The dice have been rolled and it looks like French electors may buck the political narrative
The Decline of the West; the destiny of Western civilization; the unraveling of the EU; the future of democracy itself. All stops are pulled when it comes to how the French presidential elections will shape the geopolitics of a young and turbulent 21st century.
And it’s about to come down to the fate of three men and one woman – not exactly rising to the occasion, rather overwhelmed by it.
The run-up to the first round this coming Sunday turned out to be an immensely entertaining Gallic House of Cards.
On the right, burdened by his massive unpopularity, the conqueror of Libya, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a.k.a. Sarko The First, was eliminated right from the get-go alongside the conservative favorite, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé.
The winner of the right’s primaries was former Prime Minister François Fillon – emblem of provincial Catholic France drenched in uncompromising neoliberalism (low corporate taxes mixed with an assault on social welfare). But just when Fillon seemed to be comfortably cruising towards a second round victory, he was spectacularly derailed back in January by pugnacious satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé; a mysterious source, with devilish timing, took Mr Clean to the cleaners.
The Iranian Parliament just hosted its annual conference on Palestine and, among the dignitaries – that included Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani – and the 700 foreign guests from more than 50 countries was Asia Times columnist Pepe Escobar.
he art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.
The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.
I was in Tehran as one of several hundred foreign guests, including a small group of foreign journalists , guests of the Majlis (Parliament) for an annual conference on the Palestine issue.
Not surprisingly, no one from Trump’s circle was among the gathering of parliamentarians from over 50 nations who attended the impressive opening ceremony in a crowded, round conference hall where the center of power in Iran was on display; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani.
Khamenei proclaimed that “the existing crises in every part of the region and the Islamic ummah deserve attention”, but insisted that the key issue remains Palestine. The conference, he said, could become “a model for all Muslims and regional nations to gradually harness their differences by relying on their common points”.
Khamenei’s was an important call for Muslim unity. Few in the West know that during the rapid decolonization of the 1940s and 50s, the Muslim world was not torn apart by the vicious Sunni-Shi’ite hatred – later fomented by the Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadi axis. The Wahhabi House of Saud, incidentally, was nowhere to be seen at the conference.
Hefty discussions with Iranian analysts and diplomats revolved on the efficacy of multilateral discussions compared to advancing facts on the ground – ranging from the building of new settlements in the West Bank to the now all but dead and buried Oslo two-state myth.
On Palestine, I asked Naim Qassem, deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah about the Trump administration’s hint of a one-state solution. His answer, in French; “One state means war. Two states means peace under their conditions, which will lead us to war.”
As with most conferences, what matters are the sidelines. Leonid Savin, a Russian geopolitical analyst, claimed that Russian airspace is now all but sealed with multiple deployments of the S-500 missile defense system against anything the US might unleash. Albanian historian Olsi Jazexhi deconstructed the new Balkans powder keg. Muhammad Gul, son of the late, larger-than-life General Hamid Gul, detailed the finer points of Pakistan’s foreign policy and the drive to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pyongyang was also in the house. The North Korean delegate produced an astonishing speech, essentially arguing that Palestine should follow their example, complete with a “credible nuclear deterrent”. Later, in the corridors I saluted the delegation, and they saluted back. No chance of a sideline chat though to go over the unclear points surrounding Kim Jong-nam’s assassination.
Blake Archer Williams, a.k.a. Arash Darya-Bandari, whose pseudonym celebrates the “tyger tyger burning bright” English master, gave me a copy of Creedal Foundations of Waliyic Islam (Lion of Najaf Publishers) – an analysis of how Shi’ite theology led to the theory of velayat-e faqih (the ruling of the jurisprudent) that lies at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Every time I’m back in Tehran I’m impressed with the surprising number of open avenues for serious intellectual discussion. I was constantly reminded of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, the son of a mullah born in poor south Tehran who later translated Sartre and Camus and wrote the seminal Westoxification (1962).
He spent the summer of 1965 at Harvard seminars organized by Henry Kissinger and “supported” by the CIA. He pivoted to Shi’ism only toward the end of his life. It was his analysis that paved the way for sociologist Ali Shariati to cross-pollinate anti-colonialism with the Shi’ite concept of resistance against injustice and produce a revolutionary ideology capable of politicizing the Iranian middle classes, leading to the Islamic Revolution.
That was the background for serious discussions on how Iran (resistance against injustice), China (remixed Confucianism) and Russia (Eurasianism) are offering post-Enlightenment alternatives that transcend Western liberal democracy.
But in the end it was all inevitably down to the overarching anti-intellectual ghost in the room; Donald Trump (and that was even before he got a letter from Ahmadinejad).
So I did what I usually do before leaving Tehran; I hit the bazaar, via a fabulous attached mosque – to get reacquainted with the art of the deal, the Persian way.
That led me to Mahmoud Asgari, lodged in the Sameyi passage of the Tajrish bazaar and a serious discussion on the finer points of pre-WWI Sistan-Baluchistan tribal rugs from Zahedan. The end result was – what else – a win-win sale, bypassing the US dollar. And then, the clincher: “When you call your friend Trump, tell him to come here and I’ll give him the best deal”.
Pepe Escobar wrote his The Roving Eye column for Asia Times from 2000-2015. His books include Globalistan (2007), Red Zone Blues (2007), Obama does Globalistan (2009), Empire of Chaos (2014) and 2030 (2015).
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
Every once in a (long) while a book comes out that rips the zeitgeist, shining on like a crazy diamond. Age of Anger, by Pankaj Mishra, author of the also-seminal From the Ruins of Empire, might as well be the latest avatar.
Think of this book as the ultimate (conceptual) lethal weapon in the hearts and minds of a rootless cosmopolitan Teenage Wasteland striving to find its true call as we slouch through the longest – the Pentagon would say infinite – of world wars; a global civil war (which in my 2007 book Globalistan I called “Liquid War”).
Mishra, a sterling product of East-meets-West, essentially argues it’s impossible to understand the present if we don’t acknowledge the subterranean homesick blues contradicting the ideal of cosmopolitan liberalism — the “universal commercial society of self-interested rational individuals” first conceptualized by the Enlightenment via Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire and Kant.
History’s winner ended up being a sanitized narrative of benevolent Enlightenment. The tradition of rationalism, humanism, universalism and liberal democracy was supposed to have always been the norm. It was “clearly too disconcerting,” Mishra writes, “to acknowledge that totalitarian politics crystallized the ideological currents (scientific racism, jingoistic rationalism, imperalism, technicism, aestheticized politics, utopianism, social engineering)” already convulsing Europe in the late 19th century.
So, evoking T.S. Eliot, to frame “the backward half-look, over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror” that eventually led to The West versus The Rest, we’ve got to look at the precursors.
Smash the Crystal Palace
Enter Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin – “the first of many ‘superflous man’ in Russian fiction,” with his Bolivar hat, clutching a statue of Napoleon and a portrait of Byron, as Russia, trying to catch up with the West, “mass-produced spiritually unmoored youth with a quasi-Byronic conception of freedom, further inflated by German Romanticism.” The best Enlightenment critics had to be Germans and Russians, latecomers to politico-economic modernity.
Two years before publishing the astonishing Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky, in his tour of Western Europe, was already seeing a society dominated by the war of all against all in which most were condemned to be losers.
In London, in 1862, at the International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Dostoyevsky had an illumination (“You become aware of a colossal idea … that here there is victory and triumph. You even begin vaguely to fear something.”) Amid the stupor, Dostoyevsky was also cunning enough to observe how materialist civilization was enhanced as much by its glamor as by military and maritime domination.
On his return to the Asia Times fold, veteran columnist and author Pepe Escobar writes that the West’s Divide and Rule approach to global rivals may no longer cut the ice in an age of New Silk Roads
So, right in the heart of Bali, spellbound after a serious conversation with a dukun — a spiritual master — it struck me: this should be the new Yalta, the perfect setting for a Trump-Xi-Putin summit setting the parameters ahead for the ever-evolving New Great Game in Eurasia.
Balinese culture makes no distinction between the secular and the supernatural — sekala and niskala. Sekala is what our senses may discern. Niskala is what cannot be sensed directly and can only be “suggested”. Massive geopolitical shifts ahead could not be more shrouded in niskala.
Captive to the vertiginous velocity of the here and now, the West still has much to learn from a highly evolved culture that prospered 5,000 years ago along the banks or the river Sindhu — now Indus — in what is currently Pakistan, and then migrated from the Majapahit empire in Java to Bali in the 14th century under the pressure of advancing Islam.
In the Hindu-Balinese conception of cosmic structure, Man is a kind of scale model of the universe. Order is personified by Gods, disorder personified by earth demons. It’s all about dharma and adharma. As for the West, adharma rules, unchecked.
In Hindu-Balinese religious philosophy, for every positive force there is a counterbalance, a destructive force. The two are inseparable — coexisting in dynamic equilibrium. Western dualism is so unsophisticated compared to it.
In the Suthasoma — a great Mahayana Buddhist epic poem composed in central Java at the time when Buddhism was merrily mixing up with Shivaist Hinduism — we find an outstanding verse: Bhineka tunggal ika (“it is different but it is one”).
That also happens to be the motto of Indonesia, emblazoned in its coat of arms, below the golden Garuda mythical bird. It’s a message of unity, like the American e pluribus unum. Now it looks more like a message presaging Eurasian integration via the New Silk Roads; it’s not by accident that Xi Jinping officially launched the Maritime Silk Road in 2013 in Indonesia.
With the Trump era about to begin, our current geopolitical juncture looks and feels like a massive Wayang kulit — a Balinese shadow play.
The historical origin of the shadow play lies most possibly in India, although it has been performed all across Asia. Good and evil coexist in shadow play — but Hinduism seeks to depict the clash as a sort of quirky partnership.
As President Putin, post-Brexit, rushed to discuss all matters pertaining to Eurasia integration with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, I embarked on a connected, parallel southern China journey.
From my base in Hong Kong, I set out on a Pearl River Delta loop, hitting Shenzhen and Dongguan and then Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Macau.
Why? Because this unprecedented, interconnected story of breakneck urbanization, technological innovation and post-modern megacity sprawl showcases no less than the future dreamed up by the collective leadership in Beijing. And it doesn’t hurt that southern China is the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road.
I was very privileged to visit Shenzhen and Guangzhou only a few days after the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping, then 88, embarked on his legendary six-week “southern tour” in January-February 1992. His target at the time was to turbo-charge the “get rich is glorious” Chinese manufacturing miracle, still in its infancy.
In the early 1990s, agriculture, mining and fishing were responsible for 27 percent of the Chinese economy, while manufacturing and construction accounted for 40 percent, and services for 30 percent, according to Hong Kong banking sources. At the start of the 2010s, agriculture was already down to only 10 percent, with manufacturing at 46 percent and services at 44 percent. A generation of business leaders often referred to as the “Gang of 92” – when many of them started – were imprinting their mark on a new China.
Now the Pearl River Delta – China’s number one hub of labor-intensive manufacturing – is in the process of replacing workers with robots on a large scale, a further sign that China is about to take off technologically, big time. And that’s all part of a “Made in China 2025” strategy announced only two months ago by Beijing, centered on relentless innovation – and commercialization. The China 2.0 new industrial revolution is a go – with a bang.
The megacity confederation
China today, on the ground, looks and feels like a confederation of megacities fiercely competing with each other for everything; investment (internal and foreign), industries, tech talent, global visibility. Beijing does support provinces and regions – much as the Song dynasty did – but up to a point. China, de facto, is already federalized. It’s up to each province to determine its own economic strategy.
That’s a long and winding road since the 1960s – when China was under the yoke of the Cultural Revolution (to seize the seismic shift, check out The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History 1962-1976, by University of Hong Kong professor Frank Dikotter, based on previously classified party documents). It’s also enlightening to compare it with the fact that the UN, during the 1960s, was starting to promote the concept of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as an infrastructure and growth template.
Now there are more than 4,000 SEZs scattered all across the world – living and breathing experiments of strategic investment bound to absorb working masses and turbo-charge modernity. And Shenzhen, of course, is the mother of all SEZs.
Those were the days when Libya (“We came, we saw, he died”) offered to the world a full-blooded humanitarian imperialist spectacle starring Three American Harpies: Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, actually four if Hillary’s mentorette and soul mate, Madeleine Albright, was included.
Pop cynics felt tempted at the time to coin those Amazons-in-waiting Brunhilde and the Valkyries. Or at least to qualify perma-smirker Hillary as Attila The Hen.
So let’s kill the suspense. There will be, predictably, a sequel. And it even comes with a somewhat highbrow preview, titled Expanding American Power, published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank .CNAS happens to be co-founded – and led – by former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, who served in the Obama Administration under Leon Panetta.
Also predictably, CNAS and its combative paper read as a sort of grand PNAC remixed – including some of those same old neocon/neoliberalcon faces; Elliot Abrams, Robert Zoellick, Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and of course Flournoy herself, who a Beltway consensus already identifies as the next Pentagon head under a President Clinton.
In this context, Exceptionalistan rules in all its forms – from thejuicy defense contractor donor list to the emphasis on NATO on trade via the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). After Brexit though, implementing TTIP will be a tall order – and that’s a mighty understatement.
Pentagon-in-waiting Flournoy was recently quoted as willing to send “more American troops into combat against ISIS and the Assad regime than the Obama administration has been willing to commit.”
Well, not really. She actually responded to the piece, arguing she’s in favor of “increasing U.S. military support to moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting ISIS and the Assad regime, like the Southern Front, not asking U.S. troops to do the fighting in their stead.”
Never in modern political history has it been so easy to “abolish the people” and simply erase 54 million votes cast in a free and fair presidential election.
Forget about hanging chads, as in Florida 2000. This is a day that will live in infamy all across the Global South – when what was one of its most dynamic democracies veered into a plutocratic regime, under a flimsy parliamentary/judicial veneer, with legal and constitutional guarantees now at the mercy of lowly comprador elites.
After the proverbial marathon, the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for “crimes of responsibility” – related to alleged window dressing of the government’s budget.
This is the culmination of a drawn-out process that started even before Rousseff won re-election in late 2014 with over 54 million votes. I have described the bunch of perpetrators of what Brazilian creativity has termed ‘golpeachment’ (a mix of coup – “golpe” in Portuguese – and impeachment) as Hybrid War hyenas.
Sophisticated golpeachment – supported by what amounts to an Electoral Inquisition College – has propelled Hybrid War to whole new levels.
Hybrid War as applied to Brazil exhibited classic elements of a color revolution. Of course there was no need for no-fly zones or humanitarian imperialism to “protect human rights” – not to mention provoking a civil war. But considering the high resistance level of the victim state, where civil society is very dynamic, Hybrid War designers in this case bet on a mix of capitulation – and betrayal – of local elites, mixed with “peaceful protests” and a relentless mainstream media campaign. Call it ‘Civil War Light.’
That carried with it a fabulous cost-benefit ratio. Now the (immensely corrupt) Brazilian political system and the current executive/legislative/judiciary/mainstream media alignment can be used by the usual suspects for their geopolitical agenda.
Welcome to regime change light – politics, in a nutshell – as war by other means on the BRICS. A new software, a new operating system. Carrying a pathetic corollary; if the US is the Empire of Chaos, Brazil has now gloriously reached the status of Sub-Empire of Scoundrels.
Rousseff may be accused of serious economic mismanagement, and of being incapable of political articulation among the shark pool that is (immensely corrupt) Brazilian politics. But she is not corrupt. She made a serious mistake in fighting inflation, allowing interest rates to rise to an unsustainable level; so demand in Brazil dramatically dropped, and recession became the norm. She is the (convenient) scapegoat for Brazil’s recession.
She certainly may be blamed for not having a Plan B to fight the global recession. Brazil essentially works on two pillars; commodity exports and local companies relying on the teats of the state. Infrastructure in general is dismal – adding to what is described as the “Brazilian cost” of doing business. With the commodity slump, state funds dwindled and everything was paralyzed – credit, investment, consumption.
The pretext for Rousseff’s impeachment – allegedly transferring loans from public banks to the Treasury in order to disguise the size of Brazil’s fiscal deficit – is flimsy at best. Every administration in the West does it – and that includes Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s.
The Operation Car Wash investigation, dragging on for two years now, was supposed to uncover corruption in the Brazilian political system – as in the collusion of oil giant Petrobras executives, Brazilian construction companies, and political campaign financing. Car Wash has nothing to do with the golpeachment drive. Yet these have been two parallel highways converging to one destination: the criminalization of the Workers’ Party, and the definitive – if possible – political assassination of Rousseff and her mentor, former President Lula.
When golpeachment reached the lower house of Congress – an appalling spectacle – Rousseff was eviscerated by Hybrid War hyenas of the BBC variety; “BBC,” in English, stands for “bullet,”“bible” and “cattle,” where “bullet” refers to the weapons and private security industry, “bible” to pastors and evangelical fanatics, and “cattle” to the powerful agribusiness lobby.
The “BBC” hyenas are members of almost all Brazilian political parties, paperboys for major corporations, and – last but not least – corruption stalwarts. They all benefited from millionaire political campaigning. The whole Car Wash investigation ultimately revolves around campaign financing, which in Brazil, unlike the US with its legalized lobbies, is a Tarantino-worthy Wild West.
The Brazilian Senate is not exactly an “upper” – as in more polished – house. Eighty percent of members are white men – in a country where miscegenation rules. A staggering 58 percent is under criminal investigation – linked to Car Wash. Sixty percent hail from political dynasties. And 13 percent – as alternates – were not elected at all. Among those favoring impeachment, 30 out of 49 are in trouble with the law. Charges include mostly money laundering, financial crimes and outright corruption. Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate – who oversaw today’s impeachment vote – is the target of no fewer than nine separate money laundering/corruption Car Wash lines of investigation, plus another two criminal probes.
Meet the three Banana Republic amigos
Rousseff is now suspended for a maximum 180 days while a Senate committee decides whether to impeach her for good. Enter President-in-Waiting Michel Temer – a dodgy, shady operator – who has been branded a “usurper” by Rousseff. And usurper this provincial Brutus certainly is – according to his own words. On March 30 last year, he was tweeting that,“Impeachment is unthinkable, it would create an institutional crisis. There is no judicial or political basis for it.”
His administration is born with the original sin of being illegal and massively unpopular; his approval rating floats between an epic 1 percent and 2 percent. He was already fined last week for violating campaign finance limits. And, predictably, he’s drowning in a corruption swamp – named in two Car Wash plea bargains and accused of being part of an illegal scheme of ethanol buying; he may become ineligible for the next eight years. Almost 60 percent of Brazilians also want him impeached – on the same charges leveled against Rousseff.
Brutus 1 (Temer) would not bask in the glow of his 15 minutes of fame without the shenanigans of Brutus 2 (Brazil’s number one crook, former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, facing charges of bribery and perjury, holder of illegal Swiss accounts, and now finally sidelined by the Supreme Court). It was Brutus 2 who fast-tracked impeachment as pure vengeance; the Workers’ Party did not cover his back as he was facing a tsunami of corruption charges. Brutus 2 used all his vast powers – he runs a campaign financing scam inside Congress – to obstruct the Car Wash investigation. His replacement, the interim speaker, is also under investigation for bribery.
So meet Temer, Cunha, Calheiros; these three amigos are the true stars of the Banana Republic of Scoundrels/Crooks.
As if the Supreme Court would be rascal-free. Judge Gilmar Mendes, for instance, is a lowly plutocrat vassal. When an attorney for the government entered a motion to suspend impeachment, he quipped, “Ah, they can go to heaven, to the Pope, or to hell.” Another pompous judge received a request to sideline Cunha as early as December 2015. He only examined the request over four months later, when the whole golpeachment scam was in its decisive phase. And still he argued, “there’s no proof Cunha contaminated the impeachment process.”
Finally, complementing the whole scam, we find Brazilian mainstream media, with the toxic Globo media empire – which lavishly profited from the 1964 military coup – at the forefront.
All hail the neoliberal restoration
Wall Street – as well as the City of London – could not hide its excitement with golpeachment, believing Brutus 1 Temer will be an economic upgrade. Arguably, he might dare to tweak Brazil’s Kafkaesque tax code and do something about the enormous hole in the pension system. But what that mythical entity – the “markets” – and myriad “investors” are salivating about is the prospect of fabulous rates of return in a reopened-for-speculation Brazil. The Brutus 1 game will be a neoliberal feast, actually a restoration, with no popular representation whatsoever.
The golpeachment gang gets really incensed when they are identified as coup plotters. Still, they could not give a damn about the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur – all of them condemned the coup – not to mention the Holy Grail: the BRICS. Under Brutus 1, the Foreign Ministry, to be led by a sore loser senator, is bound to sink Brazil’s key role in BRICS cooperation, to the benefit of Exceptionalistan.
All one needs to know is that neither Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack “kill list” Obama nor Queen of Chaos Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton condemned the ongoing regime change light/golpeachment. That’s predictable, considering Exceptionalistan’sNSA spied on Petrobras and Dilma Rousseff personally – the genesis of what would develop as the Car Wash investigation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest limited himself to the proverbial platitudes: “challenging moment”; “trust in Brazilian democratic institutions”; or even “mature democracy.” Yet he added, significantly, that Brazil is “under scrutiny.”
Of course, the current stage of a very sophisticated Hybrid War strategy has been accomplished. But there are countless cliffhangers ahead. The Car Wash investigation – currently in slow motion – will pick up speed as a rash of dodgy plea bargains is already in store to create the conditions to criminalize for good not only Dilma Rousseff but the key piece in the chessboard: Lula.
Game over? Not so fast. The anti-golpeachment front does have a strategy: to imprint especially in “deep Brazil,” the vast masses of the working poor, the notion of illegality; to rebuild Rousseff’s image as the victim of a profound injustice; to re-energize the progressive political front; to make sure the Brutus 1 government will fail; and to create the conditions for the man who will come in from the cold to win the 2018 presidential elections.
Brazilian House of Cards? Bets could be made this may even end up as Anaconda, with Lula immobilizing the Hybrid War hyenas in a cobra clutch.
Major turbulence seems to be the name of the game in 2016. Yet the current turbulence may be interpreted as the calm before the next, devastating geopolitical/financial storm. Let’s review the current state of play via the dilemmas afflicting the House of Saud, the EU and BRICS members Russia, Brazil and China.
Oil and the House of Saud
Not many people are familiar with the Baltic Dry Index. Yet the Index is key to track commodity demand. Two months ago, it was trading to all-time lows. Since then, it has increased over 130%. Precious metals prices have all moved higher in virtually all currencies. Why is this important? Because it tells us that faith in fiat currencies – the US dollar especially — is sharply declining.
The Baltic Index rise portends a rise in oil demand in Asia – especially China. Falling supply and rising demand for oil will likely drive up the price of the barrel of oil in the second half of 2016.
That does not mean that the House of Saud will win back the trust of both the US and Russia. Deep sources keep confirming that as far as Washington and Moscow are concerned, the House of Saud is expendable. Both are really energy independent (should the US want to be). Powerful Washington factions blatantly accuse Riyadh of “terror” – well, it’s way more complicated – while Moscow regards the House of Saud as following US orders to destroy Russia in an oil price war.
Ailing – on the way to dementia — King Salman and young Warrior Prince Mohammed would be finished if those famous 28 pages about 9/11 were released and the Saudi connection is incontrovertible. What next? Regime change. A CIA coup. A “trusted” Saudi military CIA asset elevated to power.
What’s left for the House of Saud is to play for time. High up in Riyadh the feeling is that relations with Washington won’t improve while Obama is president; the next president — whether Hillary or The Donald – will be a much better deal. So Plan A for now is to keep posing as essential to Washington in the “war on terra”; that means King Salman falling back on Mohammed bin Nayef, the Crown Prince, way more adept at it than the Warrior Prince, the conductor of the disastrous war on Yemen.
In parallel, Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan keeps advancing his play to take over oil in Iraqi Kurdistan, eventually diverting the whole supply to make Turkey energy independent – and thus a regional superpower.
Moreover, in Pipelineistan terms, Erdogan absolutely also needs the Qatar gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia and Syria to gain energy independence from Russia. That also happens to be a major US goal. And that also portends perennial trouble for the Syria peace process.
Erdogan already has the German superpower at his feet in the shape of a groveling, begging Chancellor Merkel. Were Turkey on its way to become an energy power, Merkel would prostrate herself on that Ankara palace golden ground non-stop. The CIA intimates as much, when it analyzes how Turkey will keep “expanding its influence” in Iraq through the militias they support, at the expense of Iraq’s security and political unity.
Andrew Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East examines how Washington ruled that “military preponderance” across the Middle East should be the strategic objective in a war against the USSR — that was when Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski reigned as geopolitical supremo. This was always supposed to be an endless war – now encompassing the “Greater Middle East” the neocons are so fond of.
US President Barack Obama landed in Saudi Arabia for a GCC petrodollar summit and to proverbially “reassure Gulf allies” amidst the oiliest of storms.
The Doha summit this past weekend that was supposed to enshrine a cut in oil production by OPEC, in tandem with Russia – it was practically a done deal – ended up literally in the dust.
The City of London – via the FT – wants to convey the impression to global public opinion that it all boiled down to a dispute between Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the conductor of the illegal war on Yemen — and Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. The son of — ailing — King Salman has been dubbed “the unpredictable new voice of the kingdom’s energy policy.”
A famous 3 am call did take place in Doha on Sunday. The young Salman called the Saudi delegation and told them the deal was off. Every other energy market player was stunned by the reversion.
Yet the true story, according to a financial source with very close links to the House of Saud, is that “the United States threatened the Prince that night with the most dire consequences if he did not back down on the oil price freeze.”
So – predictably — this goes way beyond an internal Saudi matter, or the Prince’s “erratic” behavior, even as the House of Saud is indeed racked by multiple instances of fear and paranoia, as I analysed here.
As the source explains, an oil production cut would have “hindered the US goal of bankrupting Russia via an oil price war, which is what this is all about. Even the Prince is not that erratic.”
Iran had made it more than clear that after the lifting of sanctions it does not have any reason to embark on a production cut. On the contrary; oil contributes to 23% of Iran’s GDP. But as far as the House of Saud is concerned – feeling the pain of a budget deficit of $98 billion in 2015 — a moderate cut was feasible, along with most of OPEC and Russia, as Al-Naimi had promised.