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Sunday, 1 February 2015

American Sniper and US doom

A US soldier is seen in this December 29, 2014 photo taken in Taji, north of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. (© AFP)
A US soldier is seen in this December 29, 2014 photo taken in Taji, north of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. (© AFP)

The film American Sniper has sent the US public into raptures over the “heroic life” of its autobiographical subject Chris Kyle - who has been described as America’s “greatest warrior” soldier.

Last week, the movie premiered in cinemas to rave reviews, earning its director Clint Eastwood a box office smash-hit. Multiple Oscar awards are nominated.

Critics have quibbled about this or that aspect of the cinematography and storyline. But the prevailing impression is that Kyle - a US Marine marksman - was a tragic hero, a guy who honorably served his country during the American war in Iraq.

The film has even been described by some as an “anti-war” movie because it delves into the mental trauma of veterans and the suffering they endure after conflict.

Lost in the discussion is the central issue, which is the criminal nature of American militarism and its destructive impact on millions of innocent people. American Sniper may express certain misgivings about US foreign wars, owing to the psychological consequences on its military personnel.

But in indulging “heroes” like Chris Kyle, the insidious effect is to glorify American war-making. This reinforces American narcissism about its “exceptionalism” as a nation that is intrinsically good, superior and which has the prerogative to wage wars wherever it deems necessary for its “national interests” regardless of international law or morality.

Over one million Iraqis were killed during American military occupation of that country from 2003-2011. The fraudulent pretext for that war – Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction - has been amply documented and is irrefutable. That makes US involvement in Iraq an epic crime, a war of aggression, or, to put it plainly, a state-sponsored terrorist cataclysm.

American government leaders and Pentagon commanders, including incumbent President Barack Obama, should be prosecuted for war crimes based on legal standards established at the Nuremberg Trials for the Nazi Reich.

Astoundingly, the power of American propaganda and brainwashing, facilitated by its corporate media, erases any awareness or discussion of this central issue.

Instead, American angst is consumed in sympathy for “our noble veterans” and their trauma suffered “in the line of duty.”

America’s war machine killing own society

Where are the calls for justice over America’s state-sponsored criminality and genocide of the Iraqi people? Where is there even a semblance of remorse or reparation? American politicians continue to swan around the world, sanctimoniously lecturing others as if they were the epitome of virtue.

Legal justice may be absent, but nevertheless there is a very real form of justice for America’s systematic iniquity. The American war machine may appear to trundle on untrammeled by international law, illegally occupying countries, assassinating with aerial drones on a weekly basis, and subverting foreign nations by covert proxy terrorism, as in Syria and Ukraine. But, unequivocally, this war machine is killing its own society, financially, psychologically and morally.

Chris Kyle is eulogized as “America’s deadliest sniper” having killed singlehandedly over 200 people during his four tours of duty in Iraq. It doesn’t matter if most of his victims were “terrorists” or if he was serving in good faith to protect the lives of other American soldiers. The fact is that Kyle was a cog in a criminal war machine that was engaged in destroying a whole nation. For Americans to celebrate him as a “warrior hero” is indicative of the moral corruption that US society has descended into. It shows how much that violence has become endemic in the American psyche.

Kyle was shot dead at a Texas shooting-range in 2013. His alleged killer, Eddie Ray Routh, was also a veteran, said to be suffering from post-traumatic syndrome. Kyle, who declared his own post-conflict trauma after he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2009, was working as a counselor for other mentally disturbed US vets. It says something about American social pathology that victims of conflict trauma are treated with “therapy” by letting them fire off assault rifles at shooting-ranges.

Every day, some 20 US military veterans commit suicide, most of them wracked by mental breakdown. That’s over 7,000 deaths every year. Tens of thousands of other veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas American killing fields are reckoned to be silent victims of post-conflict trauma, committing acts of violence and crimes against other citizens, or degenerating into self-destructive lives of alcohol and other drug abuse. Similar numbers of American families are ruined by dysfunctional veterans who can’t readjust into normal society.

The economic cost of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone is put at $6 trillion - or a third of America’s crippling national debt pile.

But a proper accounting reveals a much greater toll when the full social damage of these wars is assimilated. Medical bills, unemployment, crime, personal breakdown, unproductive members of society are just the tip of the iceberg.

In real, but intangible magnitude, American society is sitting on a massive “dirty” time-bomb from its criminal war-mongering. This is the “justice” for US wars of apparent impunity. The violence and destruction that American leaders have unleashed - are unleashing – on countries around the world are coming back to haunt and corrode American society to its core. Killing millions of people remotely in far off villages and deserts is exacting a righteous revenge on American society.

The story of Chris Kyle is not just a story about an ill-fated American sniper. It is a metaphor for America as a whole. Part of this destruction, and what makes it so profoundly terminal, is that the American public is largely oblivious to its own collapse. When mass murder of humans is hailed by popcorn-munching morons as heroic, it is a sure sign that America is doomed. Fatally.

FC/HSN

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM Columnist

FINIAN CUNNINGHAMFinian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is now located in East Africa working as a freelance columnist for Press TV and Strategic Culture Foundation (Moscow).
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Clear crisis in US-Israel bond: Analyst


Press TV

The bond between the United States and Israel is “falling apart”, says a London-based political activist.

Gilad Atzmon made the remarks to Press TV on Saturday while commenting on a  Washington Post report about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s role in assassination of Imad Mughniyah, a high-ranking Hezbollah figure, by Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, on February 12, 2008.

“For a long while, Israel and the United States had been collaborating in what they regarded security issues,” but now “this bond is now falling apart”, Atzmon said.

In its report, the Post quoted a former US intelligence official as saying that the CIA had been tracking Mughniyah‘s movements prior to the operation and also helped build a bomb, remotely detonated by Mossad after being planted in the spare tire of a parked SUV in the Syrian capital Damascus

“Nobody is surprised by the fact that the CIA was involved in the assassination of Imad Mughniyah. What is slightly unusual is to see the method they were using,” Atzmon said, referring to the car bomb as “not something that’s usually associated with organizations like CIA”.

However, the bond between the US and Israel, Atzmon argued, “introduced some wild methods to the CIA operation”.

Back in 2008, the bond “seemed stronger than ever” but there is “clear crisis” between the two now as “Israeli interests are very different from the American” ones, said the political analyst referring to a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On January 18, Mughniyah’s son, Jihad, was killed in an Israeli attack on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria’s Golan Heights.



Five other members of the Lebanese resistance movement and an Iranian commander, Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, were among the dead.

NT/NT
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Shameless Dershowitz Campaigns For Israel

Alan Dershowitz, recently implicated in a sex scandal, is campaigning for Israel. The shameless Harvard Professor is begging for Jewish support following recent Zionist leaders calls to dissociate from him and his acts.



Interestingly enough, Dershowitz is correct - the West Bank Settlements are not an obstacle as far as peace is concerned. If anything they make the One State Solution into the only viable resolution of the conflict. The real and only obstacle to peace is the embarrassing fact that the word 'peace' doesn't even exist in the modern Hebrew language. The word shalom, usually translated into peace doesn't really mean peace, harmony or reconciliation. Shalom actually means 'security for the Jews.' As such, Shalom is a non empathic judeo-centric notion sustained by blindness to otherness. The only obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the lack of the notion of peace within the Israeli and modern Hebraic culture. Once again, it is the comprehension of Jewish culture that enlighten us on the conflict and the prospect of its resolution.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Stuart Littlewood: They won’t silence George Galloway with half-truths

After providing days of Holocaust coverage the BBC is slammed for inviting ‘anti-Israel MP’ George Galloway to a chat show 

by Stuart Littlewood

28 January 2015
BBC TV are being bad-mouthed for inviting MP George Galloway onto the Question Time panel in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency next week.
Golders Green especially, and neighbouring Finchley to a lesser extent, are large Jewish enclaves in North London. I grew up in Finchley and as a lad used to jump on the number 660 trolley bus that took me through Golders Green en route to the West End. A standing joke among bus conductors was the warning to passengers to have their passports ready.
The Jewish Chronicle reporting the story describes Galloway as an “anti-Israel MP” who “refuses to debate with Israelis”. Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer said the BBC’s invitation was deliberately provocative. “Given what’s going on in the world it is a slap in the face for the local community.”
But not half as stinging as the slap in the face felt by British taxpayers, struggling against austerity cuts, when Chancellor Osborne announced this week that £50 million of OUR money will be lavished on a Holocaust memorial and education centre.
And what is going on in the world that we must pay no attention to the Israeli terror that has stalked the Holy Land for nearly 67 years?
The JC reminded viewers that two years ago Galloway walked out of a debate at Oxford University after discovering his opponent was Israeli, saying “I don’t debate with Israelis”. And earlier this month Galloway interviewed “Israeli antisemite” Gilad Atzmon on his Russia Today television show.
But the JC tells only half the story. At the Oxford debate the motion was: “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”. Galloway spoke in favour and was followed by another panellist who said, “We wanted peace, we got war, we must not make the same mistake again.”
Galloway interrupted: “You said ‘we’, are you an Israeli? I don’t debate with Israelis, I’ve been misled, sorry. I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.” Whereupon he put on his coat and left.
At least that’s how the JC told the story at the time. According to the Daily Mail the opposing speaker, name of Aslan-Levy, complained: “To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a Member of Parliament.”
 Which is pretty rich coming from a citizen of a racist state.
The following message then appeared on Galloway’s Facebook:
“The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine, the address is the PLO.”
The PLO, of course, acts as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
In Galloway’s terms BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) means

“no purchase of Israeli goods or services, no normal contacts with individuals or organisations in Israel who support the existence of the racist Apartheid creed of Zionism. That’s what I mean by boycott. That’s what I do. Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism are comrades of mine… My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test.”

The JC failed to mention that bit.
As for Gilad Atzmon , he was born and raised in Israel but is a fierce critic of the criminal Israeli regime, as many right-thinking Jews are. He is therefore a comrade in the battle to free Palestinians from the hell of Israeli occupation and brutality. So there is nothing odd about Galloway’s decision to interview him.
Besides, Galloway chooses his words carefully. He says he doesn’t debate with Israelis, not Jews. Others cannot bring themselves to debate with North Koreans or ISIS or Al-Qaeda. British foreign secretaries refused to talk with their Iranian counterparts for 30-odd years while turning the sanctions screw. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury would rather hobnob with Israeli rabbis and dignitaries than visit their beleaguered Christian brethren in Gaza. And there’s no chance of Netanyahu dropping in on Haniyeh in Gaza to discuss their love of football.
Mike Freer is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. He and the people he represents among Jewish communities of Finchley and Golders Green, might learn something valuable if they sit down and listen carefully to George Galloway when Question Time is screened.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

'We Palestinian Christians say Allahu Akbar'

Nadezhda Kevorkova is a war correspondent who has covered the events of the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts around the world, and the anti-globalization movement.


 January 30, 2015 15:16

Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova
Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova

The only Palestinian Orthodox Christian bishop in the Holy Land speaking about the suffering of Palestinian Christians, their unity with Muslims in the Palestinian struggle, about Orthodox Christian martyrs, and Ukraine.

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

Your Beatitude, what’s it like being the Palestinian bishop in the Holy Land?
Firstly, I’d like to confirm that I am the only Palestinian bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A fellow bishop is serving in the city of Irbid in the north of Jordan; and there are also several Palestinian priests.

I take pride in belonging to this great religious institution that’s over 2,000 years old.
My church has been protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the sacred items related to the life of Christ and Christian Church history.

I am proud of my religion and nationality, I am proud to belong to my fatherland. I am a Palestinian, and I belong to this religious people who are fighting for the sake of their freedom and dignity to implement their dreams and national rights.

I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues. We the Palestinian Orthodox Christians are not detached from their hardships.

The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.
We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.

As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.

A Christian pilgrim holds a cross as he dips in the water after a ceremony at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud on the banks of the Jordan River near the West Bank city of Jericho January 18, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)
A Christian pilgrim holds a cross as he dips in the water after a ceremony at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud on the banks of the Jordan River near the West Bank city of Jericho January 18, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

For those coming to visit the Holy Land there are few opportunities to see how hard the Palestinians’ situation is. What would you like to say to those wishing to understand better the Palestinian problem?

The Israel authorities treat the Palestinian people in a way we can never accept or approve, first and foremost because Israel treats Palestinians as foreigners, as if we were strangers in our land.

Palestinians have never been strangers either to Jerusalem or to the entire homeland. Israel is an occupation force which treats us as visitors or some temporary residents. But we are the native people of this land. We didn’t come here, we have always been here. In contrast, Israel appeared out of the blue.

They are treating us as if we came here from elsewhere, as if we accidentally and recently strayed into this land. But we are the rightful owners of this land. We didn’t intrude into Israel. Israel intruded into our lives in 1948, and in 1967 it occupied Eastern Jerusalem. We have been here long before Israel. By the time Israel came here, our forefathers had been living here for many centuries.

This is why we cannot accept Israel treating us like strangers to our own homeland. I shall be honest and say it over again: both Christians and Muslims suffer the same from the Israeli authorities.

Is visiting Jerusalem as difficult to a Christian Palestinian from the West Bank as for a Muslim?

They don’t ask if a person arriving from Beit Jala or Ramallah to Jerusalem is a Christian or a Muslim. They only ask one question, “Do you have a permit to enter Jerusalem or not?”

The pass allowing a Palestinian to enter Jerusalem is issued by Israel. No one can come through without one. In pursuing its racist policy towards the Palestinian people Israel disregards different confessions. We are all targeted just the same. It all depends on getting a pass, whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim.
We all are their targets.

On top of that, Israel took control of a lot of property of the Orthodox Christian Church and is interfering with the internal affairs of the Church. They put pressure on the Palestinian Christians in all sorts of ways trying to force them to leave.

There is only one cause of suffering for both Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.

The recent attack on the French satirical magazine triggered a wave of anti-Muslim marches in Europe. Netanyahu walked in the front row of such a march. What it your attitude to what happened?

We denounce the attacks in Paris which were committed by the people allegedly representing a particular religion.

But they do not represent any religion – they are murderers.

This attack was committed by the people, who claimed to have faith, but they definitely don’t represent Islam and cannot act on behalf of Islam, they only do harm and hurt the image of Islam through what they do.

At the same time, we denounce just as much terrorist operations in Syria and Iraq as we denounce the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Those who committed the terror attack in Paris and elsewhere, belong to the same groups that are engaged in terrorism in Syria and Iraq and attack sacred places, desecrate churches and kidnap religious leaders.

They attack women and children in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

We were witnesses of the terror act in Lebanon’s Tripoli just days ago which killed dozens of innocent people who were at a café.

We condemn the terror attacks in Paris and we equally condemn any such attacks in any part of the world. We strongly oppose the idea of connecting these attacks to Islam.
We are currently preparing for an international conference that religious figures – Christian, Muslim and Judaist – from many countries will take part in to assert that we, the representatives of the three monotheistic religions, are against terror, fanaticism and violence used under religious slogans. The conference might take place in Amman, Jordan.

To a Western mind, Allahu Akbar sounds like a threat. What do Christians of the Holy Land think about them?

We Christians also say Allahu Akbar. This is an expression of our understanding that the Creator is great. We don’t want this phrase to be related to terrorism and crimes.
We refuse to associate these words with massacres and murders.

We speak against using this phrase in this context. Those who do, they insult our religion and our religious values.

Those using these words while taking some unreligious, unspiritual, uncivilized actions are harming the religion.

Allahu Akbar is an expression of our faith.

One must not use these words for non-religion-related purposes in order to justify violence and terror.

Christian priests hold a Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 25, 2014. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Christian priests hold a Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 25, 2014. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Do people say Allahu Akbar in church?
Of course.

For us, Allah is not an Islamic term. This is a word used in Arabic to indicate the Creator who’s made the world we are living in. So when we say Allah in our prayers we mean the Creator of this world.

In our prayers and pleas, in our Orthodox Christian religious ceremonies we use exactly this word. We say, glory be to Allah in all times. We say Allah a lot during our liturgy. It’s erroneous to think that the word Allah is only used by Muslims.

We the Arab Christians say Allah in our Arabic language as a way to identify and address the Creator in our prayers.

Is this all about Christ? Was he the one to provoke a religious split in the Holy Land? Christians and Muslims recognize that Jesus Christ had been born, and they are awaiting his second coming, and the judgment day. Jews deny this however, and await their Messiah.

We Christians believe that Jesus has already come. We have recently celebrated Christmas as a reminder that Jesus came into this world, that he was born in Bethlehem, and began his road here in the Holy Land for the sake of all mankind, and for the salvation of the world.
So as far as we are concerned, Jesus has already come.

Jews believe that he hasn’t come yet, and await his coming. This is the main disagreement between Jews and us. We believe that Jesus has already come, whereas they don’t.

Despite this fact, we are not at war with Jews. We do not express aggression against Jews or anyone else in the world, despite any differences in our beliefs.
We pray for those who disagree with us.

When Jesus came into this world he didn’t tell us to hate, ignore, or be at war with one or the other; he didn’t tell us to kill this one or that one. He gave us one very simple instruction: to love one another. When Jesus told us to love one another this love wasn’t conditioned by what a person was like, or what he was doing. If we are indeed true Christians it is our debt to love all people, and to treat them with positivity, and with love.

When we see someone who’s sinful, lost, and distant from Allah and from faith, someone who acts wrongly, then it is our duty to pray for him although he might be different from us and our religion. When we have religious disagreements with people we pray that Allah would guide them the right way. Hatred, anger, and accusations of having a wrong faith are not a part of our ethics as Christians. This is the key disagreement and difference between the Jewish religion and ours. The Jewish religion that had existed before Christ is the religion of people who were awaiting Jesus’ coming. Many Jews followed him, yet there were those who didn’t believe in him, and rejected him.

We know that Jesus was persecuted, and so were the early Christians. For instance, Herod the King killed thousands of babies in Bethlehem thinking that Jesus would be among them. The book of the Acts of the Apostles, as well as sacred tradition, talk about numerous instances of persecution of early Christians.

Despite that, we see each person who disagrees with us on religion as our brother, our fellow human. Allah created all of us, he gave us life, therefore it is our duty to love each person, and to pray for those who are mistaken or are misunderstanding, so that Allah would guide them the right way.

Is that why Christians and Muslims are persecuted?

We don’t divide the Palestinian people based on who is Christian and who is Muslim, who is religious and who isn’t, who is left or what party they are a member of. We don’t divide the people based on convictions and religion.

For the resistance it doesn’t matter whether they are Muslim or Christian.

Regardless of what their political views may be, all Palestinians actively support the idea that the Palestinian people should be able to exercise their rights and achieve their dream.

Yes, a number Christians have been killed since 1948 to this day. Some Christians have been driven away from their houses. Some Christian villages have been completely destroyed, and now there’s not a single house or resident there, for example, Al Galil in the Golan Heights.
Many churches have been attacked in Jerusalem; there have been attempts to seize their property and lands.

There are Christians in Israeli prisons – not as many as Muslims, but there are some. The Christian community is smaller in general, but we have our own martyrs who were killed and prisoners who spent years and years behind bars.

Christians suffer under the Israeli occupation just the same as Muslims – the entire Palestinian population suffers under it. They don’t distinguish between us.

Are there any special aspects when it comes to Christians living in the Holy Land?

Here’s one of the many examples, connected to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral located in the western part of Jerusalem belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, but after 1948 Israel used the situation in Russia to its advantage and seized some of the buildings around the Cathedral, using them as police quarters and a prison with torture practices.

When someone says “moskobiya”, referring to something connected to the Moscow Patriarchate, something holy and spiritual, the first thing that comes to the mind of a Palestinian living in Jerusalem is torture, police, interrogation and prison.

In Nazareth, for example, the word “moskobiya” is associated exclusively with the old Russian school where the Palestinian cultural elite, scientists and politicians studied. Although it was closed after the 1917 Revolution in Russia, its fame lives on.
So it’s only for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

What do Palestinian Christians, I mean Orthodox Christians first of all, think of the Ukraine crisis?

Overall, we are deeply concerned with the divide in Ukraine. We still believe all Ukrainian Christians must stay within the fold of the Mother Church that is the Moscow Patriarchate.
I wish the Ukraine crisis would resolve through dialogue so that we see reconciliation and an end to violence and bloodshed.

Christians do not need wars, killings and massacres. This political crisis must be resolved in a peaceful way. The Church must work hard to ensure that the divisions are bridged and overcome.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is strong because most of the people preach Orthodox Christianity.

Divisions must be healed. We really hope that the efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Constantinople will help to re-unite the Ukrainian Church.

I believe the split can be reversed and those who broke away could come back. But in order for that to happen we need humility, belief and strong will.

We pray for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

What game is the House of Saud playing?

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson
The House of Saud now finds itself in times of extreme trouble. Their risky oil price war may eventually backfire. The succession of King Abdullah may turn into a bloodbath. And the American protector may be musing a change of heart.
Let’s start with oil – and some background. As much as US supply has increased by a couple of million barrels a day, enough oil from Iran, Kirkuk in Iraq, Libya and Syria has gone out of production; and that offsets extra US oil on the market. Essentially, the global economy – at least for the moment – is not searching for more oil because of European stagnation/recession and the relative China slowdown.
Reuters / Todd Korol
Reuters / Todd Korol
Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been flooding the market to offset the decrease in Iran exports caused by the US economic war, a.k.a. sanctions. Riyadh, moreover, prevented OPEC from reducing country production quotas. The House of Saud believes it can play the waiting game – as fracked oil, mostly American, is inexorably driven out of the market because it is too expensive. After that, the Saudis believe they will regain market share.
In parallel, the House of Saud is obviously enjoying “punishing” Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Assad in Damascus. Moreover, the House of Saud is absolutely terrified of a nuclear deal essentially between the US and Iran (although that’s still a major “if”) – leading to a long-term détente.
Tehran, though, remains defiant. Russia brushed off the attack because the lower ruble meant state revenues remained unchanged – so there will be no budget deficit. As for oil-thirsty East Asia – including top Saudi customer China – it’s enjoying the bonanza while it lasts.
Oil prices will remain very low for the time being. This week Goldman Sachs lowered their 2015 WTI and Brent Crude forecasts; Brent was slashed from $83.75 a barrel to $50.40, WTI was cut from $73.75 to $47.15 a barrel. Prices per barrel could soon drop as low as $42 and $40.50. But then, there will be an inevitable “U-shaped recovery.”
Nomura bets that oil will be back to $80 a barrel by the end of 2015.
Reuters / Lucas Jackson
Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Punish Russia or bust

US President Barack Obama, in this interview, openly admitted that he wanted“disruptions” in the“price of oil” because he figured Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “enormous difficulty managing it.” So that settles the argument about hurting Russia and US-Saudi collusion, after US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed/endorsed King Abdullah in Jeddah to simultaneously raise oil production and embark on a cut price strategy.
Whether Kerry sold out the US shale gas industry out of ignorance or incompetence – probably both – is irrelevant. What matters is if the House of Saud were ordered to back off, they would have to do it in a flash; the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dominates the Persian Gulf vassals, who can’t even breathe without at least an implicit US green light.
What is way more troubling is that the current bunch in Washington does not seem to be defending US national and industrial interests. If humongous trade deficits based on currency rigging were not enough, now virtually the entire US oil industry runs the risk of being destroyed by an oil price racket. Any sane analyst would interpret it as contrary to US national interests.
Anyway, the Riyadh deal was music for the House of Saud’s ears. Their official policy has always been to slash the development of all potential substitutes for oil, including US shale gas. So why not depress oil prices and keep them there long enough to make investments in shale gas a lunatic proposal?
But there’s a huge problem. The House of Saud simply won’t get enough in oil revenues to support their annual budget with oil at below $90 a barrel. So as much as hurting Iran and Russia may be appealing, hurting their own golden pocketbooks is not.
The long-term outlook spells out higher oil prices. Oil may be replaced in many instances; but there isn’t a replacement – yet – for the internal combustion engine. So whatever OPEC is doing, it is actually preserving demand for oil vs. oil substitutes, and maximizing the return on a limited resource. The bottom-line: yes, this is predatory pricing.
Once again, there’s an immense, crucial, complicating vector. We may have the House of Saud and other Persian Gulf producers flooding the market – but its Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup who are doing the shadow, nasty work via leveraged derivative short futures.
Oil prices are such an opaque racket that only major oil trading banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley have some idea who is buying and who is selling oil futures or derivative contracts – what is called “paper oil.” The non-rules of this multi-billion casino spell out “speculative bubble” – with a little help from those friends at the Gulf oil pumps. With oil futures trading and the two major London and New York exchanges monopolizing oil futures contracts, OPEC really does not control oil prices anymore; Wall Street does. This is the big secret. The House of Saud may entertain the illusion they are in control. They’re not.
U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

That dysfunctional marriage

As if this was not messy enough, the crucial succession of the House of Saud is propelled to the forefront. King Abdullah, 91, was diagnosed with pneumonia, hospitalized in Riyadh on New Year’s Eve, and was breathing with a tube. He may – or may not, this being the secretive House of Saud – have lung cancer. He won’t last long. The fact that he is hailed as a “progressive reformer” tells everything one needs to know about Saudi Arabia. “Freedom of expression”? You must be joking.
So who’ll be next? The first in the line of succession should be Crown Prince Salman, 79, also defense minister. He was governor of Riyadh province for a hefty 48 years. It was this certified falcon who supervised the wealth of private “donations” to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s jihad, in tandem with hardcore Wahhabi preachers. Salman’s sons include the governor of Medina, Prince Faisal. Needless to add, the Salman family controls virtually all of Saudi media.
To get to the Holy Grail Salman must be proven fit. That’s not a given; and on top of it Abdullah, a tough nut to crack, already survived two of his crown princes, Sultan and Nayef. Salman’s prospects look bleak; he has had spinal surgery, a stroke and may be suffering from – how appropriate – dementia.
It also does not bode well that when Salman was promoted to Deputy Defense Minister, soon enough he was shown the door – as he got himself mixed up with Bandar Bush’s atrocious jihadi game in Syria.
Anyway, Salman already has a successor; second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin, former governor of Medina province and then head of Saudi intelligence. Muqrin is very, very close to Abdullah. Muqrin seems to be the last “capable” son of Ibn Saud; “capable” here is a figure of speech. The real problem though starts when Muqrin becomes Crown Prince. Because then the next in line will be picked from the grandsons of Ibn Saud.
Enter the so-called third generation princes – a pretty nasty bunch. Chief among them is none other than Mitab bin Abdullah, 62, the son of the king; cries of nepotism do proceed. Like a warlord, Mitab controls his own posse in the National Guard. Sources told me Riyadh is awash in rumors that Abdullah and Muqrin have made a deal: Abdullah gets Muqrin to become king, and Muqrin makes Mitab crown prince. Once again, this being the “secretive” House of Saud, the Hollywood mantra applies: no one knows anything.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)
Abdullah’s sons are all over the place; governor of Mecca, deputy governor of Riyadh, deputy foreign minister, president of the Saudi Red Crescent. Same for Salman’s sons. But then there’s Muhammad bin Nayif, son of the late Crown Prince Nayif, who became Interior Minister in 2012, in charge of ultra-sensitive internal security, as in cracking down on virtually anything. He is the top competitor against Mitab among the third-generation princes.
So forget about family “unity” when such juicy loot as an oil hacienda impersonating a whole country is in play. And yet whoever inherits the loot will have to face the abyss, and the same litany of distress; rising unemployment; abysmal inequality; horrendous sectarian divide; jihadism in all its forms – not least the fake Ibrahim Caliphate in“Syraq”, already threatening to march towards Mecca and Medina; the unspeakably medieval Council of Ulemas (the lashing/amputating/beheading-loving bunch); total dependency on oil; unbounded paranoia towards Iran; and a wobbly relationship with His Masters Voice, the US.

When will they call the cavalry?

And it so happens that the real ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington-New York axis are debating exactly the erosion of this relationship; as in the House of Saud having no one to talk to but the“puppets”, from Bush Two minions to Kerry at most on occasion. This analysis contends that any promises made by Kerry over the House of Saud “cooperation” to damage Russia’s economy really mean nothing.
Rumbles from ‘Masters of the Universe’ territory indicate that the CIA sooner or later might move against the House of Saud. In this case the only way for the House of Saud to secure its survival would be to become friendly with none other than Moscow. This exposes once more the House of Saud’s suicidal present course of trying to hurt Russia’s economy.
As everyone is inexorably an outsider when faced with the totally opaque House of Saud, there’s an analytical current that swears they know what they’re doing. Not necessarily. The House of Saud seems to believe that pleasing US neocons will improve their status in Washington. That simply won’t happen. The neocons remain obsessed about the House of Saud helping Pakistan to develop its nuclear missiles; some of them – once again, that’s open to speculation – might even be deployed inside Saudi Arabia for “defensive purposes” against that mythical Iranian “threat.”
Messy? That doesn’t even begin to describe it. But one thing is certain; whatever game Riyadh thinks it’s playing, they’d better start seriously talking to Moscow. But please, don’t send Bandar Bush on another Russian mission.
Pepe Escobar’s latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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