Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Road To World War III: Turkish Army Enters Syria After Second Day Of Shelling As Saudi Warplanes Arrive

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"The Syrian government says Turkish forces were believed to be among 100 gunmen it said entered Syria on Saturday accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents fighting Damascus," Reuters reports. "The operation of supplying ammunition and weapons is continuing via the Bab al-Salama crossing to the Syrian area of Azaz," the Assad government says.

Meanwhile, since all that would take to unleash a full-blown war is for some Russian to be unexpectedly blown up, events like this do not inspire much confidence in the Syrian "ceasefire":

On Saturday, the geopolitical world was shocked when Turkey began shelling Aleppo, where the Syrian opposition has its back against the wall in the face of an aggressive advance by Hezbollah and the IRGC supported, of course, by Russian airstrikes.

To be sure, everyone knew Ankara and Riyadh would have to do something quick if they wanted to preserve the rebellion. Their proxies are being rolled up rapidly by Hassan Nasrallah’s army and Vladimir Putin’s air force juggernaut. But few expected the escalation would come so quickly.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unpredictable (just ask the lone surviving pilot of the Su-24 Turkey shot down in November) and this weekend, he decided that there’s no time like the present when it comes to starting World War III.

Officially, Turkey says it’s shelling Kurdish positions in Syria in self defense. It’s all about securing the border against hostiles, Ankara says. Of course the idea that the YPG are set to invade Turkey is laughable. The Syrian Kurds have secured enough space in their own country to declare an autonomous proto-state, and they needn’t aspire to capturing Turkish territory.

“They are abusing U.S. support to capture land from the opposition,”a Turkish official said, reflecting Ankara's anger at the fact that Russia and Hezbollah's offensive is making it easier for the Kurds to consolidate their gains. “The U.S. should tell them to stop rather than telling Turkey to stop.”

But for Erdogan, that’s precisely the problem. Ankara fears the YPG’s gains will embolden the PKK militarily and the HDP politically and last June’s elections clearly suggest that an emboldened Kurdish minority has the power to shake up the political scene.

And so, Turkey is set to take the fight to Syria in the name of fighting “terrorists”, which for Erdogan, means eradicating the Kurds. As we noted on Saturday, the challenge for Ankara and Riyadh is this: somehow, Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to figure out how to spin an attack on the YPG and an effort to rescue the opposition at Aleppo as an anti-ISIS operation even though ISIS doesn’t have a large presence in the area.

Incredibly, Turkey seems less concerned about the optics than we thought. In short, Erdogan looks as though he’s prepared to simply enter the war on the pretext that Turkey needs to roll back the YPG which, you’re reminded is explicitly backed by the US.

In a way that makes sense. You can’t very well shell Aleppo and use ISIS as an excuse. The group’s presence isn’t large enough in the area. But what you can do is say “the PKK are terrorists, they’re allied with the YPG who are in Aleppo, and therefore, we need to shell Aleppo.”

Put in the simplest possible terms, what Erdogan is really doing is trying to reopen supply lines closed by Russia and Iran by wiping out Kurdish forces who dominate the northern border with Turkey.

The shelling continued on Sunday. "The Turkish army shelled positions held by Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria for a second day on Sunday, killing two fighters," Reuters reports, citing the admittedly dubious Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The YPG controls nearly all of Syria's northern frontier with Turkey, and has been a close ally of the United States in the campaign against Islamic State in Syria, but Ankara views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-old insurgency for autonomy in southeast Turkey."

Jaysh al-Thuwwar, an allied group warned Turkey against further attacks, saying if the country "has goals in our dear nation, we will defend our land and our people, and view it as a hostile party". Again, this comes from the very same groups the US is overtly supporting with arms and air power. So not the CIA-sponsored opposition. Turkey is shelling fighters who literally have the clearance to call in US airstrikes from warplanes that, in an irony of ironies, are flying from Incirlik, the Turkish air base. 

And speaking of Incirlik, the Saudis are moving into position.





They're also conducting "exercises" dubbed "North Thunder" or, "Road North." Here's SPA (translated): 

Witnessing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the next few hours the arrival of troops participating in the military exercise largest and most important in the history of the region, "Raad north," In the King Khalid Military City Hafr al-Batin in the northern kingdom will be implemented exercise which is the largest military maneuver in terms of the number of countries, with the participation of 20 Arab, Islamic and friendly country, in addition to the Peninsula shield forces, and these countries are: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco , Pakistan, Chad, Tunisia, the moon, Djibouti, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania, Mauritius, in addition to the Peninsula shield forces. Islands constitute Raad north, the largest military exercise of its kind in terms of the number of participating countries, and military equipment quality of weapons and military equipment diverse and sophisticated, including fighter jets from different models reflect the large quantitative and qualitative spectrum, which show him those forces, as well as the participation of a wide range of artillery and tanks, infantry and air defense systems, naval forces, in a simulation of the highest level of high alert for the armies of the countries 20 participation.  
Exercise Raad North represents a clear message to the Saudi brothers and brothers and friends of the participating countries stand united to face all challenges and to maintain peace and stability in the region, in addition to the emphasis on many of the goals, all in full readiness circle and maintain the peace and security of the region and the world .  
Analysts say that the exercise Raad North confirms that the leaders of the participating countries, are fully in line with the vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the need to protect the peace and stability in the region.
A lot of words to say this: "We're flexing our muscles on the way to invading Syria." 



"What is present now is aircraft that are part of the Saudi forces," Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri told Al Arabiya News Channel on Sunday, referencing the Saudi presence at Incirlik. "The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against ISIS) may agree to carry out in Syria," he added.

Remember, Turkey also shelled the Syrian army on Saturday

“Turkish artillery shelled Syrian territory, targeting Syrian Kurdish positions and the positions of the Syrian Arab Army,” SANA news agency reported, citing a letter from Damascus to the UN. Expect those attacks to continue in the name of "self defense."

Meanwhile, the Russians aren't letting up. Aleppo will be recaptured and that, as they say, is that.



"Russia is determined to create facts on the ground, and when they have accomplished this, then they will invite the West to fight a common enemy, this is ISIS," Norbert Roettgen, head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament says, underscoring our contention that Russia is determined to negotiate from a position of absolute strength. "Let's be clear about what this agreement does. It allows Russia's assault on Aleppo to continue for another week," John McCain exclaimed. "Mr Putin is not interested in being our partner. He wants to shore up the Assad regime, he wants to establish Russia as a major power in the Middle East, he wants to use Syria as a live fire exercise for Russia’s modernizing military."

Right. And America is seemingly powerless to stop him.

In the short term, the only question now is this: how long will it be before Turkey or Saudi Arabia kills a Hezbollah fighter or an IRGC general? 

Or worse: what happens when a Russian ends up dead at the hands of the region's Sunni powers?

Update: The following video depicts the aftermath of the shelling, which has reportedly claimed the lives of at least two civilians.



(as RT reports, "a video released by the Syrian Kurdish news agency ANHA and obtained by Ruptly shows damaged buildings and people rushing to take care of the wounded in the village of Maryamayn near the town of Afrin")

Update: Reports indicate the Turkish army has crossed the border into Syria.

Russia warns Gulf intervention in Syria risks world war

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Moscow warned Thursday that any move by Gulf nations to send in troops to support the rebels in Syria would risk a “new world war.” It also said that it had made a “quite specific” cease-fire proposal for Syria as foreign ministers gathered in Munich, hoping to revive a floundering peace process amid warnings of a “new world war.”
Meanwhile, a Saudi source said a new Saudi-led coalition to fight “terrorism” in Islamic countries will gather in the kingdom next month for its first publicly announced meeting.
This development came days after the kingdom, which backs some of the rebels that Moscow is helping to defeat, has floated the idea of sending ground troops to help the U.S. effort against Daesh (ISIS).
This was criticized by Russian premier Dmitry Medvedev, who said, “The Americans and our [Arab] partners must think hard about this: Do they want a permanent war?” he told Germany’s Handelsblatt daily.
“We made propositions for a cease-fire that are quite specific,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said as he sat down for talks with U.S. counterpart John Kerry.
Moscow has refused to confirm reports that its cease-fire would take effect only on March 1, giving another three weeks to an offensive which the U.N. says could place 300,000 people under siege. Observers say the shelling on Aleppo have killed 500 people since they began on Feb. 1.
The meeting in the German city of Munich was meant to allow powers to coordinate support for ongoing talks, but instead has turned into a desperate bid to resurrect them.
A Western diplomat told Reuters that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wanted an immediate cease-fire in Syria – “All or nothing.” Moscow, however, had proposed a truce that would begin only from the start of next month, giving its Damascus allies 18 more days to recapture Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city. Western powers were hopeful wording could be agreed that at the very least would allow more access for aid to besieged areas.
“Here we need something of a breakthrough,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Today, we will try what has not been achieved so far especially, to get better supplies to people locked in Syria and link this to first steps in a significant reduction of violence.”
But a senior Western diplomat summed up the pessimistic outlook: “This meeting risks being endless and I fear the results will be extremely small.”
Lavrov, who met Kerry ahead of the talks, said Moscow had submitted proposals for a cease-fire and was awaiting a response from other powers. But Western officials do not expect Moscow to accept the immediate halt to bombing Washington seeks.
Kerry said he expected a “serious conversation.”
“Obviously, at some point in time, we want to make progress on the issues of humanitarian access and cease-fire,” Kerry said.
Russia is widely viewed as unlikely to halt support for the government advance until Damascus achieves its two main objectives: recapturing Aleppo and sealing the Turkish border, for years the lifeline for rebel-held areas.
That would amount to the most decisive victory of the war so far, and probably put an end to rebel hopes of removing Assad by force, their goal throughout five years of fighting that has killed 250,000 people and driven 11 million from their homes.
“The goal is to totally liberate Aleppo and then to seal the northern border with Turkey,” said Ivan Konovalov, director of the Center for Strategic Trend Studies in Moscow, explaining the Russian government thinking. “The offensive should not be stopped – that would be tantamount to defeat.”
Washington is leading its own air campaign against Daesh militants, but has resisted calls to intervene in the main battlefields of Syria’s civil war in the west of the country, where the government is mostly fighting against other insurgent groups.
That has left the field to the Russians, who support Assad against an array of rebel groups backed by Turkey, Arab states and the West.
A Western diplomat said that details of how the grouping of the new Saudi-led coalition would work remained unclear and “they don’t have the infrastructure” yet to run such a coalition.
“This is official now, that they will meet end of March,” the Saudi source said, without giving a date.
The source added that the coalition now has 35 members, up from the 34 announced initially.
Member countries named previously by the Saudis range from the tiny African nation of the Comoros to major regional powers like Turkey.
Saudi Arabia said the alliance would share intelligence, combat violent ideology and deploy troops if necessary.
The kingdom is a member of the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Daesh in eastern Syria and northern Iraq for more than 18 months.

World War III Approaches: Saudi Arabia And Turkey Drop Hints That An Invasion Of Syria Is Imminent

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As you read this article, Turkish forces are massing along the border with Syria, and the largest “military exercises” in the history of the Middle East are being held in northern Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis are publicly warning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “will be removed by force” if a political solution cannot be found, and Turkey is claiming that it may have to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria “for humanitarian purposes”.  Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni allies have poured massive amounts of money and arms into the conflict in Syria, and now that their Sunni insurgents are on the verge of total defeat, they are trying to come up with a way to justify going in there and doing the job themselves.
For the Saudis, their focus is on trying to convince everyone that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an extremely dangerous dictator that must be removed at all costs.  The following comes from the London Independent
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be removed by force if the peace process fails, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister has said.
Bashar al-Assad will leave – have no doubt about it,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN. “He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”
Saudi Arabia has sent troops and fighter jets to a Turkish military base ahead of a possible ground invasion of Syria.
So precisely who will be doing the “removing” if force is necessary?
Are the Saudis ready to send in ground troops?
Apparently they are.  Just consider what Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN
Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir made clear that his country’s troops would not go it alone.
I can tell you that there is some serious discussion going on with regards to looking at a ground component in Syria, because there has to be a possibility of taking and holding ground, that one cannot do from the air.
“We are saying we will participate within the U.S.-led coalition, should this coalition decide to send ground troops into Syria, that we are prepared to send special forces with those troops.”
But if the Saudis try to take Damascus and remove Assad by force, the Syrians and their allies will certainly fight back.  That means that the Saudis will be fighting Hezbollah, the Iranians and the Russians.
Needless to say, Saudi Arabia is going to need a lot of help to do that.
So that may explain why Saudi Arabia has organized the largest “military exercise” in the history of the Middle East.  CNN finally reported on this gigantic gathering of military forces in northern Saudi Arabia earlier today
Saudi Arabia launched a massive military exercise that will include troops from 20 nations, state media reported Monday.
The drill, dubbed North Thunder, involves Arab and Muslim countries, according to the Saudi Press Agency. It’s taking place in King Khalid Military City in northeastern Saudi Arabia.
The news agency did not provide much information on what the exercise entails but called it “the largest in the region’s history.” The agency said it will involve air, sea and land forces.
This is the list of nations that are reportedly participating in these “exercises” so far…
-Saudi Arabia
-Jordan
-Bahrain
-Senegal
-Oman
-Qatar
-United Arab Emirates
-Sudan
-Kuwait
-the Maldives
-Morocco
-Pakistan
-Chad
-Tunisia
-Comoro Islands
-Djibouti
-Malaysia
-Egypt
-Mauritania
-Mauritius
As I discussed yesterday, 350,000 soldiers, 20,000 tanks, 2,450 warplanes and 460 military helicopters are reportedly gathering for these “military exercises”.
To me, that seems to be a great deal of overkill if the goal is just “training”.
Here is more about these “exercises” from RT
The Saudi state agency made the announcement on Sunday, adding that participating troops will begin arriving in “the next few hours.”
The oil-rich nation described the exercises as “the largest and most important” military drills in the region’s history.
The so-called “Northern Thunder” exercise will take place in the north of the country and will include air, sea and land forces. SPA said that it will show that Riyadh and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region.”
So are these forces massing for a ground invasion of Syria?
We shall see.
In the end, we probably won’t have to wait too long before we find out the answer.
Meanwhile, Turkish officials continue to assert that they may have to establish a “safe zone” for refugees in northern Syria.  Since thousands of refugees are continually pouring their direction, they claim that they have no other choice but to go in and take control of the situation.
In fact, Turkey has already established several very large refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border
Some 100,000 Syrian refugees are being looked after in camps inside Syria close to the Turkish border, including 35,000 who this month fled a Russian-backed regime offensive in northern Aleppo province, a top Turkish official said Friday.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan, whose country has come under increasing pressure to open its border to people fleeing the violence, said the refugees were being accommodated in nine camps just across the border with Syria.
But make no mistake – this is not just about helping refugees.
The truth is that ISIS has been using Turkey as a home base for years, and hundreds of millions of dollars of ISIS oil has been shipped into Turkey where it has then been sold to the rest of the world.  Barack Obama knows about all of this, and yet he has refused to do anything to stop it.
At this point the cooperation between ISIS and Turkey has become so obvious thateven CNN is admitting that ISIS militants are being resupplied from Turkey…
To the east of Aleppo, Kurdish forces are, with American support, eyeing the remaining ISIS strongholds along the Turkish border — Jarablus and Manbij. The U.S. wants ISIS out,to remove its access to resupply of materiel and fighters from Turkey.
Meanwhile, Turkey, America’s NATO ally that is engaged in a brutal but often unseen war with the Kurds’ allies in Turkey’s southeast, doesn’t want the Kurds to advance, and may stop at nothing to prevent that.
Fortunately, the Russian bombing campaign has pretty much put an end to the endless parade of ISIS oil trucks that were entering Turkey, and now the primary supply line to Sunni militants in the strategically important city of Aleppo is about to be cut off.
The corridor that runs through the city of Azaz is vitally important, and the Prime Minister of Turkey recently insisted that the Turkish government “will not allow Azaz to fall”
Turkey shelled YPG positions for a third straight day on Monday to try to stop its fighters seizing Azaz, just 8 km from the border. Ankara fears the Kurdish militia, backed by Russia, is trying to secure the last stretch of around 100 km along the Syrian border not already under its control.
We will not allow Azaz to fall,” Davutoglu told reporters on his plane on the way to Ukraine. “If they approach again they will see the harshest reaction,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Turkish government, it appears that Azaz is already slipping away from the militants.  The following was reported by an Iranian news source
Ankara is likely to take action to counter the Syrian military and allied groups on choking up a supply link on which militants relied to get weapons and logistics.
Syrian troops and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters have retaken the town of Azaz, located to the northwest of Aleppo, prompting Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hint at deployment of ground forces to the region.
Asked if Ankara might act to reverse the gains, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (seen below) said on Friday, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” Turkish paper Hurriyet reported.
Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer?
That sounds rather ominous.
Like I said yesterday, I don’t think that I have ever seen a scenario which was more likely to lead to World War III than the one that we are watching play out right now.
Do Saudi Arabia and Turkey actually expect to waltz into Syria and start taking territory without a response from the Syrians, Hezbollah, the Iranians and the Russians?
And if fighting does break out, how is the United States possibly going to stay out of it?
The truth is that Saudi Arabia and Turkey would never invade Syria in the first place without the express approval of the Obama administration.
The next couple of weeks are key.  If we can get into early March without an invasion, by that time Saudi Arabia and Turkey may have missed their window.  The troops gathered for the massive military exercise in northern Saudi Arabia will start to go home, and by then the Sunni militants remaining in Aleppo will probably be pretty much completely defeated.
But will Saudi Arabia and Turkey really be willing to walk away after pouring so much time, effort and money into the conflict in Syria?  They had dreamed of turning Syria into a full-blown Sunni nation, and if they give up now Syria will end up being dominated by Iran and Hezbollah.  It will be a result that is far worse than if they never tried to overthrow Assad in the first place.
So my gut feeling is telling me that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni allies are not done in Syria.  But their obsession with that country threatens to plunge us into World War III, and if that happens the consequences will be felt by every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

Inequality, class and life expectancy in America

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A study by Brookings Institution economists released Friday documents a sharp increase in life span divergences between the rich and the poor in America. The report, based on an analysis of Census Bureau and Social Security Administration data, concludes that for men born in 1950, the gap in life expectancy between the top 10 percent of wage earners and the bottom 10 percent is more than double the gap for their counterparts born in 1920.
For those born in 1920, there was a six-year differential between rich and poor. For those born in 1950, that difference had reached 14 years. For women, the gap grew from 4.7 years to 13 years, almost tripling.
Overall, life expectancy for the bottom 10 percent improved by just 3 percent for men born in 1950 over those born in 1920. For the top 10 percent, it soared by about 28 percent.
Life expectancy for the bottom 10 percent of male wage earners born in 1950 rose by less than one year compared to that for male workers born 40 years earlier—to 73.6 from 72.9. But for the top 10 percent, life expectancy leapt to 87.2 from 79.1.
The United States ranks among the worst so-called rich countries when it comes to life expectancy. But its low ranking is entirely due to the poor health and high mortality of low-income Americans. According to the Social Security Administration, life expectancy for the wealthiest US men at age 60 was just below the rates for Iceland and Japan, two countries with the highest levels. Americans in the bottom quarter of the wage scale, on the other hand, ranked just above Poland and the Czech Republic.
Life-expectancy is the most basic indicator of social well-being. The minimal increase for low-income workers and the widening disparity between the poor and the rich is a stark commentary on the immense growth of social inequality and class polarization in the United States. It underscores the fact that socioeconomic class is the fundamental category of social life under capitalism—one that conditions every aspect of life, including its length.
The Brookings Institution findings shed further light on the catastrophic decline in the social position of the American working class. They follow recent reports showing a sharp rise in death rates for both young and middle-aged white workers, primarily due to drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide. Other recent reports have shown a dramatic decline in life expectancy for poorer middle-aged Americans and a reversal of decades of declining infant mortality.
It is no mystery what is behind this vast social retrogression. It is the product of the decay of American capitalism and a four-decade-long offensive by the ruling elite against the working class. From Reagan to the Obama administration, Democrats and Republicans alike have overseen a corporate-government assault on the jobs, wages, pensions and health benefits of working people.
The ruling elite has dismantled the bulk of the country’s industrial infrastructure, destroying decent-paying jobs by the millions, and turned to the most parasitic and criminal forms of financial speculation as the main source of its profit and private wealth. Untold trillions have been squandered to finance perpetual war and the maniacal self-enrichment of the top 1 percent and 0.1 percent.
The basic infrastructure of the country has been starved of funds and left to rot, to the point where uncounted millions of people are being poisoned with lead and other toxins from corroded water systems. Flint, Michigan is just the tip of the iceberg.
Under Obama, this social counterrevolution has been intensified. The financial meltdown of 2008 has been utilized by the same forces that precipitated the crash to carry through a reordering of social relations aimed at reversing every social gain won by the working class in the course of a century of struggle. A central target of the attack is health care for working people.
Obamacare is the spearhead of a worked-out strategy to reduce the quantity and quality of health care available to workers and reorganize the health care system directly on a class basis. Corporate and government costs are to be slashed by gutting employer-paid health care, forcing workers individually to buy expensive, bare-bones plans from the insurance monopolies, and rationing drugs, tests and medical procedures to make them inaccessible to workers.
The rise in mortality for workers and the widening of the life span gap between rich and poor are not simply the outcome of impersonal economic forces. In corporate boardrooms, think tanks and state agencies, the ruling class is working to lower working class life expectancy. In late 2013, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank with the closest ties to the Pentagon and the CIA, published two policy papers decrying the “waste” of money on health care for the elderly. The clear message was that ordinary people were living much too long and diverting resources needed by the military to wage war around the world.
The social and economic chasm in America finds a political expression in the vast disconnect between the entire political establishment and the masses of working people. Neither party nor any of their presidential candidates, the self-described “socialist” Bernie Sanders included, can seriously address the real state of social conditions or offer a serious program to address the crisis.
In his final State of the Union Address last month, Obama presented an absurd picture of a resurgent economy. “The United States of America, right now,” he declared, “has the strongest, most durable economy in the world… Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”
In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Sanders are seeking to outdo one another in seizing the mantle of the Obama administration and praising its supposed social and economic achievements.
They cannot address the real conditions facing the masses of working people because they defend the capitalist system, which is the source of the social disaster. The remedy must be based on an understanding of the disease. It is the building of an independent revolutionary movement uniting the entire working class, in the US and around the world.

Freedom Rider: America’s Endless Wars

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America’s grand fantasy of a Project for a New American Century has experienced a serious setback. Yet this country still isn’t dissuaded from pursuing the imperial effort. For five years Syrian president Bashar al-Assad stood his ground and ignored Barack Obama’s refrain that he “must go.” Fortunately Assad didn’t leave or give up the fight. Russian president Vladimir Putin finally stood beside him in deed and not just in words. The alliance is a textbook case of how nations ought to behave within the parameters of international law.
Russian air strikes bolstered the Syrian army and in just four months ISIS and the rest of its jihadists allies are on the run. The Syrian peace conference in Geneva is now under a “temporary pause” (*link pause) for the simple reason that there is no longer any need for it. The issue is settled. Assad isn’t going anywhere.
For nearly five years the Syrian people have suffered as a direct result of American aggression. More than 250,000 people are dead and 9 million are refugees in their country and abroad. The humanitarian disaster is a direct result of America’s intervention and blame for the bloodshed should be placed at Barack Obama’s feet. Now that America’s jihadists allies are losing, there is suddenly concern expressed for the Syrian people who wouldn’t be suffering at all absent the regime change plot.
“Blame for the bloodshed should be placed at Barack Obama’s feet.”
While Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, including “socialist” Bernie Sanders, express unending support for imperialism and brutality in Syria, the project is falling apart. The failure is a good thing for humanity. The United States should not be allowed to act like the schoolyard bully who steals lunch money for fun.
The Russian success should have taught America a lesson but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The United States has pursued another brand of warfare against that country for the past two years. First by overthrowing the president of neighboring Ukraine and then by exacting sanctions which have damaged the Russian economy. The corporate media has played its part by fanning the flames with anti-Russian propaganda. One day they claim that Russia threatens European nations, then they claim Russian submarines will cut underwater cables. Any Russian who was ever murdered is now said to have died at Putin’s hands.
The United States is determined to try and snatch some victory from the jaws of defeat. While the Syria project is heading south, the cold war appears to be getting warm. The defense department announced that it will take the unprecedented action of  installing weapons and personnel in the Baltic states bordering Russia. (*link weapons) The most hawkish American presidents respected the old Soviet spheres of influence and didn’t dare provoke so openly. Now it is clear that there will be no respite from imperialism even as it fails.
“Any Russian who was ever murdered is now said to have died at Putin’s hands.”
Barack Obama will be president for less than one year but his successor won’t be any better for the rest of humanity. The Democratic and Republican candidates sound alike as they eagerly proclaim their loathing for Putin and their determination to continue war by other means. Not one of them has dared to call the Syria intervention the unlawful aggression that it obviously is and none has expressed an intention to change foreign policy. Even liberal darling Bernie Sanders spouts nonsense about “Saudi skin in the game” in Syria when the Saudis have been an integral part of the regime change effort. Not only has Obama declared unending war against the rest of the world, but so has the rest of the two party duopoly.
The lack of debate among the establishment and the slavish devotion of the corporate media make America a very dangerous country. If candidates like Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders are slick enough they can market themselves as peacemakers when in fact they will create as much chaos and suffering as any of the Republicans.
How can Bernie Sanders bring social democracy to the United States if he won’t cut the military budget or foreswear interventions? He learned a lot from Barack Obama’s 2008 comment that he was only opposed to “dumb wars.” The Republicans openly brag about aggressions while Democrats dissemble and use weasel words to pretend they won’t do the same thing.
Every global conflict from the small, like Haiti, to the largest, like Iraq and Syria, is the result of American interventions. But presidential candidates and major newspapers won’t acknowledge American responsibility for the suffering of millions of people. It is yet another reason to reject the Democrats and Republicans and their tag team politics of pretense. No one can say for certain who will be president of the United States one year from now. We do know that he or she will continue to bring disaster all over the world.

Global Stocks Continue To Crash As Oil Plummets And Gold Skyrockets

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Stock markets around the world continue to collapse as this new global financial crisis picks up more steam.  In the U.S., the Dow lost 254 more points on Thursday, and it has now fallen for five days in a row.  European stocks continued to get obliterated, and financial institutions are leading the way.  But this week what is happening in Japan has been the most sobering.  After falling 918 points the other day, the Nikkei plunged another 760 points early on Friday.  The Nikkei has now fallen for seven of the past eight days, and investors in Japan are in full panic mode.  Overall, global stocks are well into bear market territory, and nearly 17 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.
As panic rises, investors are seeking alternative investments.  On Thursday, the price of gold hit $1,260 an ounce at one point before settling back a bit.  But even with the fade at the end of the day, it was still the biggest daily gain in more than two years.  Overall, gold is having its best quarterly performance in 30 years.
Whenever a financial crisis happens, investors seek out safe havens such as gold that can help them weather the storm.  In particular, demand for physical gold is going through the roof all over the planet.  Just check out the following excerpt from a Telegraph article entitled “Investors ‘go bananas’ for gold bars as global stock markets tumble“…
BullionByPost, Britain’s biggest online gold dealer, said it has already taken record-day sales of £5.6m as traders pile into gold following fears the world is on the brink of another financial crisis.
Rob Halliday-Stein, founder and managing director of the Birmingham-based company, said takings today had already surpassed the firm’s previous one-day record of £4.4m in October 2014.
BullionByPost, which takes orders of up to £25,000 on the website but takes higher amounts over the phone, explained it had received a few hundred orders overnight and frantic numbers of phone calls this morning.
Meanwhile, the price of oil continues to drop to stunning new depths.  On Thursday U.S. oil dropped as low as $26.21, which was the lowest price in 13 years.  Not even during the worst parts of the last financial crisis did oil ever go this low.
And remember, the price of oil was sitting at about $108 a barrel back in June 2014.  Since that time it has fallen about 75 percent.
Needless to say, this crash is having some very serious consequences for the energy industry.  Previously, I have reported that 42 North American energy companies have gone into bankruptcy since the beginning of last year.
But I just found out that the true number is much worse than that.
According to CNN, “67 U.S. oil and natural gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015″…
Bankruptcy filings are flying in the American oil patch.
At least 67 U.S. oil and natural gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to consulting firm Gavin/Solmonese.
That represents a 379% spike from the previous year when oil prices were substantially higher.
With oil prices crashing further in recent weeks, five more energy gas producers succumbed to bankruptcy in the first five weeks of this year, according to Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.
A lot of people tend to think that my writing is full of “doom and gloom”, but the truth is that I often understate how bad things really are.  I’ll often report one number and find out later that an updated number is even worse than the one that I originally reported.
What we desperately need is for the price of oil to go back up.
Unfortunately, the International Energy Agency says that isn’t likely to happen any time soon
The International Energy Agency said earlier this week that it expects the global oil glut to grow throughout the year.
With the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term,” the IEA said in its monthly report.
And of course all of this is incredibly bad news for financial institutions all over the world.
During the boom times, the big banks showered energy companies with loans.  Now those loans are going bad, and the big banks are feeling the pain.  The following comes from CNN
It’s never a good sign when the country’s financial lifelines are under stress. Large U.S. banks JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) that helped bankroll the energy boom are already setting aside billions to cover potential loan losses in the oil industry. Investors are worried about imploding energy loans for European banks like Deutsche Bank (DB). High yield bonds in your investing portfolio wont be looking good either — Standard & Poor’s warned that half of all energy junk bonds are at risk of defaulting.
Speaking of Deutsche Bank, their stock price continued to plummet on Thursday, as did the stock prices of most other European banks.
Things were particularly bad for France’s Societe Generale.  Their stock price plunged 12 percent on Thursday alone.
This is what a global financial crisis looks like.  It began during the second half of last year, and now it is making major headlines all over the planet.
At this point, things are already so bad that the elite are starting to freak out about what this could potentially mean for them.  I want you to carefully consider the following two paragraphs from an editorial that I came across in the Telegraphearlier today…
We are too fragile, fiscally as well as psychologically. Our economies, cultures and polities are still paying a heavy price for the Great Recession; another collapse, especially were it to be accompanied by a fresh banking bailout by the taxpayer, would trigger a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash.
The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.

I think that the author of this editorial is correct.
I do believe that another financial crisis on the scale of 2008 would trigger “a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash”.
In fact, I believe that is what we are steamrolling toward right now.
We can already see the anger of the American people toward the establishment being expressed in their support of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
But if the financial system completely collapses and it becomes exceedingly apparent that none of our problems from the last time around were ever fixed, the frustration is going to be off the charts.
Many people believed that this day of reckoning would never come, but now it is here.
The “coming nightmare” is now upon us, and this is just the start.
The rest of 2016 promises to be even more chaotic, and ultimately this new crisis is going to turn out to be far worse than what we experienced back in 2008.