The west is shooting itself in the foot


Rouble rubble, sliding oil and jihad: The west is shooting itself in the foot


R Jagannathan

For a long time now, it has been apparent that geopolitical power is shifting eastwards, from the US and Europe to Asia, especially China. Less understood is how the west is hastening its own decline as a result of its hubris-driven policy and an inability to understand that the cold war is over.

The falling price of oil — caused more by West Asian geopolitics than just plain old demand and supply factors — is driving another nail in the coffin of western dominance.

Here’s the plot: the US is trying to economically ruin Russia with sanctions and cheaper oil, and the Saudis are trying to do the same to Shia Iran (both Russia and Iran need $100—plus oil to balance their budgets). The Saudis are also trying to screw America’s shale oil producers by pushing oil prices down, says this Reuters commentary.

Representational image. AFP

In this scenario, the ultimate loser will be the west, as this kind of oil politics can only send West Asia down in flames, triggering more geopolitical conflicts than can be managed. The west will simply be unable to handle the fallout, as it found out to its cost in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

The first intimations of the decline of the west came with 9/11, when the strongest country in the world was humiliated by a bunch of motivated Islamist plane-stealers.

But 9/11 was only an indication of vulnerability. What really did the west in was its response to it.

Instead of opening up and challenging the world to find a better alternative to liberal democracy, the west went into a shell and closed itself to the world. The US built itself into a fortress, and tried to beat its enemies to pulp using superior military technology. It failed.

Under George W Bush, the US not only attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan, but also Iraq, even though the latter had done nothing to harm the interests of the west. It was a pure ego trip, and ego tripped the Americans.

An America over-extended in West Asia and driven to financial excess at home (Lehman, etc) began hastening its own decline. After sneering at Japan for its inability to revive itself for 20 years, Europe slid into the same self-defeating policy of closing itself up to outsiders, and adopting a common currency where the poorer parts of the Union in southern Europe suffered while the richer, northern parts (Germany, Scandinavia) benefited from the ready internal market.

Soon we had all parts of the west struggling to grow, and printing money feverishly to save themselves from another Great Depression. So far, they have achieved only the opposite: the money that was meant to ignite demand for credit and get the economies moving has largely boosted asset prices. It has left the poor and middle classes where they were: in debt and without too many jobs. The rich have gotten richer, as only the rich own assets of significance. QE1, QE2 and QE3 inflated the wealth of the rich.

Now, the west is firing more shots at its own foot by trying to fight the cold war all over again with Russia.

In order to teach the Russians a lesson for meddling with Ukraine and annexing Crimea, America and Europe are busy imposing economic sanctions against it and forcing oil prices down. Reason: Russia needs oil to be selling at over $100 to earn enough to pay its bills. The economic sanctions against Russia are also intended to hurt – and this is happening, as is clear with the reduction of the rouble to rubble over the last few months.

But it is one thing to punish an aggressor, quite another to punish him without hurting yourself. But this is exactly what Europe and America have achieved. Sanctions do not hurt only the target economy: it means you hurt yourself by not being able to do business with Russia. Most of Europe is linked to Russia through the energy trade. A collapse of Russia means one more market gone.

The dramatic fall in oil revenues has not made Russia any more willing to sue for peace with the west. In fact, it may have strengthened Vladimir Putin’s resolve to fight on. Just as the US attack on Iraq only strengthened the jihadis, the sanctions against Putin may have strengthened him. Asks Angus Roxburgh in this Guardian blog: “But what will we gain if the only effect (of the sanctions) is to destroy the Russian economy? Perhaps the hope is to destabilise the country so much that Putin is overthrown. (I detect much schadenfreude among observers, who desperately hope a collapse of the Russian economy will bring about Putin’s fall.) If so, it is a highly dangerous game of chance. Pouring fuel on Kremlin clan wars that we barely understand would be the height of folly. We have no idea what the outcome might be – and it could be much worse than what we have at present.”

A Russian economic crash and defaults will wreck global economic growth further. Does the west gain from this?

And it’s not only America that’s trying to cut off its nose to spite the face. As this Reuters report shows, Saudi Arabia is trying to ruin Iran’s economy by holding global oil prices down – a punishment for supporting Syria’s Bashar Assad in the fight against Saudi and Qatar-backed rebels. Some Islamic groups that originally came to fight Assad are now banded together under the banner of ISIS — a scourge that makes al-Qaeda seem like a bunch of boy scouts.

A collateral purpose of the Saudis is to try and kill America’s shale oil producers – who may have to start closing shop if oil prices dip below $50 a barrel. In short, the Saudis are trying to harm America’s new-found energy independence, with consequences that cannot be foreseen.

“Saudi Arabia is playing a dangerous game — there is little evidence that authoritarian regimes like Russia and Iran would change their behaviour under economic pressure. Worse, the Saudi policy could backfire, making Russia and especially Iran more intransigent in countering Saudi influence in the Middle East,” says the Reuters commentary by Mohamad Bazzi.

The problem with oil is not that its production is really unprofitable to most of Opec’s members even at current prices, but its price is important for government revenues and budget deficits. According to a Deutsche Bank estimate, Saudi Arabia needs oil prices at $99.2 to fiscally break even – but it has enough foreign exchange reserves to not bother about that for now. For Bahrain, Oman, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela, the fiscal breakeven prices are $136, $101, $126, $100 and $162 respectively – prices that are unlikely to be attained in the next couple of years without a sharp drop in Opec and global output (or a sharp revival in global growth). An IMF report says that Iran, Iraq and Algeria need oil prices of over $100 a barrel to balance their budgets.

So, despite the falling share or oil in the global economy, its role in geopolitics has not diminished.

So let’s repeat how geopolitics is sending oil down. America wants to fix Putin (and hence falling oil helps), the Saudis wants to fix Iran (so again oil’s fall helps), the Iranians want to fix the Saudis by fomenting Shia insurgencies everywhere and the net result is the unleashing of an ISIS on the world. ISIS is financing jihad by selling the oil under its control at even lower prices. Falling oil prices presage an even more unstable and violent West Asia.

The west is hastening its own fall by playing such games to ruin others, and encouraging its allies to follow suit, without realising that this can boomerang on itself.

If West Asia goes down in flames, and America and Europe, already clobbered by an economic downturn, are forced to spend even more defending themselves and their allies in the aftermath, who wins?

“Green Men” Without Insignias Multiplying In Belarus–Locals Getting Nervous

GREEN MEN BELARUS “Yesterday I saw soldiers while I was walking around the station. I drew attention to the fact that they were wearing the uniform differing from the one of our soldiers. They were wearing green winter caps without insignia or chevrons. I walked up to them to ask who they were and whether it was a Belarusian uniform. I got the answer: “We are Russians”. They said they were from Bryansk. Then I asked about possible military exercises to take place but they replied: “No, there will be a war, so we have rotation and trainings”, he said.

Rumours in Bryansk about invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine


Rumours in Bryansk about invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine

Trains going to Ukraine through Bryansk will be cancelled from December 14.

The Russian Monitor website learnt it from a reader.

“We received a letter from Marina Nikolayevna from Bryansk. We cannot that the information is true, but we think we should publish it,” the website writes.

Journalists quote the letter.

“Very interesting things happened: all trains going to Ukraine via Bryansk will be cancelled from December 14,” the reader writes. “A wave of Ukraine-phobia can be noticed in the city. For example, Chernigov Hotel, the oldest one in the city, was renamed as Central.

Governor is reported by the press to fear provocations organized by Ukrainian terrorists. The media stir up a sort of patriotic psychosis. Bad rumours are circulating that a provocation, almost an invasion, can be expected on the border in the nearest days.

People say everywhere they are ready for guerilla warfare. It seems new, because people haven’t been enthusiastic about “patriotism” in the last few months and got tired of refugees.

The sixth Ruslan aircraft flew to Seshcha, the biggest aerodrome in European Russia. I am frightened. Bryansk is only 200 kilometres from Chernihiv.” reported yesterday that “green men” were noticed in Homel. Soldiers in unmarked uniform claim they are Russian soldiers from Bryansk who arrived for rotation and training. They say “war will begin soon”.

From “Radio Mullah” To Mass-Murderer of School Children–(SATIRE)


Book Review: ‘I am Fazlullah’

pakistan today

An inspiring tale of ambition, activism and radio jihad


‘I am Fazlullah’ is the story of a brave young boy Fazal Hayat from Swat and his courageous fight that transformed his native town. It narrates the boy’s valiant journey from being Fazal Hayat to becoming Fazlullah and tells us about the global rude awakening that he conjured by taking a stand against Pakistan’s biggest militant organisation, Tehreek-e-Malala Pakistan (TMP). Fazlullah’s bravery meant that the world stood up and took notice of his noble fight for terrorism.

The book, co-authored by Christinullah Christina, begins with Fazlullah being born to Biladar Khan, “a Pukhtun of Babukarkhel clan of the Yusufzai tribe of the Swat District”. From an early age Fazlu aspired to be in the jihad business, and his first step in the right direction was marrying the daughter of TNSM head Sufi Muhammad – considered to be among the best career moves of all time in the jihad sector. And fittingly an entire chapter of the book is dedicated to narrating how young Fazlu kidnapped Sufi Muhammad’s daughter from his Madrassa.

Seeing Fazlu’s ambitions the then president Pervez Musharraf banned TNSM and had Sufi Muhammad arrested, which meant that Fazlullah began living his childhood dream of leading a banned terrorist organisation. Fazlu has led TNSM, collaborated with the TTP, established parallel governments, developed a $2.5 million Madrassa and enjoyed jihadi success in Afghanistan but his biggest achievements are in the field of activism and entertainment.

Fazlu’s passion for radio jockeying and social activism combined as he started his own FM channel broadcasted exclusively in the Swat Valley. Fazlullah won the Best Male RJ award in Annual Pakistan Media Awards for his exclusive coverage of assassinations and beheadings, and his shows “Midnight with Mullah”, “Maulana Mornings”, “Jihad Jockeys” and “Wajib-ul-Qatal Weekends” received soaring ratings as well as critical acclaim.

Just when one thought our pioneering RJ (radio jihadist) had found his niche, an epoch-making event changed not only Fazlu’s life but that of budding jihadists and terrorists in Swat and around the globe.

As TMP militants increased their stranglehold over the Swat Valley and started spreading the propaganda of education and tolerance, Fazlu protested peacefully by closing girls’ schools, burning CDs, DVDs and computers, killing female dancers, massacring polio workers (despite suffering from polio himself) and assassinating people refusing to pull their shalwars above the ankle. But when the TMP paid no heed to the protests, Fazlu bravely began audio blogging anonymously. His blogs were played on his FM channel and in almost every mosque in Swat.

However, when the TMP – blindfolded by the venom of education – had had enough of Fazlu’s “dramatics”, the brave young boy was attacked by the TMP militants. Miraculously Fazlu survived the enlightenment attempt, and the only wounds that were caused were merely inkblots and paper cuts. This led to Pakistani liberal fascists launching their propaganda on social media questioning how Fazlu wasn’t enlightened despite being attacked by education from such a small distance. Having been attacked by the educatory arsenal of books and pens from such close proximity, Fazlu had to be sent to the northwest of Afghanistan for proper treatment.

The enlightenment attempt sparked an international outpouring of support for Fazlullah. Fazlu’s story spread like fire as the world became aware of the menace of TMP and their perverted interpretation of education, and realised the struggle that a young boy has to face as he endeavours to become a terrorist.

Fittingly Fazlu was invited to speak at the UN, where he delivered an invigorating speech the most touching quote of which was: “Let us pick up our guns and bombs. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one terrorist, one suicide jacket and one detonator can change the world. Terrorism is the only solution.”

Also rather appropriately Fazlullah was also shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize, with the gamblers betting heavily on him. It was thought that since President Obama won the award while American troops wreaked havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan and EU won it when euro debt crisis plagued global economies in the recent past, Fazlullah was a shoo-in for the prize. But it was the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that eventually won the award for letting chemical weapons spiral out of control in the Middle East.

‘I am Fazlullah’ has received acclaim from all the proverbial corners of the world, despite some quarters criticising Christinullah Christina for failing to conceal the co-author’s well-known bias against education and tolerance. The book is a bestseller in Pakistan already, despite threats by TMP against its purchase.

Leading journalist Ansar Abbasi gave the book five stars out of five, solely for the number of times Fazlullah wrote PBUH in the book – 137 times, according to Abbasi’s count. Other leading journalists Talat Hussain and Orya Maqbool Jan praised the book for doing nothing but “depicting true Muslim sentiments”, which according to them was the sole purpose of writing a book. O.M.J. was particularly ecstatic about reading Fazlu’s opinion about Ahmadis and Salman Rushdie, which he confessed were the only two paragraphs he had read from the book, but insisted that they were enough to justify the 10/10 he gave ‘I am Fazlullah’.

Liberal fascist Pervez Hoodhbhoy however condemned the book for being pro-jihadists in an altercation with Abbasi and Orya Maqbool on a live television show.

After witnessing the warm reception that ‘I am Fazlullah’ got, All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association decided to make the book mandatory in private schools’ curricula. And not only did the book replace the Islamiyat books being taught at the schools, chapters from the book were also added in the science and social studies curricula to teach the children about the construction of suicide jackets and jihadist terrorism.

The chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation particularly praised the book for its clarity of thought that according to him would ensure that the children are no longer confused by the ideas of tolerance and secularism.

‘I am Fazlullah’ is a rousing tale of ambition, activism and radio jihad. It’s a story of bravado and struggle. Simultaneously it is also an ideological book and one that would help young professionals mould their budding careers into illustrious ones.

It can also be read as a marketing book about how one could brand products that influence the lives of millions of people. However, most importantly the book gives us all the insights that we need into the life of a brave, young boy who is destined to become the leader of Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the very near future.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email:, Twitter: @khuldune.

CIA Primer for “US operational travelers” Who Are Sneaking Into EU

CIA Travel Advice To Operatives



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China pledges to help Russia, If Needed

China pledges to help Russia overcome economic hardships


Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)

China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.

Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity.

The offer of help comes as Russians are still recovering from the shock of the ruble’s worst crash in years last Tuesday, when it lost over 20 percent against the US dollar and the euro. The Russian currency bounced back the next day, but it still has lost almost half of its value since March.

At his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the ruble has been tumbling along with the price of oil, and estimated that Western sanctions account for 25-30 percent of the Russian economic crisis. However, the president’s economic forecast is that the slump will not be a lasting one.

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng proposed on Saturday to expand the use of the yuan in trade with Russia.

Reuters/Carlos Barria

Reuters/Carlos Barria

He said the use of the Chinese currency has been increasing for several years but western sanctions on Russia had made the trend more prominent, Reuters cited Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV as saying.

Gao said this year’s trade between China and Russia could reach $100 billion, approximately 10 percent growth compared to last year.

The minister said he did not expect cooperation on energy and manufacturing projects with Russia to be greatly affected by the current crisis.

Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other,” Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told Bloomberg. “For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need.

Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

China has been increasingly seeking deals in its own currency to challenge the US dollar’s dominance on the international market.

And Beijing is not alone in attempts to counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the US currency.

BRICS, the group of emerging economies that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, accounting for one-fifth of global economic output, has been pursuing the same goal. The five nations agreed in July to increase mutual trade in local currencies, and also to create a BRICS Development Bank with investment equivalent to $100 billion as an alternative to the Western-controlled World Bank.

“The Powers That Be” To Attempt TOR Shut-Down In Next Few Days

Possible upcoming attempts to disable the Tor network


The Tor Project has learned that there may be an attempt to incapacitate our network in the next few days through the seizure of specialized servers in the network called directory authorities. (Directory authorities help Tor clients learn the list of relays that make up the Tor network.) We are taking steps now to ensure the safety of our users, and our system is already built to be redundant so that users maintain anonymity even if the network is attacked. Tor remains safe to use.

We hope that this attack doesn’t occur; Tor is used by many good people. If the network is affected, we will immediately inform users via this blog and our Twitter feed @TorProject, along with more information if we become aware of any related risks to Tor users.

The Tor network provides a safe haven from surveillance, censorship, and computer network exploitation for millions of people who live in repressive regimes, including human rights activists in countries such as Iran, Syria, and Russia. People use the Tor network every day to conduct their daily business without fear that their online activities and speech (Facebook posts, email, Twitter feeds) will be tracked and used against them later. Millions more also use the Tor network at their local internet cafe to stay safe for ordinary web browsing.

Tor is also used by banks, diplomatic officials, members of law enforcement, bloggers, and many others. Attempts to disable the Tor network would interfere with all of these users, not just ones disliked by the attacker.

Every person has the right to privacy. This right is a foundation of a democratic society. For example, if Members of the British Parliament or US Congress cannot share ideas and opinions free of government spying, then they cannot remain independent from other branches of government. If journalists are unable to keep their sources confidential, then the ability of the press to check the power of the government is compromised. If human rights workers can’t report evidence of possible crimes against humanity, it is impossible for other bodies to examine this evidence and to react. In the service of justice, we believe that the answer is to open up communication lines for everyone, securely and anonymously.

The Tor network provides online anonymity and privacy that allow freedom for everyone. Like freedom of speech, online privacy is a right for all.

Pakistan Lines-Up Another 55 Terrorists and Murderers To Be Hanged Within Days

55 convicts to be sent to the gallows in a few days


ISLAMABAD: At least 55 death-row terrorists, whose mercy petitions have been rejected by President Mamnoon Hussain recently, are likely to be hanged during the next few days.

Before the lifting of a moratorium on executions, mercy petitions of more than 55 convicted terrorists had been pending with the presidency since 2012 as the then president Asif Ali Zardari had not taken any decision on them, apparently because of international pressure, an official told Dawn on Sunday.

“The former president neither granted relief to the convicts nor abolished the moratorium,” a presidency official said.

He said the interior ministry in the wake of the lifting of moratorium on executions would issue black warrants and the condemned prisoners would be sent to the gallows accordingly.

In reply to a question about a statement of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that more than 500 people would be hanged, the official said the presidency had not received any mercy petition since 2012. However, he added, it expected to receive hundreds of mercy petitions in near future.

Normally, once a mercy petition is rejected and death warrant is issued, it takes at least 14 days to hang the convict as the required process has to be adopted. However, the Punjab government, which is dealing with majority of people on death row, recently made amendments to its laws and reduced the period to two days. It also changed a law under which executions could be carried out only at 4am and now convicts can be hanged any time.

The summary of death warrants is initiated by the interior ministry, forwarded to the presidency through the Prime Minister’s Office and then sent back through the same cannel so that the ministry can issue the warrants.

Retired Justice Tariq Mehmood said it did not mean that 500 people on death row would be hanged the next day because they might have been sentenced by lower or high courts and not by the Supreme Court. “And even if they have been sentenced by the Supreme Court they have a right to file mercy petitions to the president,” he said.

He said there was no time bar on filing a mercy petition and any convict could submit it any time, but mostly they pleaded for mercy after the decision of the apex court.

“If the convict cannot file his mercy petition or he has no family member to do so, it is the duty of the jail authority concerned to file it on his behalf,” he added.