ESCOBAR: Why there won’t be a revolution in Iran

Elke Schenk

globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS

5.1.2018

http://www.atimes.com/article/wont-revolution-iran/

Why there won’t be a revolution in Iran

Regime change is unlikely but what is in play is setting the scene for a further renewal of economic sanctions

By Pepe Escobar January 3, 2018 5:01 PM

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did the right thing going on television and at least acknowledging popular anger over hard economic times. Inflation is high at 12% but down from 40% at the start of Rouhani’s first term. And the recent increase in fuel and food prices by up to 40% has hardly helped.

That was part of Team Rouhani’s 2018 budget, which cuts subsidies for the poor – a key feature of the previous Ahmadinejad administration.

Then there is youth unemployment, which hovers around the 30% mark. Similar figures recently came out of Spain, a member of the European Union. Of course, that explains why the bulk of the protesters are under 25 from working class backgrounds.

What Rouhani should have explained to Iranians in detail is the direct consequences of hard economic times and United States sanctions, which are affecting the country.

These were coupled with financial threats against western firms now back in business, or at least contemplating opening up operations, in Iran.

Rouhani did promise after signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in the Austrian capital of Vienna in 2015 that it would lead to more jobs and stimulate the economy.

While that has not been the case, legitimate protests singling out economic problems have never gone away. In fact, they have been part of the Iranian picture for decades.

If we consider the Islamic Republic experiment, a sort of “theocracy with democratic characteristics,” the most striking element is how deeply rooted it is in the country.

I learned this during my many trips to Iran and it has a great deal to do with the basij, or voluntary militias. They have permeated all aspects of social life from unions to student bodies and civil servant groups.

In this respect, there is a strong similarity to China, where the Communist Party is embedded in the very fabric of society.

Talking to young people in places such as Kashan or Mashhad showed me how solid the popular base was behind the Islamic Republic experiment. It was certainly more thought-provoking than listening to ayatollahs in Qom.

Still, what is happening now in Iran is that legitimate protests related to economic hardships have been hijacked by the usual suspects in a move to influence the minority. After all, Rouhani’s administration is comparatively liberal compared to the populist Ahmadinejad government.

So, what we have is a concerted attempt to turn legitimate protests into a “revolutionary” movement with the aim of bringing about a regime change. In all practical purposes, this would be civil war.

Well, it will simply not work. Anyone familiar with Iran knows the country’s civil society is far too sophisticated to fall into such a crude and obvious trap.

For a clear take on the foreign influence angle, you should watch Professor Mohammad Marandi, of the University of Tehran, an academic of absolute integrity, arguing with a former BBC employee on the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network.

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=dFn4O5xTkpE )

Indeed, what is certain is that foreign elements are acting as provocateurs to influence the protests. This “whole world is watching” tone is meant to intimidate Tehran’s response.

Yet there has to be a crackdown against the violence as Rouhani strongly hinted. Imagine the police response if the level of violence seen on Iranian streets was happening in France or Germany?

Regime change is unlikely but what is in play is setting the scene for a further renewal of economic sanctions against Iran. Possibly, in this case by the EU. Hopefully, it will not fall into this trap.

Anyway, Tehran is already gearing up to increase business across Eurasia through China’s new Silk Roads, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Eurasia Economic Union.

In the end, it is up to Team Rouhani to be creative in alleviating the burden on the economic front.

Diana JOHNSTONE: U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies

Elke Schenk

globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/28/collateral-damage-u-s-sanctions-aimed-at-russia-strike-western-european-allies/

via

http://www.defenddemocracy.press/collateral-damage-u-s-sanctions-aimed-at-russia-strike-western-european-allies/

Collateral Damage: U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies

31/07/2017

by Diana Johnstone

Do they know what they are doing? When the U.S. Congress adopts draconian sanctions aimed mainly at disempowering President Trump and ruling out any move to improve relations with Russia, do they realize that the measures amount to a declaration of economic war against their dear European “friends”?

Whether they know or not, they obviously don’t care. U.S. politicians view the rest of the world as America’s hinterland, to be exploited, abused and ignored with impunity.

The Bill H.R. 3364 “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” was adopted on July 25 by all but three members of the House of Representatives. An earlier version was adopted by all but two Senators. Final passage at veto-overturning proportions is a certainty.

This congressional temper tantrum flails in all directions. The main casualties are likely to be America’s dear beloved European allies, notably Germany and France. Who also sometimes happen to be competitors, but such crass considerations don’t matter in the sacred halls of the U.S. Congress, totally devoted to upholding universal morality.

Economic “Soft Power” Hits Hard

Under U.S. sanctions, any EU nation doing business with Russia may find itself in deep trouble. In particular, the latest bill targets companies involved in financing Nord Stream 2, a pipeline designed to provide Germany with much needed natural gas from Russia.

By the way, just to help out, American companies will gladly sell their own fracked natural gas to their German friends, at much higher prices.

That is only one way in which the bill would subject European banks and enterprises to crippling restrictions, lawsuits and gigantic fines.

While the U.S. preaches “free competition”, it constantly takes measures to prevent free competition at the international level.

Following the July 2015 deal ensuring that Iran could not develop nuclear weapons, international sanctions were lifted, but the United States retained its own previous ones. Since then, any foreign bank or enterprise contemplating trade with Iran is apt to receive a letter from a New York group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” which warns that “there remain serious legal, political, financial and reputational risks associated with doing business in Iran, particularly in sectors of the Iranian economy such as oil and gas”. The risks cited include billions of dollars of (U.S.) fines, surveillance by “a myriad of regulatory agencies”, personal danger, deficiency of insurance coverage, cyber insecurity, loss of more lucrative business, harm to corporate reputation and a drop in shareholder value.

The United States gets away with this gangster behavior because over the years it has developed a vast, obscure legalistic maze, able to impose its will on the “free world” economy thanks to the omnipresence of the dollar, unrivaled intelligence gathering and just plain intimidation.

European leaders reacted indignantly to the latest sanctions. The German foreign ministry said it was “unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interest of U.S. industry”. The French foreign ministry denounced the “extraterritoriality” of the U.S. legislation as unlawful, and announced that “To protect ourselves against the extraterritorial effects of US legislation, we will have to work on adjusting our French and European laws”.

In fact, bitter resentment of arrogant U.S. imposition of its own laws on others has been growing in France, and was the object of a serious parliamentary report delivered to the French National Assembly foreign affairs and finance committees last October 5, on the subject of “the extraterritoriality of American legislation”.

Extraterritoriality

The chairman of the commission of enquiry, long-time Paris representative Pierre Lellouche, summed up the situation as follows:

“The facts are very simple. We are confronted with an extremely dense wall of American legislation whose precise intention is to use the law to serve the purposes of the economic and political imperium with the idea of gaining economic and strategic advantages. As always in the United States, that imperium, that normative bulldozer operates in the name of the best intentions in the world since the United States considers itself a ‘benevolent power’, that is a country that can only do good.”

Always in the name of “the fight against corruption” or “the fight against terrorism”, the United States righteously pursues anything legally called a “U.S. person”, which under strange American law can refer to any entity doing business in the land of the free, whether by having an American subsidiary, or being listed on the New York stock exchange, or using a U.S.-based server, or even by simply trading in dollars, which is something that no large international enterprise can avoid.

In 2014, France’s leading bank, BNP-Paribas, agreed to pay a whopping fine of nearly nine billion dollars, basically for having used dollar transfers in deals with countries under U.S. sanctions. The transactions were perfectly legal under French law. But because they dealt in dollars, payments transited by way of the United States, where diligent computer experts could find the needle in the haystack. European banks are faced with the choice between prosecution, which entails all sorts of restrictions and punishments before a verdict is reached, or else, counseled by expensive U.S. corporate lawyers, and entering into the obscure “plea bargain” culture of the U.S. judicial system, unfamiliar to Europeans. Just like the poor wretch accused of robbing a convenience store, the lawyers urge the huge European enterprises to plea guilty in order to escape much worse consequences.

Alstom, a major multinational corporation whose railroad section produces France’s high speed trains, is a jewel of French industry. In 2014, under pressure from U.S. accusations of corruption (probably bribes to officials in a few developing countries), Alstom sold off its electricity branch to General Electric.

The underlying accusation is that such alleged “corruption” by foreign firms causes U.S. firms to lose markets. That is possible, but there is no practical reciprocity here. A whole range of U.S. intelligence agencies, able to spy on everyone’s private communications, are engaged in commercial espionage around the world. As an example, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, devoted to this task, operates with 200 employees on an annual budget of over $30 million. The comparable office in Paris employs five people.

This was the situation as of last October. The latest round of sanctions can only expose European banks and enterprises to even more severe consequences, especially concerning investments in the vital Nord Stream natural gas pipeline.

This bill is just the latest in a series of U.S. legislative measures tending to break down national legal sovereignty and create a globalized jurisdiction in which anyone can sue anyone else for anything, with ultimate investigative capacity and enforcement power held by the United States.

Wrecking the European Economy

Over a dozen European Banks (British, German, French, Dutch, Swiss) have run afoul of U.S. judicial moralizing, compared to only one U.S. bank: JP Morgan Chase.

The U.S. targets the European core countries, while its overwhelming influence in the northern rim – Poland, the Baltic States and Sweden – prevents the European Union from taking any measures (necessarily unanimous) contrary to U.S. interests.

By far the biggest catch in Uncle Sam’s financial fishing expedition is Deutsche Bank. As Pierre Lellouche warned during the final hearing of the extraterritorial hearings last October, U.S. pursuits against Deutsche Bank risk bringing down the whole European banking system. Although it had already paid hundreds of millions of dollars to the State of New York, Deutsche Bank was faced with a “fine of 14 billion dollars whereas it is worth only five and a half. … In other words, if this is carried out, we risk a domino effect, a major financial crisis in Europe.”

In short, U.S. sanctions amount to a sword of Damocles threatening the economies of the country’s main trading partners. This could be a Pyrrhic victory, or more simply, the blow that kills the goose that lays the golden eggs. But hurrah, America would be the winner in a field of ruins.

Former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou called the situation shocking, and noted that France had told the U.S. Embassy that the situation is “insupportable” and insisted that “we must be firm”.

Jacques Myard said that “American law is being used to gain markets and eliminate competitors. We should not be naïve and wake up to what is happening.”

This enquiry marked a step ahead in French awareness and resistance to a new form of “taxation without representation” exercised by the United States against its European satellites. They committee members all agreed that something must be done.

That was last October. In June, France held parliamentary elections. The commission chairman, Pierre Lellouche (Republican), the rapporteur Karine Berger (Socialist), Elisabeth Guigou (a leading Socialist) and Jacques Myard (Republican) all lost their seats to inexperienced newcomers recruited into President Emmanuel Macron’s République en marche party. The newcomers are having a hard time finding their way in parliamentary life and have no political memory, for instance of the Rapport on Extraterritoriality.

As for Macron, as minister of economics, in 2014 he went against earlier government rulings by approving the GE purchase of Alstom. He does not appear eager to do anything to anger the United States.

However, there are some things that are so blatantly unfair that they cannot go on forever.

* Diana Johnstone is co-author of From MAD to Madness, by Paul H. Johnstone (Clarity Press).
She can be reached at diana.johnstone

Pepe ESCOBAR: Hybrid War Hyenas Tear Brazil Apart; RI 18.04.2016

globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS
Martin Zeis, 19.04.2016

Dear all,

for months Pepe Escobar covers the Brazilian Coup in preparation noticing specific details of an US-backed/driven Hybrid Warfare in Latin America to destroy „the neo-developmentalist project for Latin America – uniting at least some of the local elites, invested in developing internal markets, in association with the working classes“ and to spure a neoliberal restoration.“

The most important point of this attack is Brazil, a key member of the BRICS and the 7th largest economy in the world.

Quite bluntly David Ignatius, Washington Post Opinion writer, exposed the tools and aims of the Empire’s foreign policy to this effect:

“U.S. power flows from our unmatched military might, yes. Anything that expands the reach of U.S. markets – such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership in trade, for example – adds to the arsenal of U.S. power. But in a deeper way, it’s a product of the dominance of the U.S. economy.

Conversely, U.S. power is limited by measures that drive business away from America, or allow other nations to build a rival financial architecture that’s less encumbered by a smorgasbord of sanctions.”

Source: David IGNATIUS: A grim warning against America’s overuse of sanctions; WP March 29, 2016, URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-warning-against-the-overuse-of-sanctions/2016/03/29/9598557c-f5f5-11e5-8b23-538270a1ca31_story.html?hpid=hp_no-na

ESCOBAR-Hybrid-War-Hyenas-Tear-Brazil-Apart160418.pdf

The ‘Hybrid War’ of Economic Sanctions – Consortiumnews

 

01.04.2016 U.S. politicians love the “silver bullet” of economic sanctions to punish foreign adversaries, but the weapon’s overuse is driving China and Russia to develop countermeasures, as British diplomat Alastair Crooke explains.

By Alastair Crooke

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told a large group of people in the holy city of Mashhad on Sunday that “The Americans did not act on what they promised in the [Iranian] nuclear accord [the JCPOA]; they did not do what they should have done. According to Foreign Minister [Javad Zarif], they brought something on paper but prevented materialization of the objectives of the Islamic Republic of Iran through many diversionary ways.”

This statement during the Supreme Leader’s key Nowruz (New Year) address should be understood as a flashing amber light: it was no rhetorical flourish. And it was not a simple dig at America (as some may suppose). It was perhaps more of a gentle warning to the Iranian government to “take care” of the possible political consequences.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks to a crowd. (Iranian government photo)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks to a crowd. (Iranian government photo)

Quelle: The ‘Hybrid War’ of Economic Sanctions – Consortiumnews

‚Foreign Affairs‘ Publishes Call to End Sanctions Against Russia. Is This Real Life?

I have to hand it to Gideon Rose and his editorial board at Foreign Affairs for moving the real professional skills of the America’s flagship magazine on international relations from foreign to domestic studies.  The latest, January-February 2016 issue of FA carries a set of first rate articles devoted to the theme ‚Inequality. What Causes It. Why It Matters. What Can Be Done.‘

Quelle: ‚Foreign Affairs‘ Publishes Call to End Sanctions Against Russia. Is This Real Life?

Pepe ESCOBAR: Collapse Of The Western Financial System Looms As A „Strategic“ Russian Default Is Possible; zerohedge, Oct 19, 2015

globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS
Martin Zeis, 20.10.2015

Dear all,

Pepe ESCOBAR, well-known geopolitics-in-depth-writer, recently published an article Moscow doubles down on Washington (RT Op-Edge, Oct 15, 2015), reprinted by zerohedge.com (Oct 19, 2015) – entitled: Collapse Of The Western Financial System Looms As A „Strategic“ Russian Default Is Possible.

Escobar refers back to a widely (except for the German speaking media, inclusive the alternative and critical-of-the system ones), discussed Report „On urgent measures to strengthen the economic security of Russia“, first presented at the the inter-ministerial committee of the Security Council, which, after reading passed it to the “Grand Council” chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Included proposals for the change of economic policy were prepared under the supervision of the Presidential Adviser Sergey Glazyev, although not by him alone, but by a group of about fifteen associates. Most of them belong to the domestic scientific community, moreover, the adviser to the president is a member of the Academy of Sciences. *

* see: http://thesaker.is/sergey-glazyevs-report-about-urgent-measures-to-counter-threats-to-the-existence-of-russia and http://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/140998

Below excerpts of Escobar’s piece are documented. Both, complete article and Glazyev’s report (33 p), are attached (pdf-files).

Best regards,
Martin Zeis

==========

zerohedge, 20.10.2015 — http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-10-19/collapse-western-financial-system-looms-strategic-russian-default-possible

Collapse Of The Western Financial System Looms As A „Strategic“ Russian Default Is Possible
By Pepe ESCOBAR

History may eventually decide the ‘New World Order’ started on September 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had a 90-minute face off at the UN in New York.
Irrespective of spin – “productive” according to the White House, “tense” according to a source close to the Kremlin – facts on the ground accumulated almost immediately.
Putin did press Obama for the US to join Russia in a real grand coalition bent on smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. The Obama administration, once again, relented. I detailed here what happened next: an earth-shattering game-changer in the ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia, straight out of the Caspian Sea, that caught the acronym fest of US intelligence – not to mention the Pentagon – completely off-guard.
So this was Putin’s first message to Washington, and the Pentagon/NATO combo in particular; your fancy ideas of stationing tactical nuclear weapons or expanding missile defense to Eastern Europe, or even Asia-Pacific, are just a mirage. Our cruise missiles are capable of wreaking real effective havoc; and soon, as this piece argues, there will be more hypersonic, high-precision long-range missiles added to the mix. (…)

But then there’s also Putin’s second – silent – message to Washington, which didn’t even have to be delivered in person to Obama. US intel though may have a hint about it, as they closely follow Russian media.
It’s about Sergey Glazyev’s (presidential aide) plan for Russia’s immediate economic future here is a summary of the plan, in Russian. The plan was formally proposed to Russia’s Security Council. Here is a very good summary on how Russia’s Security Council works.
There are at least three absolutely key points in Glazyev’s plan. We may summarize them like this:

  1. If the emerging trend of freezing private assets of Russian legal entities and individuals continues, Russia should consider full or a partial moratorium on the servicing of loans and investment from the countries involved in the freezing.
  2. The amount of foreign currency assets of the Russian Federation located in the jurisdiction of NATO countries accounts to more than $1.2 trillion, including short-term debt of about $800 billion. Their freeze may be partially offset by retaliation against NATO assets in Russia, which amounts to $1.1 trillion, including over $400 billion long-term. So this threat would be neutralized if Russian monetary authorities organized a timely withdrawal of Russian short-term assets in the US and the EU.
  3. Glazyev is adamant that the Russian Central Bank continues to serve the interests of foreign capital – as in the financial powers in London and New York. He contends that the high interest rates practiced by the Russian Central Bank led Russian oligarchs to borrow more cheaply from the West, making the Russian economy dependent, a debt trap which the West used to slowly squeeze Russia. Then the rigged Western oil and ruble collapse increased the pressure as debt service in ruble cost and interest doubled. (…)

The fact is Russia has lost access to Western credit and cannot roll over its debt with the creditors. So Russia will have to pay the principle and the interest as it comes due. That is a trillion dollars plus interest. Russia also cannot import anything from the West without paying double for it. So arguably the country may be now in the very position it will be if Moscow opts for default. Thus, Russia would have nothing to lose by a default – as the damage is already done.
A shock to the system
Essentially, once again, a Russian default on a $1 trillion-plus debt to private Western parties remains a possible scenario discussed at the highest level – assuming Washington will persist in its anti-Russia demonization campaign. (…) — emphasis zerohedge —

ESCOBAR-Strategic-Russian-Default-possible151019.pdf

GLAZYEV_Report151002.pdf

Russia’s Remarkable Renaissance By  F. William ENGDAHL*

 
—  Full text attached (pdf-file, 5 pages)  —
 
Russia’s Remarkable Renaissance
By  F. William ENGDAHL*
New Eastern Outlook, 09.03.2015
 
Something remarkable is taking place in Russia, and it’s quite different from what we might expect. Rather than feel humiliated and depressed Russia is undergoing what I would call a kind of renaissance, a rebirth as a nation. This despite or in fact because the West, led by the so-called neo-conservatives in Washington, is trying everything including war on her doorstep in Ukraine, to collapse the Russian economy, humiliate Putin and paint Russians generally as bad. In the process, Russia is discovering positive attributes about her culture, her people, her land that had long been forgotten or suppressed.
 
My first of many visits to Russia was more than twenty years ago, in May, 1994. I was invited by a Moscow economics think-tank to deliver critical remarks about the IMF. My impressions then were of a once-great people who were being humiliated to the last ounce of their life energy. Mafia gangsters sped along the wide boulevards of Moscow in sparkling new Mercedes 600 limousines with dark windows and without license plates. Lawlessness was the order of the day, from the US-backed Yeltsin Kremlin to the streets. “Harvard boys” like Jeffrey Sachs or Sweden’s Anders Aaslund or George Soros were swarming over the city figuring new ways to rape and pillage Russia under the logo “shock therapy” and “market-oriented reform” another word for “give us your crown jewels.”
 
The human toll of that trauma of the total collapse of life in Russia after November 1989 was staggering. I could see it in the eyes of everyday Russians on the streets of Moscow, taxi-drivers, mothers shopping, normal Russians.
 
Today, some two decades later, Russia is again confronted by a western enemy, NATO, that seeks to not just humiliate her, but to actually destroy her as a functioning state because Russia is uniquely able to throw a giant monkey wrench into plans of those western elites behind the wars in Ukraine, in Syria, Libya, Iraq and well beyond to Afghanistan, Africa and South America.
 
Rather than depression, in my recent visits to Russia in the past year as well as in numerous discussions with a variety of Russian acquaintances, I sense a new feeling of pride, of determination, a kind of rebirth of something long buried.
 
Sanctions Boomerang
Take the sanctions war that the Obama administration has forced Germany, France and other unwilling EU states to join. The US Treasury financial warfare unit has targeted the Ruble. The morally corrupt and Washington-influenced Wall Street credit rating agencies have downgraded Russian state debt to “junk” status. The Saudis, in cahoots with Washington, have caused a free-fall in oil prices. The chaos in Ukraine and EU sabotage of the Russian South Stream gas pipeline to the EU, all this should have brought a terrified Russia to her knees. It hasn’t.
 
(…)

=======
Martin Zeis
globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS