Tag Archives: France

Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly, by Robert Bridge

Israel and France’s recent attack against Syria did not provoke the hoped-for response from Putin, and will hurt Israel badly if Russia upgrades Syria’s air defenses. From Robert Bridges at strategic-culture.org:

By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

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Decoding Putin’s Response to Attack in Syria, by Tom Luongo

Israel, France, and the US have just handed Vladimir Putin the perfect excuse to radically upgrade Syria’s air defenses. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

The fog of war and geopolitics makes initial responses to the attack on Russian and Syrian forces recently difficult to assess.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response seemed timid and was at odds with statements from his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and more recent statements from Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Putin backed off on explicitly blaming Israel for the downing of the IL-20 ELINT aircraft which killed 15 Russian servicemen, but made it clear he holds them responsible for the attack as a whole.

My thoughts on what the goals of the attack were are the focus of my latest article at Strategic Culture Foundation.  

It was obvious to me that this attack was designed as a provocation to start World War III in Syria and blame the Russians for attacking a NATO member without proper cause, since the Syrian air defense forces were the ones responsible for shooting down the plane. Continue reading

Paving the Road to the End of NATO, by Tom Luongo

Is Trump trying to bring about the end of NATO? From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:

It’s no secret that President Trump believes NATO is an anachronism. It’s also no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron wants a Grand Army of the EU and a single EU Finance Minister to further integration of the EU into the United States of Europe.

He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been championing these two things since the day after Macron took office. They are both pushing hard for the EU to conduct independent foreign policy, framing Trump’s belligerence as the catalyst for its need now.

So, I’m not surprised in the wake of Merkel’s garden summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently that both of these policy initiatives are being pushed now.

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From Baltic Sea to Black Sea, Russia aims for a win-win, by Pepe Escobar

Vladimir Putin is trying to make friends and strategic alliances. From Pepe Escobar at atimes.com:

A major summit featuring Germany, Russia, France and Turkey is on the way – call it an expanded Eurovision

When Russian President Vladimir Putin, fresh from his star turn at the wedding of Austrian Prime Minister Karin Kneissl, showed up at the 18th century Meseberg Palace north of Berlin on Saturday afternoon for a face-to-face with German chancellor Angela Merkel, that was a surprise of sorts; the meeting had been announced only a few days earlier.

They talked for three hours over a multi-course menu; the Iran nuclear deal; the endless stalemate in Ukraine; the humanitarian angle in Syria; the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. 

Angela Merkel is not part of The Sanctioned supergroup – thus not in the same league as multi-instrumentalists Putin, Xi, Rouhani and Erdogan. She’s been only tariffed by solo act Trump, not sanctioned. She’s no Suzi Quatro, not to mention Joan Jett, although she might entertain rompin’ across I hate myself /for loving you when facing Putin. She’s more like a staid back-up singer from Estonia at the Eurovision song contest.    

So no wonder that when the real surprise surfaced at Meseberg, it bore a vague resemblance to a remixed Eurovision song contest.

As confirmed to Asia Times by diplomatic sources, a top summit featuring Germany, Russia, France and Turkey is on the way. Call it an expanded Eurovision – with Turkey included due to (wobbling) NATO membership.

Ostensibly, the summit would be on Syria – according to the Kremlin. That does not cut it – as Syria is already being discussed in detail in Astana by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Yet as The Sanctioned and The Tariffed share the stage, what they do embody is defiance of solo act Trump. The idea for the one-off top billing came from the Robert Plant-esque Sanctioned member Erdogan, even with a date attached – September 7. An ever cautious Merkel only went as far as admitting the summit “could make sense – this must be well-prepared, so there is no date yet.” 

The fact is multinational sherpas are already working on it. In parallel, the finance ministers of Turkey and France not only agreed to confront sanctions on Turkey, but to come up with further bilateral economic cooperation. Sun King Macron is dying for his star turn at The Tariffed to go platinum.

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EU Launches Rebellion Against Trump’s Iran Sanctions, Bans European Companies From Complying, by Tyler Durden

If this sticks, it would mark a rare show of spunk by the EU in its relations with the US. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Following our discussion of Europe’s angry response to Trump’s unilateral Iran sanctions, in which European Union budget commissioner, Guenther Oettinger made it clear that Europe will not be viewed as a vassal state of the US, stating that “Trump despises weaklings. If we back down step by step, if we acquiesce, if we become a kind of junior partner of the US then we are lost”, moments ago Reuters reported that the European Commission is set to launch tomorrow the process of activating a law that bans European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions against Iran and does not recognise any court rulings that enforce American penalties.

“As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process of to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996. We will do that tomorrow morning at 1030,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Speaking at news conference after a meeting of EU leaders in Bulgaria, Juncker added that he “also decided to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran. The Commission itself will maintain its cooperation will Iran.”

Europe’s hardline position will infuriate Trump, as Brussels effectively nullifying US sanctions will prompt a violent outburst from Trump, who needs Europe on his side for US sanctions of Iran to have any chance of succeeding.

Perhaps sensing what is coming, French President Emmanuel Macron took a slightly softer tone, and said that the French defense of Iran nuclear accord is based on concerns about security and stability, not commerce, and that the deal should be supplemented and it is necessary to continue negotiations, including on missile program.

The French president said that “the European Union decided to preserve the nuclear deal and defend EU companies” adding that “our main interest in Iran is not in trade, but in ensuring stability in the region, at the same time, we will not become an ally of Iran against the US.

To continue reading: EU Launches Rebellion Against Trump’s Iran Sanctions, Bans European Companies From Complying

A Yuge Mistake, by Robert Gore

Trump didn’t think this one through.

What does President Trump hope to accomplish by withdrawing the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal? Does he want to go to war? Does he want to renegotiate the deal? Is he hoping sanctions stir so much unrest in Iran that its citizens overthrow the government?

Regardless of Trump’s goals, the withdrawal decision rests on a series of tactical errors and mistaken assumptions. He is overestimating US strength and underestimating that of its adversaries. His strategy has far too many moving parts. The risk that one or more fail is much higher than he apparently believes.

Trump may think he understands the Middle East and that he can trust his allies there. He’s wrong on both counts. The Middle East is a welter of ancient enmities and alliances, tribalism, sectarian strife, greed, duplicity, and intrigue (it’s not all that different from Washington) that nobody fully comprehends. Things are almost never as they appear. One categorical statement can be made: you put your own interests first or you don’t survive.

Saudi Arabia, the other Sunni Gulf states, and Israel have formed an alliance of convenience against their common enemy, Shiite Islam. Saudi Arabia is Sunni, Iran is Shiite, and the two countries have historically been the most powerful in the Middle East, vying for influence and dominance.

The alliance dreams of replacing the governments of Shiite Iran, Iraq, and Syria (Shiites are a minority in Syria, but Bashar al-Assad is Alawite, a Shiite sect) with Sunni satrapies. Next best is chaos and terror in those countries to keep them weak. The Sunnis, with the tacit support of Israel, bankrolled al Qaeda and ISIS to further their goals of chaos and regime change in Syria and Iraq

The United States has been duped into the alliance. There are no good reasons for the US to become involved in the Middle East’s toxic internecine rivalries. Israel can take care of itself, the US has its own oil, and even if it didn’t, the petro-states have to sell theirs to someone.

The US government has never articulated a coherent rationale for its Middle Eastern involvement, because there is none. It has sown the discord and destruction the Sunnis and Israel desire, enriched US defense and intelligence contractors, and fueled neoconservative pipe dreams of a “stable” (i.e. US-dominated) Middle East, all at a huge cost in blood, money, moral standing, destabilizing refugee flows, and terrorist blowback.

Nothing screams “duped” like Trump citing Benjamin Netanyahu in his Iran Nuclear Agreement withdrawal speech. Netanyahu lied in 2003 when he swore Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and assured the world a US invasion would be the best thing that ever happened to the Middle East. Netanyahu got what he wanted—Saddam Hussein deposed and Iraq subjugated at no cost to Israel. The US got stuck with the tab, which it’s still paying. After his Iraq whopper, Netanyahu should be held in the same regard as the boy who cried wolf. The rest of the world does, ignoring Netanyahu’s “evidence.” Much of it was old news, and Mossad is a proficient document fabricator. As for the US, fool me once….

Back to the original question: what does Trump hope to accomplish? Even if Trump were as stupid and crazy as his most demented critics claim (he’s not, not by a long shot), he wouldn’t be so stupid and crazy as to actually want to go to war with Iran. After the inglorious succession of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, you don’t attack a nation that is larger, more populated, more economically advanced, and a tougher military challenge than any of those prior targets. You especially don’t attack when that nation’s big brothers are Russia and China.

Trump’s bluffing. He’s trying to give the bluff more credibility by embracing figures who may be just stupid and crazy enough to want a war with Iran: Netanyahu, Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Trump’s largest campaign contributor, Sheldon Adelson (who once said Iran should be nuked). Iran, Russia, and China will call his bluff.

Iran has huge oil and natural gas reserves and China is the world’s largest importer. As part of the de-dollarization offensive against the reserve currency, Russia and Iran accept payment for their oil in yuan. Iran is a geographic and commercial linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Russia and China are involved in Iranian development and infrastructure projects and sells arms to the Iranian military. They will not sit still for a US war and regime change operation directed at their ally.

There are three main objections to the Iran nuclear deal. Obama’s sleight of hand in getting the deal—which is not a treaty—through Congress still rankle. The deal’s 10 and 15-year sunset clauses makes it a moratorium on nuclear development, not a permanent ban. And the inspection provisions do not allow for inspections of certain military facilities where Iran could be surreptitiously developing a bomb.

The procedural objections are valid, but do not impinge on the tactical merits of Trump’s withdrawal. If Iran considers itself no longer bound by the deal, withdrawal brings forward the sunset clause to the date of the withdrawal. That means Iran could restart its nuclear program today and, if Netanyahu’s warnings are correct, have a bomb in a year or two. Iran would also kick out the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, so the JCPOA signatories would lose even the “imperfect” inspection and monitoring capabilities they had under the agreement.

Trump would only risk bringing the objectionable sunset dates forward and losing the JCPOAs inspection and monitoring capabilities if he thought he could win a “better,” more stringent deal through renewed sanctions, threats of war, upheaval within Iran, and renegotiation. It’s a variation on his North Korea strategy, which may produce some sort of breakthrough agreement with that nation.

However, Trump’s negotiating position is weaker than Obama’s when the JCPOA was signed. The US has lost the war in Syria against the same alliance it would go up against in Iran. Sanctions have become the US’s main non-military weapon. Germany, France, and Great Britain may fall in line, but they’ll be hurt economically if they do. If they don’t, sanctions won’t work.

There’s no chance Russia and China will observe them. With Turkey, which helped Iran evade the last round of sanctions, they will help it evade the new ones. China will buy Iran’s oil and natural gas, providing it with yuan and perhaps gold reserves outside the US-dominated global payments system. The BRI will go on, building links from Iran to the rest of Eurasia. Iran is not North Korea, and with the support of its big brothers has far more ability to stand up to Trump.

Whether or not any of the other JCPOA signatories implement sanctions, they probably will not support a more stringent agreement. It would be a classic case of rewarding what they regard as Trump’s bad behavior. The Europeans are annoyed and Russia and China certainly won’t play ball.

If Trump doesn’t get his new agreement, there are yawning downsides. Iran may continue to abide by the JCPOA if sanctions are evaded or rejected by the Europeans. There would then be no willingness among the signatories to renegotiate and no need to do so. Trump will have done nothing but hasten the world’s transition from US unipolar dominance and humiliate himself.

Or Iran may kick out the inspectors and try to build a bomb, the outcome Trump thought he was preventing. He would then have to decide whether to wage a war that could draw in the world’s major powers and engulf the Middle East.

Trump is overplaying a weak hand. There’s no 4D chess here; he just hasn’t thought this one through. His gesture pleases Israel, Saudi Arabia, and neoconservatives back home, but it will be Trump and the United States, not his “friends,” who will bear the cost of failure.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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Why the Empire Never Sleeps: The Indispensable Nation Folly, Part 2, by David Stockman

David Stockman presents the real history of World War I, and how it set the stage for the rest of the 20th Century and the first 18 years of the 21st. From Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com, via antiwar.com:

Read Part 1

The rise of the murderous Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian regimes during the 1930s and the resulting conflagration of World War II is held to be, correctly, the defining event of the 20th century. But that truism only begs the real question.

To wit, were these nightmarish scourges always latent just below the surface of global civilization – waiting to erupt whenever good people and nations fell asleep at the switch, as per the standard critique of the British pacifism and US isolationism that flourished during the late 1930s?

Or were they the equivalent of the 1,000-year flood – a development so unlikely, aberrant and unrepeatable as to merely define a horrid but one-off chapter of history, not the ordinary and probable unfolding of affairs among the nations?

We contend that the answer depends upon whether your start with April 2, 1917, when America discarded its historic republican policy of nonintervention and joined the bloody fray on the old continent’s Western Front, or December 7, 1941, when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor allegedly awoke America from its isolationist slumber and called it to global leadership of the so-called American Century.

Needless to say, the Deep State’s ideology of the Indispensable Nation and its projects of Empire are rooted in the Pearl Harbor narrative. That is, the claim that global affairs go to hell in a hand basket when virtuous nations let down their guard or acquiesce to even modest acts of regional aggression.

The now faded verities of republican nonintervention, by contrast, properly finger Woodrow Wilson’s perfidious declaration of War on Germany as the event that changed the ordinary course of history, and paved the way for the 1,000-year aberration of Hitler and Stalin which ultimately ensued.

Not surprisingly, the official historical narratives of the Empire glorify America’s rising to duty in World War II and after, but merely describe the events of 1917-1919 as some sort of preliminary coming of age.

As a consequence, the rich, history-defining essence of what happened during those eventful years has been lost in the fog of battles, the miserable casualty statistics of war, the tales of prolonged diplomatic wrangling at Versailles and the blame-game for the failed Senate ratification of Wilson’s League of Nations thereafter.

To continue reading: Why the Empire Never Sleeps: The Indispensable Nation Folly, Part 2