What game is the House of Saud playing?

Pepe-EscobarPepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

 

 

Published time: January 16, 2015 12:29

 

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Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

The House of Saud now finds itself in times of extreme trouble. Their risky oil price war may eventually backfire. The succession of King Abdullah may turn into a bloodbath. And the American protector may be musing a change of heart.

Let’s start with oil – and some background. As much as US supply has increased by a couple of million barrels a day, enough oil from Iran, Kirkuk in Iraq, Libya and Syria has gone out of production; and that offsets extra US oil on the market. Essentially, the global economy – at least for the moment – is not searching for more oil because of European stagnation/recession and the relative China slowdown.

Reuters / Todd Korol

Reuters / Todd Korol

Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been flooding the market to offset the decrease in Iran exports caused by the US economic war, a.k.a. sanctions. Riyadh, moreover, prevented OPEC from reducing country production quotas. The House of Saud believes it can play the waiting game – as fracked oil, mostly American, is inexorably driven out of the market because it is too expensive. After that, the Saudis believe they will regain market share.

In parallel, the House of Saud is obviously enjoying “punishing” Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Assad in Damascus. Moreover, the House of Saud is absolutely terrified of a nuclear deal essentially between the US and Iran (although that’s still a major “if”) – leading to a long-term détente.

Tehran, though, remains defiant. Russia brushed off the attack because the lower ruble meant state revenues remained unchanged – so there will be no budget deficit. As for oil-thirsty East Asia – including top Saudi customer China – it’s enjoying the bonanza while it lasts.

Oil prices will remain very low for the time being. This week Goldman Sachs lowered their 2015 WTI and Brent Crude forecasts; Brent was slashed from $83.75 a barrel to $50.40, WTI was cut from $73.75 to $47.15 a barrel. Prices per barrel could soon drop as low as $42 and $40.50. But then, there will be an inevitable “U-shaped recovery.”

Nomura bets that oil will be back to $80 a barrel by the end of 2015.

Punish Russia or bust

US President Barack Obama, in this interview, openly admitted that he wanted “disruptions” in the “price of oil” because he figured Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “enormous difficulty managing it.” So that settles the argument about hurting Russia and US-Saudi collusion, after US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed/endorsed King Abdullah in Jeddah to simultaneously raise oil production and embark on a cut price strategy.

Whether Kerry sold out the US shale gas industry out of ignorance or incompetence – probably both – is irrelevant. What matters is if the House of Saud were ordered to back off, they would have to do it in a flash; the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dominates the Persian Gulf vassals, who can’t even breathe without at least an implicit US green light.

What is way more troubling is that the current bunch in Washington does not seem to be defending US national and industrial interests. If humongous trade deficits based on currency rigging were not enough, now virtually the entire US oil industry runs the risk of being destroyed by an oil price racket. Any sane analyst would interpret it as contrary to US national interests.

Anyway, the Riyadh deal was music for the House of Saud’s ears. Their official policy has always been to slash the development of all potential substitutes for oil, including US shale gas. So why not depress oil prices and keep them there long enough to make investments in shale gas a lunatic proposal?

But there’s a huge problem. The House of Saud simply won’t get enough in oil revenues to support their annual budget with oil at below $90 a barrel. So as much as hurting Iran and Russia may be appealing, hurting their own golden pocketbooks is not.

The long-term outlook spells out higher oil prices. Oil may be replaced in many instances; but there isn’t a replacement – yet – for the internal combustion engine. So whatever OPEC is doing, it is actually preserving demand for oil vs. oil substitutes, and maximizing the return on a limited resource. The bottom-line: yes, this is predatory pricing.

Once again, there’s an immense, crucial, complicating vector. We may have the House of Saud and other Persian Gulf producers flooding the market – but its Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup who are doing the shadow, nasty work via leveraged derivative short futures.

Oil prices are such an opaque racket that only major oil trading banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley have some idea who is buying and who is selling oil futures or derivative contracts – what is called “paper oil.” The non-rules of this multi-billion casino spell out “speculative bubble” – with a little help from those friends at the Gulf oil pumps. With oil futures trading and the two major London and New York exchanges monopolizing oil futures contracts, OPEC really does not control oil prices anymore; Wall Street does. This is the big secret. The House of Saud may entertain the illusion they are in control. They’re not.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama – (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

That dysfunctional marriage

As if this was not messy enough, the crucial succession of the House of Saud is propelled to the forefront. King Abdullah, 91, was diagnosed with pneumonia, hospitalized in Riyadh on New Year’s Eve, and was breathing with a tube. He may – or may not, this being the secretive House of Saud – have lung cancer. He won’t last long. The fact that he is hailed as a “progressive reformer” tells everything one needs to know about Saudi Arabia. “Freedom of expression”? You must be joking.

So who’ll be next? The first in the line of succession should be Crown Prince Salman, 79, also defense minister. He was governor of Riyadh province for a hefty 48 years. It was this certified falcon who supervised the wealth of private “donations” to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s jihad, in tandem with hardcore Wahhabi preachers. Salman’s sons include the governor of Medina, Prince Faisal. Needless to add, the Salman family controls virtually all of Saudi media.

To get to the Holy Grail Salman must be proven fit. That’s not a given; and on top of it Abdullah, a tough nut to crack, already survived two of his crown princes, Sultan and Nayef. Salman’s prospects look bleak; he has had spinal surgery, a stroke and may be suffering from – how appropriate – dementia.

It also does not bode well that when Salman was promoted to Deputy Defense Minister, soon enough he was shown the door – as he got himself mixed up with Bandar Bush’s atrocious jihadi game in Syria.

Anyway, Salman already has a successor; second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin, former governor of Medina province and then head of Saudi intelligence. Muqrin is very, very close to Abdullah. Muqrin seems to be the last “capable” son of Ibn Saud; “capable” here is a figure of speech. The real problem though starts when Muqrin becomes Crown Prince. Because then the next in line will be picked from the grandsons of Ibn Saud.

Enter the so-called third generation princes – a pretty nasty bunch. Chief among them is none other than Mitab bin Abdullah, 62, the son of the king; cries of nepotism do proceed. Like a warlord, Mitab controls his own posse in the National Guard. Sources told me Riyadh is awash in rumors that Abdullah and Muqrin have made a deal: Abdullah gets Muqrin to become king, and Muqrin makes Mitab crown prince. Once again, this being the “secretive” House of Saud, the Hollywood mantra applies: no one knows anything.

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Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Abdullah’s sons are all over the place; governor of Mecca, deputy governor of Riyadh, deputy foreign minister, president of the Saudi Red Crescent. Same for Salman’s sons. But then there’s Muhammad bin Nayif, son of the late Crown Prince Nayif, who became Interior Minister in 2012, in charge of ultra-sensitive internal security, as in cracking down on virtually anything. He is the top competitor against Mitab among the third-generation princes.

So forget about family “unity” when such juicy loot as an oil hacienda impersonating a whole country is in play. And yet whoever inherits the loot will have to face the abyss, and the same litany of distress; rising unemployment; abysmal inequality; horrendous sectarian divide; jihadism in all its forms – not least the fake Ibrahim Caliphate in “Syraq”, already threatening to march towards Mecca and Medina; the unspeakably medieval Council of Ulemas (the lashing/amputating/beheading-loving bunch); total dependency on oil; unbounded paranoia towards Iran; and a wobbly relationship with His Masters Voice, the US.

When will they call the cavalry?

And it so happens that the real ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington-New York axis are debating exactly the erosion of this relationship; as in the House of Saud having no one to talk to but the “puppets”, from Bush Two minions to Kerry at most on occasion. This analysis contends that any promises made by Kerry over the House of Saud “cooperation” to damage Russia’s economy really mean nothing.

Rumbles from ‘Masters of the Universe’ territory indicate that the CIA sooner or later might move against the House of Saud. In this case the only way for the House of Saud to secure its survival would be to become friendly with none other than Moscow. This exposes once more the House of Saud’s suicidal present course of trying to hurt Russia’s economy.

As everyone is inexorably an outsider when faced with the totally opaque House of Saud, there’s an analytical current that swears they know what they’re doing. Not necessarily. The House of Saud seems to believe that pleasing US neocons will improve their status in Washington. That simply won’t happen. The neocons remain obsessed about the House of Saud helping Pakistan to develop its nuclear missiles; some of them – once again, that’s open to speculation – might even be deployed inside Saudi Arabia for “defensive purposes” against that mythical Iranian “threat.”

Messy? That doesn’t even begin to describe it. But one thing is certain; whatever game Riyadh thinks it’s playing, they’d better start seriously talking to Moscow. But please, don’t send Bandar Bush on another Russian mission.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.

 

The bullying of Hungary – the country that dared to disobey the US and EU

Reuters / Karoly Arvai

Reuters / Karoly Arvai

RT QUESTION MORE

25 years ago, Hungary was being toasted in the West for opening its border with Austria to East Germans, in a move which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now the Western elites are not happy with Budapest which they consider far too independent.

The refusal of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party to join the new US and EU Cold War against Russia, which has seen the Hungarian parliament approving a law to build the South Stream gas pipeline without the approval of the European Union, in addition to the populist economic policies Fidesz has adopted against the largely foreign owned banks and energy companies, has been met with an angry response from Washington and Brussels.

Hungarian officials have been banned from entering the US, while the European Commission has demanded that the Hungarians explain their decision to go ahead with South Stream. That’s on top of the European Commission launching legal action against the Hungarian government for its law restricting the rights of foreigners to buy agricultural land.

The bullying of Hungary hasn’t made many headlines because it’s so-called “democrats” from the West who have been doing the bullying.

Viktor Orban is not a communist, he is a nationally-minded conservative who was an anti-communist activist in the late 1980s, but the attacks on him and his government demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what label you go under – if you don’t do exactly what Uncle Sam and the Euro-elite tell you to do – your country will come under great pressure to conform. And all of course in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.”

Fidesz has been upsetting some powerful people in the West ever since returning to power in 2010. The previous “Socialist”-led administration was hugely popular in the West because it did everything Washington and Brussels and the international banking set wanted. It imposed austerity on ordinary people, it privatized large sections of the economy, and it took out an unnecessary IMF loan. Ironically, the conservative-minded Fidesz party has proved to be much better socialists in power than the big-business and banker friendly “Socialists” they replaced.

One of the first things that Fidesz and its coalition allies, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, (KDNP) did was to introduce an $855m bank tax – the highest such tax in Europe – a measure which had the financial elite foaming at the mouth.

Orban clashed with the IMF too, with his government rejecting new loan terms in 2012, and paying off early a loan taken out by the previous government, to reduce interest payments.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Reuters / Bernadett Szabo)

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Reuters / Bernadett Szabo)

In 2013, Orban took on the foreign-owned energy giants with his government imposing cuts of over 20% on bills. Neoliberals expressed their outrage at such “interventionist” policies, but under Orban, the economy has improved. Although it’s true that many still look back nostalgically to the days of “goulash communism” in the 1970s and 80s when there were jobs for all and food on the table for everyone. Unemployment fell to 7.4 percent in the third-quarter of this year; it was around 11 percent when Fidesz took power, while real wages rose by 2.9 percent in the year up to July.

The man his enemies called the “Viktator,” has shown that he will pursue whatever economic policies he believes are in his country’s national interest, regardless of the opinions of the western elite who want the Hungarian economy to be geared to their needs.

His refusal to scrap his country’s bank tax is one example; the closer commercial links with Russia are another. Russia is Hungary’s third biggest trading partner and ties between the two countries have strengthened in the last couple of years, to the consternation of western Russophobes. In April, a deal was struck for Moscow to loan Hungary €10 billion to help upgrade its nuclear plant at Paks.

Orban’s policy of improving trade and business links with Russia, while staying a member of the EU and NATO, has however been put under increasing strain by the new hostile policy towards Moscow from Washington and Brussels.

Orban again, has annoyed the West by sticking up for Hungary’s own interests. In May he faced attack when he had the temerity to speak up for the rights of the 200,000 strong Hungarian community living in Ukraine.”Ukraine can neither be stable, nor democratic, if it does not give its minorities, including Hungarians, their due. That is dual citizenship, collective rights and autonomy.” Hungary’s Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Kiev. Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland, the US’s most obedient lapdog in Eastern Europe, called Orban’s comments “unfortunate and disturbing” as if it was anything to do with him or his country.

In August, Orban accurately described the sanctions policy of the West towards Russia as like “shooting oneself in the foot.”“The EU should not only compensate producers somehow, be they Polish, Slovak, Hungarian or Greek, who now have to suffer losses, but the entire sanctions policy should be reconsidered,” Orban said.

In October, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also questioned the sanctions on Russia, revealing that his country is losing 50 million forints a day due to the policy.

Hungary has made its position clear, but for daring to question EU and US policy, and for its rapprochement with Moscow, the country has been punished.

It’s democratically elected civilian government which enjoys high levels of public support, has ludicrously – and obscenely – been likened to military governments which have massacred their opponents. “From Hungary to Egypt, endless regulations and overt intimidation increasingly target civil society,” declared US President Barack Obama in September.

Last month there was another salvo fired at Hungary – it was announced that the US had banned six unnamed Hungarian government officials from entering America, citing concerns over corruption- without the US providing any proof of the corruption.

RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov

RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov

At a certain point, the situation, if it continues this way, will deteriorate to the extent where it is impossible to work together as an ally,” warned the Charge D’Affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest, Andre Goodfriend. The decision and the failure to provide any evidence, understandably caused outrage in Hungary. “The government of Hungary is somewhat baffled at the events that have unfolded because this is not the way friends deal with issues,” said Janos Lazar, Orban‘s chief of staff.

The timing of the ban has to be noted, coming after the Hungarian government had criticized the sanctions on Russia and just before the national Parliament was due to vote on the South Stream pipeline. The pipeline, which would allow gas to be transported from Russia via the Black Sea and the Balkans to south and central Europe without passing through Ukraine, is a project which Russophobes in the West want cancelled.

“I am inclined to think that it is a punishment for the fact that we talk to Russia,” said Gabor Stier, the head foreign policy editor of the leading Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet.

“America thinks that we are corrupt, but we are a sovereign state, and it is our business. Many people in the United States do not like that Viktor Orban is very independent…..Corruption is just an excuse.”

It’s hard to disagree with Stier’s conclusions. Of course, there is corruption in Hungary, as there is in every country, but it pales in comparison with some countries who are faithful US allies and who Washington never criticizes. The 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, reveals that Latvia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina are all below Hungary, as indeed is Italy. Yet it’s Hungarian officials that the US is banning.

True to form, the attacks on Orban and his government in the Western media have chimed with the political attacks. ‘Is Hungary, the EU’s only dictatorship?’ asked Bloomberg View in April. The BBC ran a hostile piece on Orban and Fidesz in October entitled Cracks Emerge in leading party, and which referred to “government corruption” and “the playboy lifestyle of numerous party officials.”

The piece looked forward to the end of Fidesz rule.

While earlier this week, the New York Times published an OpEd by Kati Marton, whose late husband Richard Holbrooke, was a leading US diplomat, entitled Hungary’s Authoritarian Descent. You’d never guess that the Hungarian government wasn’t the flavor of the month in the West would you?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at their meeting in Budapest (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at their meeting in Budapest (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)

The question which has to be asked is: will Hungary be the next country to be the target of a US/EU sponsored regime change?

We all know what happened to the last Viktor who refused to sever links with Russia. Will Orban suffer the same fate as Ukraine’s Yanukovich? There are good reasons for believing that he won’t.

Fidesz did make a mistake by announcing the introduction of a new internet tax last month, which brought thousands onto the streets to protest but they have since dropped the plans and the problem for the US and EU is that Orban and his government remain too popular. In October’s local elections Fidesz won 19 of Hungary’s 21 larger towns and cities, including the capital city Budapest, not bad for a party that‘s been in power since May 2010.

Orban’s brand of economic populism, combined with moderate nationalism, goes down well in a country where people remember just how awful things were when the neoliberal “Socialists” were in power. His style of leadership may be authoritarian, but Hungarians prefer having a leader who has cut fuel bills and reduced unemployment to one who mouths platitudes about “liberal democracy” but who imposed harsh austerity measures and leaves them unable to afford the daily essentials.

Moreover Hungary, is already a member of the EU and NATO unlike Ukraine under Yanukovich and isn’t about to leave either soon. On a recent visit to America Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the US TODAY newspaper “US is our friend, US is our closest ally.” The US clearly wants more from Hungary than just words, but while both Washington and Brussels would like to see a more obedient government in Budapest, the “liberal” and faux-left parties they support simply don’t have enough popular support for the reasons outlined above. And things would be even worse for the West if the radical nationalist party Jobbik, the third largest party in Parliament, and which made gains in October’s local elections, came to power- or if there was a genuine socialist/communist revival in the country. The fact is that Orban is in a very strong position and he knows it. That’s why he feels able to face down the threats from abroad and maintain a level of independence even though total independence is impossible within the EU and NATO.

We can expect the attacks on Orban and his government to intensify but the more the West attacks, the more popular Orban, who is able to present himself as the defender of Hungary’s national interests, becomes.

Hungary gave the West everything it wanted in 1989, and, as I pointed out here, its “reform” communist leadership was richly rewarded. But in 2014 it’s a very different story. In the interests of democracy and small countries standing up to bullying by powerful elites, long may Hungary’s spirited defiance continue.

Hajra, magyarok! Hajra Magyarorszag! [ Hurrah Hungarians! Hurrah Hungarians! ]

Noam Chomsky calls US ‘world’s leading terrorist state’

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)

U.S. linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky (Reuters/Jorge Dan)

 

RT news

The United States is the “world’s leading terrorist state,” based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in the likes of Nicaragua and Cuba, according to new op-ed by historian and social philosopher Noam Chomsky.

In a new piece posted at Truthout.org, Chomsky pointed to the Central Intelligence Agency’s classified review of its own efforts to arm insurgencies across the globe in its 67-year history. As RT previously reported, the CIA conducted the effectiveness analyses while the Obama administration contemplated arming rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.

The New York Times was the first to uncover the story and Chomsky opened by suggesting the Times’ own headline for it should have been titled, “It’s official: The U.S. is the world’s leading terrorist state, and proud of it,” rather than “CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels.”

 

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army holds a position with a Belgium made FAL rifle at a front line in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP Photo)

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army holds a position with a Belgium made FAL rifle at a front line in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP Photo)

The longtime MIT professor went on to detail some of the instances assessed in the CIA’s review and why they amount to an American regime – “the world champion in generating terror” – bent on antagonizing its opposition around the world.

“The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of ‘covert aid’: Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the US,” Chomsky wrote.

He added that it was the US, in the 1980s, that supported Apartheid-era South Africa as it invaded Angola to protect itself “from one of the world’s ‘more notorious terrorist groups,” according to Washington: “Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.”

“Washington joined South Africa in providing crucial support for Jonas Savimbi’s terrorist Unita army in Angola,” wrote Chomsky.

Unita army (AFP Photo)

Unita army (AFP Photo)

“The consequences were horrendous. A 1989 U.N. inquiry estimated that South African depredations led to 1.5 million deaths in neighboring countries, let alone what was happening within South Africa itself.”

Chomsky also mentioned the decades-long “murderous and destructive campaign” the US aimed at Cuba, including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and a harsh embargo that continues to this day.

“The toll of the long terrorist war was amplified by a crushing embargo, which continues even today in defiance of the world. On Oct. 28, the UN, for the 23rd time, endorsed ‘the necessity of ending the economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba,’” he wrote.

Chomsky mentioned the dirty wars the US brought to opposition in Central America in the 1980s and current airstrikes in Syria and Iraq aimed at Islamic State, a jihadist group, like others, compiled and strengthened through American interventions in the Middle East, namely the recent Iraq war, he wrote.

 

AFP Photo/U.S. Air Force

AFP Photo/U.S. Air Force

He ended with a note on President Barack Obama’s unmanned drone regime patrolling the skies in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen.

“To this we may add the world’s greatest terrorist campaign: Obama’s global project of assassination of ‘terrorists.’ The ‘resentment-generating impact’ of those drone and special-forces strikes should be too well known to require further comment,” he wrote.

“This is a record to be contemplated with some awe.”

US tanks arrive in Latvia to ward off ‘perceived’ Russian threat (VIDEO)

tanksNATO

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia sit in an Abrams tank during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports

Latvia: See M1A2 Abrams TANKS in US Army combat demo

 

 

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia sit in an Abrams tank during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u07NigwifyU

Latvians, as well as their Baltic neighbors and Poland have welcomed the deployment of the troops and tanks as a deterrent to the perceived threat of Russia. This is one of the largest placements of US military forces into part of the former Soviet Union.

Martins Liberts, who is the Commander of the Latvian Infantry Brigade, said that it was good for his country’s army to work with up to date military equipment.

“To be honest, since independence, we have not had the chance to work with tanks as allies, but we will do that now. It will be a unique experience,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Abrams M1A2 is an upgrade of the Abram M1A1, which was used in combat during the 1991 Gulf War. The Abrams are armed with a M256A1 120mm smooth bore cannon, while they also feature one M240 7.62mm machine gun.The combat force consists of around 700 troops and 20 tanks.

“The purpose is to be a very visible demonstration of commitment to our allies. We may take slightly longer to deploy than lighter forces, but there’s nothing like a tank if you really want to achieve effect,” said Captain John Farmer, public affairs officer for Ironhorse, as the 1st Cavalry Division is otherwise known in early October, before the deployment was made.

U.S, soldiers deployed in Latvia with the 1st Cavalry Division 1st Brigade Combat team, attend a rotation ceremony at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA - Tags: MILITARY) - RTR4A57R

U.S, soldiers deployed in Latvia with the 1st Cavalry Division 1st Brigade Combat team, attend a rotation ceremony at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA – Tags: MILITARY) – RTR4A57R

The 1st Cavalry Division will replace a number of lightly armed US paratroopers, who were deployed in March, following a referendum in Crimea, where local residents elected to cede from Ukraine and saw the peninsula becoming part of Russia.

The 1st Cavalry Division has a long history, having been formed in 1921. Since then the division fought in the Second World War, as well as subsequently in Korea and Vietnam. In the 21st Century, the unit has been involved in tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. The division has also hit the big screen, having appeared in the American Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now.

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA - Tags: MILITARY) - RTR4A58N

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA – Tags: MILITARY) – RTR4A58N

These are not the first tanks to have been deployed in Europe since the end of the Cold War. In January this year, 29 Abrams M1A2 tanks were sent to Germany to replace older versions of the same military vehicles.

The Abrams tanks will join 33 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles as well as numerous other heavy support vehicles that will be positioned at Grafenwohr, which is around 220 kilometers north of Munich and used for training exercises.

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

The deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division in Latvia is a direct result of an agreement for creating a rapid reaction force in Eastern Europe, following the NATO summit in the UK in September.

“This is a demonstration of our solidarity and resolve,” said former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the summit in Cardiff in early September. “Should you even think of attacking one ally, you will be facing the whole alliance,” the former Danish Prime Minister added.

The Baltic States have been among the most vocal advocates of NATO strengthening in the region, but the organization is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia, which bars it from placing permanent bases in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. This can be circumvented by staging constant rotations of “exercises” that can in practice amount to the same thing.

Occupy Wall Street more popular than Obama

Demonstrators associated with the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement face off with police in the streets of the financial district after the deadline for their removal from Zuccotti park. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Demonstrators associated with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement face off with police in the streets of the financial district after the deadline for their removal from Zuccotti park. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

RT news

While politicians and the mainstream media waited weeks to acknowledge Occupy Wall Street, it looks as though the public hasn’t ignored the movement. A new poll shows that more Americans favor the protests than they do President Obama.

A new poll released on Thursday from Time assessed Americans’ opinions of all things current events, only to reveal that the general public’s favor of the continuing Occupy Wall Street movements exceed that of their own commander-in-chief. Approaching its fifth week now, the ongoing protests that originated out of New York’s Zuccotti Park that have since spread internationally have managed to garner more support than Barack Obama himself, with 54 percent of those polled favoring the demonstrations to the president’s measly 44 percent.

And although conservative critics have largely shunned the Occupy Wall Street protests as being an disorganized and chaotic attempt to recapitalize on the Tea Party’s success from yesteryear, the same poll from Time shows that the approval rating of the populist-geared GOP gang is only half that of Occupy Wall Street.

Speaking to RT yesterday, The Market Ticker’s Karl Denninger, one of the co-founders of the Tea Party movement, said that the protesters with Occupy Wall Street can learn from the mistakes that Palin and pals encountered when they waged demonstrations of their own.

“One of the things that the Occupy movement seems to have going for it is it has not turned around and issued a set of formal demands,” Denninger said. “This is a good thing, not a bad thing. Everyone is looking for a set of demands.”

Denninger added that in the case of the Tea Party, organization was largely to blame for the movement’s downfall. “One of the things we wanted was the end to bailouts and an end to government deficit spending, and as you can see that didn’t happen,” said Denninger.

Elsewhere in the poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans (81 percent) say that the country has “seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” While many Americans say that they are in support of the Occupy Wall street movement, a majority of participants in the poll also add that the gap between the rich and poor in the US has grown too large and that banks should be held accountable and prosecuted for their role in the financial collapse.

In support of Obama, the poll suggests that more Americans favor his job as president when pitted against the George W Bush administration.

Time’s poll was conducted between on October 9 and 10, 2011, and pulls data taken from 1,001 adults surveyed.

Professor Cornel West arrested in DC

Prof Cornell West @ a protest

Prof Cornell West @ Occupy Wall Street protest

RT news

Acclaimed professor and activist Dr. Cornel West was arrested with 18 others on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington DC on Saturday during a local demonstration with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement.

Dr. West says that he was in Washington earlier in the day to witness President Barak Obama’s dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, only to join protesters hours later at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is there that activists have been congregating for over a week down as part of the October 2011 Stop the Machine protest that hopes to draw attention to the ongoing war in Afghanistan — which earlier this month reached the 10-year mark, making it the longest-going American war ever.

Once at Freedom Plaza, West and dozens others marched through Washington to the Supreme Court building. A spokesperson for the high court confirmed that West was one of 19 people arrested for refusing to the leave the grounds. Video shows that protesters remained peaceful as they sat on the steps of the courthouse awaiting arrest.

Speaking from the steps of the building, West told a crowd of protesters and reporters, “We want to bear witness today that we know the relation between corporate greed and what goes on too often in the Supreme Court decision. We want to send a lesson to ourselves, to our loved ones, our families, our communities, our nation and the world that out of deep love for working and poor people that we are willing to put whatever it takes, even if we get arrested today, and say, we will not allow this day of Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial to go without somebody going to jail.”

Before his arrest, Dr. West told a reporter with NoCureForThat.org that the ongoing movement, approaching a full month of protests, has already reached historical status. “The question is where it will continue and what form it will take. We just don’t know at this point.”

Dr West added that “Martin King would be here right with us, willing to throw down out of deep love.”

“We love poor people, we love working people and we want Martin Luther King Jr to smile from the grave that we haven’t forgot him,” said Dr West.

The Princeton University professor that formerly taught at Harvard has spoken publically of the ongoing protests for several weeks now. To CNN earlier this month, Dr. West asked, “Who’s going to really speak for poor people? Who’s going to really speak for working people? That’s very much what I think the . . . ‘Occupying Wall Street’ movement is all about.”

In an interview earlier this year, Dr West accused President Obama as being “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”

Cornel West will be arraigned at the Supreme Court this afternoon.

Every single day, Every word you say, Every game you play, I’ll be watching you…

AFP Photo

AFP Photo

 

RT news

Enemy or victim? Syria and West in ISIS era

Terror is the product of terror and the cycle of terror that has engulfed Libya, Syria, and now Iraq could have been averted if but for the lack of statesmanship in Washington.

Remember the Arab Spring, that joyous mass revolutionary upsurge which toppled the West’s dictator Ben Ali in Tunisia followed by their man in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, before being turned into a counter revolutionary and reactionary process courtesy of the West’s intervention in Libya under the auspices of NATO? It now seems a million miles away, the sunshine of hope supplanted by a dark night of barbarism that descending on the region like a shroud.

The continuing and unfolding disaster that has engulfed Syria and latterly Iraq, as thousands of jihadists with a medieval-type attachment to brutality in service to the objective of turning the region into a graveyard for minorities cause havoc, you might think would give policymakers in the West cause to reflect on the part played by their disastrous intervention in the region over the past decade and more.

You’d be wrong.

Instead, what we are witnessing is yet more evidence of the cognitive dissonance that has underpinned the actions of Washington and its allies when it comes to the Middle East since 9/11. Hard power has succeeded in sowing chaos and carnage, while nourishing the roots of radicalism and extremism from which has sprouted ISIS and various other millenarian Islamic extremist groups in recent years.

Imperialism is a disease which in the words of Frantz Fanon, “leaves germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.”

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the vote on Capitol Hill on his request to arm and train Syrian rebels in the fight against the Islamic State while in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, September 18, 2014. (Reuters/Larry Downing)

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the vote on Capitol Hill on his request to arm and train Syrian rebels in the fight against the Islamic State while in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, September 18, 2014. (Reuters/Larry Downing)

Over many decades the Middle East has suffered from this rot, a state of affairs responsible for the social, political, and economic dislocation of a part of the world that sits on a sea of oil. Western leaders and ideologues have proved time and again that when it comes to trying to exert control over the region, there is no lie they will not tell, no act of hypocrisy they won’t engage in, and no violation of international law they won’t commit. Even so, the eruption of ISIS across Syria’s eastern border and Turkey’s southern border into northern Iraq these past two months has exposed the aforementioned to a degree never witnessed previously.

Panic has been the order of the day in Washington and London and Paris as men in expensively tailored suits – rich men who carry in their hearts the morals of the gutter – have scrambled to respond to the emergence of a monster created by their own perfidy. It has given rise not to sober reflection but more reactive measures guaranteed to deepen rather than alleviate what is now an enveloping crisis.

It was Nietzsche who wrote that, “Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

The wisdom in the German philosopher’s words have been reflected in the messages emanating from the Pentagon and White House recently, with talk of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and the possible redeployment of ground troops in Iraq, without the prior cooperation or permission of either the Syrian or Iraqi governments in either scenario, has come as stark evidence of the madness bordering on insanity which pervades the US political class.

Members of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front take part in a parade calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria, at the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo, on October 25, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Members of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front take part in a parade calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria, at the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo, on October 25, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Syria is a nation and a people whose resistance to the forces of barbarism these past three years history will record as heroic. This makes it all the more depraved to listen to the blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty being contemplated by the Obama administration and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. President Assad’s recent letter to Obama, calling for an alliance to defeat ISIS, was a plea for sanity. A beleaguered but unbowed government, reaching out on behalf of its people to a government whose responsibility for the crisis that has engulfed their country is beyond dispute, is redolent of Carthage reaching out to Rome in a last ditch attempt to forestall its destruction.

Syria is not the enemy of the West, it is a victim of the West, and must be regarded as such.

The colonial attitude towards Syria and the entire region we can trace back to the 1916 Sykes Picot Agreement, probably the most tawdry imperialist lash-up in history, which divided up the Middle East between the Allied powers as the Ottoman Empire approached its collapse as part of the losing side in the First World War. Ever since, the West’s orientation towards the Arab world has involved propping up any government willing to do its bidding while subverting those who dare resist its domination. The human suffering that has resulted as a direct consequence is impossible to quantify, but it has been of biblical magnitude.

If the United States was serious about tackling ISIS in Syria and Iraq, it would be seeking an alliance between both governments, along with the Iranians, in order to do so. Instead, the most powerful nation on earth is behaving like a drunken giant staggering around a china shop causing mayhem as he goes.

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008 he came to power pledging a change in US foreign policy, involving a return to diplomacy and respect for international law. Six years on the only thing that has changed are the curtains in the White House. They began his presidency spotlessly clean. Now they are covered in blood.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of UH.