Empire, Power & People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 147

From Balance of Payments to Balance of Power

This episode attempts to take a look at the economic concepts of 'competitiveness' and the 'balance of payments' position of nations, placing them in an historical and real-world context. What do these terms mean and what are their implications? In general, this is a reference to the economic position of one nation in relation to the other nations of the world. If one country is a creditor (lender), another must be a borrower (debtor); if one country is a major exporter, others must be importers. These concepts have profound implications for the competitiveness and growth of modern economies, and thus, as these are major issues when it comes to IMF and other global financial actions and institutions, these concepts have profound implications for the balance of power in the world between nations. Ultimately, this dry and rather bland economic language reflects the underlying power structures and imperial system which exists in the age of globalization. This episode attempts to introduce listeners to this concept.

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Empire, Power & People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 145

The Early Years of the Group of Seven

The Group of Seven (G-7) emerged in the midst of the largest economic, monetary and financial upheavals since the Great Depression. They established a forum of cooperation among the large industrial powers of the United States, West Germany, Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada, designed to coordinate their policies and strategies in creating a stable global economy, and in dealing with major political issues, notably relations with the Third World. The G-7 was formed to act as a steering committee for the management of the global economy on behalf of the richest and most powerful nations.

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Syriza: Plunder, Pillage & Prostration

How the ‘Hard Left’ embraces the policies of the Hard Right

Greece has been in the headlines of the world’s financial press for the past five months, as a newly elected leftist party, ‘Syriza’, which ostensibly opposes so-called ‘austerity measures’, faces off against the “Troika” (International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and European Central Bank).

Early on, the Syriza leadership, headed by Alexis Tsipras, adopted several strategic positions with fatal consequences - in terms of implementing their electoral promises to raise living standards, end vassalage to the ‘Troika’ and pursue an independent foreign policy.

We will proceed by outlining the initial systemic failures of Syriza and the subsequent concessions further eroding Greek living standards and deepening Greece’s role as an active collaborator of US and Israeli imperialism.

Winning Elections & Surrendering Power

The North American and European Left celebrated Syriza’s election victory as a break with neo-liberal austerity programs and the launch of a radical alternative, which would implement popular initiatives for basic social changes, including measures generating employment, restoring pensions, reversing privatizations, reordering government priorities and favoring payments to employees over foreign banks. The “evidence” for the radical reform agenda was contained in the ‘Thessaloniki Manifesto’ which Syriza promised to be the program guiding their newly elected officials.

However, prior to, and immediately after being elected, Syriza leaders adopted three basic decisions precluding any basic changes: Indeed, these decisions set it on a reactionary course.

First and foremost, Syriza accepted as legitimate the foreign debt of over $350 billion dollars, although most had been signed by previous government Kleptocrats, corrupt banks, business, real estate and financial interests. Virtually none of this debt was used to finance productive activity or vital services which would strengthen the economy and Greece’s future ability to payback the loans.

Hundreds of billions of Euros were stashed away in foreign bank accounts and foreign real estate or invested in overseas stocks and bonds. After affirming the ‘legitimacy’ of the illicit debt, Syriza followed up by declaring its ‘willingness’ to pay the debt. The ‘Troika’ immediately understood that the new Syriza government would be a willing hostage to further coercion, blackmail and debt payments.

Secondly, and related to the above, Syriza declared its determination to remain in the European Union and Eurozone and thus accepted the surrender of its sovereignty and ability to fashion an independent policy. It declared its willingness to submit to the dictates of the Troika. Once under the thumb of the Troika, Syriza’s only policy would be to ‘negotiate’, ‘renegotiate’ and make further concessions to the EU overseas banks in a totally one-sided process. Syriza’s rapid submission to the Troika was their second strategic, but not their last, betrayal of its electoral program.

Once Syriza demonstrated to the Troika, its willingness to betray its popular program, the Troika escalated its demands and hardened its intransigence. Brussels discounted Syriza’s leftist rhetoric and radical theatrical gestures as blowing smoke in the eyes of the Greek electorate. The EU bankers knew that when it came time to negotiate new loan agreements, the Syriza leadership would capitulate. Meanwhile, the Euro-American Left swallowed Syriza’s entire radical rhetoric without looking at its actual practice.

Thirdly, on taking office, Syriza negotiated a coalition with the far-right, pro-NATO, xenophobic, anti-immigrant Independent Greeks Party, guaranteeing that Greece would continue to support NATO’s military policies in the Middle East, the Ukraine and Israel’s brutal campaign against Palestine.

Fourthly, the bulk of Prime Minister Tsipras cabinet appointees had no experience of class struggle .Worse still, most were academics and former PASOK advisers without any capacity or willingness to break with the dictates of the Troika. Their academic ‘practice’ consisted largely of theoretical ‘combat’, ill-suited for real-world confrontation with aggressive imperial powers.

From a Scratch to Gangrene

By capitulating to the EU from the outset, including accepting to pay the illegitimate debt, hooking up with the Far Right and submitting to the dictates of the Troika, the stage was set for SYRIZA to betray all its promises and to worsen the economic burden for its supporters. The worst betrayals include: (1) not restoring pension payments; (2) not restoring the minimum wage; (3) not reversing privatizations; (4) not ending austerity programs; and (5) not increasing funds for education, health, housing and local development.

The Troika and its publicists in the financial press are demanding that Syriza cut the Greek pension system even further ,impoverishing over 1.5 million retired workers. Contrary to the media’s planted ‘examples’ of fat pensions enjoyed by less then 5% of pensioners, the Greeks have suffered the deepest pension reductions in Europe over the past century. In just the last past 4 years the Troika cut Greek pensions eight times. The vast majority of pensions have been slashed by nearly 50% since 2010.The average pension is 700 Euros a month but 45%of Greek pensioners receive less than 665 Euros a month - below the poverty line. Yet the Troika demands even greater reductions. These include an end of budget subsidies for pensioners living in extreme poverty, an increase in the retirement age to 67, an abolition of pension provisions tied to hazardous occupations and for working mothers. The earlier regressive measures, imposed by the Troika and implemented by the previous right-wing coalition regime, severely depleted the Greek pension fund. In 2012, the Troika’s ‘debt restructuring’ program led to the loss of 25 billion Euros of reserves held by the Greek government in government bonds. Troika austerity policies ensured that the pension reserves would not be replenished. Contributions plummeted as unemployment soared to nearly 30% (Financial Times 6/5/15 p4). Despite the Troika’s frontal assault on the Greek pension system, Syriza’s “economic team” expressed its willingness to raise the retirement age, cut pensions by 5% and negotiate further betrayals of pensioners facing destitution. Syriza has not only failed to fulfill its campaign promise to reverse the previous regressive policies, but is engaged in its own ‘pragmatic’ sellouts with the Troika.

Worse still, Syriza has deepened and extended the policies of its reactionary predecessors. (1)Syriza promised to freeze privatizations: Now it vows to extend them by 3.2 billion Euros and privatize new public sectors. (2) Syriza has agreed to shift scarce public resources to the military, including an investment of $500 million Euros to upgrade the Greek Air Force. (3) Syriza plundered the national pension fund and municipal treasuries of over a billion Euros to meet debt payments to the Troika. (4) Syriza is cutting public investments in job creating infrastructure projects to meet Troika deadlines. ( 5) Syriza has agreed to a budget surplus of 0.6% at a time when Greece is running a 0.7% deficit this year - meaning more cuts later this year. (6) Syriza promised to reduce the VAT on essentials like food; now it accepts a 23% rate.

Syriza’s foreign policy mimics its predecessors. Syriza’s far right Defense Minister, Panos Kammenos, has been a vocal supporter of the US and EU sanctions against Russia- despite the usual flurry of Syriza’s faked “dissent” to NATO policies, followed by total capitulation – to remain in good standing with NATO. The Syriza regime has allowed each and every well-known kleptocrat and tax evader to retain their illicit wealth and to add to their overseas holdings with massive transfers of their current ‘savings’ out of the country. By the end of May 2015, Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Varofakis have emptied the Treasury to meet debt payments, increasing the prospects that pensioners and public sector workers will not receive their benefits. Having emptied the Greek Treasury, Syriza will now impose the “Troika solution” on the backs of the impoverished Greek masses: either sign-off on a new “austerity” plan, lowering pensions, increasing retirement age, eliminating labor laws protecting workers’ job security and negotiating rights or face an empty treasury, no pensions, rising unemployment and deepening economic depression. Syriza has deliberately emptied the Treasury, plundered pension funds and local municipal holdings in order to blackmail the population to accept as a ‘fait accompli’ the regressive policies of hardline EU bankers – the so-called “austerity programs”.

From the very beginning, Syriza gave into the Troika’s dictates, even as they play-acted their ‘principled resistance’. First they lied to the Greek public, calling the Troika ‘international partners’. Then they lied again calling the Troika memorandum for greater austerity a ‘negotiating document’. Syriza’s deceptions were meant to hide their continuation of the highly unpopular ‘framework’ imposed by the previous discredited hard rightwing regime.

As Syriza plundered the country of resources to pay the bankers, it escalated its international groveling. Its Defense Minister offered new military bases for NATO, including an air-maritime base on the Greek island of Karpathos. Syriza escalated Greece’s political and military support for EU and US military intervention and support of “moderate” terrorists in the Middle East, ludicrously in the name of “protecting Christians”. Syriza, currying favor with European and US Zionists, strengthened its ties with Israel, evoking a ‘strategic alliance’ with the terrorist-apartheid state. From his first days in office, the hard right Defense Minister Kammenos proposed the creation of a “common defense space” including Cyprus and Israel – thus supporting Israel’s air and sea blockade of Gaza.

Conclusion

Syriza’s political decision to ‘embed’ in the EU and the Eurozone, at all costs, signals that Greece will continue to be vassal state, betraying its program and adopting deeply reactionary policies, even while trumpeting its phony leftist rhetoric, and feigning ‘resistance’ to the Troika. Despite the fact that Syriza plundered domestic pensions and local treasuries, many deluded Leftists in Europe and the US continue to accept and rationalize what they choose to dub its “realistic and pragmatic compromises”.

Syriza could have confiscated and used the $32 billion of real estate properties owned by the Greek Armed Forces to implement an alternative investment and development plan – leasing these properties for commercial maritime ports, airports and tourist facilities.

Syriza buried Greece even deeper into the hierarchy dominated by German finance,by surrendering its sovereign power to impose a debt moratorium, leave the Eurozone, husband its financial resources, reinstate a national currency, impose capital controls, confiscate billions of Euros in illicit overseas accounts, mobilize local funds to finance economic recovery and reactivate the public and private sector. The fake “Left sector” within Syriza repeatedly mouthed impotent “objections”, while the Tsipras -Varofakis sell-out charade proceeded to the ultimate capitulation.

In the end, Syriza has deepened poverty and unemployment, increased foreign control over the economy, further eroded the public sector, facilitated the firing of workers and slashed severance pay- while increasing the role of the Greek military by deepening its ties to NATO and Israel.

Equally important, Syriza has totally emptied leftist phraseology of any cognitive meaning: for them - national sovereignty is translated into international vassalage and anti-austerity becomes pragmatic capitulations to new austerity. When the Tsipras – Troika agreement is finally signed and the terrible toll of austerity for the next decades finally sinks into the consciousness of the Greek public, the betrayals will hopefully evoke mass revulsion. Perhaps Syriza will split, and the “left” will finally abandon their cushy Cabinet posts and join the disaffected millions in forming an alternative Party.

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Techno-Financial Capital & Genocide of the Poorest of the Poor

Total war from above and the outside breeds total war from the inside and below

Today, the ‘poorest of the poor’ are superfluous to empire and thus the policy of genocide. The current world war between the classes has become a war between exterminators and those who would fight to survive!

‘The war and its results have turned Yemen back a hundred years, due to the destruction of infrastructure . . . especially in the provinces of Oden, Dhalea and Taiz.’- Izzedine al-Asbali, Yemeni Human Rights Minister

‘Yemen is devastated. There are no roads, water or electricity. Nobody’s left but thieves.’- A resident of Sana (Yemen)

The Euro-American and Japanese ruling classes, as well as their collaborators in the Afro-Asian and Latin American countries, have accumulated vast profit. This has occurred through a complex stratified system re-concentrating the world’s wealth through: 1. The exploitation of labor in the First World (North America and Western Europe); 2. super-exploitation of labor in the Second World (China, ex-USSR); 3. dispossession of peasants, native communities and urban dwellers to grab resources, land and real estate in the Third World; and 4. wars of genocide against the poorest of the poor in the ‘Fourth World’. Besides all the forms of brutal exploitation and dispossession, which enrich the Euro-US ruling classes, by far the most sinister and threatening to humanity is the concerted worldwide effort to literally exterminate the poorest-of-the poor, the hundreds of millions of people no longer essential for the accumulation and concentration of imperial capital today.

This essay will begin by mapping the genocidal wars against ‘the wretched of the earth’, identifying the geography of genocide, the countries and subjects under attack, and the trajectory, which has been chosen and executed by the leaders of the Euro-American regimes.

Then we will examine the reason for genocide within the dynamics and forms of contemporary capitalism. In particular, we will develop the genocide hypothesis: that imperial genocide of the poorest of the poor is a deliberate policy to reduce the growing surplus labor, which is no longer needed or wanted for wealth accumulation but is increasingly feared as a potential political threat.

In the last section, we will discuss how the ‘wretched of the earth’ are responding to this policy of imperial genocide and what is to be done.

Mapping Genocide Against the Poorest of the Poor

It is no coincidence that the most violent assaults and invasions by the Euro-American powers have taken place against the poorest countries in each region of the world. In the Western hemisphere, the Euro-US regimes have repeatedly invaded the absolutely poorest country, Haiti, overthrowing the popularly elected Aristide government, decimating the population via a cholera epidemic spread by UN mercenary ‘peace-keepers’, killing tens of thousands of poor Haitians and rounding up thousands of protestors. The occupation continues. Honduras, the second poorest country in the region, experienced a US-backed coup d’état deposed their recently elected president and imposed a terrorist puppet regime, which regularly assassinates dissidents and landless rural workers. Peasants are dispossessed; the economy and society are in shambles with tens of thousands of Hondurans (especially children) fleeing the violence.

Today, the Euro-American powers actively support the absolutist regime of Saudi Arabia as it bombS and slaughters thousands of Yemeni civilians and resistance fighters. Yemen is the poorest country in the Gulf region.

In South Asia, the US invaded and occupied Afghanistan; its coalition of puppets and NATO allies have massacred and displaced millions of poor farmers and civilians. Afghanistan is the poorest of the poor countries in the region.

In Africa, the Euro-American powers and their local collaborators have invaded, bombed and occupied Somalia, Chad and Mali - among the poorest of sub-Sahara countries.

After the US-NATO campaign of destruction against Libya, 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans and black citizens of Libya lost their stable employment and became the victims of ethnic slaughter. Their attempts to escape the violence and starvation by fleeing to Europe are blocked by the leading powers (the same powers that destroyed the Libyan economy and society). Those, who do not drown in their flight, are detained and returned to their devastated countries and early deaths.

In Western Europe, millions of Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese, inhabiting the poorest countries in the region, have faced massive job losses, widespread impoverishment and spiraling suicides - all induced by austerity programs designed to pillage their economies and enrich their Euro-US creditors.

In the United States, 1.5 million black (mostly male) Americans, are ‘missing’ – products of early death, industrial-scale incarceration and police assassinations. American Indian communities are subject to depredations and early death from the policies of the Federal and State governments. Their lands have been handed over to mining (and now fracking) to serve the interests of the mining and agro-business elite. Throughout the US Latino agricultural workers are increasingly viewed as ‘expendable’ with technology and the effects of global climate change (such as the severe drought in California) depriving them of livelihood.

In the Levant, Palestinians, now the poorest of the poor and the most disenfranchised, face continued Israeli land grabs, pillage and violence in the West Bank and genocidal attacks in Gaza. Iraq and Syria have experienced millions of deaths and displacements, reducing previously prosperous, educated and sophisticated multi-ethnic populations into impoverished, uprooted and desperate people deliberately driven backwards to tribal loyalties.

Why Imperialism ‘Genocides the Poorest of the Poor’

With the exception of Iraq and Syria, all of the violated countries have been poor in resources and markets, and possess large unskilled labor. The people are targeted and savaged because they no longer serve as ‘labor reserves’ – they are now excess-surplus labor – in Nazi racial hygiene terminology, they have become ‘useless mouths to feed’. This has intensified as crisis engulfs the West and the least productive sectors of capitalism, finance, real estate and insurance (FIRE), have become the leading sectors of capital. ‘Cheap labor’ is less needed, least of all overseas labor from conflictual regions.

The ‘poorest of the poor’ countries under attack lack rich resources ripe for plunder; their populations do not exist among the priorities of the multi-national bankers – except when seen as ‘obstacles’. In the colonial past, sectors of these populations would have been recruited by imperial countries to submit, obey and serve as imperial mercenaries or coolie labor. They would have been transported and employed by empire for ‘dirty’, dangerous and poorly paid jobs in other colonized countries – like the millions of Indians scattered throughout the former British Empire. Today, such coolies have no value.

The genocidal nature of the wars against the ‘poorest of the poor’ is best demonstrated by the actual targets and primary victims of these wars: Millions of civilians, families, women, children and heads of households have suffered the worst. These ‘targets’ represent the most stable and essential elements responsible for family reproduction and security. The ‘poorest of the poor’ communities are being destroyed. Genocidal bombing has overwhelmingly targeted the essential factors for survival: cohesive households, communal settings, subsistence food growing regions and access to clean water. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that marriage ceremonies and traditional social gatherings have been ‘mistaken targets’ of missiles and drone strikes. Despite the denials from the White House, the geographic extent and nauseating number of such attacks demonstrate that according to the ‘genocide hypothesis’ there is ‘nowhere to hide’: The targeted populations will have no marriage celebrations, no social life, no increase in children among the poorest of the poor, no protection for the elders, no social fabric and no communal organizations – there will be no survival networks left for the superfluous of empire.

The ‘genocide hypothesis’ underlies the practice of ‘total war’. The practice includes massive attacks on non-military targets (‘Shock and Awe’) and the use of high tech weaponry to target collectives of the poorest of the poor – repeatedly, over long periods of time and wide geographic regions.

If, as the apologists of genocidal wars claim, the bombings of weddings and slaughter of school children are ‘collateral’ in the ‘Global War on Terror’ why are they happening everywhere in the fourth world and virtually everyday?

The genocide hypothesis best explains the data. Even the terminology and claims made by imperialist experts regarding their weapons systems support the genocide hypothesis. These weapons, we are told, are ‘intelligent, precise and highly accurate’ in targeting and destroying ‘the enemy’. By their own admission, then, the poorest of the poor have become ‘the enemy’, as imperial weapons makers support ‘intelligent’ genocide with ‘precision’.

When liberals and leftists criticize how imperial drone strikes kill civilians, instead of ‘armed terrorists’, they are missing the essential point of the policy. The prime purpose of the wars and the imperial weapons of mass destruction is to kill the largest number of the very poorest in the shortest time.

No member of the financial-high tech capitalist class has ever complained about the mass killing of the ‘poorest of the poor’ anywhere or at any time because the victims are, for the purpose of accumulating imperial profit and concentrating wealth superfluous. The poorest don’t figure into the formulae of profit and productivity; they don’t ‘make or take’ markets. On the other hand, their continued existence is a potential liability. They are aesthetically unappealing on the outskirts of luxury resorts. To the rich, they represent a desperate criminal element and they may pose a real or imagined ‘terrorist’ threat. For these reasons, the rich would ‘prefer’ that they would quietly cease to exist, or if the warlords have to dispose of them, the world will be a safer and more attractive place to accumulate wealth. ‘Let them kill each other, as they have done for millennia’, the empire piously opines and the bankers and their high tech allies can use their military and mercenaries without soiling their own hands. The elite ignore the mass immiseration while the militarists bomb ‘the problem’ out of existence.

Today genocide occurs in once vibrant living and working communities, not hidden in ‘concentration camps’. The secret ovens and gas chambers have been replaced by an ‘open range’ of incendiary weapons that end lives, burn neighborhoods and workshops, devastate livestock and crops. Those who survive the bombing are starved, enclosed, malnourished and inflicted with disease. Eminent doctors tell us that the misery is ‘self-inflicted’ and that the poorest of the poor are ignorant and lack healthy habits. Recurrent epidemics from HIV to cholera to Ebola are quintessential ‘4th world diseases’. Even though the Caribbean had not seen cholera for over a century, its introduction into Haiti via the bowels of imperial mercenary troops (UN peacekeepers from Nepal) was blamed on the Haitians’ lack of access to clean water! Not since the small pox blankets passed out by the US Army to freezing Native Americans in their concentration camps of the 19th century have we heard such apologists for genocide!

The truth about genocide is that all this is known, repeatedly documented and forgotten. White workers in the First World cannot even register these ‘facts’ under their own noses, let alone express any form of solidarity. Imperial genocide, committed by proactive militarists and ‘passive’ rich elites, are no secret even if they deny their complicity. The key word here is ‘mission’. ‘Mission Accomplished’ was the celebratory banner over the total destruction of Iraq. The warlords claim rewards for successfully completing ‘the mission’. Yemenis are dying under US-supplied Saudi bombs; Somalis are scattered in tens of thousands of tents to the four corners of the earth; Haitians continue to enjoy the ‘gift of cholera’ from UN ‘peacekeepers’ and rot in massive open air prison-slums – their leaders imprisoned or assassinated.

The Poorest of the Poor Respond

In the face of genocide and their irrelevance to the profit motive of modern high tech and finance capital, the poorest of the poor have chosen multiple responses: (1) Mass out-migration, preferable to the First World, where they won’t be bombed, raped or starved as they had been at ‘home’; (2) Internal migration to the cities, under the illusion of an ‘urban safe haven’ when in fact their concentration in slums makes it easier for the bombers; (3) return to the countryside and subsistence farming or the mountains and subsistence herding, but the missiles and drones relentlessly follow them; (4) mass flight to a neighboring country where the local gendarmes will ‘herd’ them into camps to rot and (5) finally resistance. Resistance takes various forms: There are spontaneous upheavals when the scope of abuse exceeds all endurance. This form involves attacking the local collaborators and gendarmes and authorities and sacking food warehouses. Such action burns briefly and dies (many times literally). Some choose to join armed resistance bands, including gangs of brigands, political ethno-religious rivals and terrorists who retaliate against authors of their genocide and its collaborators with their own version of justice and material and celestial rewards.

Total war from above and the outside breeds total war from the inside and below. The rebellion of the ‘wretched of the earth’ in the 21st century is far different from that portrayed by Franz Fanon in the middle of the last century. Fanon described a revolt against colonialism and neo-colonialism. Today the revolt is against deracination and genocide. During colonialism, the ‘wretched’ needed to be subdued to better exploit their labor and resources. Today, the ‘poorest of the poor’ are superfluous to empire and thus the policy of genocide. The current world war between the classes has become a war between exterminators and those who would fight to survive!

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Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Empire, Power & People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 140

"Have the Finance Ministers be Bastards"

In the first half of the 1970s, the global economic, financial and monetary order underwent a series of catalytic changes and transformations. Relations between the rich and powerful nations, notably the United States, West Germany and Japan, had become tense and tumultuous. More problematic was that relations between these rich nations and the developing world (Africa, Asia, Latin America) was growing even more problematic and unstable. The Third World was demanding a new economic order while America's major economic rivals (Western Europe and Japan) were demanding greater say as U.S. power was in relative decline. Political diplomacy and foreign relations was becoming harder to manage in an increasingly changing world. Thus, a significant degree of power and empire-building was pushed into the world of 'economic diplomacy'. As Henry Kissinger explained in a meeting with President Ford in 1975, "The trick in the world today is to use economics to build a world political structure." Two days later, he added, "It is better to have the Finance Ministers be bastards." Later that year, the first meeting of the heads of state took place for what would later be known as the Group of Seven, and finance ministers and central bankers would gain increasing and unprecedented power to advance imperial interests around the world at a scale far beyond that of political and military relations.

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Refuting President Obama’s Lies, Omissions & Distortions

An Open Letter to the Graduates of West Point

On May 2014 President Obama delivered the commencement address to the graduates of United States Military Academy at West Point. Beyond the easy banter and eulogy to past and present war heroes, Obama outlined a vision of past military successes and present policies, based on a profoundly misleading diagnosis of the current global position of the United States.

The most striking aspect of his presentation is the systematic falsification of the results of past wars and current military interventions. The speech is notable for the systematic omissions of the millions of civilian deaths inflicted by US military interventions. He glosses over the growth of NSA, the global police state apparatus. He presents a grossly inflated account of the US role in the world economy. Worse of all he outlines an extremely dangerous confrontational posture toward rising military and economic powers, in particular Russia and China.

Distorting the Past: Defeats and Retreats Converted into Victories

One of the most disturbing aspects of President Obama’s speech is his delusional account of US military engagements over the past decade. His claim that, “by most measures America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world”, defies belief. After 13 years of warfare, the US has failed to defeat the Taliban. Washington is in full retreat and leaves behind a fragile puppet regime which will likely collapse. In Iraq the US was forced to withdraw after killing several hundred thousand civilians and fueling a sectarian war which has propelled a pro-Iranian regime to power. In Libya, the NATO war devastated the country, destroyed the Gadhafi government,thus undermining reconciliation, and bringing to power bands of terrorist Islamic groups profoundly hostile to the United States.

Washington’s effort to broker an accord between Palestine and Israel was a dismal failure, largely because of the Obama regime’s spineless attitude toward Israel’s land grabs, and new “Jews only” settlements. The craven pandering to the Jewish power configuration in Washington hardly speaks for the world’s “greatest power” … by any measure.

Through your economic studies you are surely aware that the US has been displaced by China in major markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. China poses a major economic challenge: it does not have overseas bases, Special Forces’ operations in seventy-five countries; it does not pursue military alliances and does not militarily intervene in countries. Obama’s expansion of the US military presence off China’s coast speaks to an escalation of bellicose behavior, contrary to his assertions of “winding down” overseas military operations.

Obama speaks of defending “our core interests” militarily.Yet he threatens China over disputed piles of rocks in the South China Sea, overlooking the “core interests” of the 500 biggest US corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the most dynamic economy in the world and the second biggest trading nation.

Obama spoke of the threat of “terrorism” yet his policies have encouraged and promoted terrorism. Washington armed and promoted the Islamic terrorists which overthrew Gadhafi; backs the Islamic terrorists invading Syria; provides 1.5 billion in military aid to the Egyptian military dictatorship which is terrorizing the political opposition, via assassinations and arrests of thousands of political dissidents. The US backed the violent overthrow of the elected regime in the Ukraine and is backing the client regime’s terror bombing of the pro-democracy Eastern regions. Obama’s “anti-terrorism “rhetoric is in fact a cover for state terrorism, which closes the door on peaceful resolution of overseas conflicts, and leads to the multiplication of violent opposition groups.

Obama speaks to “our success in promoting partnerships in Europe and in the world at large”. Yet his bellicose policies toward Russia has deeply divided the US from the leading countries in the European Union. Germany has multi-billion dollar trade agreements with Russia and objects to harsh sanctions as does Italy, Holland and Belgium. Latin America has relegated the US centered Organization of American States to the dust bin of history and moved toward regional organizations which exclude the US. Washington has no “partners” backing its hostile policies toward Venezuela and Cuba. In Asia, Washington’s efforts to forge an economic bloc excluding China, runs against the deep and comprehensive ties that link South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to China. Washington’s closest partners are the least dynamic and most repressive: Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the Middle East; Egypt, Morocco and Algeria in North Africa; Colombia in Latin America ; and motley groups of sub-Sahara despots and Kleptocrats who squirrel billions of dollars into oversees bank accounts in New York and London far in excess of their countries’ health and educational budgets .

Obama’s diagnosis of the position of the US in the world is fundamentally flawed: he grossly understates the military losses, the decline of economic power,and the growing divisions between former regional allies .Above all he refuses to recognize the profound loss of faith by the majority of Americans in Washington’s foreign military and trade policies. The flawed diagnosis, the deliberate distortions of present global realities and the deep misreading of domestic public opinion cannot be overcome by new deceptions , bigger lies and the continuation and escalation of military interventions, in which you the newly minted officers will serve as cannon fodder.

Obama: Political Desperado in Search of an Imperial Legacy

Obama has marked a new phase in the escalation of a military centered foreign policy.He is presently engaged in a major military build-up of air and ground troops and military exercises in the Baltic States and Poland…all of which is pointing toward Russia and signaling that a possible ‘First Strike’ strategy is underway. Obama has been seized by a manic global military escalation..He is expanding naval forces off China’s coast. He has dispatched hundreds of Special Forces to Jordan to train and arm mercenaries invading Syria.He is intervening militarily in the Ukraine to bolster the Kiev regime.He has dispatched hundreds of military forces throughout Africa.He has allocated $1 billion for military expenditure along the European frontiers with Russia and $5 billion to boost the capacity of despotic regimes to repress popular insurgencies under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.

Obama’s ‘vision’ of US foreign policy is clearly and unmistakably colored by a propensity to engage in highly dangerous military confrontations. His resort to multiple “Special Forces” operations, his increasing reliance on military proxies, is a reversion to 19th century colonial policies.Recruiting soldiers from one oppressed country to conquer another, is a throwback to old style empire building. When Obama speaks of “American leadership, as indispensable for world order” he deceives no one. The Washington centered world order is disintegrating. Disorder is the consequence of military intervention attempting to delay the inevitable.

The Obama Administration’s involvement in the violent coup in the Ukraine is a case in point: as a consequence of the rise to power of a junta headed by a billionaire “President”,power sharing with neo-fascists that country is disintegration, civil war rages and the economy is bankrupt. Obama’s war on Libya has led to a Hobbesian world in which warlords fight jihadists over shrinking oil sales. In Syria US backed ‘rebels’ have destroyed the economy and the social fabric of civil society.

No major country in South America follows US ‘leadership’. Even in the United States few American citizens back Obama’s hostile policies to Cuba and Venezuela.

Obama’s duplicitous rhetoric of talking peace and preparing wars has lost credibility. Obama is preparing to commit you, the newly commissioned officers of West Point, to new overseas wars opposed by the majority of Americans.

Obama will send you to war zones in which you will be pitted against popular insurgencies, in which you will be despised by the surrounding population. You will be asked to defend an Administration which has pillaged the Treasury to bail out the 15 biggest banks, who paid $78 billion dollars in fines between 2012 – 2013 for fraud and swindles and yet their CEO’s received double digit pay increases . You will be told to fight wars for Israel in the Middle East. You will be ordered to command bases in Poland and missles aimed at Russia.You will be sent to the Ukraine to advise neo-Nazis in the National Guard. You will be told to subvert Latin American military officials in hopes of inciting a military coup and converting independent progressive governments into neo-liberal client states.

Obama’s vision does not resonate with your hopes for an America committed to democracy, freedom and development. You face the choice of serving a political desperado intent on launching unjust wars at the behest of billionaire swindlers and armchair militarists or resigning your commission and joining the majority of American people who believe that America’s “leadership” should be directed at reducing the wealth and power of an unelected oligarchy in this country.

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Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Not All Lives are Equal-According to the Inhabitants of the Barbarically Civilized Nation

I rarely accept invitations for speaking arrangements. It is not my cup of tea. When I rarely do I insist in dividing my allocated time into 1/3 for speaking and 2/3 for Q & A. I don’t like canned speeches, but I happen to truly like lengthy Q & A sessions. Why? Because: It enables me to talk about what my audience really wants to hear about, it gives me a chance to get to know others’ points of view and perceptions, and let’s face it, it just makes the whole process less boring, more interactive, less predictable, thus more fun.

Two months ago, during one of my very rare speaking arrangements, the topics of discussion took many spontaneous turns and twists and ended up in the area of our wars- our never-ending, perpetual wars. Of course you know where I stand on that. And most likely you won’t be surprised to hear that not many people share my stand; at least not as bold and vehemently.  Most public figures who engage in public speaking know how to frame their talking points and answers very diplomatically so that they will get uniformed nods from their audience; at least most of them. And they do. I know the trick, and I know how it is done. But I never use it. Meaning, I do not engage in public speaking for the purpose of being liked and admired uniformly, and to play it safe. It is not me. In fact I do exactly the opposite, meaning, I actually try to push buttons, and as a result bring out the real inner thinking of my audiences.  So what if that makes me not-so-popular and not likely to be invited again? I ain’t running for public office!

Now that we have established my modus operandi when it comes to public speaking, let’s go back to my Q & A session from my latest ‘engagement.’

We began discussing our latest wars-our wars since September 11, 2001. One lady raised her hand and proposed that these wars were highly justified based on what took place on 9/11. After all, she said, we were attacked, thus, we had to defend ourselves.

I provided her with the conservative estimate of our civilian casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. She responded to that: ‘Don’t take me wrong. I am sorry that these innocent people had to die, but we had to do what we had to do, and the loss of innocent people does not change this reality.’

I asked her: ‘Would you see the reverse as justified? Meaning, would you see it as justified when those people attack us in defending against our perpetual attacks on them, and as a result kill tens of thousands of our innocent people?’ She said: ‘But that is not the same. They are terrorists. We are not. Wars are not the same as terrorism.’

Basically, she was entering the many-times-argued ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ area. So I kept pushing, respectfully, until the real her began surfacing. She said: ‘What we are seeing is an inevitable clash. It is the clash of civilized democratic people with the barbaric third world countries’ inhabitants.’

And that, my friends, brings me to one of the macro topics we frequently discuss here at Boiling Frogs Post: Why don’t we see major backlash and protests in the face of our atrocious wars waged around the globe?

Sure. We can talk about how awful the media has been in framing, thus justifying our unjustifiable wars. We can discuss the fear-mongering factor being played by all our politicians and media outlets. We can talk about all that, but let’s talk about another factor that is rarely discussed: The Us versus them. The civilized vs the barbaric. The White vs Yellow or Olive or Black. The Christians vs the Muslims. The Superior  Westerners vs the Inferior Easterners or Southerners. The superiority complex that says not all lives are equal. The Exceptionalism that says we are far more superior, valuable and worthy of life and liberties.

I usually don’t cover the highly polarizing, and frequently misused notions of racism, sexism, religion-ism, classism, etc. Not because these factors and notions are not highly prevalent in our daily lives, including in our media, politics, education, and yes, foreign policy. But because there are only so many topics and areas I can possibly cover, it is due to not wanting to get into one of those highly polarized discussion areas where tempers and biases and hatred easily boil to the top, and also it is due to not considering myself an expert in sociology and or psychology. All that said, this topic keeps coming up. In one form or another. It ends up being one of those gigantic elephants in the room. So, let’s go ahead and discuss it, and then, face it.

The over a million deaths caused by our Vietnam War did not mean anything compared to 50,000+ deaths of our soldiers. Was that war in self-defense? No. But, that doesn’t matter. Was it a justified war? Surely not, but that doesn’t matter. Who were those people anyway? They were not like us. They didn’t look like us. They didn’t eat like us, and didn’t talk like us.

The estimates of killed and wounded in Hiroshima (150,000) and Nagasaki (75,000) are overly conservative. The atomic bomb we dropped in Hiroshima alone was the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT. Was it justified to use the worst kind of weapons of mass destructions and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and affecting their offspring to come? No. Should it be categorized as a type of genocide and war atrocity? Yes. Do most people in our nation see it as such? No. We can go around the world and point fingers at nations who may or may not possess WMD, and begin bombing the hell out of them. On the other hand, it is perfectly okay for us to have the world’s biggest WMD cache, and be the only nation that has repeatedly used WMD, and atrociously killed hundreds of thousands using them. Why? Because we consider ourselves civilized. However barbarically. Even when we engage in the most barbaric atrocities, we are still civilized- barbarically civilized, that is.

Here is an example of how we can be Barbarically Civilized, or Civilized Barbarically:

The Volume of American bombing in Vietnam exceeded the 2.7 million tons of bombs dropped by the Allied Forces in all theaters during World War II. The estimated war casualties range from 195,000 to 430,000 civilian war deaths. The lowest total estimate is 1,234,000 military and civilian deaths from 1965 to 1974.

It is a fact that we, the world civilized super power nation, have been the world’s most atrocious WMD possessor and user:

In Korea over a three-year period, U.S./UN forces flew 1,040,708 sorties and dropped 386,037 tons of bombs and 32,357 tons of napalm. If one counts all types of airborne ordnance, including rockets and machine-gun ammunition, the total tonnage comes to 698,000 tons

For South Vietnam, the figure is 19 million gallons of defoliant dropped on an area comprising 20 percent of South Vietnam—some 6 million acres. In an even briefer period, between 1969 and 1973, 539,129 tons of bombs were dropped in Cambodia, largely by B-52s, of which 257,465 tons fell in the last six months of the war (as compared to 160,771 tons on Japan from 1942–1945). The estimated toll of the dead, the majority civilian, is equally difficult to absorb: 2 to 3 million in Korea; 2 to 4 million in Vietnam.

Three million tons were dropped on Laos, exceeding the total for Germany and Japan by both the U.S. and Great Britain.

Did Vietnam or Laos attack our nation, or even threaten to attack our nation? No. Does it matter? No. Why not? Because our super government of our super civilized nation knows best. Because let’s face it: who are these people anyway? They are yellow, and most of them are Buddhist or something like that, they eat too much rice …and they are not civilized like us. As simple as that. So the massive civilian casualty number doesn’t bother us; it doesn’t move us. We may be ‘sorry,’ and that is, later, a little sorry, that is, but that’s all.

That brings us to olive colored people. The barbaric Muslims. The Arabic speaking third world Easterners. The Middle Easterners. We have killed massive numbers of them as well, and we continue killing:

The first household survey that appeared was published in The Lancet in October 2004, measuring the war-related mortality in the war's first 18 months. The researchers--mainly epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and medical personnel in Iraq--estimated 98,000 "excess deaths" due to war.

The second household survey, conducted by the Hopkins scientists again, was completed in June 2006 and published four months later in The Lancet. Its findings: 650,000 people (civilians and fighters) died as a result of the war in Iraq.

More conservative (biased?) reports estimate that Afghanistan and Iraq wars have killed 132,000 Civilians.

Did Iraq have anything to do with 9/11? Of course not. Did Iraq in any way threaten us? Nope. Then, why did we go invade them a few months after 9/11? Who cares! They are olive colored, most of them have beards, they speak a language that sounds like a terrorist language, they are Muslims … and all that make them: Barbaric. Not civilized like us. Why should we be moved by tens of thousands of their children and women being blown to bits? Really? As that woman said during my last speaking event: ‘Let’s face it, they are not like us. They are barbaric terrorists.

A few days ago, as I was researching, I came across a very-well written editorial on this topic. To my shock the source was none other than the awful Washington Post. As you know I do not cite anything from propaganda publications such as the Washington Post. In fact, we even call it a boycott here at Boiling Frogs Post. Maybe it was one of those rarities buried in the back pages somewhere. Maybe an aberration? Whatever it was, I was impressed, and I am going to quote a few excerpts:

Even civilian atrocities tend to fade quickly from view, or else become rallying points for the accused troops. My Lai, where about 400 Vietnamese were murdered by a U.S. Army unit in 1968, at first shocked the nation, but Americans quickly came to support Lt. William L. Calley Jr. — who was later found guilty of killing 22villagers — and the others involved. More recently, eight Marines were charged in the 2005 Haditha massacre in Iraq, and none has been convicted. (The last defendant’s trial started this past week.) Indeed, each atrocity that fails to alter public opinion piles on to further prove American indifference.

Why the American silence on our wars’ main victims? Our self-image, based on what cultural historian Richard Slotkin calls “the frontier myth” — in which righteous violence is used to subdue or annihilate the savages of whatever land we’re trying to conquer — plays a large role. For hundreds of years, the frontier myth has been one of America’s sturdiest national narratives.

When the challenges from communism in Korea and Vietnam appeared, we called on these cultural tropes to understand the U.S. mission overseas. The same was true for Iraq and Afghanistan, with the news media and politicians frequently portraying Islamic terrorists as frontier savages. By framing each of these wars as a battle to civilize a lawless culture, we essentially typecast the local populations as the Indians of our North American conquest. As the foreign policy maven Robert D. Kaplanwrote on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page in 2004, “The red Indian metaphor is one with which a liberal policy nomenklatura may be uncomfortable, but Army and Marine field officers have embraced it because it captures perfectly the combat challenge of the early 21st century.”

Politicians tend to speak in broader terms, such as defending Western values, or simply refer to resistance fighters as terrorists, the 21st-century word for savages. Remember the military’s code name for the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound? It was Geronimo.

This well-written editorial piece makes a very troubling and reality-based point: Our apathy towards mass civilian casualties and atrocities caused by our nation is mainly due to a strong sense of Superiority and Exceptionalism. We see it with our aggression and atrocities around the world. It is the barbaric tribal black people in Africa. Or it is the yellow savage communist Asians. Or the bearded olive terrorist Muslim Arabs. We see it in our domestic events as well. Does the media cover a murdered black child as extensively and dramatically as a blue-eyed blond one like Jan Benet Ramsey? Of course not. Not all murdered or abused children are equal. Does our media cover the Palestinian children killed by Israeli terrorism as in-depth and extensively as the Israeli children who fall victim to the terrorism by the other side? Of course not. Not all destructions and deaths caused by terrorism and savagery are equal.

That lady whose button I pushed is not alone. Unfortunately many, even if subconsciously, share this arrogant sense of superiority. Our majority believes our nation to be a civilized one, even if barbarically civilized. We see our barbarism justified, and do not consider all lives and liberties equal. And as long as this remains the case we shall not see the needed logical reaction and opposition to the atrocities committed around the globe and at home in our name, and in our behalf.

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Sibel Edmonds is the Publisher & Editor of Boiling Frogs Post and the author of the Memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN Newman's Own First Amendment Award for her “commitment to preserving the free flow of information in the United States in a time of growing international isolation and increasing government secrecy” Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.

The Changing Contours of US Imperial Intervention in World Conflicts

Following the Vietnam War, US imperial intervention passed through several phases: In the immediate aftermath, the US government faced a humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese liberation forces and was under pressure from an American public sick and tired of war. Imperial military interventions, domestic espionage against opponents and usual practice of fomenting coups d’état (regime change) declined.

Slowly, under President Gerald Ford and, especially President ‘Jimmy’ Carter, an imperial revival emerged in the form of clandestine support for armed surrogates in Southern Africa – Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau— and neo-liberal military dictatorships in Latin America. The first large-scale imperial intervention was launched during the second half of the Carter Presidency .It involved massive support for the Islamist uprising against the secular government of Afghanistan and a mercenary jihadist invasion sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US (1979). This was followed by direct US invasions in Grenada (1983) under President Reagan; Panama (1989) and Iraq (1991) under President Bush Sr. and Yugoslavia (1995 and 1999) under President Clinton.

In the beginning, the imperial revival involved low cost wars of brief duration with few casualties. As a result there were very few voices of dissent, far diminished from the massive anti-war, anti-imperial movements of the early 1970’s. The restoration of direct US imperial interventions, unhindered by Congressional and popular opposition, was gradual in the period 1973-1990. It started to accelerate in the 1990’s and then really took off after September 11, 2001.

The imperial military and ideological apparatus for direct intervention was firmly in place by 2000. It led to a prolonged series of wars in multiple geographical locations, involving long-term, large-scale commitments of economic resources, and military personnel and was completely unhampered by congressional or large-scale public opposition – at least in the beginning. The ‘objectives’ of these serial wars were defined by their principal Zionist and militarist architects as the following: (1) destroying regimes and states (as well as their military, police and civil governing bureaucracies) which had opposed Israel’s annexation of Palestine; (2) deposing regimes which promoted independent nationalist policies, opposing or threatening the Gulf puppet monarchist regimes and supporting anti-imperialist, secular or nationalist-Islamic movements around the world. Blinded by their imperial hubris (or naked racism) neither the Zionists nor the civilian militarists within the US Administrations anticipated prolonged national resistance from the targeted countries, the regrouping of armed opposition and the spread of violent attacks (including terrorism) to the imperial countries. Having utterly destroyed the Afghan and Iraqi state structures, as well as the regime in power, and having devastated the economy as well as any central military or police capacity, the imperial state was faced with endless armed civilian ethno-religious and tribal resistance (including suicide bombings), mounting US troop casualties and spiraling costs to the domestic economy without any “exit strategy”. The imperial powers were unable to set up a stable and loyal client regime, backed by a unified state apparatus with a monopoly of force and violence, after having deliberately shredded these structures (police, bureaucracy, civil service, etc) during the invasion and early occupation. The creation of this “political vacuum” was never a problem for the Zionists embedded in the US Administrations since their ultimate goal was to devastate Israel’s enemies. As a result of the US invasions, the regional power of Israel was greatly enhanced without the loss of a single Israeli soldier or shekel. The Zionists within the Bush Administration successfully blamed the ensuing problems of the occupation, especially the growing armed resistance, on their ‘militarist’ colleagues and the Pentagon ‘Brass’. ‘Mission Accomplished’, the Bush Administration Zionists left the government, moving on to lucrative careers in the private financial sector.

Under President Obama, a new ‘cast’ of embedded Zionists have emerged to target Iran and prepare the US for a new war on Israel’s behalf. However, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, when Barak Obama was elected president, the political, economic and military situation had changed. The contrast in circumstances between the early Bush (Jr.) years and the current administration is striking.

The 20-year period (1980-2000) before the launching of the ‘serial war’ agenda was characterized by short, inexpensive, low-casualty wars in Grenada, Panama and Yugoslavia, and a proxy war in Afghanistan. Israeli invasions and attacks against Lebanon, the occupied West Bank and Syria .One major US war of short duration and limited casualties against Iraq (the First Gulf War). The First Gulf War succeeded in weakening the government of Saddam Hussein, fragmenting the country via ‘no fly zones’, establishing a Kurdish client ‘state’ in the north while ‘policing’ was left to the remnants of the Iraqi state – all without having to occupy the country.

Meanwhile, the US economy was relatively stable and trade deficits were manageable. The real economic crisis was still to come. Military expenditures appeared under control. US public opinion, initially hostile to the First Gulf War was “pacified” by its short duration and the withdrawal of US troops. Iraq remained under aerial surveillance with frequent US bombing and missile strikes whenever the government attempted to regain control of the north. During this period, Israel was forced to fight its own wars and maintain an expensive occupation of southern Lebanon – losing its own soldiers.

By the second decade of the 21st century everything had changed. The US was bogged down in a prolonged thirteen year war and occupation in Afghanistan with little hope for a stable client regime in Kabul. The seven-year war against Iraq (Second Gulf War) with the massive occupation, armed civilian insurgency and the resurgence of ethno-religious conflict resulted in casualties and a crippling growth in US military expenditures. Budget and trade deficits expanded exponentially while the US share of the world market declined. China displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America, Asia and Africa. A series of new ‘low intensity’ wars were launched in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan which show no prospect of ending the drain on the military and the US Treasury.

The vast majority of the US public has experienced a decline in living standards and now believes the cost of overseas wars are a significant factor contributing to their relative impoverishment and insecurity. The multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the Wall Street banks during the economic crash of 2008-09 has eroded public support for the financial elite as well as the militarist-Zionist elite, which continue to push for more imperial wars.

The capacity of the US imperial elite to launch new wars on Israel’s behalf has been greatly undermined since the economic crash of 2008-09. The gap between the rulers and ruled has widened. Domestic economic issues, not the threat of external terrorists, have become the central concern. The public sees the Middle East as a region of unending costly wars – with no benefit to the domestic economy. Asia has become the center of trade, growth, investment and a major source of US jobs. While Washington continues to ignore the citizens’ views, accumulated grievances are beginning to have an impact.

A Pew Research report, released in late 2013, confirms the wide gap between elite and public opinion. The Pew Foundation is an establishment polling operation, which presents its questions in a way that avoids the larger political questions. Nevertheless, the responses presented in the report are significant: By a vast margin (52% to 38%) the public agree that the US “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own”. This represents a major increase in public opposition to armed US imperialist intervention and the 52% response in 2013 contrasts sharply with 30% polled 2002. A companion poll of elite policy advisors, members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), highlights the gap between the US public and the ruling class. The elite are described by the Pew Report as having a ‘decidedly internationalist (imperialist-interventionist) outlook’. The American public clearly distinguishes between ‘trade’ and ‘globalization’ (imperialism.): 81% of the public favor ‘trade’ as a source of job creation while 73% oppose ‘globalization’ which they see as US companies relocating jobs overseas to low wage regions. The US public rejects imperial economic expansion and wars for the harm done to the domestic economy, middle and working class income and job security. The members of the Council on Foreign Relations, in contrast, are overwhelmingly in favor of ‘globalization’ (and imperial interventions). While 81% of the public believe the principle goal of US foreign policy should be the protection of American jobs, only 29% of the CFR rate US jobs as a priority.

The elite is conscious of the growing gap in interests, values and priorities between the public and the imperial state; they know that endless costly wars have led to a mass rejection of new imperial wars and a growing demand for domestic job programs.

This gap between the imperial policy elite and the majority of the public is one of the leading factors now influencing US foreign policy. Together with the general discredit of the Congress (only 9% favorable), the public’s rejection of President Obama’s militarist foreign policy has seriously weakened the empire’s capacity to begin new large-scale ground wars at multiple sites.

Meanwhile, Israel (Washington’s foreign patron), the Gulf State clients and European and Japanese allies have been pushing the US to intervene and confront ‘their adversaries’. To this end, Israel and the Zionist Power Configuration within the US government have been undermining peace negotiations between the US and Iran. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, as well as Turkey are urging the US to attack Syria. The French had successfully pushed the US into a war against the Gaddafi government in Libya and have their sights on their former colony in Syria. The US has given only limited backing to the French military intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic.

The US public is aware that none of Washington’s ‘militarist’ patrons, clients and allies has paid such a high price in terms of blood and treasure as the US in the recent wars. The Saudi, Israeli and French “publics” have not experienced the socio-economic dislocations confronting the US public. For these ‘allied’ regimes, the cheapest way to resolve their own regional conflicts and promote their own ambitions is to convince, coerce or pressure the US to “exercise its global leadership”.

Washington’s imperial policymakers, by background, history, ideology and past experience, are sensitive to these appeals – especially those from the Israelis. But they also recognize the growing “intervention fatigue” among the American public, the CFR’s euphemism for rising anti-imperialist feelings among the American majority, which is saying ‘no’ to further imperial military interventions.

Faced with choice of acting as an unfettered imperial power with global interests and facing rising domestic discontent, Washington has been forced to revise its foreign policy and strategies. It is adopting a more nuanced approach, one less vulnerable to external pressures and manipulations.

Imperial Foreign Policy in a Time of Domestic Constraints & External Pressures

US empire builders, with increasingly limited military options and declining domestic support, have begun to (1) prioritize their choice of places of engagement, (2) diversify their diplomatic, political and economic instruments of coercion and (3) limit large-scale, long-term military intervention to regions where US strategic interests are involved. Washington is not shedding its militarist polices by any means, but it is looking for ways to avoid costly long-term wars which further undermine the domestic economy and intensify domestic political opposition.

In order to decipher US imperial policy in this new context, it is useful to first (1) identify the regions of conflict, (2) estimate the significance of these countries and conflicts to the empire and, (3) analyze the particular interventions and their impact on US empire building. Our purpose is to show how the interplay between domestic and external countervailing pressures affects imperial policy.

Conflicts which Engage US Empire Builders

There are at least eleven major or minor conflicts today engaging US empire builders to a greater or lesser extent. A major premise of our approach is that US empire builders are more selective in their aggression, more conscious of the economic consequences, less reckless in their commitments and have a greater concern for domestic political impact. Current conflicts of interest to Washington include those taking place in the Ukraine, Thailand, Honduras, China-Japan-South Korea, Iran-Gulf States/Israel, Syria, Venezuela, Palestine-Israel, Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt.

These conflicts can be classified according to whether they involve major or minor US interests and whether they involve major or minor allies or adversaries. Among the conflicts where the US has strategic interests and which involve major actors, one would have to include the territorial and maritime dispute between Japan, South Korea and China. On the surface the dispute appears to be over economically insignificant pile of rocks claimed by the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands and by the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands. In essence, the conflict involves the US plan to militarily encircle China by provoking its Japanese and Korean allies to confront the Chinese over the islands. Washington’s treaties with Japan will be used to come to the ‘aid’ of its most important ally in the region. The US support of Japan’s expansionist claims is part of a strategic shift in US policy from military commitments in the Middle East to military and economic pacts in Asia, which exclude and provoke China.

The Obama Regime has announced its ‘Pivot to Asia’ in an attempt to deal with its largest economic competitor. China, the second biggest economy in the world, has displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America and Asia. It is advancing rapidly as the principal investor in developing Africa’s natural resources. In response, the US has (1) openly backed Japan’s claims, (2) defied China’s strategic interests in the East China Sea by flying B52 bombers within China’s Air Defense Identification Zone and (3) encouraged South Korea to expand its ‘air defense’ zones to overlap with those of the Chinese. History teaches us that inflexible assertions of dominance by established imperial powers against rising dynamic economies will lead to conflicts, and even disastrous wars.

Imperial advisers believe that US naval and air superiority and Chinese dependence on foreign trade give the US a strategic advantage in any armed confrontation. Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” is clearly designed to encircle and degrade China’s capacity to outcompete and displace the US from world markets. Washington’s militarists, however, fail to take account of China’s strategic levers – especially the over two trillion dollars of US Treasury notes (debt) held by China, which, if dumped on the market, would lead to a major devaluation of the US currency, panic on Wall Street and a deeper economic depression. China could respond to US military threats by (1) seizing the assets of the 500 biggest US MNCs located in the country which would crash the stock market and (2) cutting off the source for major supply chains, further disrupting the US and world economy.

Imperialist ambitions and resentment over the loss of markets, status, and supremacy is pushing Washington to raise the stakes and confront China. Opposing the militarists, Washington’s economic realists believe the US is too exposed and too dependent on credit, overseas earnings and financial revenues to engage in new military interventions in Asia, especially after the disastrous consequences of wars in the Middle East. Current US policy reflects an ongoing struggle between the militarist imperialists and the defenders of imperial economic interests. For the market-oriented policy advisers, it makes no sense to confront China, when mutual gains from rising trade and economic inter-dependence have proven far superior to any marginal territorial gains offshore. These conflicting outlooks find expression in the alternating bellicose and conciliatory rhetoric of Vice President Biden during his December visit to Japan, China and South Korea.

The second area involving major actors and interests is the Persian Gulf, especially Israel-Iran-Saudi Arabia and the US. Having gone through costly and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fully aware that US intelligence agencies have found no evidence of an Iran nuclear weapons program, the Obama Administration is eager to reach an agreement with Iran. Nevertheless, US strategists are pursuing an agreement that would (1) weaken Iran’s defense capability, (2) undermine Iranian support for popular revolts among Shiite populations living in the Gulf Monarchies, (3) isolate President Bashar Assad in Syria and (4) facilitate a long-term US presence in Afghanistan by destroying Al Qaeda operations throughout the region. In addition a US – Iran agreement would lift the harsh economic sanctions and (1) allow US oil companies to exploit Iran’s richest oil fields, (2) lower the cost of energy and (3) reduce US trade deficits.

A major stumbling block to any US-Iran agreement is from the well-entrenched Zionist strategists and advisers among policy-makers, especially in the Executive Branch, including such Department heads and Secretaries as Treasury Undersecretary (for ‘Terrorism’) David Cohen, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, ‘Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf’ Dennis Ross among others. An even greater obstacle to the agreement comes from the Zionist-controlled US Congress, which acts more on behalf of Israel’s regional ambitions than for US interests. Israel’s megalomaniacal rulers seek military, political and economic supremacy throughout the Middle East (from Sinai to the Gulf) and have so far successfully used the US military to destroy and weaken its adversaries at no cost to Israeli soldiers or economy.

Israel has taken a direct hand in setting the terms, which the US will demand from Iran. According to the Financial Times (12/8/13, p. 4), “A team of senior Israeli officials led by Yossi Cohen, national security adviser, is due to visit Washington … to begin detailed discussions with the Obama Administration to use its influence in shaping the negotiating agenda.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has already caved in to Israeli pressure stating, “We will be stepping up on enforcement (of existing sanctions) through the Treasury Department,” (FT 12/18/13, p. 4). Israel and its top Zionist agent within the Obama Administration, Dennis Ross, are pushing for a joint Israeli-US “working group” to discuss tightening sanctions on Iran and punishing any government or business which tries to do business with Iran during the “interim agreement”, a position pursued by David Cohen and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (FT 12/ 13/13). Israel is behind the US demand that Iran convert its Arak Facilities from a heavy water into a light-water reactor and reduce its centrifuges by 95% from 19,000 to 1,000.

In other words, Israel dictates terms to the US negotiators that will effectively sabotage any possible agreement and put the US on a course toward another war for Israel. Surprisingly, Israel’s hardliners and its agents within the US Administration have an important and unlikely ally – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif, the chief negotiator in Geneva, who has downplayed Iran’s military capabilities and exaggerated US military capabilities and seems quite willing to dismantle Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. In justifying his far-reaching concessions and meager returns, Foreign Minister Zarif publicly declared that ‘the US could destroy the country’s (Iran’s) defense system with one bomb!” (FT, 12/10/13, p. 2) Zarif, in effect, is preparing to sell out Iran’s nuclear industry, in advance, without any objective consideration of Iran’s military power or recognition of US strategic weaknesses.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers influence US policy through their contracts with the military – industrial complex – amounting to over $20 billion dollar arms purchase in 2013. In addition, the Saudi Monarch has allowed the construction of US military bases on its territory and maintains close ties with Wall Street investment houses. Saudi opposition to any US – Iran rapprochement arises from Riyadh’s fear of Iranian influence over its oppressed Shia minority and Tehran’s critique of the absolutist monarchy.

The positive gains, in terms of US strategic military and economic interests from an agreement with the liberal Iranian regime, are offset by the negative pressures from Saudi and Israeli-Zionists interests. As a result, Washington’s policy oscillates between peaceful, diplomatic overtures to Iran and bellicose threats to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia. Washington is desperate to avoid being dragged into another “war for Israel”, in order to secure its hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and avoid a major domestic political and economic crisis. The Obama Administration has yet to exhibit the high degree of statesmanship necessary to restrain and neutralize the deeply embedded Zionist Power Configuration, within its ranks and in the Congress, which places Israeli interests over those of the US.

Regional Conflicts: Minor Interests & Major Actors

The Ukraine – European Union (EU) – Russian conflict involves minor US economic interests but potentially major military interests. The US supports the EU’s policy of incorporating the Ukraine into its economic and trade system. The EU will be the major beneficiary in the plunder of Ukraine’s economy, penetrating its market and reaping mega financial returns. The US is content to watch the EU play the major role in stoking Ukrainian civil unrest. If and when Ukraine joins the EU, it will become another client regime subject to the dictates of the bankers and bureaucrats in Brussels, just like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy). The US is mainly interested in bringing the Ukraine into NATO as part of its policy of surrounding Russia.

Syria, like Libya, Mali, Central African Republic and Egypt, are of secondary interest for the US. Washington has let the European Union, especially France, England and their allies, lead and direct military operations directly and through proxies. The Obama Administration already faced intense “intervention fatigue” – widespread popular opposition to war - when it joined the EU in bombing Tripoli to rubble, but it refused to commit ground forces and left Libya a broken country without a viable economy, stable society or functioning state! So much for ‘humanitarian intervention’! Intervention in Syria has faced even greater domestic opposition from Congress and the US public – except for the Israeli and Saudi lobbies. Obama was clearly not willing to act as ‘Al Qaeda’s Air Force’ by bombing Damascus and facilitating a jihadist takeover. It chose diplomatic solution and accepted the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons. It appears to support a Geneva-based negotiated solution. Another war, this time with Syria, would inflame US domestic discontent and further erode the economy, with no positive gain for US imperialism. In fact, US military victory over Damascus would expand the territory of operation for Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant. It was US public opinion that overcame the massive pro-Israel media barrage and pressure from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations that had been actively pushing the Obama Administration into a ‘Syrian Quagmire’!

French President Francoise Hollande is the new face of imperial militarism and interventionism in Africa with its massive bombing in Libya and invasion and occupation in Mali and the Central African Republic. The US is content to play a ‘supporting role’ to France. It has no strategic involvement in Africa apart from its proxy wars in Somalia.

With public opinion strongly against any more major direct military intervention Washington has turned to military proxies for conflicts in ‘strategic’ and marginal countries and regions. Even where significant imperial interests may be involved, Washington increasingly relies on local elites to act on its behalf in conflicts in countries as diverse as Yemen, Thailand, Honduras, Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt. Sending drones and dispatching teams of Special Forces in clandestine operations have been the US Administration’s intervention of choice in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, Special Forces combine with the US military, NATO troops and local client military proxies, as well as drones.

In Honduras, the US-backed military coup, which unleashed death squads with the killing of over 200 dissident activists in a two year period was followed by a fraudulent election which reclaimed ‘power’ for a US client regime. In Venezuela, the US continues to finance opposition parties who support violent street mobs, the sabotage of public services like electricity, while relying on local business elites to hoard basic goods and inflate prices. So far, these efforts to undermine the Venezuelan government have failed.

Conclusion

US Empire builders have relied on a wider variety of interventions than their predecessor under President George W. Bush. They are much less prone to launch large-scale ground operations and more likely to turn to local client elites. They have shown a far greater sense of priorities in selecting targets for direct intervention.

Washington relies more on its imperial European allies, especially the French, to take the lead in Africa, without relinquishing its key interest in maintaining Egypt tightly under US-Israeli control. There is a shift in priority toward the Far East, especially the countries bordering China, like Japan and South Korea, as part of the long-term US strategy to encircle and limit China’s economic expansion. The US ‘Pivot to Asia’, under the Obama Administration, is characterized by alternating economic negotiations with growing military encirclement.

Controlling the Persian Gulf and undermining Iran continues to be a high priority for US Empire builders, but the costly and disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq under George W. Bush and its adverse domestic fallout, has led Washington to rely less on military confrontation with Tehran and more on economic sanctions, military encirclement and now diplomatic negotiations to secure collaboration from the new Rouhani regime.

The principle strategic weakness in US empire building policy lies in the absence of domestic support. There is a growing demand for better paying jobs to reverse the decline of US living standards and greater protection for social services and livelihoods. The second strategic weakness is found in the incapacity of the US to create a viable economic “co-prosperity sphere”, which would win allies in Asia and Latin America. The so-called “Pivot to Asia” is overly and overtly reliant on military(mostly naval) power, which functions in times of ‘territorial conflicts’ with China, but does not create stable, structural links with local productive elites – who rely on China for trade.

In the end the most serious obstacle to effectively adapting US foreign policy to the current realities is the influential Israel-linked-Zionist Power Configuration embedded in the Congress, the Administration and the mass media. Zionists are deeply committed to pushing the US into more wars for Israel. Nevertheless the shift to negotiations with Iran, the refusal to bomb Syria and the reluctance to get involved in the Ukraine are all indications that Washington is less inclined to launch more large-scale military intervention and more receptive to the public opinion constraints on the exercise of imperial power.

 

# # # #

 

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Iran-US Interim Agreement: Historic Breakthrough or Historic Sellout?

The recent interim accord between the six world powers and Iran has been hailed as an “historic breakthrough”, a “significant accomplishment” by most leading politicians, editorialists and columnists (Financial Times, (FT) 11/26/13, p. 2), the exceptions being notably Israeli leaders and the Zionist power brokers in North America and Western Europe (FT 11/26/13, p. 3).

What constitutes this “historic breakthrough”? Who got what? Did the agreement provide for symmetrical concessions? Does the interim agreement strengthen or weaken the prospects for peace and prosperity in the Gulf and the Middle East? To address these and other questions, one also has to include the powerful influence wielded by Israel on US and European policymakers.

The Historical Record: Past Precedents

For over a decade the major US intelligence agencies have published detailed accounts of Iran’s nuclear program (see especially the National Intelligence Estimate 2007 (NIE)). The common consensus has been that Iran did not have any program for developing nuclear weapons (National Intelligence Estimate 2004, 2007). As a consequence of this ‘absence of evidence’, the entire Western offensive against Iran had to focus on Iran’s “potential capacity” to shift sometime in the future towards a weapons program. The current agreement is directed toward undermining Iran’s potential ‘capacity’ to have a nuclear weapons program: there are no weapons to destroy, no weapon plans exist, no war plans exist and there are no strategic offensive military operations on the Iranian ‘drawing board’. We know this, because repeated US intelligence reports have told us that no weapons programs exist! So the entire current negotiations are really over weakening Iran’s ongoing peaceful, legal nuclear program and undermining any future advance in nuclear technology that might protect Iran from an Israeli or US attack, when they decide to activate their “military option”, as was pulled off in the war to destroy Iraq.

Secondly, Iran’s flexible and accommodating concessions are not new or a reflection of a newly elected President. As Gareth Porter has pointed out: Nearly ten years ago, on Nov. 15, 2004, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities” (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/26/13). According to Porter, Iran was ending “all manufacturing, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components”. Despite these generous concessions, on March 2005, the Europeans and the US refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement that would guarantee against enrichment toward weapons grade. Iran ended its voluntary suspension of all enrichment activity. The US, led by Zionists embedded in Treasury, (Stuart Levey) then escalated sanctions. Europe and the UN Security Council followed in kind. The practice of the US and Europe first securing major concessions from Iran and then refusing to reciprocate by pursuing a comprehensive settlement is a well established diplomatic practice. Iran’s flexibility and concessions were apparently interpreted as “signs of weakness” to be exploited in their push toward ‘regime change’ (An Unusual Success for Sanctions Policy, FT 11/27/13, p. 10). Sanctions are seen as “effective” political-diplomatic weapons designed to further weaken the regime. Policy-makers continue to believe that sanctions should be maintained as a tool to divide the Iranian elite, disarm and dismantle the country’s defensive capacity and to prepare for “regime change” or a military confrontation without fear of serious resistance from the Iranians.

The entire charade of Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons as a threat’ has been orchestrated by the Israeli regime and its army of ‘Israel Firsters’ embedded in the US Executive, Congress and mass media. The ‘Big Lie’, promoted by Israel’s propaganda machine and network of agents, has been repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by the sixteen major US Intelligence Estimates or NIE’s, especially in 2004 and 2007. These consensus documents were based on extensive research, inside sources (spies) and highly sophisticated surveillance. The NIEs categorically state that Iran suspended all efforts toward a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not made any decision or move to restart that program. However, Israel has actively spread propaganda, based on fabricated intelligence reports, claiming the contrary in order to trick and push the US into a disastrous military confrontation with Israel’s regional rival. And the President of the United States ignores his own intelligence sources in order to repeat Israel’s ‘Big Lie’!

Given the fact that Iran is not a ‘nuclear threat’, now or in the past, and given that the US, European and Israeli leaders know this, why do they continue and even increase the sanctions against Iran? Why do they threaten to destroy Iran with pre-emptive attacks? Why the current demands for even more concessions from Tehran? The current negotiations and ‘agreement’ tell us a great deal about the ‘ultimate’ or final strategic aims of the White House and its European allies.

The ‘Interim Agreement’: A Most Asymmetrical Compromise

Iran’s negotiators conceded to the’ 5 plus 1’ all their major demands while they received the most minimum of concessions, (FT 1/25/13, p. 2).

Iran agreed (1) to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, (2) reduce the existing 20 percent enriched stockpile to zero, (3) convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to a higher level, (4) halt progress on its enrichment capacity, (5) leave inoperable half of its centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of those at Fordow, and (6) freeze all activities at Arak heavy water facility which when built could produce plutonium. Iran also agreed to end any plans to construct a facility capable of reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel. The Iranian negotiators agreed to the most pervasive and intensive “inspections” of its most important strategic defense facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been closely allied with the US and its EU counterparts. These “inspections” and data collection will take place on a daily bases and include access to Natanz and Fordow. The strategic military value of these inspections is inestimable because it could provide data, heretofore unavailable, for any future missile strike from the US or Israel when they decide to shift from negotiations to the ‘military option’. In addition, the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to access other strategic facilities, including sites for developing centrifuges, uranium mines and mills. Future “negotiations” may open highly sensitive military defense sites such as Parchin, where conventional missiles and warheads are stored.

Obviously, there will not be any reciprocal inspections of the US missile sites, warships and military bases in the Persian Gulf, which store weapons of mass destruction aimed at Iran! Nor will the IAEA inspect Israel’s nuclear weapons—facilities in Dimona – despite Israeli threats to attack Iran. No comparable diminution of “military capacity” or nuclear weapons, aimed at Iran by some members of the ‘5 plus 1 and Israel’ is included in this “historic breakthrough”.

The ‘5 plus 1’ conceded meager concessions: Unfreezing of 7% of Iranian-owned assets sequestered in Western banks ($7 billion of $100 billion) and ‘allowing’ Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent --and even that “concession” is conditioned by the proviso that it does not exceed current stockpiles of 5% enriched uranium. While the Iranian negotiators claim they secured (sic) ‘the right’ to enrich uranium, the US refused to even formally acknowledge it!

In effect, Iran has conceded the maximum concessions regarding its strategic national defenses, nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment in what is supposedly the ‘initial’ round of negotiations, while ‘receiving’ the minimum of reciprocal concessions. This highly unfavorable, asymmetrical framework, will lead the US to see Iran as ‘ripe for regime change’ and demand even more decisive concessions designed to further weaken Iran’s defensive capacity. Future concessions will increase Iran’s vulnerability to intelligence gathering and undermine its role as a regional power and strategic ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the current beleaguered governments in Syria and Iraq and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The ‘Final Settlement’: Decline & Fall of the Islamic Nationalist Republic?

The real goals of the US sanctions policy and the recent decision to enter into negotiations with Iran have to do with several imperial objectives. The first objective is to facilitate the rise of a neo-liberal regime in Iran, which would be committed to privatizing major oil and gas fields and attracting foreign capital even at the cost of strategic national defense.

President Rohani is seen in Washington as the Islamic version of the former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. Rohani, like his ‘model’ Gorbachev, ‘gave away the store’ while expecting Iran’s imperial adversaries to reciprocate.

The ‘5 plus 1’, mostly veterans of the ‘imperial shake down’, will take all of Rohani’s concessions and demand even more! They will “allow” Iran to recover its own frozen assets in slow droplets, which the neo-liberals in Tehran will celebrate as ‘victories’ even while the country stagnates under continued sanctions and the people suffer! The US Administration will retain sanctions in order to accommodate their Israeli-Zionist patrons and to provoke even deeper fissures in the regime. Washington’s logic is that the more concessions Teheran surrenders, the more difficult it will be to reverse the process under public pressure from the Iranian people. This ‘rift’ between the conciliatory government of Rohani and the Iranian people, according to CIA strategists, will lead to greater internal discontent in Iran and will further weaken the regime. A regime under siege will need to rely even more on their Western interlocutors. President Rohani ‘relying on the 5-plus-1’ will be like the condemned leaning into the hangman’s noose.

Rohani and the Neo-Liberal Collaborators

The ascendancy of Rohani to the Presidency brings in its wake an entire new political-economic leadership intent on facilitating large-scale, long-term penetration by Western and Chinese oil and gas companies in the most lucrative sites. Iran’s new oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has made overtures to all the oil majors, and offers to revise and liberalize the terms for investment and provide concessions designed to greatly enhance multinational profits, in the most lucrative fields (FT, 11/27/13, p. 2). Zangeneh has kicked out the nationalists and replaced them with a cohort of liberal economists. He is preparing to eventually lay-off tens of thousands of public sector oil employees as an incentive to attract foreign corporate partners. He is prepared to lower fuel subsidies for the Iranian people and raise energy prices for domestic consumers. The liberals in power have the backing of millionaires, speculators and political power brokers, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani head of the key Expediency Council, which drafts policy. Many of Rafsanjani’s followers have been appointed to key positions in President Rohani’s administration (FT, 11/26/13, p.3).

Central to the ‘Troika’s (Rohani-Rafsanjani-Zangeneh) strategy is securing the collaboration of multi-national energy corporations. However that requires lifting the US-imposed sanctions against Iran in the shortest time possible. This explains the hasty, unseemly and one-sided Iranian concessions to the ‘5-plus-1’. In other words, the driving force behind Iran’s giveaways is not the “success of sanctions” but the ascendancy to power of the Iranian comprador class and its neo-liberal ideology which informs their economic strategy.

Several major obstacles confront the ‘Troika’. The major concessions, initially granted, leave few others to concede, short of dismantling the entire nuclear energy infrastructure and lobotomizing its entire scientific and technical manpower, which would destroy the legitimacy of the regime. Secondly, having easily secured major concessions without lifting the sanctions the ‘5-plus-1’ are free to escalate their demands for further concessions, which in effect will deepen Iran’s vulnerability to Western espionage, terrorism (as in the assassination of Iranian scientists and engineers) and preemptive attack. As the negotiations proceed it will become crystal clear that the US intends to force the ‘Troika’ to open the gates to more overtly pro-western elites in order to eventually polarize Iranian society.

The end-game is a weakened, divided, liberalized regime, vulnerable to internal and external threats and willing to cut-off support to nationalist regimes in the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The US recognized and seized upon the rise of the new neo-liberal Rohani regime and secured major unilateral concessions as a down payment to move step-by-step toward bloody regime change. Washington’s “end game” is the conversion of Iran to a client petrol-state allied with the Saudi-Israeli axis.

As far-fetched as that appears today, the logic of negotiations is moving in that direction.

The Israeli-US Differences: A Question of Tactics & Timing

Israeli leaders and their Zionist agents, embedded in the US government, howl, pull out their hair and bluster against the ‘5-plus-1’ transitional agreement with Iran. They downplay the enormous one-sided concessions. They rant and rave about “hidden agenda”, “deceit and deception”. They fabricate conspiracies and repeat lies about secret “nuclear weapons programs” beyond the reach (and imagination) of any non-Zionist inspector. But the reality is that the “historic breakthrough” includes the dismantling of a major part of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, while retaining sanctions – a huge victory of the Zionists! The ‘5-plus-1’ negotiated a deal which has secured deeper and more extensive changes in Iran while strengthening Western power in the Persian Gulf than all of Netanyahu’s decade-long campaign of issuing ‘military threats’.

Netanyahu and his brainwashed Zionist-Jewish defenders in the US insist on new, even harsher sanctions because they want immediate war and regime-change (a puppet regime). Echoing his Israeli boss Netanyahu, New York Senator Chuck “the schmuck” Schumer, commenting on the interim agreement brayed, “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will pass additional sanctions” (Barrons 12/2/13 p14) This is the same stupid policy that the embedded Zionists in Washington pursued with Iraq. Under the Bush Presidency, top neo-con Zionists, like Wolfowitz, Ross, Indyk, Feith, Abrams and Libby, implemented Ariel Sharon’s war dictates: (1) murdered Saddam Hussein (regime change) (2) destroyed the Iraq’s economy, society and modern infrastructure, and (3) provoked ethnic fragmentation and religious war – costing the US over 2 trillion dollars on the war, thousands of US lives (millions of Iraqi lives) and at a cost of hundreds of billions in high oil prices to US consumers – further shattering the US domestic economy.

Among the few moderately intelligent and influential Zionist journalists, Gideon Rachman, who realizes the strategic value of the step-by-step approach of the Obama regime, has called for the White House “to take on the Israel lobby over Iran” (FT, 11/26/13, p. 10). Rachman knows that if Israel’s howling stooges in the US Congress drag the country into war, the American people will turn against the Israeli lobby, its fellow travelers and, most likely, Israel. Rachman and a few others with a grain of political sophistication know that the Rohani regime in Tehran has just handed over key levers of power to the US. They know that the negotiations are moving toward greater integration of Iran into the US orbit. They know, in the final instance, that Obama’s step-by-step diplomatic approach will be less costly and more effective than Netanyahu’s military ‘final solution’. And they know that, ultimately, Obama’s and Israel’s goal is the same: a weak neo-liberalized Iran, which cannot challenge Israel’s military dominance, nuclear weapons monopoly, annexation of Palestine and aggression against Lebanon and Syria.

Conclusion

Having secured a “freeze” on Iran’s consequential nuclear research and having on site intelligence on all Iran’s major national defense and security facilities, the US can compile a data base for an offensive military strategy whenever it likes. Iran, on the other hand, receives no information or reports on US, European or Israeli military movement, weapons facilities or offensive regional capabilities. This is despite the fact that the ‘5-plus-1’ countries and Israel have recently launched numerous devastating offensive military operations and wars in the region (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria). Having set the agenda for negotiations as one of further unilateral concessions from Iran, the US can at any point, threaten to end negotiations – and follow up with its ‘military option’.

The next step in the unilateral disarmament of Iran will be the US demand to close the strategic Arak heavy water plant. The US will demand that Iran produce a basic minimum amount of uranium and retain a stock pile to cover a few days or weeks for energy, research or medical isotopes. Washington will strip Iran of its capacity to enrich by imposing quantitative and qualitative limits on the centrifuges that Iran can possess and operate. During the next round of negotiations, the US will preclude Iran from undertaking the reprocessing of uranium at Arak or any other site. The US will tell ‘the Troika’ that the “right” (sic) to enrich does not extend to the right to reprocess. The US will demand stringent “transparency” for Iran, while maintaining its own high level secrecy, evasion and ambiguity with regard to its military, diplomatic and economic sanctions policy.

In a word, the US will demand that Iran surrender its sovereignty and subject itself to the colonial oversight of an imperial power, which has yet to make a single move in even reducing economic sanctions. The loss of sovereignty, the continued sanctions and the drive by the US to curtail Iran’s regional influence will certainly lead to popular discontent in Iran – and a response from the nationalist and populist military (Revolutionary Guards) and the working poor. The crisis resulting from the Troika’s adoption of the “Gorbachev Model” will lead to an inevitable confrontation. Overtime the US will seek out an Islamist strongman, an Iranian version of Yeltsin who can savage the nationalists and popular movements and turn over the keys to the state, treasury and oil fields to a “moderate and responsible” pro-Western client regime.

The entire US strategy of degrading Iran’s military defenses and securing major neo-liberal “reforms” depends on President Rohani remaining in power, which can only result from the Obama regime’s compliance in lifting some of the oil and banking sanctions (FT 12/1/13, p. 6). Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to achieving Washington’s strategic roll-back goal is Netanyahu’s power to block sanction relief – and impose even, harsher sanctions. The result of such an Israel Firster victory in the US would be the end of negotiations, the strengthening of Iran’s nuclear program, the demise of the oil privatization program and added support to regional nationalist movements and governments. President Rohani desperately needs western imperial reassurance of the benefits (sanction relief) of his initial giveaways. Otherwise his credibility at home would be irreparably damaged.

The imperial prize of a militarily weakened and neo-liberalized Iran, collaborating in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, is enormous but it clashes with the Zionist Power Configuration, which insists on all power to the Jewish state from the Suez to the Persian Gulf!

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 92

Empire in Africa

EPPObama has expanded Special Operations warfare around the world to over 100 countries. This global war has taken on a new focus on the continent of Africa, where the Obama administration quietly announced the deployment of troops to 35 countries, largely to train domestic repressive military forces. Drone bases are being built on the continent, and the Pentagon's Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been working with and coordinating military activities across the entire continent since 2008, while a global land grab has accelerated since 2009, placing Africa squarely in the targets of the Global Godfather of the American Empire.

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The War on Terrorism … or Whatever

Being on the Same Side as al Qaeda on Repeated Occasions before Syria

“U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.” 1

Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good … What is he to make of all this? [Read more...]

Processing Distortion: “Cruise Missile Liberals with Weapons of Mass Distortion”

Peter B. Collins Presents Gareth Porter

Dr. Gareth Porter carefully breaks down the unclassified summary of the Obama administration's "evidence" that the Syrian military is responsible for the reported chemical weapons attack on August 21 in the Damascus suburb of Adra. We start with the shifting US positions on UN weapons inspectors, and the lack of evidence for any of the strong assertions that Kerry offered with a string of introductory "We know" clauses, followed by innuendo and circumstantial evidence. We also talk about the purported interception of Syrian communications and the listening post on Cyprus at Mt. Troodos. Our discussions included the wide range of estimated fatalities, the grisly videos that do not show victims vomiting (a clear sign of sarin), the reports of chemical weapons in the hands of opposition cells near the town of Ghouta and more!

Dr. Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. He is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam. He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005. Dr. Porter was both a Vietnam specialist and an anti-war activist during the Vietnam War and was Co-Director of Indochina Resource Center in Washington.

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Found at Last: After Searching for 10 Years, the Iraqi WMD Have Finally Been Found – in Syria!

The World Might Be Finally Losing the Stars in Their Eyes About US Foreign Policy

Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?”

A US drone has just taken a photo of Mullah Omar riding on a motorcycle through the streets of Damascus. 1

So what do we have as the United States refuses to rule out an attack on Syria and keeps five warships loaded with missiles in the eastern Mediterranean? [Read more...]

That Most Charming of Couples: Nationalism and Hypocrisy

“Unlimited power in the hands of psychopaths- My own country truly scares me.”

By William Blum

It’s not easy being a flag-waving American nationalist. In addition to having to deal with the usual disillusion, anger, and scorn from around the world incited by Washington’s endless bombings and endless wars, the nationalist is assaulted by whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed a steady stream of human-rights and civil-liberties scandals, atrocities, embarrassing lies, and embarrassing truths. Believers in “American exceptionalism” and “noble intentions” have been hard pressed to keep the rhetorical flag waving by the dawn’s early light and the twilight’s last gleaming. [Read more...]

The Two Faux Democracies Threaten Life on Earth

Nuclear War is on Washington’s Agenda

Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question: “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event. Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized US military out of control endangering Americans and the rest of the world. [Read more...]