21st Century Wire
For the past two weeks we’ve seen the Obama administration embroiled in controversy, as three separate scandals continue to grow and attach themselves to the White House.
While this is major news, and does have the power to topple this U.S. President, there are other far-reaching actions unfolding under his watch…
In a bizarre move, President Obama, held two joint press conferences last week, one with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and another with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Perhaps the dual Presidential podiums were a subliminal touch to what seemed to blur the line between world leaders, in a sense, becoming rule by global council. This strange observation may well be significant to understanding the kind of dark partnerships that are developing world-wide.
Rightly, most of the media will focus on the obvious take down of an empire, as they try to uncover the truth about Benghazi, IRS, and the DOJ. However, on the global chess board of finance and war, more stark revelations have come to light involving the U.S. President. During the press conference with Prime Minister Cameron, President Obama, made vague sweeping statements about a Transatlantic Partnership with the E.U. A partnership that many fear will lead to a Transatlantic Union which will impose more globalized standards and regulations, potentially derailing individual free trade.
This was made clear by The New American earlier this year:
“The “Transatlantic Partnership,” of course, is just one of the major sovereignty-threatening international schemes being pursued by the Obama administration simultaneously — closer North American Integration and the so-called “Trans-Pacific Partnership” are two of the most prominent efforts. The latest plot, though, has far-reaching, global implications that critics argue represent a serious threat to America and freedom. If the U.S.-EU deal ends up becoming reality, the regulatory regime governing the new bloc, which accounts for about half of global GDP, would become the de-facto standard-setting entity for the entire planet.”
Obama had this to say during the Cameron press conference:
“With respect to the relationship between the U.K. and the EU, we have a special relationship with the United Kingdom. And we believe that our capacity to partner with a United Kingdom that is active, robust, outward-looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world. And I think the U.K.’s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world, as well as obviously a very important economic partnership”.
Obama echoed the same rhetoric at the Erdogan press conference adding: “Today, we focused on three areas that I want to highlight. First, we agreed to keep expanding trade and investment. Over the past four years, our trade has surged and U.S. exports to Turkey have more than doubled. As the United States pursues a new trade and investment partnership with the EU, I want to make sure that we also keep deepening our economic ties with Turkey. So we’re creating a new high-level committee that will focus on increasing trade and investment between our two countries and will help fuel Turkish innovation. And the progress that Turkey’s economy has made over the last several years I think has been remarkable and the Prime Minister deserves much credit for some of the reforms that are already taking place.”
It seems that more and more we’re faced with a manufactured reality, one in which international institutions will have dictatorial power over trade and the economy world-wide. Breaking away from sovereign entities controlling their own destiny.
Is the transatlantic partnership a sleeping giant for the global economy? What other partnerships are being harbored in regards to U.S., Britain and Turkey? How does this tie into the situation in Syria?
Writer Patrick Henningsen delves further into this in a recent op-ed for Russia Today news: “On Wednesday Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul(R) weighed in on the Benghazi debacle, in a direct challenge to the President and Hillary Clinton, inferring that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack unfolded as a result of a secret arms trade, and rubbishing the previous government line put forward by Susan Rice and the US Intelligence community that the attack was a result of a YouTube film, “The Innocence of Muslims”. During a recent CNN interview Paul explains:
“I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria,” he said. “Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex?”
One can only conclude that those in the world who are making economic reforms aligned to a socialist “pay your fair share” tax scheme, can also control the narrative on world events. Creating a new kind of “strategy of tension” by forcing countries to be complicit in illegal activities, via their trade partnerships. Is the new growing economic partnership, a partnership in conflict and consolidation?
‘Iran could begin feeling a further squeeze on its oil income soon’
Jan 20, 2013
Ever since European seaports closed their gates to Iranian oil tankers last summer, Iran has looked to the East to keep its economy afloat. Countries such as China, India and South Korea — some of them critics of Western sanctions — have offered Iran a lifeline of reliable markets and much-needed dollars.
But perhaps not for long. In just over two weeks, the Obama administration will begin enforcing a little-noticed statute that could dry up one of Iran’s largest remaining sources of oil income, U.S. officials say. Beginning Feb. 6, Iran still will get paid for the oil it delivers to Asian markets, from Mumbai to Shanghai to Pusan — only not in cash.
The law, part of a package of sanctions approved last year, requires that foreign governments keep any payments for Iranian oil locked up inside bank accounts in their own territory. Iran can use the money only to buy goods from the local economy, such as wheat or medicine or consumer goods. But it can’t collect hard currency that could boost Iran’s beleaguered economy back home, U.S. officials and analysts say.
Administration officials have been quietly anticipating the impact of the new provisions, which could be the most significant since last summer’s measures targeting Iran’s oil and banking industry. A side benefit, officials say, is the potential impact on Iran’s trading partners, which soon will have a compelling new economic interest in supporting tough sanctions against Iran.
“This is the next big shoe to drop,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Most of these countries have large trade imbalances with Iran, and now Iran will have to find ways to spend all its oil earnings on their local economies.”
The new policy is coming into effect as the Obama administration is struggling to preserve an increasingly unwieldy coalition of nations supporting the West’s get-tough policies toward the country.
Sanctions, which are intended to force Iran’s leaders to accept restrictions on the country’s nuclear program, already have contributed to a sharp drop in the value of the Iranian currency, which has shed more than half its worth in 12 months. But the policies have spurred protests by several nations as well as human rights groups.
Some critics say the sanctions are primarily harming ordinary Iranians while failing to change the behavior of Iran’s ruling clerics. Other opponents, particularly countries dependent on Iranian oil, have objected because of potential damage to their own economies…
Unwanted, marginalised, defiant – the Roma people have become the target of governments across Europe.
In France and Italy they have been thrown out in their thousands – accused of illegally overstaying their welcome and blamed for increases in crime. They say that in their countries of origin they are victims of discrimination – a minority with few opportunities. They are now taking advantage of European Union laws that allow freedom of travel to all European citizens – looking West to find a better life, yet reluctant to adapt to Western ways. The Roma issue has now been forced on EU policy makers – they have to find a balance between the growing hostility and the rights of the Roma.
January 16, 2013
BEIRUT – On arrival to Lebanon’s capital city, all seems very functional and normal on the surface, as the city runs business as usual.
Below the surface however, there is a feeling of trepidation, an unspoken collective worry that a city and country who has gradually managed to pick up the pieces from the decades-long conflict which stretched through the 70’s and 80’s, an Israeli occupation of its south, followed by a brief, albeit destructive, ‘33 Day War’ with Israel in 2006 – might once again be dragged into another sub-regional conflict. It goes without saying that police and security services in Lebanon are on high alert.
Tourism Hit Hard
The neighboring conflict has also had a very negative impact on Lebanon’s tourism, keeping away the much-needed outside currency for which many jobs, independent hotels and other SMEs are dependent for their economic survival. But despite the recent problems, Beirut is still moving ahead, still attracting some foreign investment made visible by the hundreds of new building projects springing up all over the city. And as expected, the restaurants seem busy and the cafes are still buzzing.Already there is a tangible presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the capital Beirut, who have fled from the fighting and breakdown of society currently unfolding next door. The impact of the Syrian conflict on its neighbor Lebanon in such a short space of time is substantial.Latest reports put the number of Syrian refugees recently accumulated in Lebanon at 300,000. This figure is contrasted by the number of Palestinian refugees whose ancestors fled Israel’s ethnic cleanings in 1947-48, still housed in Lebanon today – which is currently estimated at 500,000.
The Issue of Sectarianism
Lebanon is, more than ever, a demonstration of sectarianism par excellence. In of country of 4 million, there is differentiation within the Christian community – Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic, as well as within and the Muslim community – Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Druze. In addition to this, there is a substantial Armenian community, a large community of foreign nationals from the US and Europe, Asian and African migrant workers, and a small Jewish community. One might also note that the internal rifts between Christian and Muslim factions are almost as great as the polarity separating Christians and Muslim as a whole.That said, it is also the only society in the region where contrasting religions and cultures are completely intermingled and where tolerance has evolved into a virtue.
In its totality, Lebanon consists of some of 19 religions and dozens more ethnic , groups. Many a thesis and book have sought to chronicle (and will continue to argue no doubt) this strive towards cultural détente in the Levant. One such writer is Lebanese-American Professor Walid Phares, who sums up the country’s current alignment as follows:
“Although multi-ethic and multi-religious, Lebanon was viewed by the political establishment as a unitary republic which can only have a majority and a minority. Therefore, and without a mechanism of decentralization, Federation or simply pluralism, that establishment was vying over who really represents the “majority” of all Lebanese, and who reduced to a “minority.” The debate was then about numbers, census, demographic changes, communities who have allegedly increased in numbers because of poverty versus communities who have decreased in numbers because of emigration. But that was a false problem.”Much of the country’s political energy has been expended over the course of the last half century in determining who is the majority and who is the minority, and although the intention was to present a fair solution to representation in its central government, it has also been the source of internal power-politics, which some believe laid down a fertile soil for the sharp upheaval Lebanon experienced from 1975 onward.
Nowhere is the nation’s simmering ‘political ratio’ reflected more than in its own constitution – a document which goes to extraordinary lengths to secure some form of socio-religious balance. The Lebanese constitution mandates that the office President should be held by a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the House held by a Shi’ite Muslim, and the post of Prime Minister held by a Sunni Muslim.
Many academics such as Phares, feel that the future would be brighter if Lebanon would embrace its multicultural reality and take a feather out of Belgium’s or Canada’s cap, and consider phasing out its historical obsession with ethnic and religious minorities and majorities. In other words, if Lebanon could embrace ‘multiculturalism’, it wouldn’t need the old system. This idea is easier said than done, as vested political interests and blood spilled over decades has, to a large degree, cemented traditional political and social paradigms into place.
Syria Simmering Next Door
What’s foremost on the minds of Lebanese in 2013 is what will happen with Syria, and will Lebanon we dragged to their war. Alongside this, many are left questioning whether or not Lebanon will ever achieve some form of long-term peace with its southern neighbor Israel. The former is the key to its short-term prosperity, while the latter is the key to healing wounds still festering from the wars, as well as the influx of Palestinians it has had to shoulder since 1948. The situation in Syria is made even more complex by the fact that a number of foreign powers with vested interests in Damascus regime change are supplying fighters, arms, logistics, money and mass media support – which has always been a recipe for chaos throughout history. Among these foreign actors vying for position in Syria are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, US, UK and France (somehow, it’s all beginning to look more and more like pre-WWI power-politics). Syria has long played an overshadowing role in the stability – and destiny of its smaller neighbor Lebanon. The scares still run deep from Syria’s obtuse and often disjointed alliances with different factions over the course of Lebanon’s Civil Wars in the 70’s and 1980’s. The result of Syria’s hand in those affairs has been a dysfunctional, and often times confusing relationship between Damascus and Beirut, as well as the cause for political dysfunction within Beirut itself. In 2013, however, the alignments are markedly different from previous decades. For starters, Syria, itself, is now a major piece on the global chessboard, not least of all because of its three major allies, all of whom seem to run contrary to ‘central planning‘ in the West – namely, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and now Russia. All interested parties see Syria as the key domino, and this, rightly so, is the cause for much worry right now.
Lebanon has a number of internal issues I’m sure it would prefer to sort out first before being dragged into another sub-regional conflagration – like it’s own central government, its economy, its potentially massive tourism trade, and of course, the Palestinian refugee issue. Yesterday, I was able to travel south the ancient city of Tyre, some 16km from the the Israeli border. The ruins are stunning, but so are the Palestinian refugee camp which runs alongside it. It’s was a little tragic, if not amusing to discover there that some Palestinians in need of rock for building their homes had permanently borrowed some of the antiquity ruins next door. In a certain way, some five millennia of history puts the current protracted upheaval into some perspective.
The recent past certainly has pulled Lebanon down in a spiral of social tension and extreme economic strife, but set against the larger backdrop of successive empires and cultures who have been overlaid on to this small, but historically pivotal region, it’s merely the latest chapter in a much larger epic novel. Many people outside of Lebanon – academics, archeologists, tourists – all long to see Lebanon achieve stability and one day showcase its incredible cultural and historical wealth to the world.In essence, making the difficult transition from a fractured state, to one of stability and eventual prosperity. I talked about this to one long-term Beirut resident, named Jamal, who put it simply, “To do all this, first we need to have peace.”It’s that simple. On paper anyway.….
Writer Patrick Henningsen is a roving correspondent for the UK Column, as well as host of 21st Century Wire TV programme airing Thursdays at 6pm on PSTV SKY channel 191 in the UK.
21st Century Wire
Jan 15, 2013
When it comes to post-modern military embarrassments and gallant non-events, Somalia often comes to mind. Then again, so do the French.
So it’s a wonder why the newly hand-picked head of state in Paris thought it pertinent to tread down that dirty African road which almost always ends in tears.
Ridley Scott’s box-office hit, Blackhawk Down, did rather well despite it’s obvious post-Desert Storm propagandising, custom-designed to get Americans angry about being losers on the world military stage – a true turning point (and traumatic viewing I’m told by my American friends) in US attitudes which no doubt helped to stoke the imperial madness of King George II of Texas, as he led America’s shameless effort into his father’s New American Century. But even with Scott being fed the brief from the Pentagon’s official film producer-in-residence, Jerry Bruckenheimer, most people with intimate knowledge of the actual event will tell you that the film was still a romantic portrayal of a totally shambolic and horrific misadventure.
Indeed, the first Somali Follie marked the last time that Washington would ever bother all that much with collateral damage, or putting soldiers in the line of fire – let alone considering an actual Hollywood-style rescue. No, those are left exclusively to the likes of Bruckenheimer. It’s not that there are any brave soldiers left, it’s just become way too risky and even more messy. Any future ops would be stage-managed, and deploy scorched earth policies etc, so as to leave no witnesses in case the op went bad… Forget about Seal Team 6 and the infamous Bin Laden Raid – that wasn’t (Obama still can’t find the photos and video of the terror kingpin who according to multiple official admissions, died between 2001 and 2002), Washington will just send in the Drones to either level, or vaporise any moving animal within the blast zone. This technique has proved to work particularly well for weddings and funerals in Pakistan over the last half decade. The worst thing that can happen in this new unmanned military paradigm is that the US Army’s 22 year old play station expert in holed-up Nevada CENTCOM gets a head ache and accidentally crashes his drone into the side of a hill in Baluchistan.
But I digress…
Busy attacking his country’s upper tier with a 70% tax bracket, the somewhat receding French President Francois Hollande hasn’t been in power more than a few months… and he’s already challenging Sarkozy for the most hated man in France award. In short, he’s gone and done what any unpopular French President would do, and that’s going into some godforsaken destabilised former colonial African hell-hole to steel a bit of globalist glory. So the French played the African Double Dip Lottery – going for a shady Somalian rescue, and also attempting to throw their weight around in Mali’s latest civil war, losing at least one commando, a helicopter and its pilot on the same day – and lost both times – for now, at least.
A Bad Day for Hollande
Hollande lost men in both operations – which in itself is tragic – particularly for the families of the men lost, but he also managed to lose the French secret agent hostage – or so the French papers say. Both operations ended as heroic failures. All in all, not a good day in military terms, and hard to believe the French public would back two epic failures like this. So what really happened on the day? Let’s break it down…
The French commando operation in Somalia went horribly south following a fire fight with the latest Islamist L‘enfant terrible, al-Shabab.
The secret agent-cum-hostage was identified by his cover name, ‘Denis Allex’, and is presumed to be dead – although the al-Shabab insist he is still alive and happily eating toasties and drinking his long-life milk from a box carton.
Sadly for Hollande and France, at least one French commando is reported to have gone missing during the operation. Something smells very staged about this French agent – and I for one wouldn’t be surprised if the CIA were somehow involved at some stage in the hostage screen play – this, judging by the Intel Center logo embossed in the upper righthand corner in the hostage video. The CIA/Pentagon’s ‘media agency’, Intel Center is on record as manufacturing fake Osama bin Laden videos. Meanwhile, deep in Mali, a French pilot was killed when rebels shot down his helicopter during a sortie.
And what’s worse… we now find out that Hollande called Obama at the eleventh hour to ‘help out’. According to today’s Washington Post, Obama was forced to admit his involvement with Hollande’s Blackhawk Down… Part Deux:
“In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years… … Obama said the U.S. warplanes “briefly” entered Somali airspace but did not open fire and departed Somalia by 8 p.m. Friday, Washington time. He said he approved the mission but gave no other details. A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said the combat aircraft were based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a small country on Somalia’s northwestern border.”Mind you, with America’s dodgy track record in Somalia, why would the French ask them to help out rescuing their now not-so-secret agent (who is arguably still missing, so not officially dead yet)?
Vive Le AFRICOM! Here’s a question which no one has asked yet: what on earth are French Secret Service agents doing running around in Somalia in the first place?
The US has AFRICOM so one would expect Washington to have ample spooks on the ground in all over Africa – in their manic drive to evict the Chinese from the Dark Continent. Pourquoi France? Non! French military excursions are normally confined to the Magreb. Somalia is traditionally a US and British patch. At first glance this may look like a gallic cock-up, but look a bit closer to see how the Somali raid fits into a much bigger puzzle.
In Mali also, both the British and US militaries ran modules of this Operation in support of the French. Britain provided the use of its planes to transport troops, while the US supplied logistical support, including communications and transport. It’s well known that the US have designs on countries like Mali, Uganda and others. So it appears that the US are now using the French (and the British) to fight their new proxy wars in Africa. What were Hollande or the French multi-nation corporations promised by Washington? Land? Mali’s utilities? A nuclear power plant contract?
This latest French hand-holding exercise in Africa simply reinforces the rolling trend currently among the allied NATO member states – a plethora of joint military pacts and exercises, where various countries are tasked perform certain compartmentalised tasks within a much larger strategic operation. This new method of neo-colonial intervention is effectively the initial steps towards the formation of a One World Combat Force, or Army, performing what is essentially a World Police function. In reality, what NATO allies are really doing is farming out the job of securing western transnational corporate interests in Africa. Our advice to Hollande is simple: play to your strengths next time. French elites would be none the wiser to airlift two tons of halal fromage (Chevre and a few large wheels of Camembert should do) and a twelve cases of your most excellent Beaujolais nouveau - a gift to those Al Shababs to soften them up before you hit them with the Ricarde. Sadly, however, Hollande was left to do the only thing he could – a ‘full American’, which is code for killing many Muslims overseas – including civilians and children. This, he will quickly discover, can score some cheap political points back at home, and just like a weak Roman Emperor, it will make him look ‘strong’… temporarily. Hence, today we hear that very thing has actually happened – French Rafale fighter jets are said to have “pounded insurgent training camps, arms and oil depots” yesterday in Mali, but with some collateral damage – at least 11 civilians including three children. “Mali is now at the mercy of the French army,” said one official in Bamako. The French are learning fast – kill, and kill often. It’s worked for the US for the last decade, and still no one seems to mind back at home. That’s what you can expect – from your new One World Army. ….
Cash transactions ceiling is set to drop to 500 euros, as the EU Finance Ministry is mulling incentives for the use of credit and debit cards
By Prokopis Hatzinikolaou
Jan 13, 2013
Any transaction in excess of 500 euros will soon only be allowed via credit or debit card or by check, according to a plan by the Finance Ministry aimed at combating tax evasion.
The ceiling for cash transactions is to be lowered from 1,500 euros today to 500 euros and could be reduced further over in the course of 2013. Ministry sources say that in the first quarter of the new year all companies and certain self-employed individuals will have to obtain the POS (point-of-sale) terminals that provide for card transactions.
This forms part of the government’s plan to contain tax evasion and increase state revenues. Ministry officials stress that public revenues can only grow through beating tax evasion, as there can be no more cuts to expenditure except for procurements.
The ministry is also making plans to create incentives for taxpayers to use payment cards and checks, either through the return of some money or via bonuses. “The changes we are planning for 2013 include incentives to encourage citizens to use means of electronic payment in order to attain greater transparency in transactions and to combat tax evasion that is facilitated by the use of cash,” Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis told Kathimerini.
“As you know, transactions in excess of 1,500 euros are currently not allowed to be conducted in cash. We will have to review this limit and generally we must see how we can make it easier for Greeks to change their years-long habit of paying for goods and services in cash and instead use other means of payment. This is a problematic situation in our country that has to change, albeit without upsetting social cohesion,” the deputy minister added.
Although the government is determined to move ahead swiftly with legislation that will make it obligatory to use payment cards for transactions, it has not yet decided on the incentives to encourage taxpayers to do so. “Rewards to citizens who use electronic means of payment as a rule are in other countries provided through gifts or money. We still have to examine certain issues pertaining to European Union legislation and we will have to think very hard about how forms of bonuses in transactions have worked in other countries,” Mavraganis noted.
RELATED: The Cashless Society is Almost Here – And With Some Very Sinister Implications