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Tariffs and Sanctions: A New Energy Trade War?

Trump has become the top promoter for  increasing exports of  US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets. 

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The Trump Administration trade policy is nowhere so clear as in the energy area.  For years it was thought that the younger Bush Administration was one of the most energy industry friendly in history.  But the Trump Administration has gone far beyond that.

Hiring Ray Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, as US Secretary of State, sent a strong signal to the entire industry, even though his tenure proved to be temporary.

Prior to that, the Administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, a long held priority of Exxon and the entire oil industry.  Following hard upon that, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reduced or eliminated regulations limiting carbon and other pollutants.

Exxon has for more than a decade underwritten the now discredited, right wing attack on climate change as a hoax.  Although the energy industry has now publicly acknowledged climate change as a global threat, in practice the subject is still largely ignored.

Going further, the Trump Administration has removed and reduced regulations that hampered the industry expansion, including allowing drilling on both ocean coast, while easing safety regulations that were brought into effect after BP’s Gulf of Mexico disastrous spill, the worst in US history.

Regulations have also been relaxed for flaring of natural gas from oil drilling sites, a major contributor atmospheric carbon.

Government protected nature preserves are being opened to exploration and drilling for the first time in generations. Added to that was the dropping of regulations that for many years prohibited export of US crude. Since then, the US has become a major player in the global energy industry.

The Administration currently plans to rescind and lower fuel efficiency standards for autos and trucks. That is likely to encourage increased purchase of larger SUVs, increased oil consumption, and rising gasoline prices.

The Administration corporate tax cut, one of the largest in US history, also strongly benefitted  the energy industry, as it did other industries.

From the moment he chose to run for President, Trump has embraced the new shale revolution in the US as a major contributor to the country’s economic growth and energy independence.

Increasingly, Trump has become the top promoter for  increasing exports of  US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets.  He openly threatened to place economic sanctions on Germany if it went ahead with the deal for Russia’s new Nordstream 2 pipeline, that would nearly double natural gas supplies from Russia, Germany’s largest  supplier.

As most observers noted, the US sanction threat was accompanied by the offer of US LNG to Germany and Europe, as a replacement for Russian gas.

No doubt that Trump’s outrageous bullying offended European sensibility, but despite the German protest regarding outside interference in its domestic  economic affairs, and its intention to complete the Russian pipeline, Germany is quietly building up LNG importing facilities, “as a gesture to American friends.”

Most energy experts agree that it is inevitable that US LNG will eventually become a component of European markets, despite its significantly higher price to Russian and Norwegian gas, if for no other reasons to keep the peace with America, Europe’s largest ally, and assure Europe’s access to the US market.

This will also serve to assuage the US complaints about unfair trade.  It matters little that the US trade deficit with Germany centers on its auto industry rather than energy, if the sale of natural gas serves to reduce the US trade deficit.

The same could be said about the US/China trade deficit. China, the largest energy consumer, is the one country where solutions to the trade deficit is clearly at hand, involving increased US LNG imports. China already has a longterm, 20 year deal to import LNG from the leading US LNG company, Cheniere Energy.

China could easily reduce the amount of gas imports from variety of other suppliers (i.e., Qatar, Australia, New Guinea, Iran, Russia) and replace these with US supplies. That would be a near costless transaction for China, as it is already paying other producers for natural gas and LNG supplies.

Consider the effects of a possible LNG deal could have on the trade dispute.  In terms of the current deficit, China sales to the US is estimated at around $350 billion, while US sales to the China is around $150 billion.

Last May, the China signed a  $25 billion deal for   importing US LNG. If we assumed that in current negotiations the two countries could strike a modest deal for another $25 billion in annual US LNG sales to China, US sales to China increases to $200 billion, reducing China’s surplus to $300 billion.

If that were to take place, the trade deficit would reduced to around $100 billion, and Trump would no doubt return to the election campaign trail to boast of the first US trade victory over China.

The risk to this scenario is the presumption that everyone involved really wants a solution to the trade dispute, but there is widespread suspicions that US tariffs on China may be less about fair trade and more about economic warfare to contain China’s growth.

George Friedman’s “Geopolitical Futures” recently noted that  “The U.S. is beginning to see it [tariffs] more as a strategic opportunity to contain Chinese assertiveness than as a play to invigorate U.S. manufacturing.”

There remains a stalwart band of left wing journalists, led by the ever brilliant, Pepe Escobar, who maintain that Europe, Russia, China, and Iran will band together to thwart US sanctions on Iran, and that ‘Iran’s oil sales will be totally unaffected. They also hold strongly to the opinion that China will not yield to US threats and ultimatum.

This despite the fact that major energy companies, like Royal Dutch Shell and Total have already fled Iran in fear of US sanctions, while major countries are severely cutting Iran imports.

Currently, Japan and India have agreed to major reductions of energy imports from Iran.  Recent news  has it that Sinopec, China’s largest oil and gas refiner, under threats of US sanctions, also agreed to severely cut imports from Iran.  It’s no secret that nearly all of Iran’s competitors, it’s OPEC ‘partners’, will go after those under supplied markets, as will the US.

Sanctions against Iran will certainly reduce its exports substantially, with the worst case estimates of a loss to the markets of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. This will also open opportunities in under supplied  markets that will almost certainly be exploited by US and other competitors.

Some observers believe that because the upcoming election is uppermost in the minds of both US political parties, a trade victory with China is extremely important  to the Republican election campaign. If so, their thinking goes, a deal will result in easing tariffs with China by November.

Trump himself recently stated that he’s ready to talk trade with China, but continues to add the qualifier, “not now.” Many Trump watchers interpret this to mean that getting tough with China’ plays well to Trump’s base, boosts the Republican election prospects, and afterwards a trade deal is likely to be struck.

Any trade deal with China could also be used by the US as a template for deals with Japan, India, and South Korea, the next largest Asian importers  of natural gas. It can hardly be coincidence that, as in Europe, these energy importing countries are threatened by US tariffs over unfair trade.

However, Geopolitical Futures states that “the broad impression in China appears to be that Trump isn’t actually interested in a deal – certainly not one that China could accept – and that this is just the first major salvo in an emerging Cold War and that instead … the world needs to get ready for a new cold war with China.

In a recent speech, Richard Haas, President of New York-based think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, stated that “…the Trump administration initially focused just on trade, “but now it’s broadening, and it almost seems as if the administration wants to have something of a cold war with China.”

What about Venezuela, a country estimated to have the largest oil reserves in the world, also laboring under US sanctions? It’s also a country about which the Administration has made no secret of its plans for a possible US military invasion to topple the Maduro government.

Why go public with that story now, with only a little more than a month towards US Congressional elections?

There is widespread speculation that this announcement may be a trial ballon, as part of the preparation for laying the ground work for an invasion aimed at bolstering Republican election prospects. To date, there has been no sign of opposition to these threats from Democrats.

Conclusion:

It’s no accident that sanctions are aimed at the US largest energy competitors, Russia and Iran, nor is it coincidence that the largest energy importers, Europe, China, Japan, and South Korea are also under threat of US tariffs or sanctions.

Instead, it clearly shows that the US is using the threat of economic warfare and possible military conflict as leverage to open markets to the newest player on the world’s energy market, American LNG.

If the US is successful in these deals, it’s likely that in future, there will be a parallel attempts to make inroads for US crude export to the very same oil importing countries, relying upon the very same LNG game plan.

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Sally Snyder
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Sally Snyder

As shown in this letter, America’s largest retailer has publicly admitted that consumers will be the big losers in Donald Trump’s trade war with China:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/10/walmart-winners-and-losers-in-us-china.html

This is yet another example of unintended consequences of a poorly executed government mandate.

TheCelotajs
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TheCelotajs

When one has no knowledge or experience in foreign trade this is what one gets when he has people around him that have their own agenda and this is what I see happening today. Trump is President in name only other wise he is being lead around by his nose by others.

Jane Karlsson
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Jane Karlsson

This is all going to backfire when US shale gas starts to run out, which may happen a lot sooner than Mr Berke thinks.

http://www.artberman.com/permian-reserves-may-much-smaller-think/

Jane Karlsson
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Jane Karlsson

Exxon thinks climate change is a hoax, does it. Well perhaps it has a point.

“Just ahead of a new report from the IPCC, dubbed SR#15 about to be released today, we have this bombshell- a detailed audit shows the surface temperature data is unfit for purpose. The first ever audit of the world’s most important temperature data set (HadCRUT4) has found it to be so riddled with errors and “freakishly improbable data” that it is effectively useless.”

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/11/bombshell-audit-of-global-warming-data-finds-it-riddled-with-errors/

Also see https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-enron-wants-global-warming

and https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/09/22/study-tropical-hotspot-fingerprint-of-global-warming-doesnt-exist-in-the-real-world-data/

Smokingeagle
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Smokingeagle

Exxon thinks climate change is a hoax, does it? Has it changed its mind since the 1980s? Check out this article dated 18/09/2018: Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings: Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/sep/19/shell-and-exxons-secret-1980s-climate-change-warnings In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560… Read more »

Jonathan Bethune
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Jonathan Bethune

There trying to spur growth by expanding there capacities toward self reliance. There is a new tax framework In place now that has lowered the corporate tax and raised the base wages of Americans to spur the consumption required to grow the new base of American business. I think there seeking a new equilibrium to replace the old given the new geopolitical framework that has emerged in the last ten years. I’m hoping they will stop when they have achieved the new balance and we all move forward in our own domains. Greed as always being the bogeyman of the… Read more »

Herbert Dorsey
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Herbert Dorsey

While Trumpo’s policies might help the U.S. Energy companies, they also hasten the eventual destruction of our planet via increased pollution. People who still deny global warming have their head’s buried in the sand. Scientific data shows that the ocean tempratures are on the increase and that leads to much stronger and more frequent hurricanes. The destruction caused by these hurricanes is much more expensive than the profit benefits to oil corporations incurred by increased air pollution with greenhouse gasses.

TheCelotajs
Guest
TheCelotajs

In other words it is Trump’s Energy or NO ENERY AT ALL since Trump has become the top promoter for increasing exports of US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets or to put it into simpler terms, US LNG or we will put sanctions on you until you are forced to buy only US LNG!

Michael
Guest
Michael

Berke by name Berke by nature. Lot of wishful thinking here. By the way CO2 does NOT drive climate. We are entering a solar minimum that has at a minimum 30-40 years to run.

Berke
Guest
Berke

You keep getting your information from the pizza delivery boy instead of the scientist like those who just won a Noble Prize for studies on climate change.

Latest

The mainstream media does not want you to think [Video]

It is difficult to tell if recent reports like this really represent a realization for the media, but this interview rings true nonetheless.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Several recent stories on Fox, Breitbart, and here on The Duran all address the increasingly obvious bias of the mainstream media with regard to news reporting. We discussed on The Duran how Chris Wallace of Fox News refused to hear details from White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller about why the recently declared National Emergency is in fact legitimate.

This piece revealed that the media is very actively trying to control and direct what information they want the public to hear, rather than truly reporting the news, or interviewing people to get their takes on things, and to perhaps fully interview all sides in a controversy and then let the American public decide for themselves what to think.

This used to exist in more gentlemanly debate programs in some fashion, such as with the TV debate program Point Counterpoint, but now, the bias of the reporter or of the network is the primary operator in determining the outcome of the interview, rather than the information that is available about the story.

This has helped create a news and information culture in the United States that is truly insane. As examples, consider these paraphrased headlines, all occurring within the last few years:

All of these are probably familiar to most readers. Many of them are still repeated and acted on as if they were real. But the articles we linked to behind most of these ledes are examples of the disproof, usually 100% disproof, of these. They are hoaxes, or reports built on circumstantial evidence without any proof, or in the worst cases, pure slander and propaganda.

One reporter for CBS news, 60 Minutes anchor Lara Logan, discussed this in an interview with retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland, for his own podcast program, which was picked up by the MediaIte website. The video of her interview is quite lengthy but starting at about 02:14:00 there is a particular segment that the MediaIte writers called to attention. We include this segment in the video.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: The video is unrestricted in regards to language and there is some profanity. Parents, please listen first before letting your children watch this video.

A major point Mrs Logan makes here is that 85% of the employ of the mainstream media in the USA consist of registered Democrats. She also speaks forcefully against the use of stereotypes, and suggests the best place to start is actual facts. This means that most journalists are coming into this work with a bias, which is not set aside for the sake of the facts of the story.

Probably the most key point comes at 2:18:20 in the video is how Lara Logan is taught the way to discern whether or not someone in journalism is lying to you:

“Someone very smart told me a long time ago, that, ‘how do you know you are being lied to?’, ‘how do you know you are being manipulated?’, ‘how do you know there is something not right with the coverage?’, when they simplify it all, and there is no gray. There is no gray. It’s all one way.

“Well, life isn’t like that. If it doesn’t match real life, it is probably not. Something is wrong.”

Lara Logan then pointed out the comparison of the mainstream media’s constant negative coverage of President Trump against the reality of his work, that, regardless of one’s own personal bias, it does not match that everything the President does is bad. She also highlighted the point that one’s personal views should not come into how to report a news story.

Yet in our days, it not only comes into the story, it drives the narrative for which the story just becomes an example of “proof” that the narrative is “true.” 

Tucker Carlson talked vividly about the same characteristic on his program Monday night on Fox News.

He points out that the 3,000 yearly shooting in Chicago get very little news coverage, but that is because these are not as “useful” as the Jussie Smollett story is.

This is an example of using an event or a person’s actions to satisfy a politically biased propaganda narrative, rather than report the news.

This is not occasional, as the list of news headlines given above show. This is a constant practice across most of the mainstream media. Probably no one who gives interviews on the major networks is exempt, for even Mr. Carlson often resorts to cornering tactics when interviewing liberals in an apparent attempt to make the liberal look ridiculous and the point of view he espouses to look vindicated through that ridiculousness.

While this is emotionally invigorating for the Carlson fan who wants to see him “eviscerate” the liberal, it is very bad journalism. In fact, it is not journalism at all; it is sensationalism in a nasty sense.

It also insults the viewer, perhaps without them knowing it, because such reporting is the same as telling the viewer “WE ARE IN CONTROL!” and that the viewer must simply go along with the narrative given.

It is very bad when what should be information reporting, policy discussion, or debate becomes infected with this. Ideas, the product of (hopefully) rational and discursive reasoning, are pushed aside by pure emotion and mass sensationalism. Put metaphorically, it is the new look of bread and circuses, keeping the masses entertained while anything else might be happening.

Sometimes the motive for this is not so sinister. After all, we have a 24 hour news cycle now. In the 1970’s we didn’t. And in those times, the calibre of news reported was much higher. Reporting was far more careful. The Pulitzer Prize winners  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did their incredible exposé on the doings of President Richard Nixon under the directorship of the Washington Post editor, which demanded triple-checking of everything, making sure that all information was factual, accurate and genuine. While the story was indeed sensational, more importantly, it was true.

Now we have a lot of sensation, but very little to zero truth. As an example, every one of the ledes linked above is not proven to be true, in fact the truth in many of these stories is the opposite of what the headline says.

This would not be much of a problem if the media lies were not absorbed and reacted on by their readers, listeners and viewers. But the fact is that there are a significant number of consumers of mainstream media news that do react to it. The Covington High School incident showed this in perhaps the most frightening way, with open calls for violence against teenagers and high school students, requested by professionals, people that are supposed to be adults, such as Kathy Griffin, Reza Aslan, and GQ writer Nathaniel Friedman, who called for these kids to be “doxxed”, which as we reported, is an action that can be deadly.

We are in the times where the love of many has gone cold, and all is about expediency and selfishness. While there are a few outlets and a few journalists that still retain interest in recording and disseminating the truth, the reality is that most of what is out there is tainted by the drive for attention and sensationalism.

The media that engages in such behavior is actually hurting people, rather than informing and helping them.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

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Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

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