handful of prosecutions, little has been done to change the system. Even as Mossack Fonseca falters, other members of the offshore magic circle operate in relative anonymity.

Though, in an age where the theft of sensitive information is increasingly common, their clients are at least being forced to confront the question of whether the monetary benefits would outweigh any public-relations repercussions should their offshore holdings be exposed.

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The Russia-China Plan For North Korea: Stability & Connectivity

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Moscow has been busy building agreements that would extend Eurasian connectivity eastward. The question is how to convince the DPRK to play along…

Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) and his wife Peng Liyuan welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of a banquet dinner during the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, on September 4, 2017

The United Nations Security Council’s 15-0 vote to impose a new set of sanctions on North Korea somewhat disguises the critical role played by the Russia-China strategic partnership, the “RC” at the core of the BRICS group.

The new sanctions are pretty harsh. They include a 30% reduction on crude and refined oil exports to the DPRK; a ban on exports of natural gas; a ban on all North Korean textile exports (which have brought in US$760 million on average over the past three years); and a worldwide ban on new work permits for DPRK citizens (there are over 90,000 currently working abroad.)

But this is far from what US President Donald Trump’s administration was aiming at, according to the draft Security Council resolution leaked last week. That included an asset freeze and travel ban on Kim Jong-un and other designated DPRK officials, and covered additional “WMD-related items,” Iraqi sanctions-style. It also authorized UN member states to interdict and inspect North Korean vessels in international waters (which amounts to a declaration of war); and, last but not least, a total oil embargo.

“RC” made it clear it would veto the resolution under these terms. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the US’ diminishing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Moscow would only accept language related to “political and diplomatic tools to seek peaceful ways of resolution.” On the oil embargo, President Vladimir Putin said, “cutting off the oil supply to North Korea may harm people in hospitals or other ordinary citizens.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo: Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo: Reuters

“RC” priorities are clear: “stability” in Pyongyang; no regime change; no drastic alteration of the geopolitical chessboard; no massive refugee crisis.

That does not preclude Beijing from applying pressure on Pyongyang. Branch offices of the Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China in the northeastern border city of Yanji have banned DPRK citizens from opening new accounts. Current accounts are not frozen yet, but deposits and remittances have been suspended.

To get to the heart of the matter, though, we need to examine what happened last week at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok – which happens to be only a little over 300 km away from the DPRK’s Punggye-ri missile test site.

It’s all about the Trans-Korean Railway

In sharp contrast to the Trump administration and the Beltway’s bellicose rhetoric, what “RC” proposes are essentially 5+1 talks (North Korea, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, plus the US) on neutral territory, as confirmed by Russian diplomats. In Vladivostok, Putin went out of his way to defuse military hysteria and warn that stepping beyond sanctions would be an “invitation to the graveyard.” Instead, he proposed business deals.

Largely unreported by Western corporate media, what happened in Vladivostok is really ground-breaking. Moscow and Seoul agreed on a trilateral trade platform, crucially involving Pyongyang, to ultimately invest in connectivity between the whole Korean peninsula and the Russian Far East.

South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in proposed to Moscow to build no less than “nine bridges” of cooperation: “Nine bridges mean the bridges of gas, railways, the Northern Sea Route, shipbuilding, the creation of working groups, agriculture and other types of cooperation.”

Crucially, Moon added that the trilateral cooperation would aim at joint projects in the Russian Far East. He knows that “the development of that area will promote the prosperity of our two countries and will also help change North Korea and create the basis for the implementation of the trilateral agreements.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in visit the Far East Street exhibition at Russky Island in Vladivostok. Photo: Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in visit the Far East Street exhibition at Russky Island in Vladivostok. Photo: Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev

Adding to the entente, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha both stressed “strategic cooperation” with “RC”.

Geo-economics complements geo-politics. Moscow has also approached Tokyo with the idea of building a bridge between the nations. That would physically link Japan to Eurasia – and the vast trade and investment carousel offered by the New Silk Roads, aka, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). It would also complement the daring plan to link a Trans-Korean Railway to the Trans-Siberian one.

Seoul wants a rail network that will physically connect it with the vast Eurasian land bridge, which makes perfect business sense for the fifth largest export economy in the world. Handicapped by North Korea’s isolation, South Korea is in effect cut off from Eurasia by land. The answer is the Trans-Korean Railway.

Moscow is very much for it, with Putin noting how “we could deliver Russian pipeline gas to Korea and integrate the power lines and railway systems of Russia, the Republic of Korea and North Korea. The implementation of these initiatives will be not only economically beneficial, but will also help build up trust and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moscow’s strategy, like Beijing’s, is connectivity: the only way to integrate Pyongyang is to keep it involved in economic cooperation via the Trans-Korean-Trans-Siberian connection, pipelines and the development of North Korean ports.

The DPRK’s delegation in Vladivostok seemed to agree. But not yet. According to North Korea’s Minister for External Economic Affairs, Kim Yong Jae: “We are not opposed to the trilateral cooperation [with Russia and South Korea], but this is not an appropriate situation for this to be implemented.” That implies that for the DPRK the priority is the 5+1 negotiation table.

Still, the crucial point is that both Seoul and Pyongyang went to Vladivostok, and talked to Moscow. Arguably the key question – the armistice that did not end the Korean War – has to be broached by Putin and the Koreans, without the Americans.

While the sanctions game ebb and flows, the larger strategy of “RC” is clear – a drive aimed at Eurasian connectivity. The question is how to convince the DPRK to play along.

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