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Trump comes to Riyadh as Saudi Arabia bankrupts itself

US President Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia at a time when Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country’s de facto ruler – has launched it on a runaway spending programme which is bound to end in national bankruptcy.

Alexander Mercouris

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US President Donald Trump’s choice of Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip has provoked some criticism.

It is not difficult to understand why.

Whilst the US claims to be the leader of the “free world” the embarrassing reality is that its most important Middle East ally is a repressive autocratic Wahhabist monarchy.  Whilst Donald Trump says the destruction of Jihadi terrorism is his priority, Saudi Arabia – as everyone knows – is the country that bankrolls most of this terrorism.

Beyond that there is the fact that many Americans have not forgotten or forgiven the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers – as well as Osama bin Laden, the presumed organiser and inspirer of the 9/11 attacks – were Saudis.

The fact however remains that Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of the whole of the US’s strategic position in the Middle East, whilst Saudi Arabia’s oil exports – and the fact that it sells them for US dollars – serve a key role in underpinning US dominance of the world economy.

Whilst this remains the case the US has no realistic option but to maintain good relations with the Saudis.  In that respect Trump’s courtship of the Saudis makes far more sense that Obama’s ill concealed disdain for them, and given the damage Obama did to this crucial relationship Trump’s priority on repairing it – and thus his visit to Saudi Arabia – makes complete sense.

What all the talk of Trump’s visit obscures however is that even as the US seeks to renew its relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom has embarked on an out-of-control spending spree which can only result in its eventually bankrupting itself.

To understand the scale of what is happening, just consider the outline of the projects that are supposed to be under discussion during Trump’s visit.  The Financial Times provides a good summary

Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, signed more than $50bn worth of deals on Saturday, around $22bn of which were new memorandums of understanding, including:

Investing $7bn with Rowan over 10 years to own and operate drilling rigs, creating 2,800 jobs in Saudi Arabia; extending a joint venture with Nabors for oil well services, seeing $9bn of investment over 10 years, creating up to 5,000 jobs in the kingdom; a new joint venture with National Oilwell Varco in Saudi Arabia to manufacture driving rigs and equipment, seeing $6bn of investment over 10 years.

Aramco also said it would boost operations at its US refinery unit Motiva, with a planned $12bn investment with a likely additional $18bn by 2023. The deal aims to create 12,000 jobs by 2023.

Six firms — including Honeywell, McDermott and Weatherford — signed MOUs to expand Aramco’s use of locally produced goods and services, bringing $19bn of investment to the kingdom.

Aramco also signed a deal with GE to deliver $4bn worth of savings via digitisation of the oil firm’s operations. This was part of a GE package of valued at $15bn.

When deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington earlier this year, the White House estimated that Saudi investment pledges could rise to around $200bn.

In the defence sector, Lockheed Martin signed a $6bn deal to assemble 150 Blackhawk helicopters in the kingdom, supporting 450 jobs.

Raytheon and General Dynamics also signed agreements to support the localisation of defence contracts. The deals support Prince Mohammed’s plans for the world’s third-largest spender on arms to create a domestic industry led by the newly formed company Saudi Arabia Military Industries. The kingdom wants to source half of defence spending locally by 2030 from 2 per cent now.

Saudi Arabia’s $200bn Public Investment Fund, which plans to boost its assets under management to $2tn after the planned initial public offering of Aramco, will also announce its SoftBank vision fund deal, as well as launching another partnership, according to its managing director, Yasir Al Rumayyan. The SoftBank vision fund, the largest private equity fund ever created, is expected to close at more than $90bn, with half of the investment coming from PIF. Around 50 per cent of the fund is expected to be invested in the US, bankers say.

Saudi’s sovereign Public Investment Fund pledged $20bn for a $40bn Blackstone US infrastructure fund, with $20bn to be raised from other parties. Blackstone said it expects, with debt financing, to invest $100bn in infrastructure projects, mainly in the US. “This potential investment reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the US as announced by President Trump,” said Yasir Al Rumayyan, managing director of PIF.

Dow Chemical, whose chief executive Andrew Liveris co-chaired the Saudi-US CEO Forum on Saturday, agreed to invest more than $100m for a polymers manufacturing plant, while studying a proposed investment in silicones production.

This comes on top of a $300 billion (!) deal to buy arms from the US over a period of 10 years, of which $110 billion (!) is to be spent up front.

These gargantuan arms deals oil rich Arab states regularly make are not primarily intended to strengthen their defence capacity.  The quantities of weapons these oil rich Arab states buy is by many orders of magnitude greater than they can ever use.  Rather these deals are bribes, intended to buy the favour of the country from whom these oil rich Arab states buy these arms, whilst simultaneously buying the favour of useful politicians and businessmen by recycling some of the money to them through kickbacks and commissions.

The US – and Britain and France – have long since become accustomed to this practice, and have no illusions about it.

In the 1970s, when Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya did the same thing with the USSR – buying vast quantities of arms from the USSR which it was never going to use – the Russians did not understand it, and were baffled by it, especially as they saw most of the sophisticated weapons they were supplying vanish into Libyan storehouses (many of them were still there, rusted and decaying, in 2011 when Gaddafi fell).  Today the Russians have also come to understand it.

Needless to say what Gaddafi and the Libyans did with the Soviets in the 1970s is completely dwarfed by what the Saudis regularly do, and even that is dwarfed by the Homerically vast arms deal the Saudis have struck with the US just now.

All of this spending is being driven by the grandiose and out-of-control ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s actual ruler, the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seems to believe that instead of working hard to develop its own industrial and technology base Saudi Arabia can simply buy itself one wholesale.

Moreover at the same time that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched Saudi Arabia onto this gigantic domestic spending spree, he is doubling down on Saudi Arabia’s hugely over-ambitious and massively costly foreign policy, waging (and losing) war in the Yemen, intervening in Syria, bankrolling Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt, and confronting Iran, a country far more powerful than Saudi Arabia, with resources Saudi Arabia cannot match.

This is exactly the opposite route to the one Saudi Arabia should be following.

If Prince Mohammed bin Salman were familiar with his history (he obviously isn’t) he would know that Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich Arab states have been trying to buy their way to industrialisation since at least the 1960s.  Since this is never done by developing the economy organically and indigenously the attempt has always failed, as the plants and factories imported from Europe and North America need supplies and technicians from abroad to keep them going, and are ill-adapted to local needs.

Repeating this approach, which in the past has always failed, but doing so on a gigantically greater scale, is simply going to make the failure far greater, littering Saudi Arabia with flashy new factories that consume more in resources than the value of the goods they produce.

By contrast, if Prince Mohammed bin Salman were ever to put aside his sectarian prejudices (something which is probably impossible for him) he could do worse than look at Iran, which since the fall of the Shah in 1979, and despite many setbacks and Western sanctions (or possibly because of them) has managed through careful industrial training and management, and by relying on its own resources, to do what Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich Arab states have consistently failed to do, which is build up a significant industrial and technology base of its own.

As for where the funding for this megalomaniac spending programme will come from, the Financial Times article makes it all too obvious: from privatising Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company, the historic cash cow of the Saudi economy, which as a result is going to be lost forever.

All this combined with a bizarre fancy that Saudi Arabia’s financial resources can be increased by using the sale of Aramco to leverage up the paper value of the assets managed by its Public Investment Fund (ie. its sovereign wealth fund) from $200 billion to $2 trillion.

Needless to say this is not going to be anywhere near enough, and it is only a matter of time before runaway spending at this rate causes Saudi Arabia to run out of money.

That all sense of reality is being lost is shown by the extraordinary extravagance of the reception Prince Mohammed bin Salman is laying on for President Trump.  A leaked report shows that the Saudis are planning to spend an astonishing $68 million on his visit.

In reality what Saudi Arabia needs to do is not engage in a gigantic programme of over-spending which can only make the country’s economic situation worse, but on the contrary cut back radically on its existing spending, so that it can finally start to live within its means.

That means thinking of how to end the vast system of subsidies and privileges that are distorting and stifling the economy, and which are robbing it of vitality because they are unearned since they are paid for from oil revenues and are not paid for by taxes.

It means working towards ending the peg between the Saudi riyal and the US dollar, which is exaggerating the problems of the country’s budget at a time of low oil prices, and which is increasing its non-oil trade deficit by stifling the competitiveness of the non-oil part of the country’s economy.

It also means reining back on the country’s ludicrously over-ambitious and inherently destabilising foreign policy, which has achieved nothing save to spread terrorism throughout the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia itself, whilst locking Saudi Arabia into an arms race with Iran, which because of Iran’s vastly superior resources Saudi Arabia can never win.

As for the vast sums Saudi Arabia spends on arms – which it cannot use and often doesn’t intend to use – Saudi Arabia would be far better advised spending them instead on educating its people so as to prepare them for a genuine role in the country’s government.

As well as improving the national education system – which by all accounts is in an extremely poor condition, blighted by bigotry and prejudice – that means providing scholarships to young Saudis – men and women – from poorer families to study in universities abroad.

Objectively all this is possible, and it is not too late to do it.  If it were done then in 10 to 20 years time Saudi Arabia would be transformed vastly for the better.

In reality none of this is going to happen, and most likely it would not happen whoever was Saudi Arabia’s ruler.  Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s peculiar genius is to accelerate the now inevitable collapse, so that it will all happen far more quickly than it otherwise would have done, and at supersonic speed.

Patrick Cockburn, that most insightful of commentators on Middle East affairs, has compared the cost and extravagance of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reception of President Trump to the similarly empty and inflated pomp of the Shah of Iran’s Persepolis Party of 1971.

That event together with the Shah’s runaway spending on a manic and unsustainable industrialisation programme eerily similar to the one now planned by Prince Mohammed bin Salman led eventually to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Iranian monarchy.  If the same thing happens in Saudi Arabia the results will be far more bloody.

In the meantime all sorts of people are making hay whilst the good times last.  In the words of the Financial Times

……dozens of chief executives from Saudi Arabia and the US were convening at a forum where they discussed Saudi financial flows into America, and how the US could help diversify the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. “The government is taking a back seat and putting the private sector as the locomotive to drive the economy,” said Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister. “There will be risks, but we will work with you to mitigate it.”….

At the close of the Saturday morning forum, about 70 senior Saudi executives and US chief executives boarded buses outside the Four Seasons hotel, bound for lunch with King Salman and Mr Trump at the royal court.

The elite business delegation is set to hold postprandial talks with prince Mohammed, architect of the kingdom’s reform plans. Around 30 US executives were approved to attend the lunch, including names such as Larry Fink of BlackRock, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Roy Harvey of Alcoa, Adena Friedman of Nasdaq and financial adviser Michael Klein.

Amid tight security, royal guards took the executives’ phones, before they boarded the coaches.

As the horizon darkens, all that is left is to wish these gentlemen bon appetit.

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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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