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Afghanistan: A war tailor made for Donald Trump AND Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon has said that ‘screwing up’ China’s One Belt–One Road should be a priority for the US. In this sense Bannon is as mainstream and as neo-con as they come.

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In many ways the moral, logistical and ethical simplicity of the Syrian conflict, meant that it was always destined to be the conflict that would wake up at least some in the west, to the nature of how the US and its allies often foment wars by aligning with the most immoral forces on the planet in order to attempt to achieve a geo-strategic goal.

When ordinary Americans and Europeans saw a secular Ba’athsit government in Damascus which protected the rights of ethnic and religious minorities as well as one which gives full rights to women, such people could hardly internalise the idea that  head-chopping, bomb planting, woman enslaving, minority murdering Wahhabi Sunni supremacists were a more ethical or moral option than the secular Ba’athist government–no matter how many times Obama called them ‘moderate rebels’.

READ MORE: 4 reasons the Syrian conflict has grabbed world attention more than Afghanistan

Donald Trump as a candidate and Steve Bannon as a campaign partner and before that a media ally, realised this and pushed an anti-war message in Syria. The message was one which played on the natural tendencies of most Americans to favour a secular/pro-Christian government over an opposition that includes al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Where Bannon carefully swayed secular/pro-Christian US opinion against Obama’s war in Syria, in respect of Afghanistan, the Bannon/Trump message was far more duplicitous, even before the troop surge.

Long before the 2016 US election, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon expressed anti-war sentiments in respect of Afghanistan. The message boiled down to the line from the Vietnam War era Country Joe McDonald song “What are we fighting for, don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, the next stop is Vietnam Afghanistan”.

But while delivering an anti-war message which even in his ‘troop surge’ announcement Donald Trump admitted was his “instinct”, both men were and remain totally in favour of the primary goal of the Afghan conflict: Disrupting China’s One Belt–One Road and specifically the important roles that Pakistan is playing as an important stop long the Belt and Road.

Bannon and Trump are known to hold anti-Chinese views. In a recent interview, one of his first since leaving the White House, Bannon said that one of the primary US policy goals should be to “screw up One Belt–One Road”. 

With Trump’s troop surge in Afghanistan and specifically his threats against Pakistan which includes the stated desire to drag India into the conflict, Bannon just got what he wished for.

The India scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan and China is as follows:

Today, Pakistan is increasingly supportive of proposals by China and Russia which involve a negotiated settlement to the conflict which involves both the current fractious government as well as the increasingly powerful, influential and in many regions popular Taliban factions. Such proposals fit in with Pakistan’s long term strategy in Afghanistan and suit Islamabad’s contemporary regional desire for stability.

While in the 1980s and 1990s India tended to side with Russia, it is looking increasingly likely that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to take a more American approach to the conflict.

 However, it remains far from certain whether India will commit troops to the recently announced ‘Trump surge’ or whether India can offer anything at a peace keeping table beyond joining with the United States to further alienate Pakistan, causing Islamabad to grow even closer to Beijing than it already is. In this context, growing closer to Beijing also means implicitly growing closer to Moscow as China and Russia have offered similar solutions to the conflict, both of which involve fostering dialogue between the government in Kabul and the Taliban.

China is all too aware that The United States is isolated in the region in respect of a peace process. Iran is increasingly seeing things along the same lines as Russia and China and in any case, the chances of Donald Trump working with Iran anywhere are nil. The lone exception to this pattern of isolation is India. Under Modi, New Delhi may use Trump’s offer to try and upset the status quo of the region in which all of the key powers are increasingly cooperating with China’s One Belt–One Road project, India being the lone country which under Modi is increasingly hellbent on antagonising China at every opportunity.

With this in mind, China has issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump talked about close US-Indian relations, we are glad to see the development of normal and friendly relations between these countries if these relations do not harm other countries’ interests and create positive conditions for regional development”.

China’s position is clear, India is welcome in Afghanistan as such a thing is not up to China in any case and Beijing is comfortable with this reality of international law. What China is not comfortably with is India’s presence in Afghanistan acting as a force which could impede the progress of important projects with Pakistan, namely the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The statement above makes this known implicitly.

In a worst case scenario, India could disrupt a peace process involving dialogue with the Taliban that could distract Pakistan from its long term goals in China. However, Pakistan under its current leadership would appear to be steadfast in its commitments to China. Distractions won’t work as well as they would have done even 10 years ago.

Both the governing PML-N and the surging opposition party PTI, led by the charismatic Imran Khan have expressed full support of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Khan in particular seems to be pivoting his traditional views which are deeply sceptical of US power in the region towards one which seeks to equally assure China.

In many ways, the Trump plan could backfire. Pakistan will only grow closer to China and further from the US and likewise, India might feel about the US what many of America’s long-time European allies have felt under Donald Trump. Trump has recently asked the NATO states of Europe to do more for the alliance in terms of both financial contributions as well as ramping up military strength in order for the US to bear less of the costly burden.

Trump has already alluded to the fact that he wants India to ‘do more’ in Afghanistan. Suddenly India’s privilege as a peacemaker (largely unwelcome by Pakistan and China) has turned into a responsibility that realistically New Delhi is not in a position to carry out

Modi may be a man driven by ego more than a pragmatic understanding of economics, but at the end of the day, all men have a price. If Donald Trump asks too much from India, the chips in Afghanistan will fall where they would have fallen in spite of the US and India. The only real result will be India learning that when it comes to geo-politics, America has deputies and servants but never partners or equals.

READ MORE: China tells Trump not to allow India to interfere in regional interests

The stated goal in Afghanistan, to fight both the Taliban and its opponent ISIS simultaneously while propping up an Afghan government which is increasingly unfit for purpose is a goal which the US has set up as a straw-man. Both Trump and Tillerson have stated that they will be willing to negotiate with the Taliban just as soon as they’re done bombing them.

The obvious response from the rest of the world has been, “avoid the bombing and negotiate with moderate rebels within the Taliban now”.

This of course will not be done because it would cease to accomplish the real US goal of prolonging the war in Afghanistan for as long as possible in order to accomplish the following in order from most to least important:

1. Disrupt Pakistan’s progress as a partner of China in One Belt–One Road with a specific emphasis on sowing a lack of confidence over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

2. Disrupt China’s ability to peacefully link Pakistan with Iran as part of One Belt–One Road.

3. Surround Pakistan with Indian troops on all sides with a proposed Indian presence in Pasthunistan (Afghan side of the border).

4. Cause instability in Pakistan with increased drone strikes on Pakistani territory.

5. Make sure that China is out of reach of Afghanistan’s rich resources such as lithium and valuable minerals.  While the US may have to fight blood-for-blood in order to get these resources, in many ways it is more important for the US to prevent China from obtaining them than it is for the US to have easy access to them, a task which is increasingly Quixotic for the US.

6. Keep the CIA’s game of cat, mouse and merchant with Afghan drug lords flourishing for as long as possible.

As geo-political expert Andrew Korbyko writes,

“Trump’s new Afghan strategy is less about changing any of the battlefield dynamics there per se, though it does aim to extract some of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion of minerals, and more about formalizing the US’ pivot from Pakistan to India, the latter of which became an unprecedented military-strategic partner of the US through year’s LEMOA deal and its official attendant designation as the Pentagon’s “Major Defense Partner”.

What Trump really wants to do is put multi pronged pressure on Pakistan as part of the Hybrid War on CPEC [China Pakistan-Economic Corridor] through the American-backed strategic interlinking of its Afghan and Indian neighbors, with the goal being to influence, disrupt, and then ultimately control China’s game-changing corridor to the Indian Ocean through state and non-state proxy warfare”.

Thus it becomes clear that Bannon has clearly positioned himself to have it both ways in Afghanistan. He’ll claim that he is opposed to war in the Middle East and Asia, which in part may be a sincere and in that case positive statement, but his penultimate goal of trying to “screw up One Belt–One Road” is very much the master plan in Afghanistan. Whether it succeeds is another matter.

In this sense Bannon got what he wished for in the short term, but he ought to be careful what he wishes for in the longer term. China is not going to roll over in South Asia, just as Russia did not roll over in respect of Russia’s Syrian ally.

For Bannon and Trump, the ‘worst’ may be yet to come.

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Sergey Lavrov SLAMS new US sanctions over Skripal case

Ruble continues to tank under the spectre of looming American sanctions imposed on the basis of circumstantial evidence and insinuation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS News Agency reported on Sunday, 12 August that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed the US Department of State’s accusation against Russia regarding the attack on Sergey and Yuliya Skripal in Salisbury, England earlier this year.

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The State Department made the decision to impose new and very painful sanctions against Russia based on this premise.

This new round of sanctions is hitting the Russian economy very hard. The Ruble slid against the dollar from about 63 rubles on Thursday to more than 67.6 rubles as of 1:30pm UTC (Greenwich Summer Time) on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Lavrov had this to say:

“I think that all who know even a little bit about the so-called Skripal case, understand the absurdity of the statement in the official document of the US. Department of State that the US has established it was Russia behind the Salisbury incident.”

TASS went on to outline the circumstances:

On Wednesday, the US Department of State said in a statement that Washington was imposing new sanctions on Moscow over its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the British city of Salisbury. The first round of sanctions will take effect on August 22, while a second round may be introduced in 90 days in case Russia fails to meet certain conditions, the State Department said. Moscow has on numerous occasions rejected all the allegations about its involvement in the Salisbury incident.

The current round of sanctions goes into effect on 22 August, and is directed as follows, according to Bloomberg.com:

The initial round of these sanctions will limit exports to Russia of U.S. goods and technology considered sensitive on national security grounds, including electronics, lasers and some specialized oil and gas production technologies, according to a State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity Thursday. The official said the action could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports. Waivers will be allowed for space-flight activities and U.S. foreign assistance.

Under the 1991 law — invoked previously only against North Korea and Syria — a second, far more extensive round of sanctions would follow later unless Russia meets conditions including providing assurances it will no longer use chemical or biological weapons and will allow on-site inspections to verify it has stopped doing so, the official said.

Russia Thursday repeated its denials that it has the weapons or used them and held out little hope for compromise.

The added sanctions could include a downgrading in diplomatic relations, blanket bans on the import of Russian oil and exports of “all other goods and technology” aside from agricultural products, as well as limits on loans from U.S. banks. The U.S. also would have to suspend aviation agreements and oppose any multilateral development bank assistance.

The additional sanctions also could be averted if Trump declared that waiving them would be in the U.S. national interest, a politically risky move in light of criticism that he’s been too soft on Russia on issues including interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The action by the US State Department is being viewed as an internal political counterattack against US President Donald Trump in response to his overtures to President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki Summit in July of this year. In that summit, the two leaders had very frank discussions that looked incredibly positive for the prospect of a true thawing out of the troubled relations between the two great world powers.

However, the event appears to have drawn out the elements within the American power establishment which presently comprises most of Congress and almost all of the news media. Even some conservative media outlets joined briefly in condemning Mr. Trump for “selling out” to Vladimir Putin by saying he had no reason to believe Russia would interfere with the American elections.

While Mr. Trump tried to politically backpedal this remark, the die had been cast and now much of this establishment has invested their time and energy into branding Mr. Trump a traitor to the USA. In a similar vein, as reported by Jim Jatras in his piece here, US Senator Rand Paul also made overtures that were warmly received by Russian senators, and now he too, has been marked as a traitor.

In that light, plus even British media acknowledgement that there is no hard evidence whatsoever that ties the Russian Federation to the poisoning of the Skripals or the second couple in Amesbury more recently, it is clear that all deductions have been made on spurious reasoning and no hard facts.

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War is coming – to the United States and to the world

The all-but-inevitable Second American Civil War is likely to be fought away from US soil if the globalists have their way.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Jim Jatras’ piece, reposted in The Duran framed the political mess that Donald Trump – and the United States –  is in, extremely accurately:

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First US President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and appears to make some progress towards his stated goal of putting ties between Washington and Moscow on a positive course. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Trump is a called a traitor. The “sanctions bill from hell” is introduced in the Senate. Trump is forced on the defensive.

Next Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky visits Moscow, where he meets with Putin and gives him a letter from Trump proposing moderate steps towards rapprochement. Paul also talks with Russian Senators and invites them to come to Washington to continue the dialogue. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Paul is called a traitor. The State Department “finds” the Russians guilty of the using illegal chemical weapons (CW) in the United Kingdom and imposes sanctions. Trump is forced even more on the defensive.

It is debatable how much of the US government Trump actually controls. This is the crux of the problem.

One President and one US Senator standing alone against all the Democrats and almost all Republicans in both Houses of Congress. Standing alone against a media culture dominated in the West by interests along the lines of cultural Marxism and anti-Christianity at any and all costs.

The truly fearsome power of the globalists appears to have the upper hand.

President Trump and President Putin are both dedicated and brilliant men. They have been trying to make a difference despite the enormous power being brought to bear against them. Rand Paul, for his part is also contributing to this.

The effort to marginalize President Trump has met with great success, though not total. The Russiagate investigation may be coming to its end; certainly a lot of information has revealed that the matter of election interference was never a Republican, much less Trump-related, phenomenon.

But the matter continues not to die.

The changes in prosperity and economic growth in the United States are astounding, especially in light of former President Obama’s insistence that it could never happen.

But the midterm elections approach, and there is not a clearly resounding wave to get more people who are on the Trump Train so to speak to continue to make and widen the impact of domestic change, as well as geopolitical change.

The inevitable outcome appears to be only one thing: War.

This war will be the Second American Civil War. 

While it must be said that the attribution of fault made is utterly incorrect, the New Yorker piece linked above does correctly list five conditions that set the table for such a conflict:

[Keith] Mines [with the US State Department] cited five conditions that support his prediction [of a new American civil war]:

  • entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution
  • increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows
  • weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary
  • a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership
  • the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes

It is not hard to see how these conditions have come to be so in the US.

The only problem is that it is very unlikely to be fought in the United States. It is likely to end up in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, perhaps parts of the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia.

We might well be faced with the prospect of a “government in exile” as Mr. Trump and those supporting his viewpoints are forced to flee the US.

The ideological viewpoints about Russia are not very important to many American people, but the home front will pit two sides that are both destined to lose.

One side is the ideological Left – like those people we consider “loony California liberals”, whose belief in open borders and the rejection of any sort of Christianity-based or traditional family values will cause their side to eventually implode.

For this reason, this opposition group will also suffer from a great deal of internal weakness.

This would normally lead to a bloody and protracted conflict. However, the greater danger with this lies in the pervasive power of the Western Media. It is extremely likely that the media will work to deflect attention from the true nature of the war and incite American forces to strike at Russia in some sort of direct, or by-proxy military action.

The picture the American people will be presented with is that Russia is trying to take over the world, when in reality Russia is simply trying to hold her own territory and her own ways.

Is there a way to stop this?

Yes. There is a way to stop it. The election of President Trump bought the US and the world a bit of time because Mr. Trump is so dynamic that it is difficult to truly stop him. The hallmark of his presidency is success in just about every aspect he has paid attention to.

But what he needs is congressional support.

It is very unlikely that the upcoming 2018 midterm elections offer a chance to create a truly pro-Trump agenda majority in Congress. But it can raise the number of dissenting voices to a number greater than one (Rand Paul). A strong vocal bloc of senators and representatives that speak with one voice about this issue could be enough to break through the wall of censorship of the American media. It could give voice to millions of Americans who also believe that this fight is coming, and who want to stop it.

Avoidance of this war will certainly not happen if establishment candidates or worse – liberal Democrats – win the midterm. With such a situation, the President will be marginalized greatly, and the rhetoric against Russia as a scapegoat will only increase.

The outcome is mercilessly logical.

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Saudi Crackdown On Canada Could Backfire

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

The Duran

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Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via Oilprice.com.


Like many spats these days, the Saudi Arabia/Canada one started with a tweet. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist who is the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen.

The arrests had taken place in OPEC’s largest producer and leading exporter Saudi Arabia, which has amassed its wealth from oil and now looks to attract foreign investors as it seeks to diversify its economy away from too much reliance of crude oil sales.

Canada’s foreign ministry’s global affairs office urged “the Saudi authorities to immediately release” civil society and women’s rights activists.

Saudi Arabia—often criticized for its far from perfect human rights and women’s rights record—didn’t take the Canadian urge lightly. Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, stopped direct Saudi flights to Canada, stopped buying Canadian wheat, ordered Saudi students and patients to leave Canada, froze all new trade and investment transactions, and ordered its wealth funds to sell their Canadian stock and bond holdings in a sweeping move that surprised with its harshness many analysts, Canada itself, and reportedly, even the U.S.

The Saudi reaction shows, on the one hand, the sensitivity of the Kingdom to criticism for its human rights record. On the other hand, it sent a message to Canada and to everyone else that Saudi Arabia won’t stand any country meddling in its domestic affairs, or as its foreign ministry put it “an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom.”

The Saudi reaction is also evidence of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s harsher international diplomacy compared to the previous, ‘softer’ diplomacy, analysts say. Saudi Arabia is also emboldened by its very good relations with the current U.S. Administration, and picking a fight with Canada wouldn’t have happened if “Trump wasn’t at the White House,” Haizam Amirah-Fernández, an analyst at Madrid-based think tank Elcano Royal Institute, told Bloomberg.

The United States hadn’t been warned in advance of the Saudi reaction to Canada and is now trying to persuade Riyadh not to escalate the row further, a senior official involved in talks to mediate the dispute told Bloomberg.

The row, however, will not affect crude oil exports from the Kingdom, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih has said, adding that Riyadh’s policy has always been to keep politics and energy exports separate.

Canada imports around 75,000-80,000 bpd of Saudi oil, and these barrels can easily be replaced, CBC quoted analyst Judith Dwarkin as saying earlier this week. The chief economist of RS Energy Group referred to this amount as “a drop in the bucket” at less than a tenth of Canadian crude imports compared with imports from the United States, which amount to about 66 percent of the total. The United States could easily replace Saudi crude thanks to its growing production, Dwarkin said.

Still, the strong Saudi message to Canada (and to the world) is not entirely reassuring for the investor climate in Saudi Arabia, which is looking to attract funds for its economic overhaul and mega infrastructure projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars each.

“The Saudi leadership wants to drive home a message that it’s fine to invest in Saudi Arabia and bring your money to Saudi Arabia, but that there are red lines that should not be crossed,” Riccardo Fabiani, a geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, told Bloomberg, but warned that such strategy could backfire.

Analysts are currently not sure how the feud will unfold, but Aurel Braun, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Toronto, told Canada’s Global News that Saudi Arabia is unlikely to back down and reverse all its retaliatory measures without getting something back from Canada.Related: The Unforeseen Consequences Of China’s Insatiable Oil Demand

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

“We have respect for their importance in the world and recognize that they have made progress on a number of important issues, but we will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights, at home and abroad, wherever we see the need,” Trudeau told a news conference this week.

The economic impact of the Saudi retaliation on Canada is unlikely to be large, but the fact that Saudi Arabia is whipping the oil wealth stick to punish economically what it sees as “blatant” interference with its affairs is sending a message to other countries, and a not-so-positive message to foreign investors.

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