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China vs. the US: The Struggle for Central Africa and the Congo

As China strives to build economic and trading links in Central Africa and the Congo, the US launches Hybrid War tactics to disrupt them.

Andrew Korybko

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China just secured one of the most important deals so far this century.  This is the $2.65 billion deal for the Tenke mine in the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC – hereafter referred to simply as the Congo).

The Financial Times has an informative write-up on the significance of this breakthrough agreement.  They forecast that it will make China the world leader in electric battery technology due to its control of over 62% of the global cobalt market.  The Financial Times expects demand for cobalt to spike by two-thirds in the next ten years.

Strategically speaking, this puts China at the forefront of the worldwide movement towards electric vehicles giving China, the unofficial leader of the global multipolar movement, an advantage over the US in attaining control over the future of personal, commercial, and military transport systems.

China’s problem is however that it receives 93% (or according to Bloomberg, 99%) of its cobalt from the Congo.  This means that China’s position as prospective global leader in the electric battery industry depends on the fragile stability of the Congo.  This is particularly problematic given that the US immediately began undermining the Congro from the moment it achieved independence in 1960.

The Congo is the setting of “Africa’s World War” of the 1990s. It is the graveyard of an estimated 5 million people who died as a result of that war.  Now once again the Congo is being pushed dangerously close to disaster because of the international intrigues that surround it.

This is not simply speculation.  The US and its affiliated unipolar information outlets have been busy preconditioning the world to expect a disaster in the Congo if its incumbent President, Joseph Kabila, fails to step down at the end of his second and constitutionally last term in office at the end of this year but instead indefinitely delays the upcoming vote and/or seeks to make changes to the constitution to allow him to run once more.

There’s no doubt that the Congo is in the US’s New Cold War crosshairs and that the country must brace for what could turn out to be another prolonged period of catastrophic conflict.  However what is happening in the Congo needs to be placed within its appropriate global context.

I shall therefore seek to explain in this article the central importance of the Congo to China’s grand strategy in Africa.  Once the importance of the country has been explained the reasons why the US might want to throw it into chaos will become clear.

I shall then set out to describe the indirect warfare that has been simmering around the Congo over the past year.

Finally, since these plans have so far completely failed, I shall consider in the last section of this article the various ways in which Washington is trying to strike directly at the Congo by manufacturing several Hybrid War scenarios in what is the geostrategic heartland of Africa.

Beijing’s Big Ambitions In Africa

Congo is back in the global headlines not because of its expected leadership transition (or lack thereof), but because of its significance to China in the context of the New Cold War.

China’s One Belt One Road vision of constructing “New Silk Roads”, or infrastructure corridors, across the world is well known.  However practically no-one has studied how this relates to Africa.  I sought to do this in a previous article for Oriental Review titled “East Africa’s Problems Might Spoil Its Silk Road Dreams”.  In that article I revealed that China is working hard to build two transoceanic trade routes linking Africa’s Indian Ocean and Atlantic Coasts. Though this goal has not been officially declared, it is fairly obvious that this is Beijing’s intention even if the two projects have not yet completed.

Northern Transoceanic African Route (NTAR):

The northern route is expected to be an intermodal route that will incorporate railroad and river infrastructure, linking Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa either with the Congo’s Atlantic port of Matadi or the Republic of the Congo’s port of Pointe-Noire.

The Standard Gauge Railroad is currently planned to go from Mombasa to the Ugandan capital of Kampala. However it could thereafter be extended to the northeastern Congo city of Kisangani on the banks of the Congo River. From there, the world’s deepest river is navigable all the way down to the Congo’s capital of Kinshasa and its Republic of the Congo twin capital of Brazzaville.  From Kinshasa, it is just a short rail ride to the underdeveloped Atlantic port of Matadi. The rail trip from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire is a longer but it ends at a more developed deep-sea port.

Inga 3 Dam:

The northern route has an added significance because of its near proximity to the future Chinese-constructed Inga 3 Dam, which The Guardian estimates will on completion be the largest of its kind in the world. According to The Guardian this mega project will be able to provide 40% of Africa’s electricity needs because of its potential to generate as much power as twenty nuclear reactors.

Although the Dam’s construction has yet to begin, it could begin as early as the end of this year.  It is expected that this colossal feat of engineering could one day allow China and its Congolese partner to wield multipolar influence across most of West and Central Africa.

Given its geostrategic importance it should come as no surprise that this project is coming under heavy Western NGO criticism supposedly because of its environmental impact and the fact that upwards of 35,000 people might have to be relocated because of it.

If the US fails to force Kabila to step down at the end of his term, allowing for his replacement by a more reliable pro-Western leader, then the fallback position is to prepare the ground for an attack on the project by “disgruntled villagers and/or rebels” who would attack it in any of various Hybrid War scenario.

Southern Transoceanic African Route (STAR):

The southern route is already partly covered by the TAZARA railway built by the Chinese in the 1970s, which links the Tanzanian coast near Tanzania’s biggest city Dar es Salaam to the copper-rich regions of central Zambia.

From there other railway infrastructure had been independently built through the mineral-rich southeastern Congolese region of Katanga, which is nowadays administratively subdivided into several smaller administrative regions, but which still retains a strong sense of a distinct unified identity.

The Katangan railroads used to be linked to Angola’s Benguela railway.  However over the decades they have fallen into disrepair and have yet to be put back into service.  As for the Benguela railway, it too was out of commission for decades – in fact since the start of Angola’s bloody civil war in the 1970s – and has only recently been modernised and brought back into service with recent pivotal help from China.

The Katangan railways will not be the only rail connections to Benguela and hence to the Atlantic.  China also plans extending the TAZARA railway from central Zambia to the Angolan-Congolese junction via its North West Railroad project.

No fewer than 7 African countries are connected to these two projects, with 3 others (Rwanda, Burundi and Malawi) being so closely connected that their stability is critical to these projects’ viability.

It is the situation in these 3 states and in the Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”) which will be the subject of my discussion in the next section of this article.  In that section I will explain how the US sought to use indirect warfare to block China’s Transoceanic African Routes before resorting to its project of directly destabilising the Congo.

Indirect Warfare

In my study “The Law Of Hybrid War” I explained that “the grand objective behind every Hybrid War is to disrupt multipolar transnational connective projects through externally provoked identity conflicts (ethnic, religious, regional, political, etc.) within a targeted transit state”. However sometimes the US is willing to accept the existence of a particular project if it believes it can in time influence and/or control it.

The Northern and Southern Transoceanic African Routes are Chinese projects which would benefit China.  However they also have the potential to be used by India and other countries to extend their influence in this region as well.  To that end the US sees a benefit in having China foot the bill for these projects, which the US hopes one day to exploit for its own and its allies’ purposes.

Destabilizing With Discretion:

The US is not however blind to the risk that China is constructing trade routes that the US’s allies might eventually become dependent upon. If China retains control of these routes it will give China significant leverage over the US’s allies.

The US accordingly has sought to ‘put the brakes’ on China’s plans – in other words to disrupt these two projects – to the extent that they are only partially completed, so that whilst the US and its allies benefit from the projects, they are not fully realised in a way that will give China predominant influence in Central Africa.

This explains why the US initially focused on destabilising ‘peripheral’ areas situated in the vicinity of these two projects in places such as Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, and the Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”) rather than seek to disrupt them directly at their source in Kenya’s and Tanzania’s coastal regions.

A further factor is that Kenya and Tanzania have traditionally close and longstanding ties with US-ally India, which is Kenya’s second-largest import partner and Tanzania’s top import and export one. Destabilising Kenya and Tanzania would also disrupt India’s “Cotton Route” counter to China’s New Silk Road (though recent events in Kenya suggest the US might be willing to risk even that).

Burundi, Rwanda, and Malawi:

A glance at the situation of the four ‘peripheral’ countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and the Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”) – appears to confirm a pattern of destabilisation attempts directed at preventing the expansion of the two Transoceanic African Routes.

I have previously discussed the Western-concocted unrest in Burundi in an earlier article I wrote for Oriental Review entitled “EU To Burundi: Regime Change Trumps Anti-Terror Help”.  In that article I explained that behind the unrest was – at least in part – a scheme to spark a regional conflagration that would inevitably have sucked in Rwanda and which would have led to the use of “Weapons Of Mass Migration” spilling across the region into Uganda and Tanzania.  Such a conflagration would also undoubtedly have had – and was intended to have – a profoundly aggravating effect on the already existing low-intensity conflicts in the Congo’s two provinces of Ituri and North & South Kivu.

The effect of such a region wide destabilisation of the territories around East Africa’s Great Lakes would have been to disrupt the development of China’s Transoceanic African Routes in the area of the East African Community and to prevent their linkage to the Atlantic.

Malawi was the target of a planned destabilisation attempt of a different sort, being the target of a planned coup organised by the US and Germany.  This was only averted at the last moment as a result of a series of high-profile arrests which predictably were Western-condemned. The plan was to use the coup appointed government to foment regional tension,  triggering a civil war between the northern and southern parts of the country.  That would in turn have unleashed “Weapons of Mass Migration” into Tanzania. 

Conceivably this scheme was conceived in combination with the unrest in Burundi with the objective of making the extension of TAZARA railway unviable.

The Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”):

The US has been seeking to disrupt development of the second access/terminal point of the Northern Transoceanic African Route by disabling the Congo-Ocean Railway between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.

Analyst Gearoid O’Colmain has done an excellent job raising awareness about the incipient Color Revolution that the US tried unsuccessfully to foster in the Republic of Congo in pursuit of this objective.  Details of the plot can be found in his writing.  Briefly, the US and France (the latter the Republic of Congo’s former colonial master) sought to foment unrest in the Republic of Congo in order to trigger a return to the country’s 1990s-era civil war.

This scheme was eventually thwarted by the Republic of Congo government.  However whilst it was underway the Western aligned media spent months presenting the Republic of the Congo as Africa’s latest conflict hotspot. 

The strategic objective was not just to replace President Nguesso with a pliant Western puppet.  It was to drive Chinese influence out of the country and to render it impossible for China to use the Republic of Congo’s territory as a complementary alternative to the Kinshasa-Matadi railway for the Northern Transoceanic African Route.

If the plot had succeeded the whole Northern Transoceanic African Route would have become completely dependent on the maintenance of stability in Kinshasa.  Given the long history of instability in the Congo and in Kinshasa and the strong potential for a Western inspired Colour Revolution there, that would have reduced the prospects of the whole project dramatically.

Assessing The Plots:

An objective assessment of the various plots discussed in the previous section would conclude (1) that they were an attempt by the US to sabotage the two Transoceanic African Routes through conflict instigation in Burundi, Malawi, and the Republic of the Congo and (2) that the attempt failed.

The residents of Bujumbura – Burundi’s capital – proved resistant to the temptations to return their country to a state of genocidal civil war. The vigilance of the authorities in Malawi meant that the planned coup there was stopped in its tracks.  Finally, the government of the Republic of the Congo managed to crush the planned Colour Revolution there, forestalling the return of Hybrid War to their country.

The result of the failure of all these plots is that the Northern Transoceanic African Route’s second terminus/access point in the Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”) remains open.

This gives China a much-needed alternative to Matadi in case a crisis in Kinshasa ever arises.

The Third Congo Crisis

US failures in the peripheral states of Burundi. Malawi and the Republic of the Congo (“Congo Brazzaville”) have focused attention on the Congo itself.  In order to contain the development of China’s Transoceanic African Routes, it seems as though Washington is now intent on destabilising the Congo – Africa’s geopolitical heartland.

Successfully doing so would for Washington serve various objectives.  First it would sabotage China’s two great transcontinental route projects.  Secondly, the renewal of conflict in the Congo would jeopardise China’s cobalt trade, defeating Beijing’s plan to make China the world’s leader in electric battery technology.

The trigger for renewed conflict in the Congo is President Kabila’s presumed desire to continue ruling the country after his mandate expires at the end of the year.

This is very similar to what was attempted in Burundi where the trigger for last year’s protests was President Pierre Nkurunzina’s intention to stand for a further term.  This makes it possible that last year’s crisis in Burundi was a test run for what is being planned for the Congo.

Congo has already been the epicentre of two other globally reported crises.  The first was the First Congo Crisis from 1960-1965.  The second was the Second Congo Crisis from 1996-2003.  With Congo on the verge of yet another crisis, which has the potential to descend into renewed civil war, a Third Congo Crisis may be pending.  The origins of this crisis are the US’s attempts to “contain” China in Africa.

Colour Revolution In Kinshasa:

Assuming the US plans a Hybrid War scenario for the Congo if Kabila tries to hang on, either by delaying upcoming elections or amending the constitution, the Third Congo Crisis could ‘naturally’ begin with a Colour Revolution in Kinshasa.  There has already been a pattern of  provocations recently that might be preparing the ground for such a scenario in Kinshasa and Goma.  The objective is to install a pro-Western or Western-friendly leader who would give the US indirect control over China’s cobalt trade and influence over China’s planned Transoceanic African Route projects.

The individual envisioned for this role is former Katanga governor and millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi.

The Congolese authorities last month charged Katumbi with hiring mercenaries (including ‘former’ US soldiers).  Katumbi subsequently fled to South Africa and thence to London for “medical treatment”.  It is likely that whilst in London he will lobby hard for Western backing, presenting himself as a “democratic leader” who is being “politically harassed” by a “dictatorship”. 

Whilst abroad Katumbi will undoubtedly forge closer contacts with Western intelligence agencies, as well as the secret services of allied African “partners”, in order to prepare the planned Colour Revolution aimed at bringing down President Joseph Kabila’s government.

Cutting Katanga Out Of The Congo:

Should the plan for a Colour Revolution in the Congo fail, there is also a possible “Plan B”.  This is to revive Katanga’s historic claim to secession from the Congo.  Katumbi could return to lead an insurgency in Katanga backed by an army of foreign mercenaries.

This would be a repeat of the mechanism used by the US and Belgium during the First Congo Crisis in the weeks immediately following the country’s 1960 independence to destabilise the leftist Congolese government of Patrice Lumumba.  On that occasion that was done by engineering a secessionist rebellion in Katanga under the leadership of Moise Tshombe.  The key difference on this occasion is that a major non-Western country – China – now has very important mining investments in the four southeastern provinces that used to comprise this formerly unified area of Katanga.

An independent Katanga might not impede China’s cobalt trade or its two Southern Transoceanic African Routes.  The decision whether or not to cooperate with China would rest with whatever independent Katanga government was formed.  On the assumption that it would be led by Katumbi the decision would be his.

However an attempt by Katanga to secede would certainly provoke another war.  That in itself would cause massive disruption, disrupting China’s cobalt trade and obstructing work on its Transoceanic African Route projects. The situation might be similar to what happened in Libya in 2011 when the outbreak of war caused the mass evacuation of Chinese citizens and China’s abandonment of its capital projects.

Of course in such a scenario there is also the possibility that – unlike in Libya – China might act to defend its interests.  Whilst this would be a major break with China’s normally passive policy, China’s newly promulgated African policy might encourage China to a policy of “Leading From Behind” – assisting the Congolese Armed Forces, and possibly their regional allies as well by providing material, intelligence, and advisory support.

China must certainly be aware that if a Katumbi-led  secessionist movement were to succeed in establishing a pro-Western “independent” Katanga, then there would be a serious risk that Chinese companies would eventually be expelled from the country on any of various pretexts – such as that China supported Katumbi’s – and therefore Katanga’s – “enemies” in Kinshasa.

One way or the other, a revival of the Katanga separatist campaign has the potential to be as destabilising to this part of Africa as the rise of Daesh has been in the Middle East.

Great Lakes, Greater Conflicts:

Another potential fault line is the eastern Congo. This has historically been the most unstable part of the country.  It was here that the Second Congo Crisis (essentially a series of back-to-back civil and international wars) had it roots.

There are unresolved situations in Ituri and North & South Kivu Provinces.  All these territories have the potential to burst again into civil war.  A major destabilising factor in this area is the presence of dozens of Rwandan and Ugandan militias, some pro- and some anti- government, including Islamist militias and what are called “Allied Democratic Forces”.

The $24 trillion of untapped minerals in this region – sometimes called the eastern Great Lakes Region – have been taken hostage by these militias and by corrupt elements within the government.

This is the area that produces many of what are subsequently branded “conflict minerals” – a fact that limits their sale by making them ethically undesirable despite their irreplaceable role in modern-day cell phone technology

The tremendous mineral wealth of the eastern Congo makes it one of the most geostrategically important regions of the world.  Instability there directly impacts on global mineral and technology markets.

Nowadays a sort of cold peace is in place there with foreign customers buying access to the region’s resources either from the Ugandan and Rwandan state sponsors of some of the local militias, or from the Congolese government, or informally work through rebel intermediaries and corrupt officials.

However, should the region slide back into violence – which is very possible – this would not only disrupt trade flows.  It could also potentially create a situation where one actor might gain control of all the region’s colossal mineral wealth.  This would give that actor a massively preponderant position in the globally vital cell phone technology market.

For the time being the existing de-facto division of the region between Ugandan, Rwandan, and Congolese government-affiliated militias and ‘rogue’ non-state actors has created a sort of uneasy balance of economic-military forces.  This has prevented any one actor from gaining dominance.  However should Kinshasa ever regain full control over the Congo’s eastern territories, then – provided Kinshasa properly leveraged the advantages accruing from this mineral wealth and managed that wealth properly – the Congo could quickly rise to become Africa’s dominant continental power.

Due to the magnitude of what is at stake in geostrategic and economic terms, a renewal of conflict in the African Great Lakes Region easily has the potential to become a global crisis.   This would be particularly the case if such a conflict were sparked by the unfolding of a regime change scenario in the Congo.

The US has a range of reasons for wanting this to happen.  These include (1) disrupting the existing mineral flow out of the Congo, thereby weakening China’s industrial capacity and (2) gaining control of this mineral rich area in a way that consolidates its hegemonic control in Central Africa and its dominant position in the high technology and cell phone communications industries.

The US would of course experience considerable ‘collateral damage’ in the event of the Congo’s third possible collapse since independence.  It might however calculate – however cynically – that it has more to gain than it has to lose, especially if it views such a conflict purely in the context of its global duel with China.

Concluding Thoughts

China is pulling off big moves in the Congo: the Northern Transoceanic African Route megaprojects, the Inga 3 Dam and the purchase of the Tenke cobalt mine.

These initiatives complement each other.  They make the Congo potentially one of China’s top international partners. 

These three projects in what is Africa’s continental heartland provide China with a strong foundation for projecting multipolar influence throughout the rest of Africa.  Potentially this could allow China to reshape this area of Africa, transforming the Congo – historically one of the weakest states in Africa – within a generation into a stable beacon of prosperity.

However the Congo still has a long way to go before this comes anywhere close to happening.  It is precisely during this developmental period that the Congo is most vulnerable to US Hybrid War schemes.

The leadership transition planned for the end of this year might be indefinitely delayed or avoided if President Kabila succeeds in amending the constitution to run for a third term. The US is however already exploiting this situation to prepare for a Colour Revolution in the Congo.  Should that fail the US could look to other options even though their potential for disruption is vast.  One would be to use former Katanga governor Moise Katumbi to reignite Katanga’s historic separatist campaign in a repeat of what happened in the First Congo Crisis of the 1960s. Another, occurring either in parallel or independently of any crisis in Katanga, would be to reignite conflict in the Congo’s eastern provinces of Ituri and North & South Kivu in a way that would resemble what happened at the start of the Second Congo Crisis of the 1990s.

The worst-case scenario would be for both conflicts to merge into a single all-encompassing conflict involving the whole Congo. The resulting chaos of what would then be the Third Congo Crisis would dwarf that of its two predecessors.

Needless to say such a disaster would risk internationalising the conflict, ushering in what would in effect be Africa’s “Second World War”.  That would totally upend China’s continental strategy. China’s Northern and Southern Transoceanic African Routes would be dead in their tracks, and Kinshasa would have a lot more urgent things to worry about than construction of the Inga 3 Dam.  As for Katanga, whether mired in war or reunited as a nominally independent pro-Western state, it would cease to be a reliable cobalt supplier to China.  

An untold amount of human suffering and misery would accompany any large-scale outbreak of violence in the Congo.  However from a US grand strategic perspective, it might all be worth if it succeeds in “containing” China. 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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America’s Militarized Economy

At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule.

Eric Zuesse

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Authored by Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Unz Review:


Donald Trump’s biggest success, thus far into his Presidency, has been his sale of $400 billion (originally $350 billion) of U.S.-made weapons to the Saudi Arabian Government, which is owned by its royal family, after whom that nation is named. This sale alone is big enough to be called Trump’s “jobs plan” for Americans. It is also the biggest weapons-sale in all of history. It’s 400 billion dollars, not 400 million dollars; it is gigantic, and, by far, unprecedented in world-history.

The weapons that the Sauds and their friends, the 7 monarchies that constitute the United Arab Emirates, are using right now, in order to conquer and subdue Yemen, are almost entirely made in America. That’s terrific business for America. Not only are Americans employed, in strategically important congressional districts (that is, politically important congressional districts), to manufacture this equipment for mass-murdering in foreign lands that never threatened (much less invaded) America, but the countries that purchase this equipment are thereby made dependent upon the services of those American manufacturers, and of the taxpayer-funded U.S. ‘Defense’ Department and its private military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, to maintain this equipment, and to train the local military enforcers, on how to operate these weapons. Consequently, foreign customers of U.S. military firms are buying not only U.S. weapons, but the U.S. Government’s protection — the protection by the U.S. military, of those monarchs. They are buying the label of being an “American ally” so that the U.S. news media can say that this is in defense of American allies (regardless of whether it’s even that). American weapons are way overpriced for what they can do, but they are a bargain for what they can extract out of America’s taxpayers, who fund the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department and thus fund the protection of those monarchs: these kings and other dictators get U.S. taxpayers to fund their protection. It’s an international protection-racket funded by American taxpayers and those rulers, in order to protect those rulers; and the victims aren’t only the people who get slaughtered in countries such as Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Libya, and Syria, and Yemen, and Palestine, but also (though only financially) are the American public, who get fleeced by it — the American public provide the bulk of the real funding for this operation to expand the lands where America’s allies rule, and so to serve both America’s aristocracy and the aristocracies that are America’s allies.

This is how today’s America enforces its ‘democracy’ around the world, so that America can spread this ‘democracy’, at gunpoint, and at bomb-point, like America’s allies, those Kings and Emirs, and the apartheid regime in Israel, are doing, to the people whom they kill and conquer, with help from the taxpayer-funded American military — funded to protect those aristocrats, against their respective publics, and to further enrich America’s own aristocrats, at the expense of America’s own public.

The global ‘aggressor’ has been identified by America’s previous President, Barack Obama, who won office like Trump did, by promising ‘a reset’ in relations with post-communist Russia, and by mocking Obama’s opponent (Mitt Romney) for having called Russia “the number one geopolitical foe” — which America’s aristocracy has historically considered Russia to be, ever since the aristocracy in Russia fled and were killed in 1917, which caused America’s and other aristocracies to fear and hate Russia and Russians, for having ousted its aristocracy, this being an act that aristocrats everywhere are determined to avenge, regardless of ‘ideology’. (Similarly, America and its pro-aristocracy foreign allies, seek to avenge Iran’s 1979 overthrow of the Shah.) As Obama’s own actions during his subsequent Presidency made clear, and as he already had started in 2011 (if not from day one of his Presidency) secretly to implement, he privately agreed with what Romney said on that occasion, but he was intelligent enough (which his opponent obviously was not) to recognize that the American public, at that time, did not agree with it but instead believed that Islamic terrorists and aristocrats such as the Sauds who finance them are that); and Obama took full advantage of his opponent’s blunder there, which helped Obama to win a second term in the White House (after having skillfully hidden from the public during his first term, his intention to weaken Russia by eliminating leaders who were friends or even allies of Russia, such as in Syria, and Ukraine).

This is American ‘democracy’, after all (rule by deceit, lies), and that’s the reason why, when Russia, in 2014, responded to the U.S. coup in Ukraine (a coup under the cover of anti-corruption demonstrations) which coup was taking over this large country next-door to Russia and thus constituted a deadly threat to Russia’s national security, Obama declared Russia to be the world’s top ‘aggressor’. Obama overthrew Ukraine and then damned Russia’s leader Putin for responding to Obama’s aggressive threat against Russia from this coup in neighboring Ukraine. Russia was supposedly the ‘aggressor’ because it allowed the residents of Crimea — which had been part of Russia until the Soviet dictator in 1954 had arbitrarily handed Crimea to Ukraine — to become Russian citizens again, Russians like 90% of them felt they still were, despite Khrushchev’s transfer of them to Ukraine in 1954. The vast majority of Crimeans felt themselves still to be Russians. But Obama and allies of the U.S. Government insisted that the newly installed Government of Ukraine must rule those people; those people must not be permitted to rule (or be ruled) by people they’ve participated in choosing.

Ever since at least 2011, the U.S. Government was planning to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected Government; and the plan started being put into action by no later than 1 March 2013 inside America’s Ukrainian Embassy. In preparation for this planned coup (“the most blatant coup in history”), a poll of Crimeans was funded by the International Republican Institute and USAID, in which Gallup scientifically sampled Crimeans during 16-30 May 2013, six months prior to the forced rejection on 20 November 2013 of EU membership by Ukraine’s democratically elected government — that’s six months prior to the Ukrainian Government’s rejection that Obama’s team were intending to use as being the pretext for the anti-Government demonstrations, which would start on Kiev’s Maidan Square the day after this forced rejection, on November 21st. The poll of Crimeans (which was made public on 7 October 2013) found (here are highlights):

p.14:
“If Ukraine was able to enter only one international economic union, which entity should it be with?”
53% “Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”
17% “The European Union”

p.15:
“How would you evaluate your attitude to the following entities?”
“Russia”:  68% “Warm”;  5% “Cold”
“USA”:  6% “Warm”;  24% “Cold”

p.17:
“In your opinion, what should the status of Crimea be?”
“Autonomy in Ukraine (as today [under Crimea’s 1992 Constitution and as subsequently celebrated by RFE/RL on 20 January 2011)”:  53%.
“Common oblast of Ukraine [ruled under Ukraine’s 1991 Constitution]”:  2%.
“Crimea should be separated and given to Russia”:  23%.

In other words: prior to the U.S. State Department and CIA operation to steal Ukraine’s government from Ukraine’s citizens — including especially from the residents of the sole autonomously governed region in Ukraine, which was Crimea — 53% of Crimeans wanted continued autonomy, 23% wanted not only a total break away from the Ukrainian Government but their becoming again citizens of Russia, such as had existed until 1954; and only 2% wanted restoration of the situation in 1991 when Crimea was briefly a “common oblast” or regular region within Ukraine, a federal state within Ukraine just like all the other states within Ukraine were. And, obviously, after America’s coup in Ukraine, the percentage who wanted a total break away from Ukraine rose even higher than it had been before.

Consequently, the U.S. demand that the newly imposed Ukrainian regime, which Obama’s coup created, made upon Crimea subsequent to the coup, and which demand both Obama and his successor Trump insist must be imposed upon and obeyed by Crimeans if the anti-Russia sanctions are even possibly to end, is the demand that Crimeans, in that May 2013 poll, even prior to the bloody Obama coup and the takeover of Ukraine by rabidly anti-Crimean Ukrainian nazishad supported by only 2% (it was demanding reimposition of the brief 1991 Ukrainian relationship, which Crimeans had rejected in 1991), as compared to the 53% of Crimeans who favored continuation of Crimean “autonomy,” and the 23% who favored becoming Russians again.

Furthermore, the May 2013 poll showed that only 17% of Crimeans favored becoming part of the EU, whereas 53% preferred to be part of the “Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”; so, clearly, Crimeans, prior to the democratically elected Ukrainian Government’s having declined the EU’s offer, overwhelmingly wanted Ukraine’s democratically elected Government to do precisely what it did — to turn down the EU’s offer.

During the U.S. coup, and immediately after it, until the 16 March 2014 Crimean referendum on what to do about it, Crimeans saw and heard on television and via the other Ukrainian media, reports that could only have terrified them about the new Government’s intentions. Clearly the U.S. regime had no objection to placing nazis in charge, and Crimeans are intensely anti-nazi — not only anti-Nazi during Hitler’s time, but against nazism, the racist-fascist ideology, itself, regardless of which group it’s targeting; but, in their case, it targets Crimeans, and, more broadly, Russians.

A January 2015 poll of Crimeans was financed by the U.S.-allied Canadian Government, and never made public by them but released in early February only on an obscure site of the polling organization and never reported to the public in the Western press, and this poll found (probably to the sponsors’ enormous disappointment) that 93% of respondents did “endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea” and 4% did not. On 16 March 2015, the U.S. State Department issued a statement: “On this one year anniversary of the sham ‘referendum’ in Crimea, held in clear violation of Ukrainian law and the Ukrainian constitution, the United States reiterates its condemnation of a vote that was not voluntary, transparent, or democratic.” No evidence was provided for any of that assertion, simply the allegation. Four days later, the far more honest Kenneth Rapoza at Forbes headlined “One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea,” and he opened:

The U.S and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are. One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there — be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tatars are mostly all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.

Little has changed over the last 12 months. Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit.  At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule.

The U.S. and its allies have a different idea than that. They reject Rapoza’s view.

The United States claims to support ‘democracy’. But it demands imposition upon Crimeans of a rabidly anti-Crimean Government. What kind of ‘democracy’ does the United States actually support? Has the U.S. Government answered that question in Crimea — and, in Ukraine — by its actionsthere? Obama supported this kind of ‘democracy’, and this kind. He wanted this kind of treatment of Crimeans. Trump hasn’t yet made clear whether he does, too; but his official representatives have made clear that they do.

America has a militarized economy. It also currently has the very highest percentage of its people in prison out of all of the world’s 222 countries and so certainly qualifies as a police state (which Americans who are lucky enough to be not amongst the lower socio-economic classes might find to be a shocking thing to assert). On top of that, everyone knows that America’s military spending is by far the highest in the world, but many don’t know that it’s the most corrupt and so the U.S. actually spends around half of the entire world’s military budget and that the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department is even so corrupt that it has been unauditable and thus unaudited for decades, and that many U.S. military programs are counted in other federal departments in order to hide from the public how much is actually being spent each year on the military, which is well over a trillion dollars annually, probably more than half of all federal discretionary (which excludes interest on the debt, some of which pays for prior wars) spending. So, it’s a very militarized economy, indeed.

This is today’s American ‘democracy’. Is it also ‘democracy’ in America’s allied countries? (Obviously, they are more democratic than America regarding just the incarceration-rate; but what about generally?) Almost all of those countries continue to say that America is a democracy (despite the proof that it is not), and that they are likewise. Are they correct in both? Are they allied with a ‘democracy’ against democracy? Or, are they, in fact, phonies as democracies? These are serious questions, and bumper-sticker answers to them won’t suffice anymore — not after invading Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2011, and Syria right afterward, and Ukraine in 2014, and Yemen today, etc.

Please send this article along to friends, and ask for their thoughts about this. Because, in any actual democracy, everyone should be discussing these issues, under the prevailing circumstances. Taxpayer-funded mass-slaughter is now routine and goes on year after year. After a few decades of this, shouldn’t people start discussing the matter? Why haven’t they been? Isn’t this the time to start? Or is America so much of a dictatorship that it simply won’t happen? We’ll see.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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