Caution is advised against getting carried away with assuming Mr Trump’s election will be associated with a standing down of NATO in Eastern Europe. That type of thinking, unfortunately, is either premature (possibly immature), ill-conceived, or both.
Firstly, his inauguration is not until 21st January — that’s another 49 days for the current administration to still have its say (and way). Secondly, the Republican Party, traditionally the more hawkish, will hold sway over both houses. And besides, there are other forces at play in America and the Deep State–and new ones looming–apart from Mr Trump. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. There is an ebb and tide of continual forces and it is the sum of all these forces–not unlike a vector sum–that ultimately gets played out.
But don’t take our word for it. This is what those that matter have said over the course of the last month (give or take two-and-a-half thousand years) … YES IT’S A LITTLE LONG, BUT BEST YOU GET TO SPEED NOW WHILE THE GOING’S STILL RATHER GOOD …
A leaked UN report (published May) entitled “Humanitarian Impact of Syria-Related Unilateral Restrictive Measures” has revealed that the US and EU sanctions against Syria are punishing the population and make aid work in the war-torn country almost impossible, saying that the restrictions were “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” The Intercept is reporting that American restrictions have made money transfers into Syria almost impossible, preventing aid groups from paying salaries and purchasing supplies “in both government and besieged area,” and has forced much aid relief to make use of the unofficial network of money exchange that is actively being used by both ISIS and al-Nusra. The trade restrictions ban export to Syria of goods that contain 10% or more of US-made content. Aid groups are forced to apply for a special license whose granting is heavily restricted by bureaucratic red-tape. Moreover, a leaked UN email lays the blame for food shortages in the country squarely on the US and EU restrictions. It is hardly surprising that, in a war zone, wheat production has dropped by 40% (since 2010) causing the price of flour to rise by 300%. And the price of rice, that’s up by 650%. But it is the US/EU restrictions that are the “principal factor” crippling Syrian health care, according to the UN. Pharmaceutical factories that are still standing have closed because of absence of raw materials and foreign currency, imposed by the sanctions. At odds with this UN report, the US State Department responded to an inquiry from The Intercept with:
US sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people. The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers. He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it.
Yemen doesn’t get nearly as much media coverage as Syria. This is in part because the casualty numbers are far lower (the U.N. estimates there have been 4,000 civilian casualties in the fighting as of the end of September). It is also because generally speaking, Yemen is of no real strategic importance to anyone except for Saudi Arabia. That will quickly change if militants can reliably get their hands on anti-ship missiles and make crossing the Bab el-Mandeb difficult.
Ankara’s military alliance with Moscow is steadily eroding Turkey’s ties with the United States as well as NATO. Matters have gone so far that the two capitals or in advanced discussion of the supply of Russian air defense missiles to the Turkish army. Under discussion is the installation in Turkey of a system of advanced Russian missiles linked to the Russian anti-air missile shield under construction in Syria. Turkey would thus become the first member of NATO to arm itself with a Russian anti-air missile shield.
Putin and Erdogan are moving fast to cash in on President Obama’s repugnance for military intervention in Syria and his waning powers at the tail end of his presidency. Furthermore –
a) Neither is configuring Syrian President Bashar Assad into their calculations. They are going forward with their plans while ignoring him and his drastically diminished army as factors worth consideration.
b) Their objectives are similar and interlocking: Both are intent on developing their respective enclaves in northern Syria, Moscow for a long-term military presence in the country: likewise, Ankara.
The ‘murmuratio’ at the Jesuit Curia in Rome ended with thunderous applause and loud Hispanic cheer as the 36th General Congregation (GC) of the Society of Jesus, on Friday, elected Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal, of the Venezuelan Province, as the 31st superior general of the 476-year-old religious order.
The recent diplomatic row between the Philippines and the United States has come as a shock to U.S. State Department and Pentagon policy wonks but for astute observers of Southeast Asian politics, the decision of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to «pivot» to China and Russia was long in the making. Ever since the so-called «Yellow Revolution» that saw Corazon Aquino replace the Philippines autocratic ruler Ferdinand Marcos, the majority of Filipinos have roiled under one corrupt American-blessed president after another. Duterte, the fiery former mayor of Davao City in Mindanao, has channeled the disgust of many in the Philippines to adopt a hostile attitude in the face of a renewed U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia designed to counter China.
Iraq is not such a place governed by such values. Perhaps it will be one day. But that day is a long way off. Iraq’s history has been bloody and violent. Its population is made up of distinct tribes and religious and ethnic groups, and none have any reason to trust the others. People don’t become more empathetic or more willing to compromise because they have lived through the physical and emotional trauma of war and conflict. The worst part of hate and distrust is how insidious they are, and how they recreate themselves in the people who have been victimized by them. To think Iraq’s myriad factions are about to come together to expel the Islamic State and rule Iraq with love, equality and cooperation is a delusion. It is the very same mistake U.S. strategists made in 2003, when they let themselves believe Iraq was going to become a liberal democracy overnight by virtue of a piece of paper American advisors were going to help them write. The battle for Mosul is beginning. It’s a time for humility, not celebration.
In Moscow, the television broadcasts information on anti-atomic shelters and «assault course» team games, while in Washington, everyone laughs at the paranoid Russians who believe that there may be a Third World War.
Responding to a question from Reuters, Mr. Stoltenberg indicated that NATO would deploy AWACS to improve the Coalition’s view of the sky. … Syrian air-space is legally used only by Syria and Russia, and illegally by the Coalition and Israël. The rebel or terrorist armies have no air force. It seems that NATO intends to test the methods of aerial surveillance which still function despite the deployment of the Russian system for disconnecting the Alliance’s command and control.
With the ink of his own inauguration signature barely dry, the new Black Pope’s thoughts on the president of Venezuela have already been made public. It’s bad news when half your country doesn’t want you, but what is it when the newly-crowned Black Pope, a political scientist by training, thinks you should go? …
Ms Harris quotes a Mr Dupla, a professor and previous teacher of Mr Sosa at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Venezuela:
A fellow Jesuit who has known Fr. Arturo Sosa for more than 50 years has said the newly elected head of the order, while not always explicitly vocal, is critical of the current socialist government in Venezuela pioneered by Hugo Chavez. … Though he didn’t necessarily criticize Chavez publicly, Fr. Sosa wrote a number of articles in the Jesuit-run magazine SIC, in which he criticized the course of government’s measures.
… nuclear weapons and their mission simply do not matter much to post–Cold War American leaders. Nuclear weapons, however, certainly matter to the Russians. Nuclear arms have always been the source of superpower status for both Soviet and Russian leaders. This is especially true today: the Soviet collapse left the Russian Federation a country bereft of the usual indicators of a great power, including conventional military force or the ability to project it. Little wonder that Moscow still relies on its nuclear arsenal as one of the last vestiges of its right to be considered more than merely—in President Obama’s dismissive words—a “regional power.” (Or in the caustic words of Senator John McCain: “A gas station masquerading as a country.”)
This month alone, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States.
Close call: Russia-U.S. ‘near-miss’ problem moves to Syrian air space
It looks like the vaunted air space coordination between the U.S. and Russia in Syria isn’t producing a safe flying environment. … Basically, there are two separate networks exercising command and control over the same air space – and that’s your problem, right there. Add to it the likelihood that the Russians are not squawking IFF in a way that U.S. systems can interpret, and you have the potential for a nice fecal focaccia.
You own stocks for two reasons. You either think the shares will gain value, or they will give you dividend income, or both. Neither will happen unless the company is making money or at least has the plausible hope of making money someday. Earnings reports are important because they tell us whether that’s happening. They’re important for a deeper reason, too. A company’s market value is essentially the present value of its expected future profits. Small changes in that “expected” number can have a kind of domino effect. Public-company executives know this and try to put their best feet forward. Analysts are supposed to see through such maneuvers and discern reality. They issue forecasts about companies, and then each quarter we get to see if the forecasts were right. Somehow this innocent-sounding exercise has evolved into a giant expectations shell game. For the most part, Wall Street doesn’t care if a company’s report is good or bad; it cares whether the results match, beat, or fall below the consensus analyst forecast. A company “wins” the game and earns a higher share price by delivering unexpectedly positive numbers. This creates all sorts of perverse consequences.
For nearly eight centuries, Russia has been trapped in a loose cycle: It rises from chaos, returns as a regional and sometimes even global power, grows aggressive as the system cracks, and then collapses before rising again. Russia’s cycle starts with a catalyst that causes governance to break down and disrupts the social order, leading to collapse. In the 13th century, it was the Mongol invasion; in the 17th century, the Time of Troubles; in the 20th century, the Russian Revolution, fall of the Soviet Union and the 1998 financial crisis. And after collapse comes resurrection. Typically the system that governed during the crisis is transformed into something new — usually with a strong personality at the fore. This figure tends to create a stable system in which Russia can consolidate itself and its borderlands.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is on a tear. In just the last two weeks, he has expressed a desire to separate his country from the United States, declared his intention to kick U.S. military personnel out of the Philippines, and appeared ready to drop territorial sovereignty claims in the South China Sea in return for investment guarantees from Beijing.
There are also numerous statues of Bandera across Ukraine, and since the 2014 coup even street names bearing the same name. Significantly the UPA have now received political rehabilitation from the Kiev Junta, with Bandera declared a hero of the Ukraine and the UPA rebranded as ‘freedom fighters.’ One particularly splendid statue of Bandera stands proudly in Lviv and is usually adorned with flowers. … Present day neo-Nazi groupings in Ukraine – Svoboda (Freedom) party and Right Sector – have been the direct descendants from the prior ideological cesspool.
Fast forward to November 2016, and president-elect Trump has just appointed notorious climate change skeptic Myron Ebell to head up the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. With science deniers such as him in charge of government agencies, there’s likely to be a brain drain from government. Top scientists and environmentalists will not want to work in bureaus and agencies that ultimately report to Trump. This may have damaging consequences for drafting informed policy about a fast-changing Arctic. Even worse, Trump’s desire to tear up methane restrictions that have been proposed for oil and gas producers could speed up global warming, since methane’s impact is 100 times greater than a molecule of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. With the U.S. having overtaken Russia as the world’s biggest producer of gas, one would think we have a responsibility to frack and drill responsibly – but not Trump.
Under the cover of the 2016 election season, the Obama administration has been busy crafting a new Arctic policy that will have significant environmental, economic, and national security ramifications. … There are three apparent objectives this policy. First, the government will seek to adequately protect the Arctic environment, particularly in Alaska. Second, the US will attempt to bolster the economy by taking full advantage of the region’s potential for hydrocarbon development. Third, the US will re-establish itself militarily in the region by placing strategic assets in Alaska.
[T]here are powerful forces in Washington, Moscow and Brussels, such as the NATO military alliance, that seek to exacerbate differences in the national interests between Russia and the West. On the American side, these forces will seek to shape Trump’s sources of information and pressure him to take a harder line against Moscow. Moreover, Trump inherits a lay of the land that will difficult to reshape without risk to his popularity ratings, given the gross exaggeration in the Western media regarding the ‘Russian threat’ and ‘Putin’s plans to recreate the USSR or Russian Empire.’
And who, apart from chavisTA, can argue with the following logic …
A standard Monopoly set comes with 20,580 Monopoly dollars.
The cheapest monopoly set for sale on Amazon retails for $12.99.
One U.S. dollar therefore = 1,584.29 Monopoly dollars.
Conclusion: the bolivar is now worth less than Monopoly money.
Today, we started a major operation to launch massive strikes on Daesh and al-Nusra Front targets in the Idlib and Homs provinces. … The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrying cruiser began taking part in operations for the first time in the history [of] the Russian Navy. Our Su-33 aircraft began working from this cruiser today. Before this, we carried out very careful, thorough reconnaissance of all targets.
As the Russia-West standoff following the EuroMaidan uprising intensifies, the importance of breakaway territories increases. Just as the West has strengthened its political, economic and security cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, Russia has strengthened its presence in the breakaway territories it supports, increasing the pace of its military exercises and providing rebels with more sophisticated weaponry.
During the past several months, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Egypt has become more strained, but neither country can afford to turn its back on the other. Egypt is on a quest for economic allies. In the tumultuous years since former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, Saudi Arabia has been one of Egypt’s primary backers. But the past several months have brought the countries’ differences to light, straining their relationship. In October, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (better known as Saudi Aramco) announced that it would suspend delivery on its petroleum deal with Egypt, likely in an attempt to bring the country back in line. Though the governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are trying to downplay their apparent falling out, Cairo is scrambling to secure its access to fiscal aid and oil from other allies.
For Tehran, preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 10-year agreement struck in 2015 between Iran and six other countries — the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, Germany, France and China — is paramount to continuing its economic revival. The deal is intended to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons by limiting its production of fissile material, whether plutonium or uranium. Iran, in exchange for breaking down portions of its nuclear program and allowing monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure its compliance through regular inspections, receives relief from some of the economic sanctions against it.
The US federal government debt will be slightly north of $20 trillion before Obama leaves office in January. Add in local and state debt of another $3 trillion (plus), for a total of more than $23 trillion of government debt. The US economy will be a few hundred billion dollars under $19 trillion at the end of this year. That is a debt-to-GDP ratio of somewhat over 121%. … That debt has risen roughly $10 trillion under Obama, in just eight years. Last year the debt rose $1.3 trillion, even though we were told that the budget deficit was only around $600 billion.
The Obama administration has given clearance to Western airline manufacturers to sell planes to Iran at the same time the Islamic Republic is using commercial airliners to smuggle weapons and other illicit arms to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Senators, led by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), have been pushing Obama administration officials to explain why they are helping airline manufacturers Boeing and AirBus sell planes to Iran, despite clear evidence that Tehran is using its commercial airline as cover for its continued terrorist operations across the region.
Barack Obama has two faces. After Trump’s victory and Hillary’s defeat, the public Obama has been gracious and diplomatic. His lectures to Trump, directly and indirectly, are couched in praise. He echoed the feeling of millions on both sides when he said, “We are now all rooting for his success”. That’s a lie. Or rather a disguise. Obama and his aides had, in one insider narrative, decided to don the “mask of decorum”. The contempt for Trump still seeps through the mask. And the mask hides Obama’s next big move. President Obama is over. He knows that. There are still some things that he can do before he leaves office, but everything except the most destructive, can be undone by his successor. The next phase of his campaign will not be fought from the White House. It will be fought against the White House .
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi’s secret decision to intervene militarily in the Syrian war on the side of the Syrian President Bashar Assad. … Donald Trump’s election this month as the next US president has already become the catalyst of a major reshuffling of Middle East alliances and stakes. … Some of its rulers, including El-Sisi, see the landscape changing and may be gambling on Trump reaching a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin for joint military operations in Syria against the Islamic State and other Islamic terror groups, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front. The new bandwagon about to roll appears to favor Bashar Assad and his army. … There are grounds to speculate now that the deployment of Egyptian aviators to Syria may be one more product of the secret inter-power diplomacy swirling in recent weeks over Syria’s bloody and intractable five-year war.
Of course, they [Iran] have done much worse than that, and they’re engaging in this brinkmanship because we’ve let them get away with it. From the extraordinarily dangerous rocket launches they conducted next to the Strait of Hormuz transit corridor in December, to the armed seizure of U.S. patrol boats in January (an act of war), to making provocative attack-profile runs at U.S. warships in August and September and providing the missiles launched at destroyer USS Mason off Yemen in October, Iran has been on a career of extremely bellicose provocation for nearly a year. If we’re lucky – if God is looking out for us – we’ll get to 20 January without one of these incidents spiraling out of control.
On the third anniversary in November 2016 of the beginning of the Maidan revolt, Poroshenko gave Dmitry Yarosh the coveted state award, the Bogdan Khmelnitskiy Medal III, for his service in the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation conducted against Donbass rebels and civilians. … Yarosh is the former and founding leader of the neofascist party ‘Praviy Sektor’ (Right Sector or RS).
Libyan Gen Khalifa Hafter arrived in Moscow Sunday, Nov. 26, with a request for Russian arms and military support for his army. He was welcomed in Moscow, which saw an opening for Russia to gain its first military base in North Africa. … President Vladimir Putin began to envision a second Mediterranean base on the coast of Benghazi, twin to Hmeimim in Syria’s Latakia. This one would accommodate Russian naval as well as air units and be located 700km from Europe. … Egypt and the UAE provide Hafter’s army with air support from Egyptian bases in the Western Desert. It was their leaders who urged him to accept the Russian invitation to Moscow and bid for military assistance.
If the Iranian ships have been crossing the Atlantic, they’ll have to show up in Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Cuba in the next week. Assuming they don’t, we can conclude that Iran’s 44th fleet wasn’t crossing the Atlantic, and probably wasn’t going to.
Caracas – November 30, 2016
Within a few days, Venezuela will lose full membership in MERCOSUR, the regional trade bloc. Barring an unlikely 180-degree turn by either the four founding countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) or the Bolivarian Republic, MERCOSUR will strip the B.R. of V of any voting rights in the organization (it would still have a voice) over its refusal to adopt the group’s legal framework. And neither side is in a mood to back down. The Foreign Ministers of Uruguay and Paraguay agreed that unless Venezuela changes its mind, the decision reached by the four other members back in September will go forward.
Israeli warplanes striking in and around Damascus overnight Tuesday, Nov. 29, with “four long-range Popeye” missiles fired from Lebanese air space on the government-held town of Al-Saboorah, a western suburb of Damascus, near the highway to Beirut. … Syrian army ammunition depot was destroyed in one of the raids, while other strikes hit and damaged a Hizballah arms convoy bound for Lebanon on the Damascus-Beirut Highway. … whatever took place, broke out of the secret overarching understandings on Syria reached provisionally this month between US President elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
1984 – Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah, Various Positions):
Even though it all went wrong/ I’ll stand before the Lord of song/ With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
Messiah was talking specifically about the Pharisees there. But this is no ordinary ditch. When referring to the End Times, this is what He had to say:
At the risk of belabouring a point, there is something frighteningly amiss in the present-day world, and it mostly starts at the top. I have a great fear that (some) leaders, in their complete disdain for scripture and God’s law, are taking mankind along the wide road: the one that leads to destruction.
36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39 Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.
And Mr Duterte, president of the Philippines, has got wind of it. But Venezuela, not so much. She is, I fear, about to go out of the frying pan and into the ecumenical fire.
Beware. Messiah is clear: the narrow gate and the narrow path lead to life.
Pray. Fast and pray. And get under the cover of the shadow of the wings of Almighty. Listen to Yeshua. Persevere, right to the very end. Stay true to the Lord. Enter by the narrow gate and stay on the narrow way. Call out to Him with all your heart, and you WILL be saved.
- Home, Nada Elfeituri – Brave New Libya, November 30, 2016
- How the chicken crossed the Red Sea – Ancient Foods, November 29, 2016
- María’s Burden – Caracas Chronicles, November 24, 2016
- Deveselu Base, Romania – Global Security, May 15, 2016
- Human Rights Watch Explains Venezuela to the Pope (and Cardinal Tscherrig) – Caracas Chronicles
- Russia’s Strategic Calculus: Threat Perceptions and Military Doctrine, Dmitry Gorenburg – Russian Military Reform, November 15, 2016
- Mosul’s murky maze ~ Walking the line between Iraqi liberation and American political theater – The Real Syrian Free Press, October 26, 2016
- Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier [and naval task force] Begins Combat Operations in Syria – the Real Syrian Free Press, November 15, 2016
- Impeach Obama to avoid rush to war before Trump inauguration – the Real Syrian Free Press, November 15, 2016
- Monopoly Money, Francisco Toro – Caracas Chronicles, November 14, 2016
- Under Duterte, is the Philippines undergoing Finlandization? John R. Deni writes about alliances and international relations for the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times.
- ‘White Pope’, ‘Black Pope’: both Latinos, both Jesuits! – Times of India
- When it comes to Venezuela, new Jesuit head ‘critical’ of Maduro regime, Elise Harris – Catholic News Agency, October 21, 2016.
- Venezuela’s Arturo Sosa Becomes First Non-European “Black Pope” – Head of the Jesuits – Latin American Herald Tribune, October 27, 2016.
- NATO Pushing For “Biggest Military Build-Up On Russia’s Borders Since the Cold War – Ya Libnan, October 27, 2016.
- The U.S. Is Still Manipulating the United Nations after 70 Years, Marjorie Cohn – Global Research, November 17, 2015.
- Trump’s election a cold reality check for the Arctic, Mia Bennett – Cryopolitics, November 9, 2016 .
- President Trump and U.S.-Russian Relations – Russian and Eurasian Politics Gordon M. Hahn. November 11, 2016.
- My Friend Leonard Cohen: Darkness and Praise, November 14, 2016.
Lake at dusk in November [Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com]