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How will Russia and Iran respond to the US challenge in the Caspian Sea?

As the US intrudes itself into the strategically important Caspian region, how will Russia and Iran respond?

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On May 5 2018 Kazakhstan ratified an agreement with the US for the transit of US military cargo and possibly even troops (under the euphemism of ‘advisors’ or ‘engineers’) to Afghanistan via the Caspian Sea route.

The ostensible reason is that the US’s long established supply lines to Afghanistan via Pakistan are now ‘under threat’.  However, as is often the case nowadays, the reality is rather more complicated.

Just five months before the agreement was reached, in December 2017, purportedly at the instigation of the businessman Anatolie Stati who is involved in a longstanding legal dispute with the Kazakh authorities, the Bank of New York Mellon froze $22.6 billion of funds belonging to Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund.

The May transit agreement between Kazakhstan and the US which followed shows that, as we say in Russia, ‘the subject (in this case Kazakhstan) got the message.’

This little piece of economic pressure shows that what is involved is more than just a logistical arrangement for a war in Afghanistan which the US anyway seems keen – presumably for its own reasons – to perpetuate indefinitely.

The effect of the agreement is that the US now has a presence in the two east Caspian ports of Aktau and Kuryk.  Though this has been done ostensibly in order to transfer US supplies to Afghanistan, in reality it gives the US for the first time a military presence in the Caspian Sea, which until then had been exclusively an ‘inner lake’ of the countries which surround it.

The two Caspian Sea states which are the most affected are Russia and Iran, the two Caspian Sea ‘giants’ which between them account for by far the greater share of the combined GDP of the Caspian Sea littoral states.  Not coincidentally they are the two Caspian Sea littoral states with the worst relations with Washington.

In the case of Russia there is a particular military dimension to the arrival of a US military presence in the Caspian Sea, in that Russia’s Caspian Sea flotilla has launched cruise missile strikes on Jihadi fighters engaged in the war in Syria.

This revelation of the great strategic importance of Russia’s Caspian Sea flotilla has seriously alarmed Washington, and has given the US a particular reason for wanting to establish a military presence in the Caspian Sea, from where it can keep track of Russia’s Caspian Sea flotilla, and potentially even in time pose a challenge to it.

In the case of Iran, a US military presence in the Caspian Sea creates a new potential US military threat to Iran from the north, balancing the US threat to Iran from the south provided by the large US naval presence in the Persian Gulf and the US military bases located there.

So the big question is how will the two ‘Caspian giants’ – Russia and Iran – respond to this challenge?  Will they work together to confront it, as they have worked together successfully to confront the joint challenge they have faced in Syria?

Will they in fact forge a strategic partnership with each other to confront the potential threat in the Caspian Sea that they both now face, possibly along the lines of the partnership which exists between the US and Britain?

I ask this question because the current reality is very different.  So far from Russia and Iran working closely together on anything, the wheels of their cooperation on the contrary are clogged up with bureaucratic mud.

Anyone who has ever tried to make a bank transfer from Russia to Iran will know exactly what I mean.  Moreover if you want to fly to Tehran from say the Urals – perhaps from the Yekaterinburg industrial region — you will find that you have to add a whole day to your journey because you have to transit through Moscow.

It is just as bad on the other side. Tabriz international airport in Iran offers direct flights to Batumi, Tbilisi and Yerevan, but not to Krasnodar, southern Russia’s economic capital with a population of three quarters of a million people, notwithstanding that it should take no more than an hour and a half’s flight to get there.

Last but not the least, whilst there is a trans-Caspian cargo ferryboat between Astrakhan in Russia and Bandar-e Anzali in Iran, did you ever hear of a passenger one?  Hardly, because none exists.

There is an old Russian saying that every problem has its first name, patronymic and surname.  In the case of the total lack of even basic economic coordination between Moscow and Tehran it’s not actually difficult to see what this problem is.

Quite simply, some people in authority in both countries (we won’t say who they are) see their potential Caspian Sea partner as at best an unimportant “second order” friend, and perhaps in some cases even as a potential enemy.

Russia and Iran can – if they have the will – together with their partners form a common market of 250 million people.

That would provide them with the best – perhaps the only – security there is against the sanctions, restrictions, threats and incantations which, regular as clockwork, come from the West’s self-proclaimed guardians of “freedom, democracy and human rights”.

The alternative is to allow the Caspian Sea to become a Sea of Troubles, with the West’s “humanitarian missiles” certain to follow close behind.

With the US now establishing a presence in the Caspian Sea the time for Russia and Iran to start seriously working together is now.

The author is an international correspondent for Russia’s largest circulation newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda

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AM Hants
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AM Hants

I thought the Caspian was off limits, to those who do not border the Sea, owing to keeping it secure?

colum
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colum

[Cough] Cough] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twt2YPXprgo

Go to 1:30 in the vid

tom
Guest
tom

“On May 5 2018 Kazakhstan ratified an agreement with the US for the transit of US military cargo and possibly even troops (under the euphemism of ‘advisors’ or ‘engineers’) to Afghanistan via the Caspian Sea route”.

Why would the Kazakh government do that?

“The ostensible reason is that the US’s long established supply lines to Afghanistan via Pakistan are now ‘under threat’”.

And that is the Kazakh government and people’s problem why?

Methinks I spy money at work again…

tom
Guest
tom

Asian governments need to arrive at a formal understanding that anyone helping the USA to establish military bases – or giving it any potential military help of any kind – on or near the continent of Asia will feel the strong and effective disapproval of all its Asian neighbours.

Just as a householder who encourages armed and murderous drug dealers to enter his street should be told, in no uncertain terms, that either the intruders go – or he goes too.

Andrew Orr
Guest
Andrew Orr

How will Borat respond?

Tommy Jensen
Guest
Tommy Jensen

Guess Israel is making the leverage again. Russia wants to be friends with Israel, thereforethey cant be too close friends with Iran. Thus friendship with Iran become a strategic issue of interests.: Dragging out S-300 deal “to please our Western partners”, dragging out S-300 to Syria which would strenghten Syria-Iran axis “to please our Western partners”, keeping UNSC sanctions against Iran “to please our Western partners”. Iran has to rebalance these Russian interests and try to vector toward China and EU instead. Finally both Russia and Iran are betting and riding on too many horses and their pants crack, because… Read more »

fredd
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fredd

to transfer US supplies to Afghanistan
and how will the US get these supplies in to Kazakhstan?
because it borders into russia and china and is landlocked except the Caspian Sea

wwinsti
Guest
wwinsti

Iran/Russia need to get over their differences fast, if not, you’ll wind up with another US base between both countries, bristling with antennas, listening stations, and probably an X-ban radar. Hate to frame it this way, but 22 billion is a low price to buy out the Kazakhs.

Ugh...
Guest
Ugh...

The cancer spreads

pooi-hoong chan
Guest
pooi-hoong chan

US not only ptactise military terrorism, it also engage in financial terrorism by freezing USD 22 billion of Kazahkstan sovereign wealth fund.

HappyCynic
Guest
HappyCynic

The lesson Kazakhstan learned from this is not to keep US dollars on deposit in the US. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kazakhstan started buying gold. Russia clearly understands this, and doesn’t keep much money in US banks and reduced it’s holdings of US Treasury bills by 50% recently. Russia is also likely to stop keeping money in the EU (look at they way EU countries are trying to cheat Russia – Yukos and Ukraine being prime examples). Gold is a much safer way to store value. Then the question becomes how Russia will get payment for the gas and… Read more »

andyoldlabour
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andyoldlabour

This article is confusing me slightly.
The Caspian is totally landlocked (the only real inlet being the mighty Volga River), a brown water sea/lake.
Kazakhstan is home to the largest and oldest space centre on the planet, the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Russia has a couple of naval bases in the Caspian, which hosts a number of guided missile corvettes/frigates.
I am still confused as to how the US can rock up with military without being challenged?

Nexusfast123
Guest
Nexusfast123

Maybe Russia, Iran and China start to make life in Afghanistan really uncomfortable for the US.

Essene Gnostic
Guest
Essene Gnostic

This is all a Freemasonic charade.

Bessarabyn
Guest
Bessarabyn

Spot on ! Thanks !

normski1
Guest
normski1

As the Caspian Sea is land locked, Russia and Iran have nothing to worry about as the USA cannot station any of it’s war ships in the Caspian Sea. At best, all the USA can do is lease transport ships from a “friendly” country – the Caspian Sea is Russia’s and Iran’s play ground!.

Guy
Guest
Guy

If the banks can freeze funds owned by other nations that easily then every nation in the world should pay special attention to what they are doing investing with Western/US banks.
This is typical modus operendi for the Amerikans .maybe soon they will be begging for foreign investment given the way that the US is alienating everyone with their sanctions and the immanent collapse of the
US $.

Dr. Ronald Cutburth
Guest
Dr. Ronald Cutburth

There ya go again. Russia smashes ISIS from the Caspian sea and makes it the IN place to be. Those that don’t have ships there are simply out of style. Russia will charge them a huge fee to pass through Russian territory to get there. Russia will need to inspect their ships and make them pay the new Tariff in gold. No?

ghifarix@gmail.com
Guest

When a nation /enemy is destined to be destroyed it is always brought closer to its fate……Let the foolish Yankee spread their wings, after time they won’t be in a position to negotiate or escape it’s inevitable demise. How else you’d put down a giant but getting closer to it? In this case let the giant close in, therein lie its fate.

PapaGuns
Guest
PapaGuns

https://eadaily.com/en/news/2018/04/25/kazakhstan-opens-caspian-sea-for-usa

sovereign countries are no longer allowed to make treaties? who knew?

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Europe Has A New Problem: Macron’s “Populism” To Blow Out French Budget Deficit Far Beyond Italy’s

Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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