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Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 7:25am in

In November of last year, the Pentagon’s assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs assured reporters during a press briefing that “the revenue from [Syrian oil fields] is not going to the U.S. [It] is going to the SDF”, adding that the purpose of the mission was “to defeat ISIS” and that “securing of the oil fields [was] a subordinate task to that mission”, which was “to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.”

At that time, however, a recently incorporated company in the Delaware jurisdiction named Delta Crescent Energy LLC had already been communicating with members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northeastern region of Syria for several months about developing and exporting crude oil from the Kurdish-occupied territory.

Already in April 2019, the new oil concern had received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to carry on with the work; the same Treasury department that in 2018 had levied sanctions against the Syrian government’s “Petroleum Procurement Network,” targeting companies in Lebanon and the UAE which deliver fuel and natural gas to Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday declaring the deal to be illegal and designed to steal Syrian crude. “This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis,” read the statement from Damascus, which condemned “in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company.”

The loose band of Kurdish rebels now known as the SDF was formed after U.S. airstrikes allowed them to take the Syrian city of Kobani in 2015. Subsequent military assistance and training by U.S. forces helped consolidate the 60,000-man army, which has been pivotal in American destabilization efforts in Syria.

 

Shell company

Delta Crescent Energy LLC was formed in February 2019 in the tax haven jurisdiction of Delaware and lists its address as 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, DE; a “tiny brick building,” which is also home to more than 300,000 business entities. Among its neighbors at the cramped address are companies like Apple, eBay, and Walmart, just to name a few.

The company’s officers include George W. Bush’s ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain – a sports franchise owner who once called for the execution of Chelsea Manning for leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks; former Delta Force commander and TigerSwan CEO, James Reese and John P. Dorrier Jr. founder of UK-based, Houston, TX-located, GulfSands Petroleum, which has carried out business in Syria before.

Reese, whose private mercenary company TigerSwan infiltrated and surveilled Dakota Access Pipeline protestors at Standing Rock in 2016, told Fox News in 2018 that “the whole eastern part of Syria” belonged to the U.S. “That’s ours,” he continued, “We can’t give that up.”

The secretive oil deal was a topic of conversation during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 30. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo if he was supportive of the agreement, he testified that “We are,” adding that it had taken “longer” than anticipated, but it “was now in implementation, and it can be very powerful.”

 

Oil market viability

Graham praised the blatantly illegal arrangement, saying that it would “improve the viability of the northern oil fields to make them more productive.” Syrian oil fields were producing approximately 380,000 barrels a day until U.S.-backed rebels took over the oil-rich northeastern region of the country after “ousting” ISIS forces – themselves spawned from the EU, the U.S., and the UK  – reducing production to less than 60,000 barrels a day.

The negotiations were brokered by U.S. government officials from the State Department. James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and his deputy, Joel Rayburn were charged with cementing the contract, which the Trump administration still cynically claims was done on behalf of the “Syrian people” and that the U.S. “government does not own, control, or manage the oil resources in Syria. The populations in areas liberated from ISIS make their own decisions on local governance.”

The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Jessica McNulty added that the DoD “does not have an affiliation with any private companies in regard to the oil fields in northeast Syria” and in the same breath expressed how the American military was there to literally protect the interests of the oil company by “securing [the] critical petroleum infrastructure in northeast Syria to deny ISIS access to critical resources and revenue.” McNulty, however, did not mention that the Delaware-based company has plans to sell the oil to “various customers in the region,” including Assad, himself.

Feature photo | U.S. military forces patrol Syrian oil fields, Oct. 28, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds appeared first on MintPress News.

The Tory Attitude to Mass Starvation: Let Them Eat Cake

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 5:05am in

Mike’s put up this evening on his blog a piece wondering if the reason the Tories launched their ‘Help Out To Eat Out’ scheme to encourage people to start going out to restaurants again wasn’t because they wanted to restart the economy, but simply stuff their faces at public expense. He’s put up a couple of pieces about the Tory MPs Nadhim Zahawi and the abomination formerly in charge of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt, both talking about how they used to scheme to get a free lunch. There’s a meme about Zahawi stating just how much he’s raked in on expenses and for working for an oil company, in addition to his generous salary as an MP. But he doesn’t feel that such largesse should be awarded to the disabled, and voted for a £30 cut in their benefits.

Mike’s blogged about this issue before. The scheme was never going to tackle the real problem of starvation, or ‘food poverty’ in this country, because the people afflicted by it can’t afford to go to restaurants. Many of them can’t afford to buy food, which is why there’s been such a massive expansion in food banks.

But the middle classes, and the rich Tories who represent them, can.

This all reminds of the expenses scandal back in 2004, when large sections of parliament were caught claiming as much as they could get their hands on in expenses, far beyond what was being awarded in pay for the rest of us mere mortals. They had also voted to cut the salaries of their staff. That blew up in their faces when it was exposed by the Torygraph, which may well have been the last time that wretched newspaper ever did anything right.

And now they’re doing it again while millions starve.

It all reminds me of the famous reply Marie Antoinette supposedly gave to the news that the French peasantry were starving because they had no bread.

‘Well, let them eat cake’.

That’s come to symbolise the grotesque self-indulgence and absolute complacency of the French aristocracy, an attitude that led to the Revolution, the execution of the monarchy and the mass murder of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.

This seems to be the modern, Tory British version. People don’t have food on the table, but blow them! Let them go to a restaurant instead, like the Tories and their rich friends from the Bullingdon Club and other centres of the self-indulgent, callous rich.

Was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ really meant to help super-rich Tories get cheap meals at the taxpayer’s expense?

Fighting Racism Means Restoring the Welfare State

One of the most important things I learned when I was studying Geography for ‘A’ level nearly forty years ago was that poverty leads to political extremism. Part of the course was on the Third World, although I now gather that term, coined by Gandhi, is now out of favour. It was fascinating. We were taught that the countries of the Developing World varied in their levels of economic development and that many of their problems stemmed from the neocolonial system put in place when the European imperial power granted their independence. In return for their political freedom, the former colonies were required to confine themselves to primary industry – mining and agriculture. They were forced into a relationship with their former masters in which they were to trade their agricultural and mineral products for finished European goods. Punitive tariffs were imposed on industrial goods produced by these nations. They are therefore prevented from developing their own manufacturing industries and diversifying their economies. And as the primary resources they export to the global north are produced by a large number of countries, competition works against them. If one country tries to raise the price of copra, for example, the developed countries can simply find another nation willing to supply it at a lower cost. And so the Developing World is kept poor. And that poverty will drive people to political extremism – Communism and Fascism.

Poverty, Economic and Political Crisis and the Rise of Fascism

The same forces were at work behind the rise of Fascism in Europe. Part of the impetus behind the formation of Italian Fascism and German Nazism was frustration at the international settlement at the end of the First World War. Italy was angered by the great powers’ refusal to grant it the territories it claimed, like the Yugoslavian island of Fiume. Germany was humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of crippling reparations. The new democratic system in both countries was unstable. The Nazis made their first electoral breakthrough as the champions of the small farmers of Schleswig-Holstein in the 1920s. But arguable what gave them the greatest spur to power was the 1929 Wall Street crash and the massive global recession this caused. Combined with the breakdown of the ruling Weimar coalition between the Catholic Centre Party, the German  Social Democrats – the rough equivalent of the British Labour Party and the two Liberal parties – the crisis boosted Nazism as a mass movement and allowed President Hindenberg, then ruling by decree, to consider giving them a place in power in order to break the political deadlock. He did, and the result was the twelve years of horror of the Third Reich. Faced with rising unemployment, national humiliation and social and political chaos, millions of people were attracted by the Nazis denunciation of international capitalism and Marxist Communism and Socialism, which they blamed on the Jews.

The Collapse of Louisiana Oil Industry and the Witchcraft Scare

Sociologists and folklorists critically examining the witchcraft scare of the 1990s also noticed the role poverty and wealth inequalities have in creating social panics and the persecution of outsider groups. From the ’70s onwards a myth had developed that there existed in society multigenerational Satanic groups practising child abuse and infant sacrifice. A critical investigation by the British government over here – the Fontaine Report – and the FBI over the Pond found absolutely no evidence that these sects ever existed. But large numbers of people uncritically believed in them. As this belief spread, innocent people were accused of membership of such cults and their mythical atrocities. As the American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out, this witch hunt emerged and spread at a time when the gap between rich and poor in America was increasing. One of the places hit by the scare was Louisiana. Louisiana had a strong oil industry, and the state levied a tax on its profits to subsidize local housing. This was fine until the industry went into recession. Suddenly ordinary, hard-working Louisianans found they could no longer afford their mortgages. There were cases where the banks were simply posted the keys to properties as their former owners fled elsewhere. With poverty and insecurity rising, people started looking round for a scapegoat. And they found it in these mythical Satanic conspiracies and in real, New Age neo-Pagan religions, which they identified with them.

1990s Prosperity and Positive Challenges to Affirmative Action

It’s a truism that poverty creates social and racial conflict, as different groups fight over scarce resources. There was a period in the 1990s when it looked like racism was well on the wane in America, Britain and Europe. Blacks were still at the bottom of American society, but some Blacks were doing well, and challenging stereotypes and the need for affirmative action. The Financial Times approvingly reported a self-portrait by a Black American artist, in which he pointedly exaggerated his ‘negrotic’ features in order to make the point that these didn’t define him. There were cases of Black college professors turning down promotion to senior, prestigious positions at their seats of learning because they didn’t want people to think that they hadn’t earned them through their own merits. They hated the idea that they were just being given these places because of their colour. Whites further down the social scale were also challenging the need for affirmative action in a different way, which didn’t involve racist abuse and violence. The FT reported that four American firemen had changed their names to Hispanic monickers, as this was the only way they believed they could get promotion under a system designed to give preference to ethnic minorities. Back in Blighty, some TV critics naively applauded the lack of racism in a series of Celebrity Big Brother, before that all shattered as Jade Goody and one of her friends racially bullied Indian supermodel and film star Shilpa Shetty. Sociological studies revealed that people’s accent was more important than their race in terms of social identity and acceptance. And then when Barack Obama won the American election in 2008, the chattering classes around the world hailed this as the inauguration of a new, post-racial America. But wiser voices reminded the world that the terrible racial inequalities remained.

Austerity, Poverty, and the Destruction of the Welfare State Behind Growth in Racism

All this has been shattered with the imposition of austerity following the banking crash, and the increasing impoverishment of working people across the world. The crash has allowed Conservative government to cut spending on welfare programmes, force through even more privatisations and cuts, and freeze and slash workers’ pay. At the same time, the top 1 per cent has become even more incredibly wealth through massively increased profits and tax cuts.

One of the many great speakers at last Saturday’s Arise Festival on Zoom – I think it was Richard Burgon, but I’m not sure – remarked that talking to people in the north, he found that they weren’t racist. They didn’t hate Blacks and ethnic minorities. But they were worried about access to jobs, opportunities and housing. He made the point that we need to restore these, to fight for all working people and not allow the Tories to divide us. He’s right. If you read rags like the Scum, the Heil and the Depress, the line they take is of virtuous Whites being deprived of employment and housing by undeserving immigrants. Who also sponge off the state on benefits, like the White unemployed the Tories also despise. But they’re obviously not going to tell the world that they are responsible for the shortage of jobs, the insecure conditions for those, who are lucky to have them, and that the shortage of affordable housing is due to them selling off the council houses and defining ‘affordable’ in such a way that such homes are still out of the pocket of many ordinary people. Even if enough of them are built by companies eager to serve the wealthy.

Austerity and Black Lives Matter

It’s austerity that has given urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Blacks and some other ethnic minorities have been acutely affected by austerity, as they were already at the bottom of society. If prosperity had continued, if the banking crash had not happened and austerity not imposed, I don’t believe that BLM would have received the wave of global support it has. Blacks would still have occupied the lowest rung of the social hierarchy, but conditions would not have been so bad that they have become a crisis.

White Trump Voters Whites Disadvantaged by Affirmative Action

At the same time, some disadvantaged Whites would not have given their votes to Donald Trump. While Trump is a grotty racist himself, who has surrounded himself with White supremacists and members of the Alt Right, some sociologists have counselled against accusing all of his supporters as such. Years ago Democracy Now’s anchorwoman, Amy Goodman, interviewed a female academic who had done a sociological survey of Conservative White Trump supporters. She found that they weren’t racist. But they did feel that they were being denied the jobs and opportunities they deserved through unfair preference given to other ethnic groups. She likened their mentality to people in a queue for something. Waiting at their place in line, they were annoyed by others pushing in ahead of them. And this was made worse when the queue jumpers responded to their complaints by accusing them of racism. I think the sociologist herself was politically liberal, but she stated that the Conservatives Whites she’d studied should not automatically be called racist and it was dangerous to do so.

Conclusion

It’s clear from all this that if we really want to tackle racism, we need to restore jobs, proper wages, trade union power, real affordable and council housing, and a proper welfare state. These are desperately needed by all members of the working class. I’ve no doubt that they’re most acutely needed by Blacks, but this certainly isn’t confined to them. Restoring prosperity would bring all the different racial groups that make up the working class together, and it would stop the resentment that leads to racial conflict by one group feeling disadvantaged for the benefit of the others.

 

Five Years On, the Nefarious Goals of the Iran Nuclear Deal Reveal Themselves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 2:07am in

Iran, due to its geopolitical position, has always been considered a jewel in the crown of the colonial powers. Attempts to conquer it through proxy started with Operation Ajax in August of 1953 at the behest of the British and were ultimately carried out by the CIA and not abandoned even with the ousting of America’s man, the Shah.  Although the Islamic Revolution reclaimed Iran’s sovereignty in 1979, America was not ready to abandon its plans of domination over Iran, and by extension, the Persian Gulf.

The Persian Gulf has been the lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy. “To all intents and purposes,” a former senior Defense Department official observed, “‘Gulf waters’ now extend from the Straits of Malacca to the South Atlantic.” Nevertheless, bases nearer the [Persian] Gulf had a special importance, and Pentagon planners urged “as substantial a land presence in them as can be managed.” (Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability”, Boulder: Westview, 1984).

Having failed in numerous attempts, including the Nojeh coup during the nascent stages of Iran’s newly formed revolutionary government, war, sanctions, terrorism, and a failed color revolution, the United States needed other alternatives to reach its goal. Unlike the illegal war against Iraq, war with Iran was not a feasible option. The United States was aware of its inability to wage a successful war against Iran without serious damage to itself and its allies.

When George W. Bush took office, he commissioned a war exercise to gauge the feasibility of an attack against Iran. The  2002 Millennium Challenge was a major war game exercise conducted by the United States Armed Forces in mid-2002. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost $250 million, proved that the U.S. could not defeat Iran. The U.S. even restarted the war games, changing rules to ensure an American victory, in reality, cheating itself. This led to accusations that the war game had turned from an honest, open, playtest of U.S. war-fighting capabilities into a controlled and scripted exercise intended to end in a U.S. victory to promote a false narrative of U.S. invincibility.

For this reason, the United States continued its attempts at undermining Iran’s sovereignty by means of sanctions, terror, and creating divisions among Iranians. The JCPOA would be its master plan.

A simple observation of Iran clearly suggests simple ideological divisions among the Iranian people (pro-West, anti-West, minorities, religious, secular) which have all been amply exploited by the United States and its allies. None of the exploits delivered the prize the U.S. was seeking and so it was that it was decided to exploit the one factor which united Iranians of all persuasions. Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

In a November 25, 2004 interview with National Public Radio, Ray Takyeh (of the Council on Foreign Relations and husband to Iran expert Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute) stated that, according to polls, 75-80 percent of Iranians rallied behind the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of its nuclear program, including the full fuel cycle. In other words, the overwhelming uniting factor among Iranians was the nuclear program. A U.S.IA poll conducted in 2007 found that 64 percent of those questioned said that U.S. legislation repealing regime change in Iran would not be incentive enough to give up the nuclear program and full fuel-cycle. The next phase in America’s plan was to cause disunity on an issue that united Iranians of all stripes by negotiating away the nuclear program.

The first round of nuclear negotiations in 2003-2005, dubbed the Paris Agreement, between Iran and the EU, proved to be futile and as one European diplomat put it: “We gave them a beautiful box of chocolate that was, however, empty.” As the West’s fortune would have it, the same Iranian officials who participated in the 2003-2005 negotiations, would later negotiate the JCPOA.

Around the time of the end of the first round of negotiations, another Brookings Fellow, Flynt Leverett, senior advisor to the National Security Center, published a book “Inheriting Syria, Bashar’s Trial by Fire.” In it, Leverett argued that instead of conflict, George W. Bush should seek to cooperate with Syria as Assad was popular, but instead seek to weaken Assad’s position among his people by targeting the Golan Heights by inducing him to give them up so that he would lose popularity among Syrians. The JCPOA was designed, in part, along the same line of thinking. What more, Leverett’s wife Hillary had a prominent role in ‘selling’ the Iran Deal.

Secret negotiations between the Americans and ‘reform-minded’ Iranians never ceased, bypassing both Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the President at the time – Mahmood Ahmadinejad. In a 2012 meeting at the University of Southern California, present members of the Iran Project team had no reservations about suggesting that it was more beneficial to engage Iran than to attack it. They went as far as stating in the Q&A session to this writer that “they had been engaged with the “Green” (the opposition movement in the failed 2009 color revolution) for years, but Ahmadinejad won,” referring to Iran’s 2009 presidential elections. But Ahmadinejad would soon leave office and be replaced by Rouhani – a more amenable player.

 

Why negotiate with America’s archnemesis?

Fully appreciating the challenge of attacking Iran, in 2004, the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), presented its policy paper “The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action” authored by Michael Eisenstadt. It was opined that the ideal situation was, and continues to be, to have a compliant ‘regime’ in Tehran.   Eisenstadt was of the opinion that unlike the Osiraq nuclear power plant which was bombed and destroyed, Israel and the U.S. would not be able to bomb Iran’s Bushehr reactor with the same ease. In particular, Eisenstadt claimed that Israel may have benefited from French aid in destroying Osiraq. French intelligence reportedly placed a homing beacon at Osiraq to help Israeli pilots locate the facility or target a critical underground structure there.

In this light, it was recommended that the principal goal of U.S. action should be to delay Iran’s nuclear program long enough to allow for the possible emergence of new leadership in Tehran.  Failing that, war would have been facilitated.

It was thought the Paris Agreement talks would fail, (much as the JCPOA was designed to fail) and as such, the following were among the suggestions made:

• harassment or murder of key Iranian scientists or technicians;

• introduction of fatal design flaws into critical reactor, centrifuge, or weapons components during their production, to ensure catastrophic failure during use;

• disruption or interdiction of key technology or material transfers through sabotage or covert military actions on land, in the air, or at sea;

• sabotage of critical facilities by U.S. intelligence assets, including third country nationals or Iranian agents with access to key facilities;

• introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of facilities;

• damage or destruction of critical facilities through sabotage or direct action by U.S. special forces.

As with the murder and terror of Iranian nuclear scientists as well as the infection of nuclear reactors with the Stuxnet virus, the JCPOA enabled personnel on the ground in Iran to carry out extensive sabotage as has been observed in recent days and weeks.  Rouhani’s visa-free travel opened the flood gates to spies and saboteurs – dual citizens who easily traveled with passports other than American, British, and Australian. Iran even managed to cancel the accreditation of an IAEA inspector who triggered an alarm at one of its nuclear facilities. But it would seem, Iran has not been able to stop other intruders and terrorists – not yet.

 

Why else negotiate with Iran?

According to studies, as of 2008, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor had 82 tons of enriched uranium (U235) loaded into it, according to Israeli and Chinese reports. This amount was significantly higher both before and during negotiations. History has not witnessed the bombing of a nuclear power plant with an operational nuclear enrichment facility.  Deliberate bombing of such facilities would breach containment and allow radioactive elements to be released. The death toll would be horrifying. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated 3 million deaths would result within three weeks of the bombing of nuclear enrichment facilities near Esfahan, and the contamination would cover Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the way to India.

The JCPOA significantly reduced the amount of enriched uranium, reducing potential casualties in the event that a strike is carried out.

The Deal buys time. Iran’s strength has long been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz. Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35 percent of the world’s seaborne oil exports, go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy. Enter Nigeria (West Africa) and Yemen.

In 1998, Clinton’s national security agenda made it clear that unhampered access to Nigerian oil and other vital resources was a key U.S. policy. In the early 2000s, Chatham House determined that African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed the release of a strategy paper prodding the U.S. to move toward African oil. The push for Africa’s oil was on Dick Cheney’s desk on May 31, 2000. In 2002, the Israeli based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies suggested an American push towards African oil. In the same year, Boko Haram was ‘founded.’

In 2007, AFRICOM helped consolidate this push into the region. In 2011, a publication titled: “Globalizing West African Oil: U.S. ‘energy security’ and the global economy” outlined ‘U.S. positioning itself to use military force to ensure African oil continued to flow to the United States.’ This was but one strategy to supply oil in addition to, or as an alternate, to the passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

 

The JCPOA as a starting point

It is now abundantly clear that the Iran Deal was simply JCPOA 1.0.  Other deals were to follow and disarm Iran even further, to stop Iran’s defensive missile program, and to stop Iran from helping its allies in the region.  This would have been relatively easy to achieve had Hillary Clinton been elected – as had been the hope.

The plan was to allow trade and neoliberal policies which the Rouhani administration readily embraced, a sharp increase in imports (harming domestic production and self-reliance) while building hope – or as Maloney called it ‘crisis of expectation’.

It was thought that with a semblance of ‘normalcy’ in international relations and free of sanctions, Iranians would want to continue abandoning their sovereignty, their defenses, and rally around pro-western politicians at the expense of the core ideology of the Islamic Revolution, the conservatives and the IRGC. In other words, regime change.  Several meetings took place that spoke to this policy.

 

The players

The most prominent, one could argue, was President Obama. Obama was not about peace.  The biggest threat to an empire is peace. Obama had chosen feigned diplomacy as his weapon, but before picking up the mantle of diplomacy, he had proposed terrorism – sanctioned terrorism.

Obama, while a junior senator, introduced S. 1430 in 2007  and had “crippling sanctions” in mind for the Iranian people.  As president, his executive orders assured this.

Addressing AIPAC as a candidate, he said,

Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States it will be clear to the people of Iran and to the world that the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation and that will strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work with Europe, Japan, and the Gulf States to find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard whose Kuds forces have rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.”

It is no wonder then that he would later be dubbed America’s “first Jewish president.”

Not to be left unmentioned was the darling of the theatrics of this deal – Federica Mogherini. So enamored were some of the Iranian parliamentarians with her that to the embarrassment of Iran, the internet was abuzz with these MPs taking pictures with her.   Perhaps they looked at her and not her years as a German Marshall Fund Fellow.

The German Marshall Fund (GMF) sounds harmless enough, but perhaps Russia may not view it that way. And Iran shouldn’t either. The GMF pushed for bringing Ukraine into NATO’s fold. Furthermore, it gives funding to American Abroad Media (AMA). AMA boasts of some of the most dangerous anti-Iran neoconservatives who have shaped America’s policies, including Dennis Ross, James Woolsey, Martin Indyk (responsible for the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act later to become ISA and still in place after the JCPOA), and Tom Pickering, one of the main proponents of the Iran Deal and member of the Iran Project. Supporters of the AMA are not limited to the GMF, others include the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the NED.

One of the most active proponents of the JCPOA was none other than NED recipient, Trita Parsi. Parsi was personally thanked for his role in pushing the JCPOA through. Job well done for a three-time recipient of NED funds. No wonder the Soros–Koch foundation’s Quincy Institute selected him as their Executive Vice President.

And last but not least, Hillary Mann Leverett (wife of aforementioned Flynn Leverett) who persuaded her audiences that the JCPOA was akin to “Nixon going to China.” While some in Iran naively believed this to be the case and even defended her, they failed to realize that when Nixon went to China, it was to bring China on board against Russia.   And Israel was not a player. It was not an opening to befriend Iran any more than Nixon’s trip had altruist motivations.

 

The role of Russia and China

The Russians and the Chinese were so eager to embrace a long-awaited peace after all the calamity caused by the United States that they fully embraced this deal, even though doing so was detrimental to their interests.

America’s animosity and never-ending schemes encouraged cooperation between Russia, China, and Iran. Although the lifting of sanctions post-JCPOA would have facilitated trade and enhanced diplomacy between Iran and the West at a cost to China and Russia, they stood steadfast by the deal. Peace was more valuable, but far more importantly, the two powerful nations allowed the United States to be the arbitrator of an international treaty – the NPT.

During the Shah’s reign, President Ford had signed onto a National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM 292, 1975) allowing and encouraging Iran to not only enrich uranium but sell it to neighboring countries to profit America. The United States then decided that since the Islamic Republic of Iran did not serve the interests of the United States, the United States would determine how the NPT should apply to Iran.

But their efforts at peace and the West’s efforts at regime change all came to naught.  What is important to bear in mind is that America’s efforts at war, sabotage, and terrorism have not ended. Imposing unilateral sanctions – terrorism against the Iranian people, has not ceased. Although the Iranian people and their elected representative in the new Iranian parliament are far more aware of and have an aversion to America’s ploys and the Iran Deal, China and Russia must do their part not only as guarantors of peace, but also to maintain their integrity in a world where both aspire to live in multilateralism. The world already has a superpower without morals and integrity; it does not need other great powers that act similarly.

Iran has fended off another assault on its sovereignty. However, saboteurs and terrorists are soliciting war with their recent string of terrorism in Iran. As the fifth anniversary of this trap approaches, the world needs to understand and step up in order to defend peace, international law, and social justice. The future of all depends on it.

And to American compatriots:  Make sure Trump understands that war will not get him reelected.

Feature photo | Rescue workers search for survivors at the scene of a mysterious explosion at the Sina At’har Health Center in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran on June 30, 2020. Amir Kholousi | ISNA

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing U.S. foreign policy. 

The post Five Years On, the Nefarious Goals of the Iran Nuclear Deal Reveal Themselves appeared first on MintPress News.

Channel 4 Programme on the Queen’s Role in the 1953 Coup against Iran’s Mossadeq

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/06/2020 - 11:12pm in

Another interesting programme listed in next week’s Radio Times is Channel 4 documentary on Sunday, 14th June 2020, The Queen and the Coup. This is about how MI6 and the CIA conspired to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, and how the Queen was manipulated by the intelligence agencies as part of it. Mossadeq had committed the crime of nationalising his country’s oil industry, which was owned by the British company Anglo-Persian Oil, which eventually became BP.

The blurb for the programme runs

It’s February 1953, the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, but the monarch is unaware that she is about to be deployed in a US plot to topple Iran’s democratic leader in favour of an all-powerful shah. Planned by MI6 and executed by the CIA, the coup destroyed Iran’s democracy and damaged relations between Iran and the West for many decades; this documentary reveals how the truth about the Queen’s role was hidden, even from her.

The piece about it by David Butcher a few pages earlier reads

This is one of those brilliantly detailed documentaries on recent history that uses declassified documents to explore a bizarre and little-known episode.

Professors Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich have unearthed a paper trail in national archives showing how the 1953 coup d’etat to unseat Iran’s elected leader (Mohammed Mossadeq, whose crime had been to national British oil assets) relied at a crucial moment on using the young Queen Elizabeth’s name – unbeknownst to her.

It’s a fascinating, at times farcical yarn of MI6 and CIA intrigue, and the events had a huge effect on global politics; relations between Iran and the West never recovered.

The programme’s on at 9.00 pm.

Historians have known about the 1953 coup against Mossadeq for some time. The parapolitics/conspiracies magazine Lobster has published articles about it. I’ve posted pieces about it on this blog. However, it’s been largely ignored by the establishment because it is a real, genuine government conspiracy of the type that Britain and the US supposedly don’t commit. Lobster has been lamenting for decades how the majority of historians don’t take seriously the existence of real conspiracies committed by covert governmental, political or industrial groups as it contradicts the accepted idea of how politics operates and is conducted.

One of the presenters, Rory Cormac, is the author of a book on British official conspiracies and plots, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy (Oxford: OUP 2018). This revealed how the British government, armed forces and intelligence agencies had secretly conspired and interfered in countries right across the globe from Northern Ireland in Britain itself, to Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere, removing leaders, rigging elections and overthrowing regimes that were an obstacle to British foreign policy. One of those countries was Iran, and the anti-Mossadeq coup is discussed in Chapter 5, ‘Operation Boot: Regime Change in Iran.’

This is all historical fact. But the coup was authorized and supporter by Boris’ hero, Winston Churchill. I wonder what the reaction of the Tory press to it will be? Assuming they deign to notice, of course.

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunters Targeting Prospective Labour Politico for Something She Hasn’t Yet Done

As Asa Winstanley, another anti-racism activist falsely expelled from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism remarks, this is beyond thoughtcrime. It’s pre-crime. Mike in his article about Keir Starmer reprimanding the respected Black women MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy also mentions that the witch-hunters are demanding he censure their next target, Salma Yaqoob. Yaqoob is a prospective Labour candidate for mayor of the West Midlands, and a patron of the Stop the War Coalition. She is also due to appear in an online discussion from the Coalition about the new Labour leadership’s position on anti-war issues and Palestine on the 8th of this month, May 2020, alongside Paul Kelemen, the author of The British Left and Zionism: A History of a Divorce, and Tony Greenstein, ‘Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner’. And it is his appearance on the panel that has sent the witch-hunters into a fearful bate, as Molesworth would sa. 

Greenstein is very definitely a Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner. He a fierce, bitter opponent of Fascism and racism. This means that he also criticises Zionism for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the movement’s own crimes against Jews. He has pointed out again and again that throughout their history Zionists and the Israeli state have supported Fascists against Jews and other ethnic minorities when it has served their purpose. Israel sought out an alliance with another White Supremacist state, apartheid South Africa. In the 1970s and ’80 they also allied with Fascist regimes in South and Central America, including Guatemala during its dictatorship’s genocidal civil war with the Mayan Indians, and the neo-Nazi regime in Argentina, which targeted Jews for torture, massacre and murder. At the same time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews attacked the Anti-Nazi League in this country, forbidding Jews from joining it or allowing it to hold meetings in synagogues, because the founder was an anti-Zionist. Some left-wing Jews, who defied the ban and joined it nonetheless, like David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, say that there were rumours that the Board opposed it for different, racist reasons: they didn’t want Jews joining the Black and Asian fight against racism.

Yaqoob’s appearance was picked up by Ian Austin, the former Labour MP complaining of anti-Semitism while the real reason was that Jeremy Corbyn had returned it to its socialist ideals. He has complained to Starmer and demanded Yaqoob’s suspension. Hence Asa Winstanley tweeted

This racist fanatic wants a prominent Muslim woman expelled from Labour for a future event with the “wrong” kind of Jewish person.

This is beyond Thought Crime, it’s Pre-Crime.

Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-racism activist smeared as an anti-Semite and expelled from the Party, also commented: It’s open season on black women.

Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty head of The Canary said

Corbyn’s Labour:

For the many, not the few.

Starmer’s Labour:

For us, not you.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/02/keir-starmer-has-turned-labour-into-the-party-of-hypocrisy-and-racism/

During the smear campaign a few years ago, the Board, Campaign for Anti-Semitism, Jewish Leadership Council and the other pro-Israel groups and their supporters waved placards at their protests bearing the slogan ‘Labour Party – For the many, not the Jew’. It was a play on Corbyn’s slogan ‘Labour – for the many, not the few’. According to Tony Greenstein, it was made up by British literary author, Howard Jacobson, when he was living in New York. It was supposed to show how anti-Semitic the Labour Party is. But the witch-hunters themselves have particularly targeted Jewish critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists. These entirely decent, self-respecting men and women have been viciously smeared as ‘self-hating’. The Board and the other pro-Israel organisations have also misrepresented themselves as standing for Britain’s Jewish community as a whole. They don’t. Board doesn’t represent Orthodox, Haredi nor secular Jews. It really only represents the United Synagogue. I find it very significant that when the I ran an article from a Jewish journalist denouncing Labour as anti-Semitic apart from their own columnist, Simon Kelner, that journo was always described as a member of the United Synagogue. As a Zionist organisation, the Board also doesn’t represent anti-Zionist Jews. The Board and the other organisations attacking Labour and Corbyn were also incensed when the Labour leader attended a Passover Seder with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group. This was another anti-Semitic affront to the Jewish community. They were the wrong kind of Jew! Which is itself a noxious, anti-Semitic gesture.

In fact the Board and the other witch-hunters targeting of Jews means that you could reasonably invert their slogan so it reads ‘Board of Deputies – For Israel, not the Jew’. 

It was Tony Blair’s administration that launched the invasion of Iraq, against which the Stop the War Coalition protested, and the Blairites shared the same goals as the Neocons. After George Dubya left office, and was replaced as President by Barack Obama, it was Blair and Sarkozy in France who really wanted an attack on Libya and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the destruction of one of Africa’s most prosperous states, which had a strong welfare system and was relatively secular. It has now been replaced in some areas by a hard-line Islamist theocracy, which has returned to slavery with Black migrants now being openly sold in markets. Before the appearance of Coronavirus plunged the world into lockdown, the American right seemed also to be preparing and agitating for a war with Iran. The Neocons also want that country’s regime overthrown because of its militant opposition to Israel, accompanied by frankly genocidal rhetoric, and its defiance of American hegemony in the Middle East. They and their Saudi allies also covet its oil reserves, which they also wish to seize, just like they did Iraq’s.

And there’s also a streak of islamophobia in the witch-hunters a mile wide. People have turned up at pro-Israel and anti-Palestine protests wearing Kach T-shirts. This is a far-right organisation banned in Israel for terrorism. They also wear T-shirts and wave placards for its successor, the Jewish Defence League, which is also banned. One of the witch-hunters turned up next to one anti-Palestinian demo two years or so ago next to Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of the infamous islamophobic group, Britain First. These pro-Israel demonstrators also include open supporters of Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League and Pegida UK. One of the Board’s members even appeared with him in a video for Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian internet broadcaster.

It therefore very much seems to me that Austin and the other witch-hunters, by making this complaint against Yaqoob, are desperately trying to keep debate and criticism in the Labour party of Israel and its genocide of the Palestinians very firmly closed. They are also seeking to keep Blair’s Neocon agenda alive in Labour. And they are terrified of Muslims and Muslim influence in the Labour Party. There have been polls showing that 85 per cent of British Muslims support Labour. Muslims are one of the largest ethnic minorities in contemporary Britain. The Radio Times a few years ago covered a radio programme about Jewish comedy and literary festivals that were being held up and down the country. These festivals were open to the wider British population. According to the Radio Times, they were partly being held in order to encourage the broader population to support the Jewish community at a time when that community felt its respect was slipping away and being replaced by concern for other ethnic groups.

Now I’ve got absolutely no objection to such festivals, whether by Jews or any other religious or ethnic group. And with the Far Right on the rise in Europe, Jews do need the support and solidarity of non-Jewish anti-racism activists. But Austin’s complaint about Yaqoob, a Muslim patron of the Stop the War Coalition, suggests that the general insecurity felt by part of the Jewish population is shared by the Israel lobby. And they’re scared of competition from Britain’s Muslims for our sympathies.

The witch-hunter’s targeting of Salma Yaqoob is therefore about preserving the Neocon project and protecting Israel from criticism by silencing genuine anti-racism activists, particularly Jews and Muslims. It’s yet another example of the racism of the Blairite Right.

Can We All Be Like Texas?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 12:28am in

Last week, oil prices went negative. There is nowhere to store the oil being pumped out of the ground because demand, due to the coronavirus, has collapsed. There is less flying, less driving and fewer factories operating. So oil producers and their financial backers have been paying folks to take their oil. There are jokes going around that if you had a big storage tank in your basement, you could get paid to take some oil and sell it at a huge profit when, and if, the price goes up again.

West Texas is oil country. But there is something else going on in West Texas: it is a world capital of wind energy. Last year, Texas got more of its energy from wind — 23.4 percent — than any other U.S. state. In fact, if Texas were a country (which some might argue it is) it would rank fifth in the world in wind power generation, just behind Germany and India. 

Wind in oil country may seem like a contradiction, but to Texans it makes perfect sense.

Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

How Texas became wind country

Texas uses a LOT of energy. Since 1960, it has consumed more energy annually than any other state — a hundred times more than Vermont, and 40 percent more than California, which has far more people. More than half of this energy usage is industrial — a lot of it goes to manufacturing and agriculture, and some into energy production itself — and folks sure like their air-con down there

This insatiable appetite for energy has given Texas an incentive to look for new power sources. Over the past two decades, it’s found one on its western range, where gale-force winds sweep the plains. Twenty years ago, most of this wind was going to waste — Texas had less wind power than California, Minnesota, or even little Iowa. But in the early 2000s, wind turbines began sprouting all over the state, propelled in part by tax incentives that made wind a profitable enterprise.

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Then, in 2007, the state approved a $7 billion investment in transmission lines from West Texas. Someone was thinking ahead — the new lines cleared up transmission congestion that was holding back the potential of wind power. With the transmission lines in place, large amounts of wind-generated electricity could be sold to the big cities — Dallas, Houston, Austin — in the eastern half of the state.

Texas WindCredit: There are plenty of jokes about how hot and windy it is in West Texas. “In West Texas it’s so hot they’ve installed fans.” Credit: Daxis / Flickr

All this focus on wind may seem surprising — we all know West Texas is oil country, and that the entire state often leans to the right politically. What’s encouraging is that, in this respect, Texans are behaving like conservatives are supposed to: they are ignoring ideological and partisan dogma and instead doing what makes economic sense. Wind has been forecast to be cheaper than oil in the long run — once the transmission lines and windmills are up, the costs, in theory, drop way down.

The risk of this purely economic approach is that, should wind power become less profitable, Texas could return to fossil fuels, which are dirt cheap right now because demand has crashed. (All the fracking over the past decade has reduced oil prices, too.) Texas cities like Georgetown, whose Republican mayor, Dale Ross, famously did the math in 2011 and began shifting the town to 100 percent sustainable energy, could quickly abandon those plans if oil proves to be cheaper than wind, as it is at the moment. 

There’s a great Butch Hancock song by The Flatlanders, a West Texas band, called “The Wind’s Dominion.” 

 

When Ross laid his plans, forecasts said the price of fossil fuels would continue to rise, and that wind and solar coming from West Texas would level off in cost. “A no-brainer,” Ross was quoted as saying. But the forecasters didn’t account for the big drop in fossil fuel prices, so Georgetown began to have trouble selling its excess wind energy, and eventually went into debt. Voters were pissed off, and climate deniers and green skeptics cheered, “Told ya so!” But I suspect the story is not over yet. 

Wind is keeping up

Not too many years ago, many experts believed that getting the share of wind power usage above 20 percent in Texas would be difficult. But by 2017, the state was already up to 18 percent. 

Wind ERCOTCredit: ERCOT

The plummet in oil and gas prices is giving non-fossil fuels a run for their money. But as more transmission lines and turbines are installed, wind keeps getting cheaper, too. In the past decade, the price of wind energy has fallen by nearly 70 percent, making it the cheapest form of energy in many parts of the U.S. This demand has led to a wind-farm building boom — in 2016, wind power surpassed 82,000 megawatts in the U.S., making it the country’s number one source of renewable energy. Wind has proven itself competitive.

That means places that aren’t politically progressive will keep adopting it for economic reasons. Eastern Oregon is deeply conservative, but it has lots of wind, and the economies of many of its small towns have been revived by wind power. The same is true in Wyoming, where the biggest wind farm in the U.S. is being built by a conservative oil tycoon. Saving the climate isn’t the incentive in these places — profitability is.

In a recent national poll, 59 percent of respondents said they’d support a government investment of $1.5 trillion in wind and solar. It seems to me that if we live in some semblance of a democracy then politicians should support these wishes. 

Wind is never going to work everywhere — some places just aren’t very windy — but investment in turbines and transmission lines in windy zones around the world can at least take a good percentage of the load off fossil fuels. Wind is also, realistically, never going to cover all our current energy needs. But if other states can be inspired by the Texas example, as we can see they are, then that 23 percent can happen nationwide.

The post Can We All Be Like Texas? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

On The Causes And Consequences Of The Oil Price Crash

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 8:05am in

Tags 

oil, trade


Image by Yuan2003

So, we had a crash of oil prices, where some futures contracts were actually negative, which means that sellers had to pay people to take oil off their hands.

Obviously oil use has dropped during the Covid-19 crisis, and before that prices had already decreased in an attempt by non-US producers to reduce prices low enough to crush US shale production.

Oil is a real thing: it takes up storage. Storage space is running out, and it’s not clear when demand will recover, so oil that is to be delivered now-ish is an expense: you have to pay to store it. Thus the negative prices.

There was a bounce Wednesday, ostensibly on Trump saying he had ordered the US Navy to blow up Iranian boats if they continued to hassle other ships. (If they do this in the Gulf and it goes to shooting, Iran will win the beginning confrontation. They have a lot of missiles.)

One could equally say this is a dead-dog bounce.

At any rate, even double digit prices are below most people’s production costs for oil, and they are above the price every major government that relies on oil needs to balance their books. This means Saudi Arabia, the four gulf oil states, Iraq, Iran, Russia and so on. Ironically, Iran, having been under sanctions already, will be in better shape than most of the others.

It is also, obviously, low enough to make US (and Canadian) Shale oil production completely uneconomical: generally that needs at least $60/barrel, and much of it needs more.

So we have countries and companies with bleeding treasuries. The US has the ability to print money, presumably it will do so to keep Shale oil around in Zombie form. Countries which cannot print money and have other countries accept it could be in trouble. This depends mostly on how long this goes on. A couple months, even three or four, uncomfortable, but no big deal.

If this crisis bubles on for a year and a half of shutdowns, partial relaxations, then more shutdowns, we’re into some very dangerous territory. I’m not sure the House of Saud, for example, can survive that scenario (couldn’t happen to nicer, etc…)

There has been a very long relationship where the most important commodity in the world was oil, and the producers sold it in dollars, so America and the swing producers all benefited. Obama and Trump more or less broke the deal with the promotion of Shale oil, and China has increasingly been insisting on buying oil in Yuan, but the relationship had stumbled on, even though it meant enabling countries like Russia which the US has been treating as enemies.

Trump wanted to force Europeans to buy more American oil, and less Russian oil: this was a major part of his economic plan, such as it were. Trump likes to find a place where he’s more powerful, and push that as hard as possible, and sanctions against Russia and Iran and Venezuela were and are a place where he has unilateral power that no one else was entirely able to get around (though China has somewhat.) The EU has proven unwilling to stand up to the US in the case of sanctions.

Right now there’s no particular reason to think this can’t continue. The US can still print infinite dollars, because foreigners will still accept them, even though the US is no longer the most important manufacturing state. So the US can bail our shale oil. Oil producers, who do not have hegemonic currencies do not infinite rope.

This changes only if important producers of things the US needs stop being willing to sell them to the US in US dollars. China and the EU could (but I very much doubt will) cut America’s throat if they ever chose to act together. Perhaps China could even do it alone. The problem, of course, is that there would be a lot of collateral damage to them. US oil is expensive, but the US can produce it. China and the EU need to import it. If they want to make such a change, they have to secure strong guarantees of supplies from other nations.

This is theoretically possible, but the problem is simple: those nations would then fall under (even more) US military threat. Bombs are very good at ending oil exports: and neither the US nor China is willing to go to war over this. Perhaps China could move troops and nukes into the vulnerable countries, but that would trigger a new cold war, and the Chinese don’t want that, at least not yet: they’re working on their own trade area, a competitor to the US led one (which the US is abandoning anyway, as it shits on the WTO it created), but it is not ready yet. (The Belt and Road Initiative is their name for this restructuring of trade.)

The current collapse of oil prices is unexpected: while a pandemic has always been possible, knowing when it would happen was not.  What it has done is simply reveal current production costs and dynamics. Saudi Arabia has been moving towards vast danger because of its over-reliance on oil for ages, this simply means the consequences may hit sooner. Oil consumer nations have been maneuvering to reduce their dependence on imported oil in general, and unreliable oil in particular, but were not ready to make big moves yet. Almost everyone has been chafing under the petrodollar and under the current world payment’s system, which the US has abused with its constant sanctions, but no one has created a viable alternative and been willing to take the hits necessary to move off the dollar and the US/eu payments system (EU in lower case deliberately.)

Most oil producing nations, including the US and Canada, are generally bad actors on the international stage: ranging from moderately bad to invading oil producing nations regularly and sanctioning other ones constantly; or to being the world’s premier supporters of fundamentalist religion and terrorists.

So don’t cry too much for oil producing nations, nor even for their customers, who have enabled them greatly. But beware that the game is changing, that Covid-19 has highlighted existing issues and that if it continues long enough it could precipitate changes which many actors have long desired, but because they have been unwilling to bear the costs and risks, have not yet happened.

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As US Shale Oil Plunges, Trump Admin Takes Aim at Venezuela

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/04/2020 - 11:30pm in

WASHINGTON DC (The Last American Vagabond) — IPresident Trump recently praised a deal reached largely by Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of the top oil producers in the world who together dominate the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), saying that the agreed upon production cuts would “save hundreds of thousands of energy jobs in the United States.”

Despite the president’s rosy tone, most analysts have called the agreement – which presumably will freeze the Saudi-Russian oil price war that broke out last month – “too little too late” and have noted that a slew of bankruptcies from the U.S. shale oil industry are inevitabledespite the actions that have been taken. Even the Federal Reserve has stated that around 40% of domestic shale companies now face bankruptcy in just a few months if the price of oil remains under $30, a figure it is unlikely to pass for some time due to slumping demand caused by global lockdowns, among other factors that have emerged as the current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis has played out. Trump has since fielded the possibility of imposing tariffs on oil imports to drive up oil prices and favor the domestic consumption of U.S. shale oil, but it remains to be seen if that policy will materialize.

Michael Hudson, President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a former Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, told The Last American Vagabond that, not only are numerous shale oil companies set to go out of business, but the entire shale oil industry in the U.S. “can’t be saved.”

“We have peak shale oil,” Hudson stated, “It was always an awful idea … It’s an over indebted sector and is one of the first to go.” Hudson further asserted that the U.S. government’s “nurturing” of the shale oil sector in recent years was chiefly aimed at targeting Russia’s oil industry by driving down global oil prices, calling it an unsuccessful “anti-Russian cold war campaign” that has since backfired. He added that Trump’s recent overtures with respect to the shale oil industry are likely aimed at “making an excuse to give huge loans to the shale oil producers, as if it’s to keep them in business, and then they [the oil companies] are just going to pay the loans to themselves and go out of business. It’s a cover story for a huge corporate giveaway before this sector falls and goes bankrupt.”

Thus, the imminent reckoning for shale oil in the U.S. is unlikely to be stopped, despite the new production cuts and Trump’s efforts last month to set aside billions for the purchase of shale oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), a move critics labeled as a bail-out for domestic “Big Oil” producers. In addition, the fate of U.S. shale oil is compounded by the possibility that the production cuts will not hold and that the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia could flare up again at any time. Previous yet recent OPEC-brokered deals of a similar nature have ended in this way, and it is very possible – if not likely – that it will happen again.

With oil extremely cheap at the moment, some of the issues raised by shale oil bankruptcies are not necessarily of immediate concern while demand remains low. Yet, if enough U.S. domestic oil producers go bankrupt, once current lockdowns are relaxed and oil demand creeps back up to relatively normal levels, there will be less domestic oil available, despite the SPR. As a result, the U.S. will again have to look more to other countries in order to make up the difference. Though the media thus far has explored the economic effects of this eventuality, less attention – if any – has been given to how it will impact U.S. foreign policy.

For years, President Trump has publicly claimed on several occasions that U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East were no longer guided by oil due to the U.S. having obtained “energy independence,” “independence” that relies heavily on U.S. shale oil production. However, critics – including Michael Hudson – have long charged that this claim of energy independence is a “deliberate falsification.” Such claims are also supported by the fact that U.S. foreign policy in IraqSyria and elsewhere has remained linked to oil in key ways during this period of so-called “domestic energy independence” under Trump. Yet, the bankruptcies of 40% (or perhaps more) of U.S. shale oil producers would likely greatly increase the role oil plays in guiding U.S. foreign policy.

While there are many reasons as to why oil has long been a key factor in U.S. foreign policy (with the petrodollar ranking chief among them), another often overlooked reason is the U.S. military’s heavy reliance on oil. Indeed, the U.S. military is the largest institutional purchaser and consumer of oil in the world and, therefore, securing a reliable, stable and –ideally – geographically nearby source of oil has long been deemed a critical, strategic objective by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has said as much on numerous occasions, stating recently that “… longer operating distances, remote and austere geography, and anti-access/area denial threats [areas or nations unfriendly to the U.S.] are challenging the Department’s ability to assure the delivery of fuel. As the ability to deliver energy is placed at risk, so too is the Department’s ability to deploy and sustain forces around the globe.”

In other words, long distances from fuel sources as well as fuel sources located in or near areas/nations that are hostile to the U.S. directly threaten U.S. empire and its global military presence. In addition, control and influence over global oil flows has long been a key component of military strategy, as noted in the “Wolfowitz Doctrine.”

It is also worth noting that the economic calamity that threatens the domestic oil industry is not the only reliable, stable and geographically close oil supply to be hit by the crisis. For instance, Argentina’s shale oil industry in the “Vaca Muerta” area also faces ruin, an endeavor that had largely been “kick-started” by Exxon Mobil after that company had been ejected from Venezuela and also includes considerable investments from another U.S. oil giant, Chevron – a company ordered by the Trump administration to stop doing business in Venezuela by April 22.

 

US returns attention to Venezuela amid domestic oil collapse

Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, has also made a seemingly odd reappearance on the Trump administration’s list of priorities during the current coronavirus crisis. On March 26, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General William Barr, announced narco-terrorism and other criminal charges against top Venezuelan officials, including the country’s president Nicolás Maduro, alleging that these officials are involved in the trafficking of cocaine to the United States. The charges were odd for a few reasons, one of the main ones being that the U.S. government’s own data shows that Colombia, not Venezuela, is the source of the vast majority of cocaine that ends up in the U.S.

Then, on March 31, former CIA director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a plan entitled “Democratic Framework for Venezuela,” where he demanded that Maduro resign and the “opposition” figure Juan Guaidó also relinquish his claim to the Venezuelan presidency, a claim to power that the U.S. had previously backed. Pompeo’s plan calls for the formation of a council that would be led by an “interim president” (a title the U.S. had previously reserved for Guaidó) and that the council would be formed by members of Venezuela’s largest four political parties, including that led by Maduro. Unsurprisingly, Maduro’s government rejected the plan.

The criminal charges against Maduro and Pompeo’s “democratic” plan were quickly followed with much more troubling news. Announced at a press conference on April 1, President Trump, alongside top government officials, announced that U.S. Southern Command would begin a new “counter-narcotics effort” targeting Venezuela that would include the deployment of Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft, helicopters and more. The official justification of this large deployment is to surveil, disrupt and seize shipments allegedly containing “drugs” that are leaving Venezuela. “We must not let narco-terrorists exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” Trump said at the time. It was also announced that other countries would be joining the U.S. in what amounts to both a military build-up and a de facto blockade of Venezuelan exports, including its oil.

Soon after the announcement regarding this new build-up and de facto naval blockade of Venezuela, U.S. media accused President Trump of using these announcements to deflect criticism about his administration’s handling of the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. One report in Newsweek revealed that these initiatives with respect to Venezuela had been planned several months ago and were set to be announced this May. That report also alleged, citing senior Pentagon officials, that the administration had decided to announce the planned crackdowns on Venezuela sooner in order to “redirect attention.”

However, there may be another reason that these initiatives targeting Venezuela were sped up: the carnage in shale oil markets in the U.S. as well as Argentina and the implications of that for U.S. access – particularly the military’s access – to oil supplies once lockdowns and their associated economic effects begin to lessen.

Michael Hudson told The Last American Vagabond that the U.S. pivot towards Venezuela was “absolutely” related to the carnage in global oil markets and particularly the U.S. oil industry. He further argued that the U.S. was seeking to reimpose a debt-for-oil system that it had enjoyed under pre-Chavista governments in Venezuela: “Under U.S.-backed dictators, Venezuela provided the collateral [for its debt] with all of its oil reserves… [Now,] America wants to give IMF [International Monetary Fund] loans to Venezuela and [oversee] the collateralization of Venezuela’s foreign debt with its oil reserves and then foreclose. [They want to] find an excuse to do to Venezuela what it did to Argentina, to grab Venezuela’s oil reserves as collateral by … preventing Venezuela from paying its foreign debt, [thus] forcing it to default on its foreign debt.”

This certainly seems to be a big part of the equation, as the U.S.-backed Juan Guaidó has long promoted IMF loans and personally sought sizable loans from that organization to finance his “interim government,” which controls essentially nothing in Venezuela. More recently, the IMF rejected Venezuela’s request for a loan to help it combat the coronavirus crisis, but the IMF has reportedly offered to give the country such a loan were Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro, to step down and cede authority to a U.S.-backed “emergency government.”

Yet, there is much more to be concerned about than the IMF and the U.S.’ interest in imposing a debt-for-oil scheme on Venezuela. As Hudson told The Last American Vagabond, one very notable “great threat” is the parallel between the recent U.S. policy and military moves towards Venezuela and the moves that were made by the George H.W. Bush administration just prior to the 1989 invasion of Panama. “America would like to grab Venezuela’s oil and it wouldn’t be the first time,” said Hudson.

 

Regime change in the time of coronavirus

Though recent mainstream media reports claimed that the sudden reappearance of Venezuela on the White House’s agenda was merely political theater, subsequent events suggest something else. This past Saturday, U.S. envoy for Venezuela – war criminal and Project for a New American Century neo-con Elliott Abrams – stated that, if Venezuela’s Maduro did not agree to the Pompeo plan for a new “transition government,” a transition in Venezuelan governance would still occur, but would be more “dangerous and abrupt.” Abrams’ comments failed to generate much buzz in the media, as the April 1 press conference and announcement had done, despite the fact that Abrams was essentially starting that “dangerous and abrupt” action would be taken to force Maduro from power.

There is also the added mystery of an incident that took place right before the announcement of the large deployment of U.S. military assets to target “narco-terrorism.” On the last day of March, a Venezuelan coast guard ship asked a Portuguese cruise ship, the “RCGS Resolute,” that was in Venezuelan territorial waters to accompany it to port. Instead, the cruise ship rammed the Venezuelan vessel, sinking it. Maduro subsequently claimed that the cruise ship “was being used to transport mercenaries,” noting that Dutch authorities in Curacao, where the “RCGS Resolute” is currently docked, had been instructed to not inspect the ship. The company that owns the cruise ship, however, asserts that it is carrying no passengers and disputes Venezuela’s account of why the coast guard vessel was sunk.

In addition to this disconcerting event, there is the fact that the U.S.’ recently announced military build-up is the largest in the region since the U.S. invasion of Panama, which took place in 1989 during the George H.W. Bush administration. Disturbingly, the same Attorney General that greenlit the invasion of Panama once again serves in that same role in today’s administration, William Barr. At the time of the Panama invasion, it was Barr who created the legal justification for the war, arguing that the U.S. had the “legal authority” to arrest Panama’s then-dictator Manuel Noriega on drug charges, despite him not residing in the U.S. To think that Barr would not do so again is naive, especially considering that Trump had previously pushed to invade Venezuela, citing the invasion of Panama as an example of successful “gunboat diplomacy,” and has long talked about “taking the oil” of foreign countries and, in places like Syria, has used military force to do just that.

Though the 1989 invasion of Panama was dressed up in the typical rhetoric of restoring “democracy” and promoting “human rights,” it was actually waged with the intention to utterly destroy Panama’s military. Why would the U.S. want to destroy Panama’s capacity for self-defense? The answer lies in the treaty that then existed between Panama and the U.S. over the Panama canal, whereby control over the canal would eventually be returned to the Panamanians.

The only “loophole” for the U.S. to retain control of the canal, per that treaty, was if Panama became incapable of defending it. Notably, the gradual turnover of control of the canal was set to begin just ten days after the Bush administration’s invasion of Panama ended. Not long after the invasion, in 1991, the U.S. passed a law that ensured an indefinite U.S. military presence in the canal zone due to the fact that Panama (thanks to the U.S. invasion) could no longer defend that territory.

There are other notable points regarding the invasion of Panama that are seemingly relevant today as well. For instance, media’s effort to manufacture public consent for the invasion was largely centered around pointing out Manuel Noriega’s involvement in narco-trafficking and Panama’s lack of democracy under his rule. Of course, this rhetoric has obvious similarities to current rhetoric involving Venezuela.

However, this media campaign, in Noriega’s case, failed to note that the Noriega’s role in drug smuggling was largely on the behalf of U.S. interests and that Noriega had closely collaborated with then-President, George H.W. Bush, when he had served as CIA director. In addition, Noriega was well known at the time to have been on the CIA payroll for years. Such reports also overlooked the fact that the CIA had recently been caught driving the trafficking of drugs and weapons between Central America and the U.S. as part of the Iran Contra scandal. If these reports had pointed this out, it would have made Noriega’s involvement in these matters, including his supporting role in Iran Contra, appear negligible by comparison.

Similarly, today, efforts to link Venezuelan leadership to the drug trade fail to note that the U.S.-backed Juan Guaidó took selfies with a narco-paramilitary organization just a few months ago and that Colombian leadership and its military, the U.S.’ biggest regional supporter of its Venezuela regime change agenda, both share direct ties to drug cartels.

It is also worth pointing out that, not only did the U.S. military hide the actual civilian death toll and cover up the war crimes committed during the invasion, they tested out new experimental weapons on the Panamanian people, which CounterPunch noted was “a kind of dress rehearsal for the Persian Gulf War the following year.” As many readers of this article are likely aware, the Trump administration has been making strong overtures about regime change, and potentially war, in Iran alongside their push for regime change in Venezuela. Were a similar invasion to occur in Venezuela, it seems likely that this pattern would repeat and would be treated as an experimental battlefield for a subsequent war in Iran.

The current confluence of factors suggests that such a Panama-style invasion of Venezuela is not only a possibility, but increasingly likely. Indeed, as previously mentioned, the U.S. has ordered the few U.S. companies that have been given waivers to avoid sanctions for their operations in Venezuela (namely Chevron) to terminate their dealings in the country by April 22 – next Wednesday. In addition, soon after that date, Venezuela’s oil sector is set to resume two joint oil ventures, one of which involves two European oil companies and another that involves Russia’ Rosneft, which the U.S. sanctioned in February for doing business with Venezuela’s state oil company. Those projects are due to re-initiate in May and July, respectively. The U.S. is openly opposed to these projects going forward and has threatened sanctions (and further sanctions in Rosneft’s case) against the companies involved.

Taken in combination with Elliott Abrams’ recent statements, the massive U.S. military build-up and the collapse of U.S. oil markets, such events seem to be pointing in the direction of an invasion being more likely than not. There is also the added layer of the U.S. facing a new “Great Depression” and these major economic downturns are often followed by the U.S. entering a major war. On the other hand, there is also the fact that most of the U.S. population is on lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, making domestic resistance against such an invasion unlikely to manifest in any significant way. If Americans aren’t careful and don’t quickly begin to pay attention, the country could soon sleepwalk into another devastating and deadly “war for oil.”

Feautre photo | A man walks past a mural featuring oil pumps and wells in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 3, 2020. Matias Delacroix | AP

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News contributing journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

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