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Qatar to send Ambassador to Iran–restore normal diplomatic relatoins

The Cold War In The Desert just got longer and shifted in Qatar’s favour

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Qatar has announced that it is sending an Ambassador to Tehran for the first time since 2016 when under Saudi pressure Doha recalled its envoy to the Islamic Republic.

In brief statement from Doha reads,

“The State of Qatar announced today that its ambassador to Tehran will return to exercise its diplomatic duties”.

Qatar further stated that the state seeks to,

“strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields”.

The move confirms what I previous wrote in The Duran suggesting that the current crisis between Saudi Arabia and its allies versus Qatar is not going to thaw anytime soon. Instead the conflict has become a fully fledged Cold War In The Desert

The cold war in the desert may become a new medium term reality for the Gulf and wider Middle East as both sides become more entrenched in their positions.

Qatar has refused a Saudi authored ultimatum whose contents were leaked to the press. A Qatari official has called the ultimatum “unrealistic” and “unreasonable” and it is not difficult to see why as capitulation to Saudi Arabia’s demands would essentially reduce Qatar to the status of a Saudi client state.

READ MORE: QATAR CRISIS: Doha refuses Saudi ultimatum

Now the UAE which has strongly backed the Saudi position, has implied that the countries currently boycotting Qatar do not intend to engage Qatar militarily nor do they seek regime change in Doha. According to the UAE’s Foreign Minister, the anti-Qatar parties instead seek to change the “behaviour” of the government in Doha.

Enter a classic cold war scenario where economic disputes and a competition for geo-political authority and prestige are cloaked in an ideological struggle that ultimately no one is willing to die for.

Anwar Gargash the UAE’s Foreign Minister has described the situation from the pro-Saudi viewpoint, saying,

“The alternative is not escalation, the alternative is parting of ways, because it is very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping”.

With both sides seemingly unwilling to compromise and with Qatar given a list of ultimatums that no state could reasonably expect to voluntarily abide by, one could witness this cold war in the desert having wider implications in a broader regional shift in the Middle East. The first victim of this shift will be the functionality of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

With Iran growing sympathetic to the plight of Qatar and Turkey openly advocating for a pro-Qatari settlement, the two most important non-Arab powers in the region are now in alignment on a key issue after years being on opposite sides of the war in Syria for years.

With the war in Syria winding down and Turkey increasingly infuriated at America’s alignment with Kurdish fighters, there is a very real possibility that Turkey, Iran and more broadly Russia could find themselves as allies in the Middle East. Such a triumvirate already forms the basis of the Astana Group, the only realistic collective working for peace in Syria. The western backed Geneva process is by contrast, largely a talking shop that cannot really accomplish anything.

Furthermore, with the main Sunni powers of the Gulf plus the Arab world’s largest predominately Sunni state, Egypt all stacked against Qatar, one is now witnessing the odd reality that a Salafist Sunni kleptocracy, Qatar may be tempted into making connections with the Shi’a powers in the region. Indeed, statements from the Emir of Qatar praising the Shi’a Lebanese party Hezbollah were widely interpreted as geo-political sacrilege by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

What this shows is that while Saudi propagandists have been promoting the idea that a Shi’a crescent is being formed between Iran, Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon, the truth is that the political realities in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are vastly more manifold than the simplistic Sunni versus Shi’a narrative that Saudi has been propagandising.

Ironically though, in isolating Qatar in the name of being a ‘lapsed Sunni power’, Saudi has created a Shi’a crescent running from the Gulf across the Red Sea into Egypt with Qatar being isolated in the centre of this crescent and Shi’a Houthis in Yemen being the biggest victims ‘in the way’ of completing this crescent.

Although secular Egypt is not about to turn into a Gulf style state, Egypt’s hatred of both Qatar and Turkey’s support for its ousted Muslim Brotherhood government mean that Riyadh and Cairo now have a common enemy, albeit for different reasons.

Egypt’s anger at Qatar is actually based on something more meaningful than pride and greed. It is based on Egypt’s survival which as any Nasserist can explain, is put in peril by the Brotherhood whenever it comes close to power. Secular Syrians feel the same hatred for the Brotherhood under their secular Shi’a leadership as Egypt does under its secular Sunni leadership.

Israel in spite of being a Zionist state and not a Wahhabi Kingdom is firmly on the side of Saudi in this new cold war. Cold wars after all make for strange bedfellows and the emerging new relationship between Saudi and Israel is less strange than many. Just consider Hindu India’s close relationship with the communist/atheist USSR.

Like in any Cold War, countries that do not conform into one sphere of influence or another are in the unique position of being non-aligned. As such both major powers will try to court the non-aligned states.

If Iran represents the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia represents the USA in the cold war in the desert, each side will seek to attract those who do not fit into the mould of a staunch Iranian or Saudi ally.

When the Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu started exercising a unilateral foreign policy in spite of being part of the Warsaw Pact, he was courted by the United States.

Likewise, Egypt’s Nasser was masterful at courting both Moscow and Washington, certainly for a time.

It seems that Saudi and the UAE will now vacillate between increased threats towards Qatar and an increased private acceptance that Qatar has been ‘lost’, just as Moscow ‘lost’ Yugoslavia in the 1940s.

The Cold War between communist and capitalist states in the second half of the 20th century led to many proxy wars. In the case of the Middle East, the proxy wars came first, many which were outgrowths of the original Cold War.

In this new cold war in the desert, perhaps suspicion and propaganda will replace terrorism and war. In this sense, the developments in the Gulf might be positive. After all, a cold war gets its name because it is a conflict in which no shots are formally fired. If the Middle East cannot attain peace, at least it can perhaps function under a perpetual stalemate which might create a less-violent balance of power.

Today’s announcement is a further sign that Qatar is continuing to diversify its diplomatic and economic portfolio. As Qatar and Iran both share the same Pars natural gas field, cooperation may soon come to fruition. Saudi took a gamble that Qatar would rapidly capitulate to its ridiculous demands. In reality, Qatar has strengthened its political alliances outside of the Saudi sphere so much so that it may never need to come back, even if Saudi ever decides to climb down from its intractable position.

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It’s Official: ‘Britain’s Democracy Now At Risk’

It’s not just campaigners saying it any more: democracy is officially at risk, according to parliament’s own digital, culture, media and sport committee.

The Duran

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Via True Publica, authored by Jessica Garland – Electoral Reform Society:


Britain’s main campaign rules were drawn up in the late 1990s, before social media and online campaigning really existed. This has left the door wide open to disinformation, dodgy donations and foreign interference in elections.

There is a real need to close the loopholes when it comes to the online Wild West.

Yet in this year’s elections, it was legitimate voters who were asked to identify themselves, not those funnelling millions into political campaigns through trusts, or those spreading fake news.

The government trialled mandatory voter ID in five council areas in May. In these five pilot areas alone about 350 people were turned away from polling stations for not having their papers with them — and they didn’t return. In other words, they were denied their vote.

Yet last year, out of more than 45 million votes cast across the country, there were just 28 allegations of personation (pretending to be someone else at the polling station), the type of fraud voter ID is meant to tackle.

Despite the loss of 350 votes, the pilots were branded a success by the government. Yet the 28 allegations of fraud (and just one conviction) are considered such a dire threat that the government is willing to risk disenfranchising many more legitimate voters to try to address it. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Indeed, the fact-checking website FullFact noted that in the Gosport pilot, 0.4 per cent of voters did not vote because of ID issues. That’s a greater percentage than the winning margin in at least 14 constituencies in the last election. Putting up barriers to democratic engagement can have a big impact. In fact, it can swing an election.

In the run-up to the pilots, the Electoral Reform Society and other campaigners warned that the policy risked disenfranchising the most marginalised groups in society.

The Windrush scandal highlights exactly the sort of problems that introducing stricter forms of identity could cause: millions of people lack the required documentation. It’s one of the reasons why organisations such as the Runnymede Trust are concerned about these plans.

The Electoral Commission has now published a report on the ID trials, which concludes that “there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns” on this front.

The small number of pilots, and a lack of diversity, meant that sample sizes were too small to conclude anything about how the scheme would affect various demographic groups. Nor can the pilots tell us about the likely impact of voter ID in a general election, where the strain on polling staff would be far greater and a much broader cross-section of electors turns out to vote.

The Electoral Reform Society, alongside 22 organisations, campaigners and academics, has now called on the constitution minister to halt moves to impose this policy. The signatories span a huge cross-section of society, including representatives of groups that could be disproportionately impacted by voter ID, from Age UK to Liberty and from the British Youth Council to the Salvation Army and the LGBT Foundation.

Voters know what our democratic priorities should be: ensuring that elections are free from the influence of big donors. Having a secure electoral register. Providing balanced media coverage. Transparency online.

We may be little wiser as a result of the government’s voter ID trials. Yet we do know where the real dangers lie in our politics.

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Corrupt Robert Mueller’s despicable Paul Manafort trial nears end (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 79.

Alex Christoforou

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Paul Manafort’s legal team rested its case on Tuesday without calling a single witness. This sets the stage for closing arguments before the judge hands the case to jurors for a verdict.

Manafort’s defense opted to call no witnesses, choosing instead to rely on the team’s cross-examination of government witnesses including a very devious Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy, and several accountants, bookkeepers and bankers who had financial dealings with Manafort.

Closing arguments are expected on Wednesday. Jurors may begin deliberating shortly after receiving their final instructions from judge Ellis.

Manafort case has nothing to do with Mueller’s ‘Trump-Russia collusion witch-hunt’ as the former DC lobbyist is accused of defrauding banks to secure loans and hiding overseas bank accounts and income from U.S. tax authorities.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort on the charges because prosecutors hadn’t proved their case.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the circus trial of Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, and how crooked cop Robert Mueller is using all his power to lean on Manafort, so as to conjure up something illegal against US President Donald Trump.

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Via Zerohedge

Prosecutors allege he dodged taxes on millions of dollars made from his work for a Ukrainian political party, then lied to obtain bank loans when cash stopped flowing from the project.

The courtroom was sealed for around two hours Tuesday morning for an unknown reason, reopening around 11:30 a.m. with Manafort arriving around 10 minutes later.

The decision to rest their case without calling any witnesses follows a denial by Judge T.S. Ellis III to acquit Manafort after his lawyers tried to argue that the special counsel had failed to prove its case at the federal trial.

The court session began at approximately 11:45 a.m.:

“Good afternoon,” began defense attorney Richard Westling, who corrected himself and said, “Good morning.”

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Judge Ellis responded.

Ellis then heard brief argument from both sides on the defense’s motion for acquittal, focusing primarily on four counts related to Federal Savings Bank.

Federal Savings Bank was aware of the status of Paul Manafort’s finances,” Westling argued. “They came to the loans with an intent of doing business with Mr. Manafort.”

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye fired back, saying that that even if bank chairman Steve Calk overlooked Manafort’s financial woes, it would still be a crime to submit fraudulent documents to obtain the loans.

“Steve Calk is not the bank,” Asonye argued, adding that while Caulk may have “had a different motive” — a job with the Trump administration — “I’m not really sure there’s evidence he knew the documents were false.”

Ellis sided with prosecutors.

The defense makes a significant argument about materiality, but in the end, I think materiality is an issue for the jury,” he said, adding. “That is true for all the other counts… those are all jury issues.”

Once that exchange was over, Manafort’s team was afforded the opportunity to present their case, to which lead attorney Kevin Downing replied “The defense rests.

Ellis then began to question Manafort to ensure he was aware of the ramifications of that decision, to which the former Trump aide confirmed that he did not wish to take the witness stand.

Manafort, in a dark suit and white shirt, stood at the lectern from which his attorneys have questioned witnesses, staring up at the judge. Ellis told Manafort he had a right to testify, though if he chose not to, the judge would tell jurors to draw no inference from that. – WaPo

Ellis asked Manafort four questions – his amplified voice booming through the courtroom:

Had Manafort discussed the decision with his attorney?

“I have, your honor,” Manafort responded, his voice clear.

Was he satisfied with their advice?

“I am, your honor,” Manafort replied.

Had he decided whether he would testify?

“I have decided,” Manafort said.

“Do you wish to testify?” Ellis finally asked.

“No, sir,” Manafort responded.

And with that, Manafort returned to his seat.

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One more step toward COMPLETE de-dollarization

Over the past several months, sitting here in Moscow, it has become increasingly obvious that while the US Dollar is unquestionably the world’s leading and liquid reserve currency, it comes with an ever increasing high price (of sovereignty and FX) if you are not the USA.

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I have opined and written about the trend towards de-dollarization before, but with the latest US –Turkish spat it has hit the wallets, mattresses and markets of a number of countries, be they aligned with Washington or not. One thing they all have in common was that in this recent era of low cost available money, many happily fed at the US dollar trough.

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This serves as a further albeit loud example to many nations for the need to diversify to an extent away from the greenback, or risk being caught up in its volatile, sudden and unpredictably risky increasingly politicized directions.

The Dollar and the geopolitical winds from Washington are today as never before openly being used as policy, which can be called the “carrot and stick”, a distinctly Pavlovian approach. Sadly, few if any can make out where or what the carrot is in this recent US worldview branding.

Tariffs, sanctions, pressured exchange rates, the Federal Reserve loosening or tightening, trade agreements and laws ignored or simply trashed… there is a lot going on which seems to democratically affect America’s allies as well as those on Washington’s politically popular and dramatic “poo-poo” list.

Just now from a press conference in Turkey, I watched Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov say that through the actions shown by the US, the role of the US dollar as a secure global reserve currency for free trade will diminish as more countries switch to national currencies for international trade.

He clearly spoke for many nations when he said; “It will make more and more countries that are not even affected by US sanctions go away from the dollar and rely on more reliable, contractual partners in terms of currency use.” Putting the situation in a nutshell he went on to say “I have already said this about sanctions: they are illegal, they undermine all principles of global trade and principles approved by UN decisions, under which unilateral measures of economic duress are unlawful.”

Turkey, a long-standing NATO ally and a key line of western defense during the long cold war years fully agreed with his Russian counterpart. The Turkish foreign minister Mr. Cavosoglu openly warned that US sanctions or trade embargoes can and are being unilaterally imposed against any country at any time if they do not toe DC’s political line.

He said at the same press conference; “Today, sanctions are imposed on Turkey, and tomorrow they can be used against any other European state. If the United States wants to maintain respect in the international arena, then it is necessary for it to be respectful of the interests of other countries.”

What is happening in Turkey is symptomatic of the developed and emerging markets globally. When trillions of dollars of newly issued lucre was up for grabs, thanks to several developed country central banks, it was comparatively easy for governments and companies just like Turkey’s to borrow funds denominated in dollars and not their national currencies.

Turkey has relied on foreign-currency debt more than most EM’s. Corporate, financial and other debt denominated mostly in dollars, approximates close to 70% of it’s economy. Therefore as the Turkish lira plunges, it is very costly for those companies to repay their dollar-denominated loans, and even now it is patently clear many will not.

The concern rattling around the underbelly of the global markets is what can be reasonably expected for assets and economies that were inflated by cheap debt, the United States included. All this points not so much to a banking crisis as has happened eight years ago, but a systemic financial market crisis.

This is a new one, and I doubt if any QE, QT, NIRPs, or ZIRPs will make much of a difference, despite the rocket-high equity markets the US has been displaying.

One financial trader I spoke to, whom I have known since the early 1980’s (and I thought him ancient then) muttered to me “we’re gettin’ into the ecstasy stage, nothing but the high matters, everything else including the VIX is seen as boring denial, and not the warning tool it is. Better start loading up on gold.”

Meanwhile, de-dollarization is ongoing in Russia and is carefully studied by a host of countries, especially as the Russian government has not yet finished selling off US debt; it still has just a few billion to go. The Russian Finance Minister A. Siluanov said this past Sunday that Russia would continue decreasing holdings of Treasuries in response to sanctions.

The finance minister went on to say that, Russia is also considering distancing itself from using the US dollar for international trade, calling it an unreliable, conditional and hence risky tool for payments.

Between March and May this year, Russia’s US debt holdings were sold down by $81 billion, which is 84% of its total US debt holdings, and while I don’t know the current figure it is certain to be even less.

The latest round of tightening sanctions screws against Russia were imposed by the State Department under a chemical and biological warfare law and should be going into effect on August 22. This in spite of the fact that no proof was ever shown, not under any established national or international law, or with any of several global biochemical conventions, not even in the ever entertaining court of public opinion.

Whatever Russia may continue to do in its relationship with US debt or the dollar, the fact of the matter is that Russia is not a heavyweight in this particular financial arena, and the direct effects of Russia’s responses are negligible. However, the indirect effects are huge as they reflect what many countries (allied or unallied with the US) see as Washington’s overbearing and more than slightly unipolar trade and geopolitical advantage quests, be they Mexico, Canada, the EU, or anyone else on any hemisphere of this globe.

Some of the potential indirect effects over time may be a similar sell-off or even gradual reduction of US debt exposure from China or any one of several dozens of countries deciding to reduce their exposure to US debt by reducing their purchases and waiting for existing Treasuries to mature. In either case, the trend is there and is not going away anytime soon.

When Russia clears its books of US dollarized debt, then who will be next in actively diversifying their US debt risk? Then what might be the fate of the US Dollar, and what value then will be the international infusions to finance America’s continually growing debt, or fuel the funds needed for further market growth? Value and the energy of money has no politics, it ultimately trends towards areas where there is a secure business dynamic. That being said, looks like we are now and will be living through the most interesting of disruptive times.

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