The Bizarre Explanation For Why The U.S. Has Avoided Bombing ISIS Oil Wells

OFF GUARDIAN
by Michael Snyder from The Economic Collapse

russian-jets-target-500-illegal-isis-oil-trucks-in-syria19624_l

Why hasn’t the U.S. bombed the oil wells that ISIS controls into oblivion by now? Would you believe that it is because the Obama administration “didn’t want to do environmental damage”? Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell has publicly admitted that we have purposely avoided damaging the main source of income for ISIS, and his explanation for why we were doing this is utterly bizarre. But at this point what could the Obama administration say that would actually make sense? Everyone now knows that ISIS has been making hundreds of millions of dollars selling oil in Turkey, and that this has been done with the full knowledge and complicity of the Obama White House. This is potentially the biggest scandal of the entire Obama presidency, and yet so far the Republicans have not jumped on it.

If you or I even gave five bucks to ISIS, we would be arrested and hauled off to Guantanamo Bay. And yet Barack Obama is allowing ISIS to funnel massive quantities of oil through our NATO ally Turkey, and he is not doing anything to stop this from happening. It is a betrayal of the American people that is so vast that it is hard to put into words.

By now, virtually everyone on the entire planet knows exactly what is going on. For example, Iraq’s former National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie shared the following on his Facebook page on Saturday…

First and foremost, the Turks help the militants sell stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil for $20 a barrel, which is half the market price.”

Until Russia started bombing the living daylights out of them, an endless parade of trucks carrying ISIS oil would go back and forth over the Turkish border completely unmolested. Following the downing of a Russian SU-24 bomber by Turkey in an area where many of these trucks travel, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to publicly air this dirty laundry. Just check out what he told reporters following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande last week…

Commercial-scale oil smuggling from Islamic State controlled territory into Turkey must be stopped, Putin said after meeting Hollande in Moscow.

“Vehicles, carrying oil, lined up in a chain going beyond the horizon,” said Putin, reminding the press that the scale of the issue was discussed at the G20 summit in Antalya earlier this month, where the Russian leader demonstrated reconnaissance footage taken by Russian pilots.

The views resemble a “living oil pipe” stretched from ISIS and rebel controlled areas of Syria into Turkey, the Russian President stressed. “Day and night they are going to Turkey. Trucks always go there loaded, and back from there – empty.”

“We are talking about a commercial-scale supply of oil from the occupied Syrian territories seized by terrorists. It is from these areas [that oil comes from], and not with any others. And we can see it from the air, where these vehicles are going,” Putin said.

If the Russians could see all of this, the U.S. military could see it too. In fact, we have far better surveillance capabilities than the Russians do.

So why didn’t Obama put an end to this?

Well, as I mentioned above, former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell told PBS that the Obama administration didn’t want “to create environmental damage”, and he insists that the oil wells are “infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there anymore”. The following comes from the Daily Caller…

Appearing on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” on Tuesday, Rose pointed out that before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the U.S. had not bombed ISIS-controlled oil tankers.

Morell explained, “Prior to Paris, there seemed to be a judgment that … look, we don’t want to destroy these oil tankers because that’s infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there anymore, and it’s going to create environmental damage. And we didn’t go after oil wells — actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls because we didn’t want to do environmental damage and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure, right.”

In case you think that this is some sort of a joke, you can watch video of Morell making these comments on PBS below…

CIA ON ISIS OIL:

After the horrific terror attacks in Paris, the Obama administration finally was shamed into bombing a few of these oil trucks. But 45 minutes before the U.S. military bombed them, they dropped leaflets telling the truck drivers to “get out of your trucks now and run away from them”.

What kind of “war on terror” are we running?

Why in the world would we want to warn the terrorists to get away from their trucks?

Meanwhile, things between Russia and Turkey continue to get even more tense. The Russians have slapped severe economic sanctions on the Turks, they have shut down all channels of communication with Turkey’s military, and they are bombing every Turkish vehicle that they can find inside Syria. The following comes from a report that was put out by Debka…

In the last two days, Putin has been found saying one thing and doing another: Although he declared that Russia would not go to war with Turkey for “stabbing it in the back”, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that since Wednesday night, Nov. 25, Russian heavy bombers and warplanes have been hitting every Turkish vehicle moving or stationary inside Syria.

They bombed the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, located on the Turkey-Syria frontier, as well trailers and tractors parked in an area belonging to the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, on the Syrian side of the border.

As I wrote about the other day, it has been documented that our NATO ally Turkey has been “training ISIS militants, funneling weapons to them, buying their oil, and tending to their wounded in Turkish hospitals”. Now, heavy bombing by the Russians threatens to cut off those links…

In addition to punishing the Turkish leader, Russia’s massive military operations in Syria aim to degrade the rebel groups fighting the Assad regime. Heavy bombing sorties this week on the Syrian-Turkish border are cutting off tens of thousands of rebels from their only source of fresh supplies of weapons, ammo, food and fighters, leaving them without a line of retreat and nowhere to send their wounded.

At this point, Russia and Turkey are very close to a state of war.

But as a member of NATO, the United States is obligated to help protect Turkey if a full-blown shooting war does break out.

We are closer to World War III than we have been in decades, and yet most Americans are still completely and totally oblivious to what is taking place.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, because things over in the Middle East threaten to spiral completely and totally out of control.
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This entry was posted in: conflict zones, empire watch, latest, Middle East
Tagged with: Charlie Rose, Iraq, ISIS, Michael Snyder, obama, oil, putin, russia, Syria, Turkey
6 Comments

Davide
December 7, 2015

The CIA doesn’t want to cause environmental damage?! That is so precious.

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John
December 6, 2015

The truth is that the interests of the US and Turkish elites are closely aligned, which is why the Obama administration is reluctant to bomb Erdogan family assets such as oil trucks and oil wells being operated on their behalf by ISIS.
The Erdogan elites are making an absolute fortune out of all the sales of plundered loot while the US industrial-military complex is making a fortune out of sales of military hardware to all sides in the conflict.
War in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere is all waged in the best economic interests of the US and aligned elites.
They say “So what if Saud-inspired Wahhabist extremism takes root all around the world?”
Why should “western” elites worry?

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Francis
December 6, 2015

Of course their elites are close. After all, didn’t Turks discover America, (according to Sultan Reyyip, at least)?

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siemreapnews
December 6, 2015

Well, if Anglo-Saxons (let’s not pretend it is the “west” that is behind this mess) are keen for a nuclear show-down – so be it – we Orthodox Slavic people are ready do defend ourselves at ANY price – including destruction of this planet. So, show us your cards imbecile poker players and we will show you few chess tricks. Several hundreds of years of Anglo-Saxon genocides, murders and plunder are to be finished – one way or the other. If we die only one second after you – we will die happy! What is your move?

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OffG Editor
December 6, 2015

It’s not Anglo-Saxons any more than it’s Jews or Moslems or Slavs.

OK?

It’s a tiny minority of wealthy, deluded, greedy lunatics and their willing, equally deluded or zombified enablers.

Racism is not ok. Not any kind of racism. Ever.

This is your first warning.

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siemreapnews
December 6, 2015

Reblogged this on Siem Reap Mirror.

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OffGuardian is the creation of people from different parts of the world committed to the original vision which drew us together on The Guardian‘s CiF pages…Tired of being censored by our beloved, once-upon-a-time left-of-centre newspaper, in February 2015 we decided to create our own platform for airing our unacceptable opinions.

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Arms, Conflict, Corruption, Hillary Clinton, Law, Middle East, Military, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Scandal, Security, USA

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds hands with her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters / Jim Young)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds hands with her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters / Jim Young)

As the Obama administration increased military weapons exports, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved transfer of more than $300 billion worth of arms manufactured by US defense contractors to 20 nations that were or have since become donors of the Clinton Foundation, a major philanthropic organization run by the Clinton family. According to a review of available records of foundation donors by the International Business Times, those countries included governments that have received frequent criticism by the State Department for repressive policies.

“Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents,” IBT wrote.

‘Clinton is epitome of financial corruption’ – David Swanson

David Swanson is an author and long time political activist who is so passionate about restoring the constitutional role of the President that he actually wrote an entire book on it, “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” and leads to this day the campaign to impeach Bush and Cheney. Mr. Swanson is not just unhappy with bad Republican behavior in the White House and we will get his views on Hillary Clinton’s decision to run for the presidency.

Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar were nations that directly donated to the Clinton Foundation during Clinton’s term as secretary of state, even as they were requesting weapons shipments. The donated money represents a loophole in US law regarding political contributions.

“Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy,” IBT noted. “But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.”

The reviewed sales — both commercial and Pentagon-brokered — represent those made during “three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as secretary of state (from October 2010 to September 2012),” IBT reported. The deals made with the nations in question during this time add up to far more than arms agreements made with the same countries during the last three full fiscal years of George W. Bush’s administration, according to the report.

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, told IBT. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

The Clinton Foundation’s donor list has come under closer examination since Hillary Clinton announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. In April, the Clintons acknowledged they have made “mistakes” regarding transparency amid increased public scrutiny concerning donations from foreign entities, especially when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013.

Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton defended his family foundation’s donors.

“I don’t think there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people in countries that are seriously involved in development to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up,” Mr. Clinton told NBC News.

The Clinton Foundation signed a foreign donor disclosure agreement just before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, yet neither the department nor the White House raised issues with potential conflicts of interest regarding the weapons agreements.

IBT reported that in 1995 President Clinton signed a presidential policy directive demanding the State Department take into account human rights abuses when considering the approval of military equipment or arms purchases from US companies. Yet Mrs Clinton’s State Department ignored this stipulation, helping the Obama administration increase weapons transfers.

The State Department, under the aegis of Clinton, hammered the Algerian government in its 2010 Human Rights Report for “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association,” allowing “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.”

“That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country,” IBT reported. “The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as ‘toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment’ after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.

“During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.”

IBT also reported that major US weapons manufacturers and financial corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton lucrative speaking fees “reaching $625,000” just as arms deals they had an interest in were in the works with Mrs Clinton’s State Department.

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Hillary Clinton had pledged during her Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

US weapons sales tripled in 2011 to a new yearly high of $66.3 billion, according to the New York Times, mostly driven by sales to Persian Gulf nations allied against Iran. This dollar total made up nearly 78 percent of all worldwide arms deals that year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Reuters reported in January 2013 that the State Department office that has oversight of direct commercial arms sales “was on track to receive more than 85,000 license requests in 2012, a new record.”

The boom in arms sales by the Obama administration has continued to the present day, as Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are using American-made fighter jets against Islamic State and for proxy wars in places like Yemen and Syria.

According to the Times, foreign weapons sales now represent 25 percent to 30 percent of revenue taken in by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US-based arms dealers.

​Clinton Foundation admits ‘mistakes’ amid concerns of foreign donors 20

US and the Lausanne Negociations: Another Idiotic Plan to Hurt Russia

 

iran-oil-rig-400x266“The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests…..We must, however, be mindful that…Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States.”

The Wolfowitz Doctrine, the original version of the Defense Planning Guidance, authored by Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, leaked to the New York Times on March 7, 1992

“For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia…and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.”

-THE GRAND CHESSBOARDAmerican Primacy And It’s Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, page 30, Basic Books, 1997

The Lausanne negotiations between Iran and the so called P5+1 group (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) have nothing to do with nuclear proliferation. They are, in fact, another attempt to weaken and isolate Russia by easing sanctions, thus allowing Iranian gas to replace Russian gas in Europe. Lausanne shows that Washington still thinks that the greatest threat to its dominance is the further economic integration of Russia and Europe, a massive two-continent free trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok that would eventually dwarf dwindling US GDP while decisively shifting the balance of global power to Asia. To counter that threat, the Obama administration toppled the elected government of Ukraine in a violent coup, launched a speculative attack on the ruble, forced down global oil prices, and is presently arming and training neo-Nazi extremists in the Ukrainian army. Washington has done everything in its power to undermine relations between the EU and Russia risking even nuclear war in its effort to separate the natural trading partners and to strategically situate itself in a location where it can control the flow of vital resources from East to West.

Lausanne was about strategic priorities not nukes. The Obama administration realizes that if it can’t find an alternate source of gas for Europe, then its blockade of Russia will fail and the EU-Russia alliance will grow stronger. And if the EU-Russia alliance grows stronger, then US attempts to extend its tentacles into Asia and become a major player in the world’s most prosperous region will also fail leaving Washington to face a dismal future in which the steady erosion of its power and prestige is a near certainty. This is from an article titled “Removing sanctions against Iran to have unfavorable influence on Turkey and Azerbaijan”:

“If Washington removes energy sanctions on Iran…then a new geopolitical configuration will emerge in the region. Connecting with Nabucco will be enough for Iran to fully supply Europe with gas…

Iran takes the floor with inexhaustible oil and gas reserves and as a key transit country. Iran disposes of the 10% of the reported global oil reserves and is the second country in the world after Russia with its natural gas reserves (15%). The official representatives of Iran do not hide that they strive to enter the European market of oil and gas, as in the olden days. Let’s remember that the deputy Minister of Oil in Iran, Ali Majedi, offered to revive project of Nabucco pipeline during his European tour and said that his country is ready to supply gas to Europe through it…

“Some months earlier the same Ali Majedi reported sensational news: ‘two invited European delegations’ discussed the potential routes of Iranian gas supply to Europe,” the article reads.” … It is also noted that the West quite materially reacted to the possibility of the Iranian gas to join Nabucco.” (Removing sanctions against Iran to have unfavorable influence on Turkey and Azerbaijan, Panorama)

So, is this the plan, to provide “energy security” to Europe by replacing Russian gas with Iranian gas?

It sure looks like it. But that suggests that the sanctions really had nothing to do with Iran’s fictitious nuclear weapons program but were merely used to humiliate Iran while keeping as much of its oil and gas offline until western-backed multinationals could get their greasy mitts on it.

Indeed, that’s exactly how the sanctions were used even though the nuclear issue was a transparent fake from the get go. Get a load of this from the New York Times:

“Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.” (U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb, James Risen, New York Times, February 24, 2012)

See? The entire US intelligence establishment has been saying the same thing from the onset: No Iranian nukes. Nor has Iran ever been caught diverting nuclear fuel to other purposes. Never. Also, as nuclear weapons physicist, Gordon Prather stated many times before his death, “After almost three years of go-anywhere see-anything interview-anyone inspections, IAEA inspectors have yet to find any indication that Iran has — or ever had — a nuclear weapons program.”

The inspectors were on the ground for three freaking years. They interviewed everyone and went wherever they wanted. They searched every cave and hideaway, every nook and cranny, and they found nothing.

Get it? No nukes, not now, not ever. Period.

The case against Iran is built on propaganda, brainwashing and bullshit, in that order. But, still, that doesn’t tell us why the US is suddenly changing course. For that, we turn to an article from The Brookings Institute titled “Why the details of the Iran deal don’t matter” which sums it up quite well. Here’s a clip:

“At heart, this is a fight over what to do about Iran’s challenge to U.S. leadership in the Middle East and the threat that Iranian geopolitical ambitions pose to U.S. allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia. Proponents of the deal believe that the best way for the United States to deal with the Iranian regional challenge is to seek to integrate Iran into the regional order, even while remaining wary of its ambitions. A nuclear deal is an important first step in that regard, but its details matter little because the ultimate goal is to change Iranian intentions rather destroy Iranian capability.” (Why the details of the Iran deal don’t matter, Brookings)

Notice how carefully the author avoids mentioning Israel by name although he alludes to “the threat that Iranian geopolitical ambitions pose to U.S. allies”. Does he think he’s talking to idiots?

But his point is well taken; the real issue is not “Iranian capability”, but “Iran’s challenge to U.S. leadership in the Middle East”. In other words, the nuclear issue is baloney. What Washington doesn’t like is that Iran has an independent foreign policy that conflicts with the US goal of controlling the Middle East. That’s what’s really going on. Washington wants a compliant Iran that clicks its heals and does what its told.

The problem is, the strategy hasn’t worked and now the US is embroiled in a confrontation with Moscow that is a higher priority than the Middle East project. (The split between US elites on this matter has been interesting to watch, with the Obama-Brzezinski crowd on one side and the McCain-neocon crowd on the other.) This is why the author thinks that easing sanctions and integrating Iran into the predominantly US system would be the preferable remedy for at least the short term.

Repeat: “The best way for the United States to deal with the Iranian regional challenge is to integrate Iran into the regional order.” In other words, if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em. Iran is going to be given enough freedom to fulfill its role within the imperial order, that is, to provide gas to Europe in order to inflict more economic pain on Russia. Isn’t that what’s going on?

But what effect will that have on Iran-Russia relations? Will it poison the well and turn one ally against the other?

Probably not, mainly because the ties between Iran and Russia are growing stronger by the day. Check this out from the Unz Review by Philip Giraldi:

“Moscow and Tehran are moving towards a de-facto strategic partnership, which can be easily seen by the two groundbreaking announcements from earlier this week. It’s now been confirmed by the Russian government that the rumored oil-for-goods program between Russia and Iran is actually a real policy that’s already been implemented, showing that Moscow has wasted no time in trying to court the Iranian market after the proto-deal was agreed to a week earlier. Providing goods in exchange for resources is a strategic decision that creates valuable return customers in Iran, who will then be in need of maintenance and spare parts for their products. It’s also a sign of deep friendship between the two Caspian neighbors and sets the groundwork for the tentative North-South economic corridor between Russia and India via Iran.” (A Shifting Narrative on Iran, Unz Review)

But here’s the glitch: Iran can’t just turn on the spigot and start pumping gas to Europe. It doesn’t work that way. It’s going to take massive pipeline and infrastructure upgrades that could take years to develop. That means there will be plenty of hefty contracts awarded to friends of Tehran –mostly Russian and Chinese–who will perform their tasks without interfering in domestic politics. Check this out from Pepe Escobar:

“Russia and China are deeply committed to integrating Iran into their Eurasian vision. Iran may finally be admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the upcoming summer summit in Russia. That implies a full-fledged security/commercial/political partnership involving Russia, China, Iran and most Central Asian ’stans’.

Iran is already a founding member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); that means financing for an array of New Silk Road-related projects bound to benefit the Iranian economy. AIIB funding will certainly merge with loans and other assistance for infrastructure development related to the Chinese-established Silk Road Fund…” (Russia, China, Iran: In sync, Pepe Escobar, Russia Today)

Get the picture? Eurasian integration is already done-deal and there’s nothing the US can do to stop it.

Washington needs to rethink its approach. Stop the meddling and antagonism, rebuild relations through trade and mutual trust, and accept the inevitability of imperial decline.

Asia’s star is rising just as America’s is setting. Deal with it.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle editionHe can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Former UN Chief Kofi Annan Blames US for Rise of ISIS

Koni-Annan-Munich-Security-Conference-afp

Former UN Chief Kofi Annan @ Munich Security Conference

 

 

10 Feb 2015

Munich Security Conference

Kofi Annan, who served as secretary-general of the United Nations when the group overwhelmingly supported the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq, claimed at the Munich Security Conference that the United States is to blame for the creation of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Annan also asserted that he was always in opposition to the Iraq war.

“The folly of that fateful decision was compounded by post-invasion decisions. The wholesale disbandment of the security forces, among other measures poured hundreds of thousands of trained and disgruntled soldiers and policemen onto the streets,” said Annan of the post-invasion strategy.

“The ensuing chaos has proved an ideal breeding ground for the Sunni radical groups that have now coalesced around the Islamic State label,” he further stated.

Mr. Annan said that combating the ISIS problem requires a long-term strategy, claiming that “there are no quick fixes or easy solutions,” reports Rudaw.

Another factor for regional instability was the Arab-Israeli conflict, added the former UN chief.

He warned, “The radicals are leading the Middle East astray if they think that their ideology will restore the Muslim world’s erstwhile greatness. On the contrary, world history teaches us that closed societies decay. Open societies are the ones that prosper.”

In concluding his speech, Annan suggested that “the Middle East must adapt, change, and build a future” based on “peace and security, inclusive development, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” He added, “If it does so, then I believe the majority of the people of the Middle East will not be sorry to see the end of the Middle East as we know it.”

 

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

 

33.si

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.

 

Pope: In calling for peace and for an end to violence and conflict in the Middle East, Ukraine and parts of Africa

POPE-articleLarge

The Times

Pope Francis used a traditional Christmas address on Thursday to emphasize the plight of children in areas of conflict, pointing out their “impotent silence” that “cries out under the spade of many Herods,” a reference to the ancient king who slaughtered all the young boys of Bethlehem, according to the New Testament.

Vast numbers of children today are victims of violence, objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers, and they need to be saved, he said.

The pope spoke of “children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence.” He singled out “infants massacred in bomb attacks,” including in the Middle East and in Pakistan, where 132 children were killed in a Taliban attack on a school this month.

In calling for global peace and for an end to violence and conflict in the Middle East, Ukraine and parts of Africa, Francis went off script to denounce “the globalization of indifference” that permits suffering and injustice to persist.

“So many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference” are affected by hardness of the heart, he said, calling for reflection and change. And he chided the Vatican’s bureaucratic machine in another address this week for losing touch with its spiritual side in the pursuit of power.

As Christians exchanged gifts and shared family meals, the pope’s thoughts were with the world’s dispossessed, refugees and exiles, those suffering “brutal” ethnic or religious persecution and those held as hostages or killed because of their religious beliefs.

“Truly there are so many tears this Christmas,” Francis said from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica before thousands of faithful in the square below. The address was also broadcast live on the Internet.

To underscore his closeness to those suffering religious persecution, a theme of his nearly two years as pope, on Christmas Eve, Francis spoke with displaced Christians who are in a tent camp in northern Iraq and told them that they were like Jesus. Many in the camps have been forced to leave their homes by militants of the Islamic State.

“You are like Jesus on the night of his birth when he had been forced to flee,” the pope told them in a telephone call broadcast live by an Italian Catholic television station. “You are like Jesus in this situation, and that means we are praying even harder for you.”

The pope also denounced abortion, and his thoughts turned to “infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life.”

In his message on Thursday, the pope said he hoped that the world would respond to the plight of the needy by increasing humanitarian aid, and he asked “that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided” for the victims of Ebola, the deadly virus ravaging parts of West Africa.

Closing the address, he called on Jesus’ strength to turn “arms into plowshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness.”

In Britain, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, pulled out of the traditional Christmas Day ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral because of what his office described as a “severe cold.”

A draft of the sermon he had planned to deliver and that was released on his website reflected on the unofficial truce on Christmas Day in 1914, early in the First World War, between British and German soldiers.

“The problem is that the way it is told now it seems to end with a ‘happy ever after,’ ” the draft said.

It added: “The following day the war continued with the same severity. Nothing had changed; it was a one-day wonder. That is not the world in which we live — truces are rare.”

‘Washington, the Hollywood of politics’: story behind Hagel’s exit

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel's resignation at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2014 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel’s resignation at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2014 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

RT NEWS

Regardless who is the US Secretary of Defense, there will always be Washington’s basic policy strategy around the desire to control the whole map and use the military to shape the entire world, anti-war activist Eugene Puryear, told RT.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel's resignation at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2014 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel’s resignation at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2014 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

RT: You’ve seen this machine at work from the inside. What do you think is behind Chuck Hagel’s resignation?

Matthew Hoh:I think, of course, there is much more to this story than simply “Chuck Hagel no longer worked well with the administration.” I think you could tell by how quickly and how viciously the White House anonymously attacked Chuck Hagel as soon he announced his resignation. There were a lot of personal attacks against Hagel: he didn’t have leadership, he couldn’t do the job, he wasn’t up to the task, and I think any time you see the administration or the White House so quickly denouncing somebody, you know automatically there is another story to this. And what I believe to be case is that Chuck Hagel does not agree with the Obama Administration involving American troops in the middle of the Iraqi and the Syrian civil wars. And he is in disagreement with the American re-escalation of the war in Afghanistan that was just announced this past weekend.

RT: Judging by yesterday’s warm hugs between Obama and Hagel, the personal relationship between the two is quite friendly. How sincere were those smiles and handshakes?

MH: It’s Washington DC; it’s the Hollywood of politics. So, absolutely. I think may be in earlier time it could be described there is how cordial relations were among politicians, among elected leaders, among our senior people. But now it’s just as you described – it was a show.

RT: Recently Chuck Hagel became quite critical of the administration’s policy in Syria and Iraq. Do you think this made him an outcast in the White House?

MH: I think for the administration not to expect Secretary Hagel to be vocal or to speak up would have been be a very big mistake for them in their understanding of Secretary Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel earned the national reputation in the United States about 10 years ago or so for going against the Iraqi war. Chuck Hagel is a republican and member of President George Bush’s party and he very famously went against the Iraq war. So for the Obama Administration to have thought that Chuck Hagel was pliable, someone who was just going to go along with whatever decision they made and not to offer disagreements whether in private or in public, I think that was a huge mistake on their part. And so I think as I said as the story unfolds and as we get more perspectives on it, we’ll see the level of disagreement that was within the administration, within Obama’s Cabinet between Secretary Hagel and more hawkish members.

RT: Chuck Hagel is known for his anti-militaristic approach to U.S. foreign policy. Now that he’s going does it mean the Pentagon will become more aggressive?

MH: I think, unfortunately, the administration has bowed to pressure from both within the administration, from those in the administration who are beholding to a pro-intervention or a “military-first” policy as well as to very hawkish or warmongering senators on Capitol Hill. So I think the Obama Administration has made a commitment to expand America’s role in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars. I think that is a cycle that will only worsen and deepen. Case in point – Afghanistan – where the United States escalated the war in 2009.Five years later, there is no end in sight for the war, the Afghan people continue to suffer, the government remains incredibly corrupt, the Taliban are stronger and the drug trade is the only industry in the country. I think what’s happening with American re-escalation of the war – sending American troops back into combat – is that President Obama is bowing to pressure, feeling stoned by abusing criticism that he is not tough enough. He is recommitting American troops to the war in Afghanistan, so that he cannot be criticized for ending the war prematurely. [But] they have been there for 13 years and that war, according to polls it has an 83 percent unfavorability rating in the United States, and is most unpopular war in American history, even more unpopular than the wars in Iraq or Vietnam.

General Dempsy

General Dempsy – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey (Reuters / Larry Downing)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey (Reuters / Larry Downing)

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