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Category Archives: Geopolitics

Energy Dominance Isn’t Just a Trump Obsession, by Tom Luongo

The world jockeys for oil. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Energy Dominance should be the catchphrase of the day. It’s on the minds of every political figure, and the focus of every economy.

This is especially true of those vulnerable to a change in the status quo, namely Saudi Arabia.

While some continue to believe the gyrations of the oil market over the past few months are evidence of our running up against the limit of the petroleum based global economy, I disagree.

The world is awash in decades of easily-extracted oil and gas. The supply of it has been kept off the market due to its centrality in the grand game of geopolitics. But, it has nothing to do with the amount of oil and gas out there.

Peak oil has become a religion among its adherents. Decrying the U.S. shale boom, rightly, for its profligacy has more to do with it being a consequence of disastrous central bank inflation rather than some grand plan of the ‘cabal’ because we passed peak EROEI some time ago.

When you drop interest rates to zero and flood the world with liquidity that can only find a home in equity markets, the natural result is malinvestment into unsustainable business practices.

The first wave of the shale boom in the U.S. occurred during this period and created the dynamic we have today. It’s groundwork was laid when oil prices spiked during Greenspan’s post-9/11 reflation and the Iraq War took a lot of marginal supply off the table.

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A Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria, by Peter Ford

Language can explain, clarify, and elucidate, or it can obscure and hide. When people use it for the latter, always assume their motives are suspect. From Peter Ford at 21stcenturywire.com:

The prospect of US withdrawal from Syria has taken the use of doublespeak by frothing neocons and their liberal interventionist fellow travellers to a new level.

Here to help the confused observer is a glossary of some of the most frequently used key terms and their true meanings, along with guidance on usages deemed taboo in Western policy-making and media circles. 

Entrenched. As in: ‘We have to stop Iran getting more entrenched in Syria’. Meaning: ‘Supportive’. Without Iran and Hizbollah helping Syria government forces ISIS and Al Qaida would be ruling the roost in Syria today. Do not say: ‘Israel is becoming more and more entrenched in the West Bank and Golan’.

Forward deployment. ‘US troops are in forward deployment in the Al Tanf enclave on the Syria – Iraq border’. Meaning: Occupation. The US troops have no mandate to be there, not even the approval of the US Congress.

Engagement. ‘Ambassador Jeffrey is the Secretary’s Envoy for Syria Engagement’. Meaning: Disengagement. Much to his chagrin, the archetypal hawk Jeffrey had his pledge to the effect that the US was in Syria for the duration unsaid by the president within hours of his uttering it. Since then he appears to have lost his tongue.

Vacuum. ‘The US will be leaving a vacuum when it pulls troops out’. Meaning: Restoration of law and order. Once the US stops blocking the way the Syrian government will return to the currently US-controlled territory and will keep ISIS down, as it is doing in the rest of Syria, and Turkey out.

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Iran to the Iraqis: do not attack US forces unless they refuse to withdraw following a parliamentary decision, by Elijah J. Magnier

Well how about that, there’s a country out there that doesn’t think US occupation is an unmitigated blessing. From Elijah J. Magnier at ejmagnier.com:

US president Donald Trump’s statement of his intention to remain in Iraq in order to “be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem” has created a political storm in Mesopotamia among local politicians and groups now determined to put an end to the US presence in the country. Many are upset by Trump’s statement, saying that the “US forces are departing from their initial mission to fight terrorism, the reason for which they are allowed to stay in Iraq”. Iraqi President Barham Saleh commented that the US administration did not ask Iraq’s permission for US troops stationed in the country to “watch Iran”.

US forces have been deployed in Iraq in large numbers since 2014 when ISIS occupied a third of the country. The US establishment under president Obama refrained from rushing to support the Iraqi government, leaving room for Iran to act rapidly and send weapons and military advisors to Baghdad and Erbil. The intentionally slow US reaction pushed the Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Sistani to call for the mobilisation of the population, a call that led to

the creation of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), called Hashd al-Shaabi, who managed to stop ISIS’s advance.

Moreover, in response to Iraq’s request, a joint military operational room was formed in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” where Russian, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian high-ranking officers are still present, coordinating military attacks and sharing electronic and other intelligence information about ISIS whereabouts and the movements of its militants, sleeping cells and leaders.

The US also offered to conduct intelligence operations and air strikes against ISIS. Nevertheless, during the period that the ISIS threat diminished the number of the US forces has more than doubled, from 5,200to 11,000, according to sources within the Iraqi government; some Iraqi sources claim the real numbers are much larger, with as many as 34,000 US servicemen spread over 31 bases and locations, along with Iraqi forces. There are no military bases for US forces only.

US forces are officially based at Camp Victory within the perimeter of Baghdad airport, Camp Al-Taji situated 25 km north of Baghdad, Balad Airbase which is 64 km north of Baghdad, Al-Habbaniyah Camp between Ramadi and Fallujah, Qay’yara Airfield 300 km north of Baghdad, Kariz base in Zummar Nineveh, Ayn al-Assad Airbase close to Baghdadi in al-Anbar province, Kirkuk al-Hurriya Airbase, Bashur base in Erbil, Erbil International Airport command and control base, Harir Shaqlawa Kurdistan in Erbil and Atrush Field in Duhok. US forces constructed a new Airbase close to al-Qaem on the Iraqi-Syrian borders and another close to al-Rutbah east of Ramadi and close to the Syrian borders. The US forces have a military presence within the Iraqi security forces in various locations and camps, mainly within the Counter-Terrorism units.

Trump visited one of these bases, Ayn al-Assad, during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The breach of protocol associated with his visit created domestic upheaval, leading many Iraqis to call on the Parliament to expel US forces from Iraq; the three leading Iraqi officials (Speaker, President and Prime Minister) refused to meet him at the US part of the base.  For security reasons the US President was forced to keep secret his visit to a country where he has thousands of forces on the ground. By contrast the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Jawad Zarif, visited Iraq for five daysmeeting local officials in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala.

Iraqi organisations – who fought ISIS for years, and share Iran’s goal of rejecting US hegemony in the region – threatened to attack US forces if they didn’t leave the country immediately. However, sources close to decision makers report that “Iraqi groups are not expected to attack US forces immediately”.

“Iran has asked all their friends in Iraq to refrain from attacking the US forces and instead to arm themselves with patience for the day when US forces refuse to leave if and when the Parliament approves a bill asking them to return home. Should this happen, US forces would be considered an occupation force, giving legitimacy for the Iraqi resistance to attain their goal”, said the source.

These Iraqi organisations are keeping a close watch on the US forces’ movement in the country. They consider the US establishment a source of trouble to the country and the region. Last week, Iraqi security Forces Hashd al-Shaabi forced a US patrol to return from their mission, preventing them from entering the city of Mosul on foot. The Iraqi forces consider the US is diverging from its mission to help Iraq fight terrorism when US forces patrol Iraqi cities for their own training purposes.

Hashd al-Shaabi has a grudge against the US forces for having bombarded Iraqi forces on the borders between Iraq and Syria, causing dozens of casualties. US officials offered repeated apologies, accusing Israel of the bombing and promising that such “mistakes” would not be repeated in the future. US officials feared the Hashd reaction and were concerned about their own troops on the ground.

According to Iraqi sources, the Parliament “needs several months to coordinate a large action and the preparation of a bill asking for the withdrawal of the US forces from the country. This campaign is expected to be guided by the Sadrist leader Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr”. The Sadrist groups are feared by the US for their long history of attacks against US forces during the occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011. Those mainly responsible for attacking and killing US occupation forces were Sadrists leaders who today lead their own groups: Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, Kataeb al-Imam Ali and Harakat al-Nujaba’.

From 2003-11, the US declared themselves an occupation force. Today, these forces are present following an official request from the central government in Baghdad. Thus, their departure should follow on a parliamentary initiative, according to article 61 of the constitution.

The Iraq government would like to avoid an aggressive stand against the US and is not looking to have Washington as an enemy. At the same time, Iraq doesn’t want to be considered submissive and under the wing of the US and its policies. The US aims to pull out its forces from Syria – if Trump’s warmonger advisors allow him to do so – to deploy them in Iraq–a move that should increase the number of US forces in Iraq. This would represent a further provocation to the Iraqis.

Simultaneously, Iraq is cooperating with Iran on all commercial levels, especially with regard to energy. Washington would like to prevent any selling of Iranian oil and would like to make sure Iraq is not helping Iran or becoming hostile to Israel.

It is too late: the three Iraqi leaders (the president,the prime minister, the speaker) are closer to Iran than the US. Nevertheless, these leaders, unlike, for example, a figure such as Nuri al-Maliki,do not have a record of hostility to the US. Nevertheless, Trump is mistaken if he believes Mesopotamia will bow to his wishes and become the platform for an attack on Iran.

Trump’s ‘Eyeball-to-Eyeball’ Orders to the Generals on Syria, by Mark Perry

It looks like the US may be getting out of Syria after all. From Mark Perry at theamericanconservative.com:

Despite the storm and fury, the Syria withdrawal policy is unambiguous and going forward.

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters during a briefing with military leadership members Wednesday, December 26, 2018, at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Few other foreign policy decisions of this administration have sparked more criticism than Donald Trump’s announcement that he will remove U.S. troops from Syria. Even as he declared last night during his State of the Union address that “as a candidate for president, I loudly pledged a new approach…. Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he drew a tepid response from Congress. The planned applause line fell discernibly flat.

Perhaps that’s not a surprise, given that the withdrawal has been condemned by leaders from across the political spectrum—including from Trump’s own party. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham called keeping troops in Syria “vital to our national security interests.” Senator Marco Rubio described the decision as “a major blunder.” Nebraskan Ben Sasse said that Iran, ISIS, and Hezbollah were “high-fiving” the move. Finally, last Thursday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell orchestrated a resolution condemning the withdrawal—which passed the Senate in a lopsided vote.

Graham, Rubio, Sasse, and McConnell have been joined in their condemnation by a host of establishment heavyweights. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, called the withdrawal “a bad idea” that constituted a “strategic defeat” for the U.S. Neocon penitent and Washington Post columnist Max Boot said the decision was a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies—comparing it to America’s serial betrayals of “the South Vietnamese in the 1970s, the Afghans in the 1990s, and the Iraqis after 2011.” A bevy of retired military types joined the chorus, including MSNBC regular General Barry McCaffrey and former Army vice chief of staff Jack Keane, not to mention former Marine General James Mattis, who announced his resignation as secretary of defense following the announcement.

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Does Washington Rule the World? by Philip Giraldi

Washington certainly thinks Washington rules the world, and takes every opportunity to exercise global jursidiction. From Philip Giraldi at strategic-culture.com:

Does Washington Rule the World?

One of the most disturbing aspects of the past two years of Donald Trump foreign policy has been the assumption that decisions made by the United States are binding on the rest of the world. Apart from time of war, no other nation has ever sought to prevent other nations from trading with each other. And the United States has also uniquely sought to penalize other countries for alleged crimes that did not occur in the US and that did not involve American citizens, while also insisting that all nations must comply with whatever penalties are meted out by Washington.

The United States now sees itself as judge, jury and executioner in policing the international community, a conceit that began post World War 2 when American presidents began referring to themselves as “leader of the free world.” This pretense received legislative backing with passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 (ATA) as amended in 1992 plus subsequent related legislation, to include the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act of 2016 (JASTA). The body of legislation can be used by US citizens or residents to obtain civil judgments against alleged terrorists anywhere in the world and can be employed to punish governments, international organizations and even corporations that are perceived to be supportive of terrorists, even indirectly or unknowingly. Plaintiffs are able to sue for injuries to their “person, property, or business” and have ten years to bring a claim.

Sometimes the connections and level of proof required by a US court to take action are tenuous, and that is being polite. Suits currently can claim secondary liability for third parties, including banks and large corporations, under “material support” of terrorism statutes. This includes “aiding and abetting” liability as well as providing “services” to any group that the United States considers to be terrorist, even if the terrorist label is dubious and/or if that support is inadvertent.

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Venezuela’s collapse is a window into how the Oil Age will unravel, by Nafeez Ahmed

A comprehensive examination of Venezuela’s oil industry, mostly free of political dogma. From Nafeez Ahmed at medium.com:

For some, the crisis in Venezuela is all about the endemic corruption of Nicolás Maduro, continuing the broken legacy of Chavez’s ideological experiment in socialism under the mounting insidious influence of Putin. For others, it’s all about the ongoing counter-democratic meddling of the United States, which has for years wanted to bring Venezuela — with its huge oil reserves — back into the orbit of American power, and is now interfering again to undermine a democratically elected leader in Latin America.

Neither side truly understands the real driving force behind the collapse of Venezuela: we have moved into the twilight of the Age of Oil.

So how does a country like Venezuela with the largest reserves of crude oil in the world end up incapable of developing them? While various elements of socialism, corruption and neoliberal capitalism are all implicated in various ways, what no one’s talking about — especially the global oil industry — is that over the last decade, we’ve shifted into a new era. The world has moved from largely extracting cheap, easy crude, to becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional forms of oil and gas that are much more difficult and expensive to produce.

Oil isn’t running out, in fact, it’s everywhere — we’ve more than enough to fry the planet. But as the easy, cheap stuff has plateaued, production costs have soared. And as a consequence the most expensive oil to produce has become increasingly unprofitable.

In a country like Venezuela, emerging from a history of US interference, plagued by internal economic mismanagement, combined with external intensifying pressure from US sanctions, this decline in profitability became fatal.

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What Will It Take To Make You Understand And Accept That They Hate You? by Kurt Schlichter

Many of them want to kill you. From Kurt Schlichter at townhall.com:

What Will It Take To Make You Understand And Accept That They Hate You?

You need to die because of your smile.

That’s the position of our enemies, and we know it because they told us – openly, proudly, in the garbage public forum that is Twitter and elsewhere. Oh, they backtracked a little when the extent of their killing fantasies got exposed, scampering like their insect analogy, the roach, when someone flips on the kitchen light. But that kid in DC with the Frigidaireborne reefer ranger banging that drum in his baffled mug? They wanted that kid to die for having a Wrong Smile.

Cue the excuse chorus: “That’s nonsense! We just wanted to pummel that kid and then destroy him, his family and and all his classmates! Don’t look behind the curtain at the woodchipper comments and bomb threats, you cisnormative monsters!

Think of what they would do with real power…

Accept that that kid was you, and me. If they’ll ice a kid for not having the right grin, they’ll waste you or me in a heartbeat. Murder is, after all, how leftists roll. The USSR, Red China, Cambodia, North Korea, Cuba – that cadaver-strewn litany teaches what’s lurking at the bottom of the slope we’re sliding down. The Dems are spooning with socialism, and the goal of socialism is written in blood on the pages of history. The unapproved must be liquidated, and they are making no secret that you are unapproved.

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