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The Killing of Saudi Journalist Khashoggi Could Spell the End for Mohammad bin Salman

The death of famous journalist Saudita Jamal Khashoggi is likely to have important repercussions, revealing the hypocrisy of the mainstream media, tensions inside the Saudi regime, and the double standards of Western countries.

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On October 2nd, 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly killed inside Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Turkey. The sequence of events seems to show that the murder was premeditated. Two days before his death, Khashoggi went to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to obtain documents pertaining to his divorce in preparation to remarry in the United States.

The Saudi embassy instructed him to return on October 2nd to collect the documents, which he duly did. He entered the embassy around 1pm on October 2nd but never exited. Khashoggi’s fiancée, after waiting several hours, raised the alarm as Khashoggi had instructed her to do should he not reemerge after two hours.

It is from here that we should start to reconstruct this story that resembles a science-fiction novel even by Saudi standards, a country that does not hesitate to kidnap heads of state, as was the case with the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, about a year ago.

Jamal Khashoggi is a controversial figure, a representative of the shadowy world of collaboration that sometimes exists between journalism and the intelligence agencies, in this case involving the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia and the United States.

It has been virtually confirmed by official circles within the Al Saud family that Khashoggi was an agent in the employ of Riyadh and the CIA during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

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From 1991 to 1999, he continued to serve in several countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan, Kuwait and other parts of the Middle East, often maintaining an ambiguous role in the service of his friend Turki Faisal Al-Saud, the future Saudi ambassador to Washington and London and later supreme head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years.

Khashoggi was named editor of the leading English-language magazine in Saudi Arabia, Arab News, from 1999 to 2003. In late 2003, he transferred to Al Watan, one of the most liberal, Western and pro-reform newspapers in the country.

His job lasted only 52 days, with him being removed strongly criticizing the Wahhabi clerical extremist Ibn Taymiyyah. Khashoggi had turned into a critical voice of the Saudi regime following the internal struggles between King Abdullah and Turki Faisal Al-Saud.

One of the main criticisms of Khashoggi coming from factions loyal to Abdullah was that he had recruited and paid several journalists on behalf of the CIA during his time as an editor. Such an accusation would conform with the widespread practice of the CIA seeking to influence the media, and therefore public opinion, and to put pressure on leaders failing to do what Washington wants.

To fully understand what has led to the disappearance of Khashoggi, it is important to dissect the career of Turki bin Faisal Al-Saud, Khashoggi’s political protector.

During the reign of King Khalid (1975-1982), Turki bin Faisal Al-Saud was at the center of relations between Washington and Saudi Arabia, committed to inflicting as much damage as possible on the USSR while it was in Afghanistan, with the help of foreign fighters (those who later became known as Al Qaeda) armed by Pakistan and financed by the Saudis. Following the end of the war in Afghanistan in 1982, Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became king until 2005.

During this period, Faisal became a respected man within Saudi intelligence, leading to him becoming the undisputed leader. He was removed from his post on May 24, 2001, a few months before September 11, 2001. The connections he had with Osama bin Laden, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, continued to hound the Turki bin Faisal in subsequent years, even being sued by relatives of 9/11 victims in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit directed at him and other Saudi operatives.

From 2003 to 2005, Turki bin Faisal served as ambassador to the UK, emphasizing his role as a leading Saudi in the international community, and came across Khashoggi, taking him under his wing as a personal advisor.

In the ensuing years there was an explosive internal fracture within the Kingdom, accentuated by the death in 2005 of King Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was succeeded by King Abdullah until 2015.

In 2005, Turki bin Faisal was appointed Saudi ambassador to the US during the Bush administration, with Khashoggi accompanying him as a media advisor. During this period, Khashoggi became one of the strongest supporters of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, invoking diplomatic discussions between Riyadh and Tehran and travelling to over 37 American states to explain his point of view.

While advancing the interests of the Saudi regime bent on Wahhabism, while at the same time being a friend to Israeli Zionism and the American neocons, Turki bin Faisal took a less extremist position, one more directed towards dialogue. For these reasons, he was not often received at the White House during his reign as ambassador, with the US administration openly preferring the extremist Bandar bin Sultan (a great friend of the Bush family) to the apparently moderate Turki bin Faisal.

The natural result was that King Abdullah excluded him more and more from the main meetings that occurred between the Saudis and the Americans. Finally, bin Faisal resigned in protest. He was succeeded by Bandar bin Sultan.

Back to Khashoggi. It is important to note that after his departure from Al Watan he moved to London and became a senior advisor in Turki bin Faisal’s team. During Turki bin Faisal’s ambassadorship in Washington, Khashoggi assumed the position of head of press relations, coming into direct contact with major national and international organs of US media.

In the years following Turki bin Faisal’s ambassadorship in Washington, Khashoggi became a new publisher of the liberal Saudi newspaper Al Watan, publishing an article that was highly critical of the Saudi clerics and of Salafism in general. A few days later, he was again forced to resign and left the newspaper. It was after this event that Khashoggi came into direct contact with Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in Saudi Arabia, who had been appointed director of the Al Arab news channel based in Bahrain.

The news channel sought to offer an impartial and objective view of events in the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia. As director of Al Arab, he often released statements and interviews for international organs like the BBC, ABC News, Al Jazeera and Dubai TV. In recent years, he became a recurring guest on Al Jazeera and had a weekly column in The Washington Post.

What happened to Khashoggi is the story not so much of a dissident as of a struggle within the highly complicated Zionist-Saudi-Neoconservative nexus that is intertwined with the struggle against the neoliberal component of US imperialism. It is a story that deserves to be fully explored to understand the behind-the-scenes struggles that afflict US politics, the hypocrisy of the media when it comes to the Saudi dictatorship, and the ambiguous role of Turkey.

Returning to Khashoggi, it was during the Obama presidency that the journalist played a primary role in encouraging important reforms in Saudi Arabia as being essential to the survival of the Kingdom. During this time, relations between Riyadh and Washington steadily worsened for many reasons, primarily in regard to diverging policies on Egypt and Syria as well as on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Many in the Saudi royal family suspected that Obama was willing to use the Arab springs to get rid of the Al Saud family in Saudi Arabia. The relationship between Riyadh and Washington subsequently sunk to an all-time low. Khashoggi was the spearhead of this media and political strategy against Riyadh. An intimate friend of the royal family who ends up publicly criticizing them causes quite a stir, selling copies and drawing attention to what he writes.

Keep in mind that we are splitting the atom of the Saudi universe. But it should never be forgotten that we are talking about a regime that tortures and kills its fellow citizens as well foreigners. It is a regime that creates terrorism as a weapon used to further its own political goals. These are not people burdened by moral scruples.

Yet in spite of this, no country is monolithic in terms of those who hold the reigns of power, especially when it comes to foreign affairs. It is the competing views and internal struggles that determine the course of events, as with the case of Khashoggi’s death.

During the Obama administration, the former Saudi intelligence man and intimate of the royals continued to work as a house organ linked to the US world of soft power (color revolutions, Arab Spring), the form of power that was particularly favored by the Obama administration as a new strategy to extend US imperialist domination following the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The criticism of the Saudi royal family was constant, even though the journalist appreciated the role Riyadh played in the region, especially with regard to the aggression against Syria.

In the following years, with the rise to power of King Salman, and especially after the victory of Donald Trump, everything changed for the worse in the region and for the “dissident” journalist. Bin Salman became the strongman holding power in Saudi Arabia, triggering, with a nod from Trump, a near war with Qatar, especially over the role of Al Jazeera, which often hosted Khashoggi and was increasingly critical of bin Salman and his vision for the Kingdom’s future (Vision 2030).

During bin Salman’s campaign of repression, the King’s nephew took the opportunity to attack all his opponents, with many people close to Khashoggi being arrested, tortured and killed. His old acquaintance in particular, Al-Waleed bin Talal, was arrested and tortured, much to the displeasure of the West, given that he was one of the most famous Saudis abroad, being involved with companies like Twitter.

In a climax of repression, even the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, was kidnapped and spirited to Riyadh to be re-educated over a number of days. Khashoggi sensed the looming danger, and in 2017 escaped from Saudi Arabia to settle in the United States.

Khashoggi continued with his columns criticizing the Saudi regime, attacking its campaign in Yemen on Al Jazeera, and accusing bin Salman of being anything but a positive revolutionary for the Kingdom. Khashoggi’s criticism pointed to the lack of democracy as well as the sclerosis at the top in the Saudi kingdom, accusations that bin Salman chafed at, finally deciding to be rid of the journalist.

The events in Istanbul are the culmination of a grotesque situation whereby Donald Trump has granted a free hand to his two close allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Analyzing the actions of these two countries over the last 24 months, the extent of Washington’s carte blanche has become clear.

We could venture into fanciful speculation about Khashoggi’s death, citing anonymous Saudi sources; or we could simply come to the most obvious conclusion. Khashoggi was arrested in the embassy before being tortured, killed and dismembered by about 15 Saudi operatives who arrived in Istanbul on a day flight from Riyadh and departed a few hours after Khashoggi’s killing. It is hard to believe that the Turkish services, which have always played the double- and triple-crossing game, did not know what was happening.

Khashoggi himself had probably received assurances that the Saudi embassy in Istanbul was a safe place to collect the documents. He was obviously betrayed by someone in whom he had strong trust.

Turkey is a strong ally of Qatar and plays a major role in the region. Relations between Riyadh and Ankara have not been the best in recent years, but their common interests in the region are so high that it is not surprising that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization has closed more than one eye to allow Khashoggi’s assassination and the exit of the 15 operatives.

Besides, Erdogan was well aware of the problems that this story would have created between the United States and Saudi Arabia, especially within the ranks of the liberal media of the US establishment.

The problems flowing from this settling of internal accounts are manifold. They range from the indignation of such mainstream media as The Washington Post, CNN and ABC News that are beginning to reveal grisly details about Khashoggi’s death, even if they treat the news with detachment, not openly attributing blame to Riyadh. Saudi money from various lobbies dampens the effect of such media attention, succeeding in dissuading direct accusations of Saudi involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The more time that passes the more obvious it becomes how Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate on the orders of bin Salman as a critic of the Kingdom. At some point, the mainstream media will no longer be able to cover up for the Saudis. It all comes down to the possibility of plausible deniability or legitimate justification. Both these elements are difficult for the US to employ in this case.

The upshot is an explosive situation that threatens to further isolate Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States from the rest of the world. Thus the White House had to even express in an official note confusion and concern, asking the Saudis to provide real evidence of Khashoggi’s exit from the Saudi consulate. We must also consider that Riyadh planned to blame Turkey for the disappearance of the journalist, stating that, having come out from the embassy, ​​the disappearance was the fault of Turkey.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Erdogan has insisted that “the burden of demonstrating how Khashoggi is still alive belongs to Saudi Arabia.” Even the tour of the consulate offered to foreign journalists has failed to silence what seems too obvious. Riyadh overreached following Trump’s wink and nod, eliminating an uncomfortable voice that was also very close to Riyadh’s geopolitical enemies like Qatar as well the US neoliberal faction (linked to Obama and to the faction close to the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed in Saudi Arabia because it presents itself as a political alternative to the state religion of Wahhabism).

In an series of reckless actions, the last 12 months have seen all sorts of provocations from Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia. There was the downing of a Russian Il-20 through the intentionally reckless maneuvers of Israeli pilots, the more than 200 bombings on the sovereign state of Syria, cooperation with Riyadh in the war in Yemen, the threats to Hezbollah and Iran that Netanyahu even proclaimed in front of the United Nations General Assembly.

Saudi Arabia even managed to do worse, with the abduction of the Lebanese prime minister, the continued funding of extremists like Daesh and al Qaeda, the nefarious actions against Qatar and Iran, the bombing of Yemen, and recently the killing of a journalist in a Saudi embassy. For its part, the US in recent days has made two unthinkable declarations, namely, threatening a first strike against Moscow to eliminate some military weaponry, as well as a naval blockade to prevent energy exports.

With the Khashoggi incident and the ensuing media outcry, the ideological hatred of the mainstream media against Trump and the increasingly precarious situation of Netanyahu (accused of corruption, with his wife also being investigated), it should not be surprising if this latest incident only serves as ammunition in the political war amongst the elite that shows no signs of subsiding and is instead growing in intensity by the day.

One of the last alliances that the United States has available to influence events in the Middle East risks falling apart as a result of bin Salman’s ill-advised actions. Erdogan has already challenged the Saudis by asking them to prove that the journalist is alive. There is open speculation in the Kingdom about the implications of the clash between Ankara and Riyadh and between bin Salman and Erdogan. There are those who are willing to bet that this latest reckless action could prove fatal for the ruler who, after just a year and a half, seems to have exhausted his whole store of experience as the Kingdom’s young despot.

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FlorianGeyerOld DudeYou can call me ALRaymond ComeauTEP Recent comment authors
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thomas malthaus
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I’m beginning to wonder how connected the author is to the nexus?

gra gor
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gra gor

Please explain your cryptic comment.

FlorianGeyer
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FlorianGeyer

The moral decay of Western governments and corporate media is well exampled by the Khashoggi affair.

Whether he is dead or not, the value put on his life and the lives of over one million cholera victims caused by Saudi bombing in Yemen are at opposite ends of the moral spectrum.

Those who profit from their association with Saudi Arabia are no different from those who profit from slavery, organ trafficing and criminal drug sales.

Guy
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Guy

“Those who profit from their association with Saudi Arabia ”
I agree Florian . Accomplices is what they are . For once Canada has chosen to at least chastise the malfeasance of the Saudis .

Smokingeagle
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Smokingeagle

Canada’s “chastisements” are but words. Canada is good at delivering up words in both official languages, but not so much when it comes to following them up with actions. The bottom line is that Canada continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite the tens of thousands of Yemenis being exterminated. One journalist killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey is not going to change arms deals.

“Those who profit from their association with Saudi Arabia”. Is not Canada profiting from arms sales, and doesn’t this make it an accomplice? Be judged by the company you keep, Canada.

Raymond Comeau
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Raymond Comeau

Thank you smokingeagle. You are 100 % correct. Prime Minister Trudeau does what his handlers tell him and hides Canada’s stealth behind a flimsy fig leaf. PM Trudeau would be out in the street after the coming election if we had a decent opposition. Canada, at best, in this day and age is a USA Puppet State Country.

Old Dude
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Old Dude

Absolute Western hypocrisy, compare this to the Skripal affair which saw Russia being blamed and 100 or so Russian diplomats expelled and sanctions placed on Russia within days of the event.

FlorianGeyer
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FlorianGeyer

@ Old Dude, Funnily enough I discussed the same issue with my sister today 🙂 The term ‘Highly Likely ‘ in the Khashoggi affair is almost a certainty after his alleged Apple Watch recording his murder was retrieved from the ‘Apple Cloud ‘. I looked at the BBC News earlier and there were no clarion cries to immediately sanction and punish Saudi Arabia etc. There was another mundane discussion about Brexit though 🙂 In the UK , if a person sells a firearm to an unlicensed criminal there is a ‘highly likely and severe penalty of a long jail term.… Read more »

Vera Gottlieb
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Vera Gottlieb

Do we actually have proof that he no longer is alive? And pretty soon this will have blown over and business-as-usual with Saudi Arabia continues.

Smokingeagle
Guest
Smokingeagle

He instructed his fiancée to raise the alarm if he failed to reemerge from the embassy after two hours. This shows that he was concerned for his safety. He did not emerge from the embassy and make contact with her, so one can assume that either he is dead or else still alive but held prisoner inside the embassy. If Khashoggi were still alive and if he were allowed to make contact with the outside world, surely he would have done so. A lot of ifs, no actual proof, but many probably well-founded suspicions. Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly trustworthy. Ditto… Read more »

Raymond Comeau
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Raymond Comeau

Khashoggi’s involvement with certain “Friends” and his negative writings about Saudi Arabia is probably what led him to his death by the Saudi Regime Gestapo! He was playing with fire and got burned up!

You can call me AL
Guest
You can call me AL

“He instructed his fiancée to raise the alarm if he failed to reemerge from the embassy after two hours.” …… that is handy isn’t it ?.

I am calling false flag to work with other powers in SA, that will not talk back to the US.

JPH
Guest
JPH

Saw Trump already emphasizing that US arm sales to SA amount to 110 billion which implies a whole lot of jobs on the line….so…
Anyway the murder of one journalist will not achieve what thousands of massacred Yemeni failed to achieve.

TEP
Guest
TEP

Best article I have seen on this topic yet, even better than the Moon Of Alabama’s take, who I hold in the highest esteem. Detailed informed analysis, what more could be ask for? 10/10.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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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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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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