March 16 is C Day. The Crimean parliament - by 78 votes with 8 abstentions - decided this is the day when Crimean voters will choose between joining the Russian Federation or to remain part of Ukraine as an autonomous region with very strong powers, according to the 1992 constitution.
Whatever "diplomatic" tantrums Washington and Brussels will keep pulling, and they will be incandescent, facts on the ground speak for themselves. The city council of Sevastopol - the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet - has already voted to join Russia. And next week the Duma in Moscow will study a bill to simplify the mechanism of adhesion.
Quick recap: this is a direct result of Washington spending US$5 billion - a Victoria "F**k the EU" Nuland official figure - to promoteregime change in Ukraine. On the horizon, Crimea may be incorporated into Russia for free, while the "West" absorbs that bankrupt back-of-beyond (Western Ukraine) that an Asia Times Online reader indelibly described as the "Khaganate of Nulands" (an amalgam of khanate, Victoria's notorious neo-con husband Robert Kagan, and no man's land).
What Moscow regards as an illegal, neo-nazi infiltrated government in Kiev, led by Prime Minister Arseniy "Yats" Yatsenyuk - an Ukrainian Jewish banker playing the role of Western puppet - insists Crimea must remain part of Ukraine. And it's not only Moscow; half of Ukraine itself does not recognize the Yats gang as a legitimate government, now boasting a number of oligarchs imposed as provincial governors.
Yet this "government" - supported by the US and the European Union - has already declared the referendum illegal. Proving its impeccable "democratic" credentials, it has already moved to ban the official use of the Russian language in Ukraine; get rid of the communist party, which amassed 13% of the votes in the last election, more, incidentally, than the neo-nazi-infested Svoboda ("Freedom") party, now ensconced in key government security posts; and ban a Russian TV station, which happens to be the most popular on Ukrainian cable.
Amid all the hysteria from Washington and certain European capitals, what's not explained to puzzled public opinion is that these fascists/neo-nazis who got to power through a coup will never allow real elections to take place in Ukraine; after all they would most certainly be sent packing.
This implies that "Yats" and his gang - on top of it reveling at their red carpet welcome at a pompous yet innocuous EU summit in Brussels - won't budge. For instance, they used heavy muscle to send pro-Russian protesters in front of the Donetsk government building running. Heavily industrialized Donetsk is very much linked commercially to Russia.
Then there's an even more sinister possible scenario looming in the horizon; an instrumentalization of the lunatic jihadi fringe of the 10% of Tatars in Crimea, from false flags to suicide bombings. The House of Saud, according to a solid Saudi source, is immensely interested in Ukraine, and may be tempted to do a few favors for Western intelligence.
Will our love become a funeral pyre? Arguably, for Moscow, keeping Crimea inside the Ukraine, with large autonomous powers plus the current signed agreement to keep the base in Sevastopol, is a much better deal than annexing it. It's as if Russia was annexing what for all practical purposes was already a Russian province.
Yet the Kremlin may always decide not to annex, and use the all but certain result of the referendum as a key pawn in a complex negotiation with, not the EU, but fundamentally Germany. The EU is a mess. The "government" in Kiev is a mess. What matters is what Vladimir Putin is discussing over the phone with Angela Merkel.
Much has to do with Pipelineistan - as in the 9 billion euro (US$12.4 billion) Nord Stream, the steel umbilical cord between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. Merkel, the then Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, and former German chancellor and now Nord Stream chairman Gerhard Schroeder were very close when the pipeline project carrying Russian gas to Germany went online in 2011. The project was initially proposed in 2005 when Schroeder was chancellor and Putin was Russia's president, first time round. Schroeder, earlier this week, said that NATO should shut up.
Moreover, two-way trade between Russia and the EU was around a whopping US$370 billion in 2012 (no 2013 data yet), with Russia exporting mostly oil, gas and cereals, and the EU exporting mostly cars, medicine, machine parts. Forget about sanctions, that sacrosanct Washington mantra; they are really bad for business.
Moscow, though, has a real, tangible and very serious red line. It does not even have to bother about Ukraine in the EU because the overwhelming majority of Europeans don't want it as part of their club. The red line is North Atlantic Treaty Organization bases in Ukraine. Moscow might even compromise on Ukraine remaining a sort of Finland between Russia and Europe. With Crimea still inside the Ukraine, a NATO base side by side with the Russian base in Sevastopol would be nothing short of psychedelic.
So a resolution in Crimea - whichever way it goes - does send a very clear message from Moscow to the "West". Watch our red line. And unlike others, we mean it, and we back it up with all we got.
No time to wallow in the mire First US President Barack Obama solemnly declared that the referendum in Crimea would "violate international law" (Kosovo, though, could merrily secede from Serbia in 2008, to wild Washington fanfare.)
And this after he declared Crimea to be an "extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US". What next - Crimean nationalists invading Iowa? No, just a ploy for the White House to deploy the usual financial war.
All that when the brilliant "strategy" of Team Obama - keep demonizing Putin to Kingdom Come - was reaching its apex.
But then Obama - noticing Angela Merkel was stealing the spotlight - called Putin and stayed on the phone for nearly a full hour trying to "engage" him. Why the change of heart?
A possible response may be supplied by the inescapable Dr Zbigniew "The Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski, former national security advisor to that Hamlet hick Jimmy Carter; the man who gave the Soviets "their Vietnam"; the man who always dreamed that the US should rule over Eurasia; and Obama's "invisible" top foreign policy mentor.
As Dr Zbig told WorldPost's Nathan Gardels, "The strategy of the West at this moment should be to complicate Vladimir Putin's planning." Well, that didn't work so well, did it? Then Dr Zbig advances that "NATO should invite the Russians to participate in its ongoing discussions". It's not happening.
Dr Zbig is adamant "we have to formally recognize the new government in Ukraine, which I believe expresses the will of the people there". In fact, the will of perhaps half of the nation, at best. "Interference in Ukrainian affairs should be considered a hostile act by a foreign power." That was Obama's rationale until his phone call to Putin.
Dr Zbig got even more apocalyptic, stressing, "We should put NATO contingency plans into operation, deploying forces in Central Europe so we are in a position to respond if war should break out and spread." No wonder US corporate media went bananas.
But then Dr Zbig falls back into sanity; "The best solution for Ukraine would be to become as Finland has been to Russia." So in the end he may have suggested to Obama "a compromise solution that is acceptable for Russia as well as the West". And that will involve "serious economic aid and investment". And guess who should take the lead, as in footing the bill? "Germany, the most prosperous and strongest economy in the EU."
So in the end we fall back, once again, on what Angela and Vlad have been discussing. Is it Finlandization? Or is it about who's trying to set the night on fire?
Seemingly lacking whatever it is that tends to give Westerners the willies when it comes to human replicas, the Japanese have been working steadily toward personal clones becoming an attainable household commonality. Androids are still a long way off from being something that just anyone desiring a creepy facsimile of themselves can possess, but the Clone Factory in Akihabara has the next best thing.
For a mere $1,750, the Clone Factory will take a digital 3D model of your head, print it out on a 3D printer, and just like that you have a horrifying 20-inch doll that looks exactly like you. Once your mini head is ready, you may choose a body and an outfit for your tiny monstrosity. Many customers prefer a look that represents a special event, weddings being the most popular, although anything from a sailor outfit to a stormtrooper body is available. Once you've committed to creating a pocket-sized version of yourself, you might as well go all out.
I have said that German bankers have done what the German army couldn't: conquer continental Europe. Actually, the Germans did hold onto it for a few years. The bankers seem to be holding onto their territory better than the army, though. I even said if you at a map of Europe you will find many similarities to a map of Europe in 1943.
Oh, and yes, the US inexcusably spied on Angela Merkel — but that has nothing to do with this, and anyone bringing it into this conversation thereby demonstrates his or her intellectual bankruptcy. Also, frank talk about German economic policies doesn’t make you anti-German or anti-European; again, anyone trying to evade the substance by bringing that kind of accusation in has in effect conceded the argument...
The creation of the euro was followed by the emergence of huge imbalances, with vast amounts of capital flowing from the core to the periphery. Then came a “sudden stop” of private capital flows, forcing the peripheral nations to eliminate their current account deficits, albeit with the process slowed by the provision of official loans, mainly through loans among central banks. The really bad news for the periphery is that so far the adjustment has taken place mainly through depressed economies rather than regained competitiveness; so the counterpart of that “improvement” for Spain is 25 percent unemployment.
Normally you would and should expect the adjustment to be more or less symmetrical, with surplus countries reducing their surpluses as deficit countries reduced their deficits. But that hasn’t happened. Germany hasn’t adjusted at all; all of the rise in peripheral European current accounts has taken place at the expense of the rest of the world.
And that’s a very bad thing. We are still in a world ruled by inadequate demand, and very much subject to the paradox of thrift. By running inappropriate large surpluses, Germany is hurting growth and employment in the world at large. Germans may find this incomprehensible, but it’s just macroeconomics 101.
You might argue that it’s not the German government’s fault that it runs surpluses — but you’d be wrong. (I’ve fallen into this trap, but acknowledged the error.) For one thing, Germany has pursued fiscal austerity despite its creditor status, contributing to an overall tightening of policy in the eurozone...
Of course, I don’t expect German officials to admit that there’s anything to what Treasury says. They’re not big on macroeconomics as we understand it; actually, they’re not big on accounting identities, since their view seems to be that everyone should be like Germany, and run huge trade surpluses.
German chancellor Angela Merkel may regret having made a stink about the US spying on Germany. Why? Because they spy on us.
For two decades, a quiet office park outside Frankfurt has served as home to Project Rahab, a cyber-espionage operation named after the prostitute in the Book of Joshua who helps spies infiltrate Jericho. According to the National Security Council's Operations SecurityIntelligence Threat Handbook, Project Rahab is an arm of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany's foreign intelligence agency. Of note, the BND is directly subordinate to German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Project Rahab uses SIGINT -- intelligence based on interception of signals, conversations and electronic communications -- to gather information on foreign business competition that can benefit German companies. BND officers have penetrated computer networks and databases in countries including Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy, and the United States.
In his book Spies Among Us, former NSA intelligence and computer systems analyst Ira Winkler details Project Rahab hackers' successful infiltration of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which provides the network for financial institutions worldwide to send and receive trillions of dollars in a secure and reliable environment. The ability to monitor SWIFT transactions would provide German businesses a leg up -- at least. (As it happens, last month, the German magazine Der Spiegel used documents acquired by Edward Snowden to break the news that the NSA monitors SWIFT.)
Project Rahab poses a far greater threat to U.S. national security. Of particular concern, according to Winkler, is "the apparent willingness of German businesses to funnel sensitive information and technology to nations that are hostile to the United States." For example, Iran. Much of what Iran has acquired is nuclear technology.
Yesterday, BND head Gerhard Schindler issued the following denial to the Zeit online news site: "No telecommunication-intelligence is conducted from the German embassy in Washington." Not exactly a denial of spying on us, is it?
This is all old news to the intelligence community. As British Prime Minister Palmerston told the House of Commons in 1848, "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow." Adds longtime CIA operations officer Fred Rustmann, whose book CIA, Inc. covers Volkswagen's mid-'90s theft of secrets from General Motors, "All countries spy on one another if they have the capability. The only possible exception is the U.S. and U.K., who have a special relationship. [Today's] scandal isn't that we were intercepting Merkel's phone calls, it's that we couldn't keep it secret."
In a clear attempt to remove prying eyes from Germany's continuing efforts to create World Germanica 3, German asset Snowden (who undoubtedly will eventually end up in Germany protected by the BND) has provided the information required for Germany to play victim of the big bad USA again. As our previous posts show (Here and Here), there has been a concerted effort in Germany to demonise the US as the evil empire, much like Jihadis do (but then they are German trained so it should be expected).
Every country knows they are spied on. That is a given, and especially if you are in an influential position.
The faux outrage is because Germany hates the NSA and GCHQ. They know full well that it was British expertise at intercepting and decoding German communications via Bletchley, that really brought an end to the German cultural-imperial dream for a few decades.
The US and UK have managed to keep the German proxy-war-via-Jihad quite controlled via assets such as GCHQ - much to the annoyance of the Germans who were expecting the West to be crippled by Jihad so we would be so busy, we would not bother with Germany.
But now Germany is nearly ready again, and will find it very difficult to move from where she is now, to the next stage (a war footing? A heavier proxy war to keep the democracies busy whilst they strip Europe?) without raising an early alarm with the Five Eyes (the group of course who worked together to defeat the Germans twice before).
It is also very difficult for German intelligence to run teams of Jihadis (like the 9/11 Hamburg Cell) when they can only communicate face-to-face knowing the scale of US interception.
As former NSA employee Thomas Drake says - "After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Germany became intelligence target number one in Europe. The US government did not trust Germany, because some of the Sept. 11 suicide pilots had lived in Hamburg."
So the current German play and squawks of victimisation, are really to provide a number of benefits;
An attempt both via direct treaty agreement and at a UN level, to diminish US intelligence gathering capability
To push through totalitarian control of the internet in Germany (inc access to foreign media - the German people must not be allowed to read alternative views, as they need the population behind their aggressive moves 100%)
To create a web/digital protectionism in Europe, whereby people are encouraged to quit (or flat out prevented) from using American systems and sites and replace them with German systems (a nice little earner for Germany, and a way for Germany to spy on Europe instead of the US).
A propaganda tool to demonise the US and paint themselves as reasonable freedom-loving Germans. This has a world-wide impact, so everyone from Jihadi to N-Korean Totalitarian sees Germany as the saviour of the world from US domination.
An attempt to 'get in there first' - so now if the UK or US decided to start leaking the reality of Germany's hostile nature (supporting Jihad, Munich Olympics massacre, 9/11, Iraqi WMD 'source' Curveball, organised crime, illicit drug trade, arming Iran whilst helping them bury equipment in tunnels so the US and Israel can't see them, economic warfare), it will look like the US 'evil empire' is clutching at straws.
So all those idiots in the media who think Germany is some innocent ally and the US is being heavy-handed spying on Merkel, should consider why the US would feel the need to spy so heavily on that wealthy (therefore very capable) hostile nation.
Nothing really changes in the land that gave us the Kaiser and the Nazis - the most destructive power of the 20th century is about to live up to her well-earned reputation - and she is busy turning the Mid-East and S-America to her side - much like the Axis of old and the attempts in WW1 to keep the US busy fighting on its own border to the south...
Social selection plays the same role in the social sciences which the natural selection plays in the biological sciences: it selects the traits, norms and values which are most beneficial to the host culture. Seen from this angle, social diversity is a desirable quality for social progress since when diverse customs and value-systems compete with each other, they take the best and reject the worst from each.
A decentralized and unorganized religion, like Sufism, engenders diverse strains of beliefs and thoughts which compete with one another in gaining social acceptance. A heavily centralized and tightly organized religion, on the other hand, depends more on authority and dogma, than value and utility. A centralized religion is also more ossified and less adaptive.
When we look at religious extremism and the consequent militancy and terrorism, in Pakistan in particular and the Islamic world in general, in the natural evolution of religion, some deleterious mutation must have occurred somewhere, which has infected the whole of Islamic world.
Most Pakistani political scientists blame the Pakistani military establishment for a deliberate promotion of religious extremism to create a jihadi narrative which suits the institutional interests and strategic objectives of the Pakistani military. There is no denying this obvious fact but it is only one factor in a multifactorial equation. The phenomenon of religious extremism is not limited to Pakistan, the whole of Islamic world from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to Indonesia, Malaysia and even the Muslim minorities of Thailand, China and Philippines bear witness to it.
The real culprit for the rise of religious extremism and terrorism in the Islamic world is Saudi Arabia. The Aal-e-Saud (descendants of Saud) have no hereditary claim to the Throne of Mecca since they are not the descendants of the prophet, nor even from the Quresh. They were the most primitive marauding nomadic tribesmen of Najd who defeated the Sharifs of Mecca violently after the collapse of the Ottomans in World War I. Their title to the throne of Saudi Arabia is de facto, not de jure, since neither do they have a hereditary claim nor do they hold elections to ascertain the will of the Saudi people. Thus they are the illegitimate rulers of Saudi Arabia and they feel insecure because of that; which explains their heavy-handed tactics is dealing with any kind of dissent, opposition or movement for reform.
Religious extremism all over the Islamic world is directly linked to the Wahhabi-Salafi madrassas which are sponsored by the Saudi and Gulf petrodollars. These madrassas attract children from the most poorest backgrounds in Islamic countries because they offer the kind of incentives and facilities which government-sponsored public schools cannot provide: free boarding and lodging, no tuition fee at all, and free books and stationery.
Aside from madrassas, another factor that promotes Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in the Islamic world is the ritual of the Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina). Every year millions of Muslims travel from all over the Islamic world to perform the ritual and wash their sins. When they return to their native countries, after spending a month or two in Saudi Arabia, along with clean hearts and souls, dates and zamzam, they also bring along the tales of Saudi hospitality and their true puritanical version of Islam, which some, especially rural-tribal folk, find attractive.
Authority plays an important role in any thought system; the educated people accept the authority of the specialists in their respective fields; the lay people accept the authority of the theologians and clerics in the interpretation of religion and scriptures. Aside from authority, certain other factors also play a part in individual psyches: loyalty, purity or the concept of sacred, and originality and authenticity as in a concept of being close to an authentic ideal.
Just like modern naturalists, who prefer organic food and natural habits and lifestyle because of their belief in the goodness of nature or their disillusionment from manufactured fuss, religious folks prefer a true version of Islam which is closer to the putative authentic Islam as practiced in Mecca and Medina: the Gold Standard of Petro-Islam.
Yet another factor contributing to the rise of Salafism throughout the Islamic world is immigration. Millions of Muslim men, women and families from the Third World Islamic countries live and work in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Most are on temporary work permits.
Just like the pilgrims, when they come back to their native villages and towns, they bring the alluring perception of having an Oxbridge degree and an attractive English accent. Not literally but figuratively. Spending time in Arab countries entitles one to pass authoritative judgments on religious matters; and having a cursory understanding of the language of Quran makes you an equivalent of a Qazi (judge) among the illiterate village people. And they just reproduce the customs and attitudes of the Arabs as an authentic version of Islam to their compatriots.
Shi'ite Muslims have their Imams and Marjahs (religious authorities) but it is generally believed that Sunni Islam discourages the authority of the clergy. In this sense, Sunni Islam is closer to Protestantism, theoretically, because it promotes an individual and personal interpretation of scriptures and religion. It might be true about the Hanafies and other educated schools of thought in Islam; but on a popular level, the House of Saud plays the same role in Islam that the Pope plays in Catholicism. By virtue of their physical possession of the holy places of Islam – Mecca and Medina – they are the ex officio Caliphs of Islam. The title of the Saudi King, Khadim-ul-Haramain-al-Shareefain (Servant of the House of God), makes him a vice-regent of God on Earth. And the title of the Caliph of Islam is not limited to a nation-state, he wields enormous influence and clout throughout the Commonwealth of Islam: the Muslim Ummah.
Now, when we hear slogan like “No democracy, just Islam” on the streets of Third World Islamic countries, one wonders what kind of an imbecile would forgo his right to choose his ruler through a democratic process? It is partly due to the fact that the masses often conflate democracy with liberalism; without realizing that democracy is only a political process of choosing one’s representatives and legislators through an election process, while liberalism is a cultural mindset which may or may not be suitable in a native Third World society, depending on its existing level of social progress in an evolutionary perspective - which prefers a bottom-up, gradual and incremental changes over a top-down, sudden and radical approach.
One feels dumbfounded, however, when even educated Muslims argue that democracy is un-Islamic and an ideal Islamic system of governance is a Caliphate. An ideal Caliphate could be some Umayyad/Abbasid model that they conjure up in their heads; but in practice the only beneficiaries of such an anti-democratic approach are the illegitimate tyrants of the Arab World. They claim to be the Caliphs of Islam albeit indirectly and in a nuanced manner: the Servants of the House of God and the Keepers of the Holy places of Islam.
The illegitimate, hence insecure, tyrants adopt different strategies to maintain their hold on power. They heed to the pragmatic advice of Machiavelli: “Invent enemies and then slay them in order to control your subjects.” The virulently anti-Shi'ite rhetoric of the Salafis and Takfiris is a Machiavellian approach. The Salafis and Takfiris cannot construct a positive narrative that specifies their achievements; that’s why they construct a negative narrative that casts the Evil Other in a negative light.
The Sunni-Shi'ite conflict is essentially political and economic but is presented to the lay Muslim in a veneer of religiosity. Since Saudi Arabia produces 10 to 15 million barrels of oil per day (equivalent to 15% to 20% of global oil production) it can single-handedly bring down the price of a barrel of oil to US$50 or single-handedly raise it to $200, a nightmare for the global industrialized economies. With 90% of the Saudi oil installations situated along the Persian Gulf, this sparsely populated region comprises the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and its Shi'ite majority. Any separatist tendency is accordingly met with sternest possible reaction. Saudi Arabia sent its own battalions to help the Bahraini regime quell the Shi'ite minority rebellion in Bahrain, which is also geographically very close to the Eastern Province.
Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism is a threat to the Western countries; but the Islamic countries are encountering a much bigger threat of inter-sectarian terrorism. For centuries the Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims lived peacefully side by side; but now vested interests are provoking inter-sectarian strife to distract attention away from the popular movements for democracy throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.
The ultimate goal of the Arab Spring is to overthrow the illegitimate House of Saud, and this tide will not subside until its objective is achieved. There are ebbs and flows in any grassroots political and social movement. It ebbed in Egypt but it will rise again to flood the whole of region. What’s unfortunate is the fact, that the so-called champions of democracy can’t even lend a moral support, let alone the material support; because their interests always outweigh their principles and ideals.